Crazy-as-a-Coot End of the Season Bird Walk

I was lucky enough to join 19 ladies and gents on June 16th at 8 am for a fantastic bird watching experience. We met at Coast Guard Road and carpooled to Cormorant Cove. Just as we exited the vehicles, a pair of lovely American oystercatchers (Haematopus palliatus) landed on the beach. They were perfect! The stereotypical probing of the oyster catcher along the beach was nothing compared to the victory of the hunt. We observed their unique hunting methods and amazing morphology. One of the most obvious identifying features of the oyster catcher is their vibrant orange feet and bill.

 Photo credit: http://wild-tracking.blogspot.com/2010/07/oystercatcher-chased-him-away.html

Photo credit: http://wild-tracking.blogspot.com/2010/07/oystercatcher-chased-him-away.html

From there we began our descent to the beach.  Overhead flew a of flight of tree swallows (Hirondelle bicolore). The flight pattern of the swallows is quite unique, as is the shape of their wings.

 Flight pattern of the tree swallow approaching a landing. Photo credit: http://people.eku.edu/ritchisong/554notes2.html

Flight pattern of the tree swallow approaching a landing. Photo credit: http://people.eku.edu/ritchisong/554notes2.html

As indicative of the swallow family, the wing has a relatively high aspect ratio (wing length vs. width). Since the wing is much longer than it is wide, swallows are able to generate great speed with very little effort. In addition to that, the tapered wing allows for less drag, increasing bird speed as well.

We saw other typical BI backyard birds such as catbirds, robins, song sparrows, house sparrows, cardinals and one lone cow bird. As for shore birds, we saw a ton of gulls. Against popular belief there is no bird that is a sea gull. Look for your self in any bird reference book. (It was a shock to me as well.) However, there are a variety of gulls that patrol the New England coastline. Among the most common on Block Island is the Herring Gull. Some of the key identifying features of the Herring Gull include their grey backs and black tails. Most Herring Gulls also have a red marking on the underside of their beaks.

 Herring Gull of the coast of Massachusetts. Photo credit:   www.bittsandbytes.net

Herring Gull of the coast of Massachusetts. Photo credit: www.bittsandbytes.net

The second most common gull on the Block is the Great Black-backed Gull. Needless to say this gull has a black back and is noticeably larger than the Herring Gull. Like the Herring Gull some of these gulls have the red spot on the underside of their bills as well.

 Great Black-backed Gull. Photo credit: www.symbolicmessangers.com

Great Black-backed Gull. Photo credit: www.symbolicmessangers.com

It was not a surprise for us to see all of these gulls. Right across the coast guard channel was a known gull nesting site. We were even fortunate enough to see a pair of gull chicks, so young their plumage was still fluffy down. Although some see gulls as the rats of the beach, I find them particularly fascinating and intelligent creatures.

At that time it had started to drizzle a little bit so we decided to call it a day and head to Bethany's Airport Diner (so good I had to mention it again!) for some post-birding breakfast. The regular Coot Walkers make it a point to work up an appetite and eat breakfast at Bethany's each week. This week was special though. This was the last Crazy-as-a-Coot walk for the season. As a special treat, Bethany made a cake and her mother (A regular Coot Walker) wrote the most adorable poem.  It was a truly special moment. All of these wonderful ladies and gentlemen take the time out of their busy lives to appreciate and take notice of the wonderful creatures that they share their homes with. Not only that, but most of them also keep gardens and bird feeders so that homeostasis is maintained. Thank you so much Crazy- as-a-Coot Walkers for allowing me to experience this lovely community, rather ecosystem, event.