[CT Birds] Gulls plankton-feeding begins, LBBG K Mueller

kmueller at ntplx.net kmueller at ntplx.net
Wed Feb 29 14:19:13 EST 2012

I ran into Frank a couple of times last March at Long Beach and the  
seawall when this feeding activity (or frenzy would be a more accurate  
way to describe it) was happening. There were an estimated  
(conservative estimate) of 10,000 Gulls to a more realistic estimate  
of 25,000 Gulls caught up in this feeding blitz. There were also high  
numbers of Bonaparte's Gulls, Brant, Scaup and Black Ducks mixed with  
the Gulls. He also located several GLaucous, Iceland and Black-headed  
Gulls. But it was obvious; whatever they were feeding on was floating  
on or just below the surface of the water. I know Dennis, Larry Flynn  
and Nick were out collecting the organisms that the Gulls were feeding  
on (look at Dennis' earlier post).

This activity was also happening off Short Beach (with nearly 750  
Bonaparte's Gulls one morning near the beach), Penfield Reef and  
outside Fairweather Island in Bridgeport. Like Frank I also found a  
few other Gulls: 1 Glaucous, 2 Iceland, 2 Lesser Black-backed, 1  
Black-headed and a very possible Slaty-backed GUll all exhibiting the  
same surface-feeding behavior.

However in early March last spring large flocks of Bonaparte's Gulls  
were in close to shore at Hammonasset. The wind was strong east and  
the birds were tucked in close to shore at the beginning of the  
Moraine Trail near the large boulders and crashing waves. The birds  
were feeding heavily on whatever was drifting just below the waters  
surface. I photographed the birds that were very close to me. In  
reviewing the images in my camera I could see the birds holding what  
appeared to be small fleshy colored leech-like creatures about the  
size of stretched soy bean. I walked near the edge where the waves  
were crashing and these leech-like creatures were wiggling in the  
water being pushed by the waves. I grabbed a few to look at and  
realized I was looking at the fleshy creature inside slipper shells.  
Not sure if this is a naturally occuring event in mating or the  
creature has left or forced out of its shells. Maybe someone who knows  
can comment.

So it looks like these Gulls are feeding on a varied array of food items.

Keith Mueller Killingworth

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