Re: [cayugabirds-l] Bonaparte's Gulls, Stewart Park

2023-04-02 Thread Dave Nutter
I recommend eBird. It’s great for keeping your records, including notes & 
photos. It’s great for researching where birds have been found and when. And 
eBird is helpful for finding birds. You can pull up a bar chart for all the 
eBird records in a county. For Tompkins County it shows that the best period to 
find Bonaparte’s Gulls is from the last week of March through the first week of 

If you want to keep on top of what is being observed, or you really crave 
encountering the species which other birders have found, you can sign up for 
email reports for any county, sent daily or even hourly, of any species which 
you have not yet reported yourself this year. 

My first Bonaparte’s Gulls this year were on 27 March from Allan H Treman State 
Marine Park when I scoped 5 temporarily resting on the Red Lighthouse 
Breakwater, which was almost completely flooded as Cayuga Lake’s level is being 
raised for the summer (someone else also reported those 5), and at the same 
time I scoped 7 more far to the NNE resting together on the lake. By using 
eBird’s Explore options you can zoom in on a map, find my report and even read 
my notes. Since I submitted that observation I stopped receiving notices of 
Bonaparte’s Gull sightings in Tompkins County, because I no longer “need” them 
for the year, but I continued reporting my own sightings to add to the database 
and help other folks. 

What eBird does not tell you is how best to make your behavior cross paths with 
Bonaparte’s Gulls’ behavior. During this time we see them as active migrants 
along Cayuga Lake. As a simple generalization, if they have a south wind they 
will fly north over the lake in the early morning. You best be staring out over 
the lake then. If they encounter a north wind, they will stop, rest, and feed. 
It’s still a crap-shoot, but there are more options. They will rest on the 
water, but being small, are harder to see than other gulls.

On March 30th in the late afternoon I was about to walk to my favorite local 
birding area, Allan Treman, but I checked my email first. An acquaintance had 
just sent a photograph taken sometime earlier that day at Stewart Park seeking 
help with the ID. It was a beautiful view of 23 Bonaparte’s Gulls flying low 
over the shoreline, where they dip down to pluck tiny edible items from the 
organic matter on the water. Gull ID is intimidating to many folks, so before I 
headed out I composed what I hoped was a helpful and reassuring reply, 
including the explanation that these new and surprising birds were paused in 
migration because the wind was against them. 

At Treman I walked the shore clockwise to keep the low sun behind me as I 
scoped the lake. When I got to where I could see the water close to Stewart 
Park I saw a couple Bonaparte’s Gulls flying, some resting on the water, and 
some standing or walking along the shore’s wrack of leaf-and-stick smithereens. 
The sun was going down, so I hustled to the best spot to view the entire scene 
from northeast of the marina. Scoping past the Cayuga Inlet mouth and the White 
Lighthouse Jetty, I could see most of the Stewart Park shoreline and offshore 
waters. And there were a lot of Bonaparte’s Gulls, not moving much, and still 
in excellent light, even though I was in already West Hill’s shadow. In a 
single scope sweep I counted 101. When I put this number into my ongoing eBird 
report for this walk around the park, eBird replied the equivalent of, “Really? 
Are you sure? That’s a lot. Tell us about it.” So I double-checked, again with 
a single scope sweep, more slowly, and found 103. A third time I counted, 
making sure no one was hiding behind vegetation or other birds, and I got a 
most-confident 104, which is the number I kept. All were the same size & shape 
with the right field marks, which I described in my eBird notes. I tried to 
digiscope some photos to show their shape and some of their number, but they 
wouldn’t fit in a single scope view, and my phone had trouble resolving them, 
and the sun set on the scene, so the photos were crap. I since added them to 
the report anyway. 

If eBird had said the species was rare, I would have sent a text rare bird 
alert, as I did when I saw a Ross’s Goose arrive there at sundown, prompting 
Jay and a few other folks to drive there immediately. But this species is 
common and expected during this 6-week window, and I knew Jay had seen it on 
the New Year’s Day count. But I was confident that my eBird report would be a 
flag for the gung-ho listers who would be up and out at daybreak. 

Yet I did not write to CayugaBirds-L about the wonderful phenomenon which I had 
seen in the photo. I was even deliberate in deciding not to. Mea culpa. I throw 
myself upon the mercy of the court. Why would I do such a thing? Because I knew 
that south winds were forecast for the next day, and the Bonaparte’s Gulls 
would quickly leave. Indeed Jay, who is always up early to look for such 
things, found less than 

Re:[cayugabirds-l] Bonaparte's Gulls, Stewart Park

2023-03-31 Thread Jay McGowan
Also a Red-throated Loon, 6+ Horned Grebes, 3 Green-winged Teal, and 2 Tree
Swallows off East Shore Park.

On Fri, Mar 31, 2023, 7:45 AM Jay McGowan  wrote:

> I'm not quite sure why we got 10 emails about a Snow Goose but no mention
> of the over 100 Bonaparte's Gulls that were apparently at Stewart Park
> yesterday, but at any rate, fewer than half of them remained this morning,
> many very close to shore around the center of the park. A few scattered
> waterfowl offshore but nothing noteworthy.
> Jay


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