Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Hawks, Gulls and Herons feautirng Bonaparte's Gull and Sharp-shinned Hawk

[Lake St. Clair Metropark. Aug/Sep 2017]

Not every post need center around flashy songbirds or intriguing shorebirds. The avifauna universe has many more riches to offer including familiar gulls, herons and hawks. Yet these -- unheralded as they are -- are neither scarce nor exalted and barely attract a second look from the otherwise insatiable birder. This, then, is the subject of this post -- for, commonplace need not equate with uninteresting as we consider the following eclectic set: 
  • Bonaparte's Gull
  • Great black-backed Gull
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Herring Gull
  • Caspian Tern
  • Green Heron
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Northern Flicker
We start with Bonaparte's Gull:




In August, this delicate gull is an early migrant and the extensive grey-brown on the wings indicates that this is a juvenile. The slender bill and pink legs are distinctive.


From a dainty gull to a brawny one -- the Great black-backed is our largest:



This particular individual is a sub-adult.

Indubitably, the most numerous gull is the Ring-billed:



Commonly found at this venue -- these opportunistic feeders, however, are equally at home in the suburban sprawl of SE Michigan.


A juvenile Herring Gull is our 4th gull in the series:



Caspian Tern tend to more skittish than the gulls and the juveniles miss no opportunity to get a free lunch:




From the larids, we move on to the herons -- Green Heron was spied at Textile Rd Pond as well as Lake St. Clair:



An erect crest betrays this small heron's excitement while hunting:



Great Blue Heron is at the other end of the Heron spectrum -- large and imposing:



This heron took advantage of a high vantage point:



On the predator front, a female Sharp-shinned Hawk was observed hunting a squirrel:




Note the squarer tail and rounder head that distinguishes it from Cooper's:


While this raptor is a woodland hunter, Red-tailed Hawk favors open ground: 






Other familiar species included a splendid flyby of Canada Goose:


A female mallard in the wet grass:


And a foraging Northern Flicker:


To conclude, we offer a bonus mammal -- a white-tailed deer and fawn:




While we may harbor positive bias towards our favorite bird families such as warblers and buntings, we must however acknowledge that even the humbler gulls and herons can offer interesting insights into the natural history of our environment.


1 comment:

  1. And yet another enjoyable post, Hemant. As my favorite birding venue is a beach, I have had the good fortune to go through the exercise of learning the characteristics of the gulls to be able to distinguish the different species. Certainly the flashiest bird featured in this article is the Northern Flicker. As I have the good fortune to make observations in a woodland habitat each morning, it is a treat to often times see the regal creature and almost always hear it drumming. My local Cooper's Hawk seems to favor Mourning Doves allowing the squirrels to multiply. With the deer mating season underway I occasionally hear a dominant male making his call that sounds similar to a steam locomotive.

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