We saw quite a few birds last Monday on our trip to Spectacle Island, including a species of gull for the first time. We counted 45 double-crested cormorants near the island’s shores.
A large flock of tree swallows were flying near the top of the south drumlin, at least 150 of them, if not many more. This is not unusual; large flocks have been reported around Boston Harbor on e-bird. On September 4, 2011, Matthew Garvey reported a flock of 2000 tree swallows in and around Deer Island.
According to the All About Birds site, eastern populations of tree swallows probably migrate along the Atlantic coast to winter in Florida and Central America. The birds we saw may have been preparing for a migration or taking a break on their way south.
Many of them landed in a solitary elm.
A flock of European starlings also claimed some space near the top.
We found a number of gulls, especially near the mud flats and beaches, many of them difficult to identify. This one was flying with what looks like a crab in its mouth. It carried the crab away from its neighbors, dropping it from quite a height onto rocks, and then landed to feast.
A herring gull had managed to capture what looks like one of our native crabs.
As it ate, a juvenile herring gull walked up behind it, pleading for some of the crab. The gull sounded fairly pathetic, but the adult ignored it.
When the baby got close, the adult picked up the crab and walked a few feet before continuing its meal.
We watched this happen a few times, before the adult gave up, leaving the crab to the juvenile.
Laughing gulls were a first for us. The ones we saw were in winter plumage, exchanging their black hoods and red bills for white and gray heads with black bills. We didn’t hear their call, which supposedly sounds like laughter.
These gulls migrate south and will only be seen in our area until October.
Clouds dominated most of our day on Spectacle Island but we had a brief respite. Here is Boston’s skyline as seen from the south drumlin during that time.