Looking for a Needle in a Haystack Yields Bonus

October 25, 2016

This past weekend I drove to Barrie, Ontario where I searched along the shoreline of Lake Simcoe for Little Gulls, which had been reported in recent days. Whenever there is a flock of Bonaparte’s Gulls, it is always worthwhile to keep a lookout for Little Gulls mixed in. Searching for Little Gulls in the Barrie area at this time of year can be rewarding, especially from a photographer’s point of view since there is a good chance that one may get some pretty close views. On this occasion, I lucked out and I was able to capture a few images of immature Little Gulls despite their best attempts to blend in with all the Bonaparte’s Gulls and go unnoticed. I’ll get to those images shortly, but what captured my attention initially was an adult nonbreeding Bonaparte’s Gull successfully capturing and feeding on a fish close to shore. As you can see from the images below, it was quite a mouthful for this small gull.

Bonaparte's Gull Feeding on a Fish
1/1600, f/8, ISO 1250, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm

Below a Bonaparte’s Gull prepares to swallow a fish whole.

Bonaparte's Gull Feeding on a Fish
1/1600, f/8, ISO 1000, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm

Shortly after swallowing its meal, this individual seemed to struggle somewhat as it flew away from the surface of the lake with “extra baggage” so to speak.

Bonaparte's Gull Taking Flight After Swallowing a Fish
1/1600, f/8, ISO 1000, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm

Getting this sequence of images at reasonably close range and in good light ensured that the outing was a worthwhile one from my perspective whether or not I spotted any Little Gulls.

Fortunately for me, as luck would have it, during my search I did come across a couple of immature Little Gulls and I was able to snap a few clicks as they flew past. I have seen adult Little Gulls on previous occasions, but this was the first time I was in a position to observe and photograph immature Little Gulls.

Immature Little Gull
1/1600, f/8, ISO 1600, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm

There are a few key characteristics which can prove helpful when trying to distinguish between immature Little and Bonaparte’s Gulls. In the above photo of a Little Gull, note the dark cap and the bold blackish M pattern on the upperparts. These features were discernable out in the field, at least they were at my viewing distance.

By contrast, look at the photo below of an immature Bonaparte's Gull. The pattern on the upperparts is not nearly as bold as the one found on the Little Gull shown above. Although not seen quite as clearly here, there is no dark cap. Not to worry as this feature distinction is highlighted much clearer in the next comparison pair of photos that follow.

Immature Bonaparte's Gull
1/1600, f/8, ISO 800, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm
Immature Little Gull
1/1600, f/8, ISO 640, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm

The perspective shown in both the above and below photo is similar. The differences noted earlier between the two immature species is perhaps even more evident here. In particular, note that the immature Little Gull has a dark cap whereas the immature Bonaparte’s Gull has no dark cap.

Immature Bonaparte's Gull
1/1600, f/8, ISO 800, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm

This next photo (shown below) is a second-cycle Bonaparte's Gull, in my opinion, which is distinguished from an adult by black on primary coverts and outer web of P9. It appears to match quite closely with a photo of a second-cycle Bonaparte's gull I found in my guide book, Gulls of the Americas by Steve Howell and Jon Dunn.

Second-cycle Bonaparte's Gull
1/800, f/5.6, ISO 320, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm

To wrap up this blog post, I've included two photos of an adult nonbreeding Bonaparte's Gull. You'll note that it has a white leading edge to its wings, a dark ear-spot, and a dusky smudge around the eye. There is no black on primary coverts and outer web of P9, which is shown more clearly by referencing the photo of an adult nonbreeding Bonaparte's Gull taking off from the water highlighted in the third photo of this blog post.

Adult Nonbreeding Bonaparte's Gull
1/1600, f/8, ISO 800, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm
Adult Nonbreeding Bonaparte's Gull
1/1600, f/8, ISO 1000, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm

New Gallery Photos Added                       Gallery

Bonaparte's Gull                                           Gulls, Terns and Skimmers - Part 2

Little Gull                                                      Gulls, Terns and Skimmers - Part 2

 

Happy Birding,

Claude

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Refresh Type the characters you see in this picture. Type the characters you see in the picture; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.  Switch to audio verification.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
6 + 10 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.