Strange Gull with bright orange-red legs and bill seen yesterday on our Sanibel-Captiva Christmas Bird Count, FL.
It did not look like the usual gulls but turned out to be a Laughing Gull in winter plumage with abnormally colored legs. The legs are supposed to be blackish in winter. This is unusual but not unheard of as we have seen this abnormal coloration in legs and bill before a few times in Laughing Gulls. As a matter of fact, we have a photo of a bird like this in our The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America. In summer this bird gets a black head and dark red bill and legs are dark with reddish undertone.
The most unusual gull for here we saw was this first winter Great Black-backed Gull, which is not frequently seen or, when seen, is in low numbers, on this Christmas Bird Count.
Here it is with a first winter Lesser Black-Backed Gull (left), another unusual gull for here, but not as uncommon as the Great Black-backed Gull. Great size comparison between the gulls here. The 3 Laughing Gulls and one Ring-billed Gull (between the two big gulls) seem small. The Great Black-backed Gull lives up to its name.
They were fighting over a bag of garbage.
Here's the first winter Lesser Black-backed Gull.
Amazingly we saw 52 Ospreys. This female was
sitting on her nest platform. Ospreys are beginning to breed here at this time of year.
Don and Steve Oresman, who we were with, scan the beach. We covered the north end of Captiva Island at South Seas Plantation.
In a pond, we saw a dark blob on the far side. Hard to make our until I took the photo with my Canon SX 50, long telephoto super zoom point-and-shoot camera. Then we could see it was a Green Heron hiding in the vegetation.
And a big treat was this Magnificent Frigatebird.
We participated yesterday in the Sanibel-Captiva, FL Christmas Bird Count, covering the north end of Captiva. We found this weird gull with bright orange red legs and bill and it did not initially look like any of the usual gulls found here such as Ring-billed Gull and Laughing Gull. A brief thought was could it be a rare gull, such as a Black-headed Gull. On closer inspection it was the exact same size and shape as the other Laughing Gulls but with abnormally colored legs. In winter Laughing Gulls have dark legs and bill and in breeding plumage these turn a dark red and the head is black. Amazingly the more unusual bird we found, for here, was the Great Black-backed Gull, only seen infrequently or in low numbers on this count. Where we live in NH, this is a common gull.
We had lots of fun and another highlight was the large number, 52 of Ospreys seen. Hope you had fun on your CBC.
Love the way Anhingas spear a fish, then maneuver it until they can get it down their mouth. Quite a skill! Cannot believe the way their throat stretches. They are sometimes called the"snake bird" for how they swim almost submerged with just their neck sticking above water. Often they come out and rest after a meal. Female Anhingas have brown heads and necks, males have black heads and necks.
One of the fun things about photography is to be able to examine the details of the action shots you take. Photographed on Sanibel, FL with the Canon SX 50 camera.
American Goldfinches and Pine Siskin on lower right
Dark-eyed Junco in snow
To help your birds get through winter in areas of the country where there is severe winter weather, start with an excellent bird feeder set up. Make sure you include multiple Stokes Select® tubular, hopper, screen, and suet feeders filled with a variety of quality bird seeds and suet. Focus on providing black oil sunflower (which has a high oil, thus calorie count), seed mixes that contain a good amount of black oil sunflower and, for finches, Nyjer (thistle) seed. Also include suet which is a calorie-rich food that provides much needed energy for birds in cold weather.
Place feeders near cover so the birds can escape wind and cold. Near pines or other evergreens is ideal, especially if they face south. Place feeders on poles with squirrel baffles and locate them 12 or more feet from any place from which a squirrel can jump.
Clean off snow from feeders whenever it accumulates from a storm. This includes shoveling snow from under the feeders so ground feeding species like Mourning Doves, White-throated Sparrows and juncos can access seeds that birds drop from the above feeders. Consider using the snow blower to clear under the feeders if it is feasible. Some people make a big brush pile with a hollow middle inside and sprinkle seed on the ground in the middle of it so ground feeding species can get the seed. The more feeders you have, the more kinds of birds you will attract.
Winter target birds. In addition to regular winter birds like chickadees, titmice, goldfinches, nuthatches, cardinals, jays, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, juncos, and White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows, you may attract rarer species like Common Redpolls, Pine Siskins, and Evening Grosbeaks.
Once you finish shoveling the snow go inside, pour a cup of hot chocolate, get out your binoculars and, though the window, watch a lot of happy birds flock to your feeders.
And if you're looking for Chirstmas gifts for the bird lover, get our just published new Stokes Essential Pocket Guide to the Birds of North America. With 250 species and over 580 stunning photos, it contains all the birds you will see at your feeders and the essential ones beyond.
Snowy Egret eye up close, wow! This is an uncropped photo. That's what a Canon SX 50 super zoom camera with the long telephoto lens will allow you to photograph without disturbing the bird.
This snowy was preening and sitting on a fishing pier rail, so graceful.
You can see the feathers on its bill from preening.
And, at the other end, what golden slippers!! Those feet are so cool. Interesting how the toes on the right foot have black marks. There are so many details you can notice when you take photos like these. It gives you a whole new perspective on a bird.
Portraits of a Snowy Egret through my lens. These are the things about this bird that caught my eye to photograph. Look beyond the obvious when taking your photos.
While other Snowy Egrets were busy catching lunch at J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge,
this one kept looking up at the sky
So we looked up and this Bald Eagle, 1st yr. flew over our heads.
While Bald Eagles mainly eat fish, they can also sometimes catch birds. So the Snowy Egret was showing some concern. When birds look up, look up too, they may lead you to a sighting of some cool other other bird, like this eagle. By tuning in to the behavior of birds you will enrich your birding experience.