[CT Birds] Results Plankton Feeding Gulls from last week

Dennis Varza dennisvz at optonline.net
Mon Mar 26 06:28:41 EDT 2012

Sorry for the delay, things happened.

People have a subjective sense of distance. What is far to one is  
close to another. In college, local students didn’t think much about  
driving 30 miles for a burger. Living in Fairfield, my mother wasn’t  
much concerned about going to Stratford for Shopping. But Norwalk,  
“Do we have to go all the way out there?” Near and far is as much  
about habit as actual distance.

When comparing sense of distance to birds, “As the crow flies” has as  
much perception as truth to it. Wings allow the coverage of distances  
in small amounts of time that we often underestimate.  We see a bird  
in an area and expect it to be there, or the general area, all the  
time. The use of tracking devices has helped, but is still a problem  
for the average person. I read a paper about winter eagles in Maine  
and they found it was not unusual for some to spend the day on Long  
Island and still return to roost at night. We see a bunch of gulls on  
Long Beach in Stratford, we expect them to hang out there all the  
time, or maybe over to Seaside Park in Bridgeport. Is it really that  
hard for them to travel to New Haven Harbor, Norwalk Islands, or Port  
Jefferson for the day?

In trying to understand the interaction between the gulls and  
barnacle larvae we wanted as many observations of gulls as possible  
to see how the observed distribution is different than during a non- 
barnacle episode. We has observations as far west as Greenwich and as  
far east as Madison.

Plankton Feeding Gulls were seen in the area around Charles Island in  
Milford. Observers estimated numbers to be less than 5,000 and rather  
scattered. Further east smaller numbers were seen in West Haven near  
the Milford Border. In New Haven Harbor no concentrations were  
observed, In Guilford off Shell Beach a small group of less than 500  
were seen, and none further east.

Last Year there were 10’s of thousands of gulls off the headlands of  
Stratford, Lordship to Black Rock Harbor in Bridgeport. This year  
birds were scarce in Lordship on Friday 16 Mar., but on the 17th  
numbers were low in the morning but increased in the afternoon to  an  
estimated 3,000 birds.

 From Chimon Island and west to Stamford, Shippan Pt. there were well  
over 10,000 birds on Friday 16th but were gone the next day.

The peak of activity was in the area between Penfield Reef in  
Fairfield and Cockenoe Island in Westport. Overall there were well  
over 30,000 birds present. Observers in the morning reported gulls  
close to shore in the morning and drifting further out in the  
afternoon. This indicates the plume of larvae were being pulled out  
with the tide.

The next day and increasing the the next several days, were record  
temperatures and a lot of morning fog and haze which inhibited  
further observations.

The barnacle event started on Friday in the Greenwich-Stamford then  
shifted the next day to the Westport-Fairfield area. East of there  
only small plumes were seen in Milford and Guilford. The Gulls  
observed appear to follow the plumes from great distances. So, on  
those days when the gulls “disappear” from the beaches and are not  
seen directly off shore were expected, are well likely to be miles away.

The distribution of the barnacle plumes are centered in the area from  
Stratford to Norwalk. Beyond this area they can be found in small  
numbers. As to when they occur  is still problematical. For this  
event there was satellite  data on Chlorophyl-a. On the 16th. There  
was no measurable Chlorophyl-a. while on the 18th, the western sound  
was dark with it!

There are many kinds of algae with many kinds of Chlorophyl.  
Chlorophyl-a is the bright green color found in most of the common  
algae. Because it is colorful it can be measured by the intensity of  
the color.

This past weekend, Drifts of gulls continued to be seen off  
Fairfield, but smaller numbers. I would guess that The gulls would  
have been of Stratford last week if they could be seen. Now, the  
final phase of the event should be seen. On jettys and rocky shore  
one will see the gulls scraping the rocks with the sides of their  
bills to get at the tasty tidbits.

Another thought on my mind is “How do Boanapartes Gulls fit into  
this?” Considering their small size one would expect them to really  
like barnacles. However, their migration in the state tends to be at  
the tail-end of the “season” so would only occasionally be  
experienced by them. When they do meet, they are rarely seen feeding!  
Is there something out there they like better?

Dennis Varza

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