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Edwin B. Forsythe NWR in New Jersey - Part 1

During late September and early October I made my first birding trip to Cape May. I had carefully selected my dates with an eye to seeing a number of migrating species, including hawks (more on that in a later blog post). What I failed to forecast and plan for included poor wind direction from a birding perspective with winds coming mostly from the Northeast or East during my stay. I was informed by one of the hawk watchers that winds from these directions are not that frequent and normally don't last more than a day or two. However, during the time I was there as well as for the previous month or so, wind direction was not ideal from a birding perspective. As a result I saw few migrating warblers as the winds likely kept them more inland than would usually be the case. My trip was cut short by a day or so due to heavy rain, high winds and large swells, which made it dangerous for anyone thinking about entering the surf, not that I was one of those individuals; however, it wasn't good for birding either. Nonetheless, I enjoyed my visit and I hope to return soon to this great birding location.

My visit to Edwin B. Forsythe NWR was one of the highlights of my trip.  I've decided to change the format somewhat in this three-part series in an effort to show a larger number of species and photos that I made that day. Today's selections highlight the following: Laughing Gull, Forster's Tern and Herring Gull.

I've created a Special Projects Gallery containing select photos from my visit to Edwin B. Forsythe NWR, which can be viewed here for anyone interested.

Much of the factual information on gulls in this post comes from Howell and Dunn (see references).

1/1250, f/5.6, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 400mm DO II + 1.4x III tc

Laughing Gull is the default gull species found along the Cape May coast during this time of year. However, since this was a life bird for me, I really enjoyed studying and photographing them. In the above image a nonbreeding adult walks along a mud flat. Laughing Gull is one of three hooded species in the Americas: Laughing, Franklin's and Lava Gulls. It is a three-cycle gull with a long and slightly-drooped tip. In nonbreeding plumage, it has blackish bill and legs as well as a dusky auricular mask. The white eye-crescents are a key field mark as well.

1/1250, f/7.1, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 400mm DO II + 1.4x III tc

The adult nonbreeding Laughing Gull has a dark half hood, which is much less well-defined than the blackish half-hood found on a Franklin's Gull.

1/1250, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 400mm DO II + 1.4x III tc

The second cycle Laughing Gull above has a lot of black on its outer primaries with small white tips. Note the tail has black subterminal marks, which is characteristic of second cycle Laughing Gulls. White eye-crescents are clearly seen here.

1/1250, f/5.6, ISO 250, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 400mm DO II + 1.4x III tc

The first cycle Laughing Gull above as well as the one below show brownish head, neck, chest, and sides with white eye-crescents. Note the broad black distal tail band.

1/1250, f/5.6, ISO 320, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 400mm DO II + 1.4x III tc

The winds were quite strong, which made it difficult at times to hand hold my camera steady. Fortunately, as some of the Forster's Tern photos below show, I was able to get some reasonably sharp photos despite the steady and at times gusting winds.

1/1250, f/5.6, ISO 400, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 400mm DO II + 1.4x III tc

Nonbreeding Forster's Tern has an isolated black mask, which is much more restricted than found on the similar Common Tern. As shown in the above photo, the tail extends well beyond the folded wings.

1/1250, f/5.6, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 400mm DO II + 1.4x III tc

Since this nonbreeding Herring Gull posed for me on a post as well, I made a few clicks and selected the one above to include here.

1/1250, f/5.6, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 400mm DO II + 1.4x III tc

I really like the background colours in the photos above and below of nonbreeding Forster's Terns. Forster's Tern loses its cap earlier than Common Tern (Dunne 2006). The black eye patch easily distinguishes it from Common Tern, which has a dark skull cap that curls completely around the nape.

1/1250, f/7.1, ISO 1000, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 400mm DO II + 1.4x III tc

 

New Gallery Photos Added                Gallery

Laughing Gull                                        Gulls, Terns and Skimmers

 

Happy Birding,

Claude

References:

 

Dunne, Pete, 2006. Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, New York

Howell, Steve N.G./Dunn, Jon, 2007. Gulls of the Americas, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, New York

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