07 June 2016

Turning Point Herring Colony

Myself & Tim working on PINK 86.
Photo by Bruce Buckingham.
Last Friday, Cleveland wildlife rehabber Tim Jasinski and I joined Bruce Buckingham, a research technichian with USDA Wildlife Services, for a morning of Herring Gull chick banding at the Turning Point colony in Sandusky, Ohio.

The colony, which holds about 900 pairs, sits slightly off shore on Lake Erie. Bruce has been banding birds here, and Herrings in particular, since the early 1980s. Very exciting is his recent use of "pink" field readable bands on some of his HERGs. Color bands are proven - for obvious reasons - to yield greater resights.

Keep your eyes peeled for these pink bands.

The colony's breeding progression was all over the place in terms of egg-laying, incubating and feeding young. More than half of the adults appeared to already have chicks running around, many with 3 chicks. But still, there were a number of late nesters still on eggs.

Turning Point Colony. Multi-tier colony with egrets and cormorants nesting above in the trees and Herring Gulls on the ground beneath the canopy.

Adult Herring with federal band.
Photo by Tim Jasinski.

Tim was very keen on finding previously banded adults. It takes some finesse and a fair deal of patience to record an entire band sequence. Fortunately, the birds aren't very inclined to take off or abandon the site.

Adult with what is likely Chick A (still incubating). Photo by Tim Jasinski
Parent with, presumably, its 3 chicks. Leftmost chick is likely Chick C. Photo by Tim Jasinski.
 Photo by Tim Jasinski.
Ouch! Watch the eye...Photo by Tim Jasinski.

The next few photos demonstrate varying fledgling stages:

Likely a day or two old. 
Maybe 5-6 days old.
One of the more advanced chicks we spotted. This bird
is showing many "true" juvenile scapulars and wing coverts (1st basic).

Same individual above. Rectrices still haven't
unfurled from their sheaths.
Bruce wins the "best t-shirt" contest.

Tim in the zone with Pink 86 (er, 98...)
The colony here is one of the neatest I've had the pleasure of visiting. I found the terrain really enchanting. The gulls are perfectly fine living in the "basement" with their neighbors "upstairs" (cormorants and egrets) occasionally dropping fish parts, and even entire fish from above. That wasn't the only thing they were dropping from above...

So much to observe. So much to learn. So little time. Yours truly waiting on a banded adult to come a bit closer. Photo by Tim Jasinski.

A big thanks to Bruce for his invite and generosity. His dedication to understanding these birds and his curiosity is contagious and admirable!