March Trip – Rare Gulls Galore

Our March trip for the CTYBC was somewhat different than our usual trips; instead of getting an early start in the morning, we began at noon in order to end the day looking for woodcocks and Long-eared Owls at Silver Sands State Park. We began at Milford Point, which was quite birdy despite the time of day. The marshes were full of migratory waterfowl such as Green-winged Teal and American Wigeon, and some of the nesting shorebirds had arrived for the summer already. One of these was Piping Plover, which was Alex’s 500th bird for the year! Australia got him a major boost and it’s quite incredible to have that in March. American Oystercatchers also made an appearance along with a good-sized group of Sanderlings and Dunlins. We spent a little too much time debating where to head next, as a Mew Gull had been seen at Hammonasset State Park right as we arrived at Milford. This would end up complicating our trip a little too much and we eventually decided to head to Hammo in pursuit of a state rarity.

When we arrived at Hammo we were a little disappointed to see that there were no birders around. Our fantasies of simply being pointed out to the bird were gone, but this allowed us to find the rarity ourselves. We scanned through the horde of Ring-billed Gulls with the sun right in front of us (not a great angle for finding Mew Gulls) and all we found were a few small-billed promising gulls that ended up being Bonaparte’s. A Red-necked Grebe was nice, however. Little did we know that the next day, there would be two Mew Gulls and a state first California Gull at Hammoansset, a demonstration of how awesome gulling in Connecticut can be during March.

We decided to head west to Seaside Park in Bridgeport, where a Ross’s Goose had been seen, also having hope for Iceland Gulls by the beach. We dipped once again on the Ross’s but we did enjoy watching some juvenile Ring-billed Gulls feed. Watching a peculiar first-winter Ring-billed with a petite all-black bill gave us some enjoyment; birding doesn’t always need to be about finding rarities or lifers! This bird mesmerized us for a few minutes as we noted how every single gull seems different, especially in juvenile plumage. Finding interesting features in a common bird was a fitting ending to a trip when it didn’t seem all that bad to miss out on some rarities. Until next time!

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