[CT Birds] CTBirds Digest, Vol 1830, Issue 2

Jerry Connolly birdshop at sbcglobal.net
Wed Feb 29 12:16:01 EST 2012

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Dennis, I've witnessed this in the eastern sound also, with the gull species you mentioned as well as terns, As part of a study I did some years ago on tern  forage , I towed nets through these areas (when the birds were feeding) and found that at least in the areas around the mouth of Long island Sound they seemed to be feeding on Fish larva(Hake). I sampled from the end of April -thru May.....

Matthew Male 
> Message: 3
> Date: Wed, 29 Feb 2012 10:07:21 -0500
> From: Dennis Varza <dennisvz at optonline.net>
> To: Posting Bird List <ctbirds at lists.ctbirding.org>
> Subject: [CT Birds] Barnacles-a-commin
> Message-ID: <40BA23AB-9A6B-42C4-AB02-436364A39F57 at optonline.net>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=US-ASCII; delsp=yes; format=flowed
> Hi Folks
> Here is the general overview of the Phenomenal phenomenon
> When the Phenomenon occurs one will see thousand of gulls sitting on  
> the water feeding heavily. The birds are pecking at the water. They  
> are not diving as for fish. Although most of the gulls are Herring  
> and Ring-billed, all other regular species have been found at one  
> time or another. Although, Great-Black-backed Gulls don't seem to  
> participate much. In addition to Gulls one can see Brant, Scaup and  
> the puddle ducks, including Blue-winged Teal and Northern Shovelers.  
> The mix of species depends upon the time of the year.
> The phenomenon has been observed since the turn of the century. I  
> don't recall it occurring in the 80's
> Due to Geology, rocky coast and narrow Sound, the phenomenon  is  
> confined to wester Connecticut, nowhere else on the east coast (as  
> far as I can tell from communications). The same species of Barnacle  
> is found and europe and it is know to have synchronized reproduction  
> over there. The western most observation I have of them is the  
> Norwalk Islands, but I suspect that it could be found in Stamford.  
> The eastern most observation I have is Morningside in Milford, But, I  
> imagine it could be occurring off New Haven Harbor and perhaps the  
> Thimble Islands.
> I have seen it occur any time from late February to early May over  
> the years. Full and new moons increase the probability of it  
> occurring but we have seen it at other times, particularly in heavy  
> years. Some years it has been spotty with patches here and there.  
> Other years it has been intense. and thousands of birds could be seen  
> feeding on them from horizon to horizon.
> The weather makes a difference in the availability of the larvae to  
> the birds. For organisms as small as the larvae water is more like  
> molasses. Wind and wave action are more important in dispersal that  
> actual swimming. During days of low wind, the water becomes flat and  
> traps the larvae at the surface. That is when big flocks of birds are  
> seen.
> I tried communicating with people at the marine lab at Avery Pt. At  
> first they were attempting to be helpful. When I told them about the  
> part about gulls feeding on them, they did not believe it and thought  
> I was seeing the birds going after fish feeding on the larvae. They  
> soon lost interest.
> Conclusions: The synchronized reproduction of the Barnacles is an  
> annual event. The actual mechanism has yet to be determined and needs  
> a study of the barnacles themselves. But, the combination of time of  
> year and weather conditions determine how available the larvae are to  
> the birds.
> Dennis Varza
> Fairfield
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> End of CTBirds Digest, Vol 1830, Issue 2
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