Monday, October 19, 2015

Long Island Sound drama

My brother somehow talked me into fishing with him yesterday morning around the Norwalk/Westport/Fairfield area. Given the weather conditions (cold, strong NW breeze), I would have rather been birding on land. However, it was very cool to see passerines reorienting north back towards land after obviously having been blown over water by the night's gusty winds. Several Yellow-rumped Warblers, sparrows, and Dark-eyed Juncos could be seen struggling to fight their way back towards land. Birds were dropping onto whatever piece of solid ground they first reached. At one point we were right against the Penfield Reef Light, and on/around the lighthouse itself at one time were Chipping, Song, Savannah, and Swamp Sparrows. Kinglets and juncos also made brief appearances before continuing the short distance to the mainland. These birds were tired.

I wasn't the only one who noticed the struggling passerines though. Laughing Gulls were opportunistically picking these birds off. The gulls were most interested in the nearby bluefish blitz, but every now and then I would see a few gulls break away to chase a landbird over water. One of the juncos almost landed on our boat to take cover. It was pretty dramatic stuff. A couple of the birds did seem to get away. I had never seen Laughing Gulls do this out there before.

Later in the morning, on our way back through Norwalk Harbor, two Laughing Gulls were pursuing a larger, long-tailed passerine as it crossed the harbor moving west. It was clearly a cuckoo, though I could not tell which species with my naked eye from that distance. The cuckoo somehow broke away and safely dove into cover on Peach Island.

Has anyone else seen this behavior from Laughing Gulls?

 - NB

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