Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lakefront Birding and the California Gull

Picture from Flickr

This past weekend I had the pleasure of accompanying my friend and birder extraordinaire, Don Gorney, up north to experience some Lakefront birding. I have been to the Lakefront before, but when the weather had been much better. I soon learned that in order to fully appreciate Lakefront birding, one must go when there are 20 plus mile-an-hour winds and sand blowing in your face!

It was amazing! I had never experienced anything quite like it. When we arrived, we were greeted by many top-notch birders, all huddled around their scopes, peering out into the foggy mist that hung over Lake Michigan. It was raining and around forty degrees, which normally wouldn't be bad weather. But the wind! There was a small building that we pressed up against for cover, and the howl of the wind as it coursed around the edges was almost deafening.

The birds were incredible! We saw squadrons of Common Loons, stretching across the sky forever. We had over 800 that day! We observed over 300 Bonaparte's Gulls, or "bonies", small, fast flying gulls that dart about in tight groups. My favorite birds for the day were jaegers and I will cover them in another post.

A special find for the day was the California Gull. We missed it by TWO minutes; it flew off right before we arrived. Despite missing the bird, Don shared with me a fascinating story of this rare Indiana visitor. (Only 19 accepted records of this visitor since 1979.)

Photo from Flickr

Don asked me "What state has the California Gull as its state bird?" I replied, "I dunno, California?" Nope! It is Utah! Apparently, in 1848, there was a horrible swarm of locust, now called Mormon Crickets, that were eating all the crops. The Mormons prayed and prayed and out of the blue showed up California Gulls that started eating all the insects. There is doubt surrounding the origin of this story or how true it is. Nevertheless, the California Gull is Utah's state bird and there is a Seagull Monument commemorating the event. Nature never ceases to amaze!StumbleUpon

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