Here’s a loooooong clip from this morning’s beach walk.
First you see a willet hanging out with what I’m reasonably convinced were a couple of noisy American Herring Gulls (Larus smithsonianus, for those into taxonomy).
The gulls are in their winter plumage.
One has a sand flea in his beak, and the other one is walking slightly ahead of it, but does not appear for some reason to be trying to snatch the morsel away.
Herring or Ring-bill
You can’t really make out the red spot on their lower mandible, which is famously distinctive to the species. I wish I could spot it on this still frame of the vid, to be certain. Looks awfully similar to the ring-bill, but there seem to be subtle differences, despite the similarity of the black subterminal mark on their bills. I’ll just have to go back and get conclusive proof of that red spot.
At any rate, as one of them chows down the sand flea, the other makes a show of trying to shake out something edible in rotting sea weed.
Meanwhile, the willet realizes the gulls are not the sharing type, and turns back to the lapping waves to find his own brunch.
Suddenly the gull shrieking intensifies. At first I think it has to do with their annoyance at my intruding on their territory. This is, after all, their home.
Mr. Thinks Himself
Normally, though, this does not happen. In fact there’s a ring-billed gull that follows me around from time to time. He seems to like to strike poses and have his picture taken. I’ve decided to name him Mr. Thinks Himself.
Just like that, a nearby flock of sandpipers fly off — a sure sign something’s up.
The seagull shrieking intensifies, and the seagulls split up. I follow one of them around for a few seconds, and then I catch the shadow in the sky swooping over us.
Sure enough, it’s Ozzie (or perhaps one of his friends: I actually saw five ospreys circling around each other today in a kind of graceful, slow-moving, aerial ballet. Here’s a blurry screen grab of three doing a Vol de trois).
Ozzie quickly fades into the distance, but is soon followed by some other shore birds overhead: a couple of large seagulls, another osprey, and then a frigate bird flying high above.
The putative herring gulls are not happy about any of this.
To top it all off, a helicopter puts in an unwelcome guest appearance; I guess there is no other way to get to Stuart airport through what is largely empty airspace except to fly directly over a bird sanctuary and wildlife refuge.
And so it goes: another mini beach drama just unfolded, almost unnoticed.
I’ll leave you with a picture of the herring gull bar code, which I found by chance on the Encyclopedia of Life’s website.
Wouldn’t it make a cool needlepoint belt?!
herring gull bar code
Erin McGrath and Needlepointland.com, 2012 – 2016