Friday, April 02, 2010

Hello Sunshine

And hello pond. And hello birds!

All winter the pond here at the visitor center has been empty. It was drained so we could do a little dredging this winter. Well, we did the little dredging, and then about a week ago the pond was filled again much to my delight. Since then, large and small numbers of water and some shore birds have been stopping by.

Before the pond was completely full we had a rare visit by a Long-billed Dowitcher.

These birds are basically just migratory in Utah, and while I'm sure not extremely rare in other parts of the state, they have never, to my knowledge, shown up at the pond before.  So thank you, my little friend, for sticking around for the day.

We've also had the ubiquitous Mallard, many Green-winged Teal, a few Canada Geese, and then a smattering of Buffleads, Ring-necked Ducks, Cinnamon Teals, Northern Pintails, American Wigeons, one Lesser Scaup, and a Killdeer or two.

Every morning when I pull up to the visitor center, I take a quick scan of the pond, and if I see anything that looks like it might be unusual or new, I grab the scope and take a quick look. Generally it is the usual showing listed above (the Northern Pintails and Lesser Scaup were fun to find).

Today when I pulled up, I noticed two pale/white birds that weren't really fitting the regular round-up. And sure enough, when I put the scope on them, they were new birds to the pond.

That they were gulls was obvious enough. But what kind, that was the question. My first thought were Franklin's Gulls, as that is the only hooded gull I've had experience with. But their bills were black, and I was lucky enough to see their legs - orange, not black like the Franklin's. I considered the Sabine's Gull, nope. Again the legs were the wrong color, and the bills on these birds were solid black. Bonaparte's Gulls...maybe. Closest so far on description. Little Gull? No, the wings were too long, and black tipped. Black-headed Gull? That would be a surprise, since they don't even occur in Utah, and again, the bill was the wrong color. Laughing Gull? Nope.

So back to my best guess - Bonaparte's Gull.

Bonaparte's Gulls with a Buffledhead in the background

Then I was lucky enough to see them fly away. And my guess of the Bonaparte's Gull was more fully solidified in my mind. But I am still open to suggestions. They aren't great images, but what do some of you other birders think?

 Even with the continued snow storms here and there, it is spring, and the birds know it. Turkey Vultures are back. The Swallows will be turning up soon. The air is slowly warming, the snow is melting. The sun is shining (at least today).

What a wonderful time of year!


"Ranger" Kim said...

Awesome pictures! I need to get out to the lake and see what's migrating through here! I've been wanting to, but my vehicle's engine had other ideas.

Jenny said...

Thanks for sharing the photos. Nice to see the pond. :)