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DVOC Field Trip Report
by Adrian Binns

January 24, 2004 (Saturday)
FLORENCE, NJ

The river was frozen with the exception of a shipping lane and the numbers of gulls were well down, maybe only 2-3000 all told with the majority of them being Herrings Gulls, but dotted in between our group of fifteen had great looks at Iceland, Glaucous and Lesser Black-backed, and the five of us that remained even got a Thayer’s.

A first scan produced an adult Iceland, but only moments later a tanker and tug scattered the gulls. Waiting for them to return 3 1st and 2nd year Bald Eagles put in an appearance, one flying by and the other 2 perching in the trees on the far side where they were joined by a Red-tailed Hawk. Common Mergansers were frequently seen flying up and down the river in small groups; Great Blue Herons waited patiently at the rivers edge and several Mallards and Black Ducks were on the water. The gulls never returned, so we headed ½ mile north, and at least got to scan through a few gulls and came up with a 1st winter Iceland on the far bank. A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker called and was soon located in the neighborhood trees. From here we headed a mile south to the park. The small group of mainly Great Black-backed Gulls produced an odd looking juvenile with what turned out to be a broken right wing dangling on the ice – easy pickings for an eagle! Soon a large kettle of gulls was spotted and they just happened to settle in front of us. About half a dozen adult Lesser Black-backs were found and no sooner had Butch found an adult Glaucous Gull they all took to the air again and dispersed! They eventually settled up river. Bert picked up a female Northern Harrier working the top of the dump. From here we headed back to the boat ramp and waited for the gulls to float down. Working the flocks we picked up 4 adult ‘kumlien’s’ Iceland’s, all with various amounts of gray in the primaries. There was even a sleeping gull with a lot of dark gray in the primaries, which was seen next to a ‘pale tipped’ Iceland for comparison. But once it stretched its wings it turned out to be a Herring. Well up river in a scope view, Erica picked out 2 1st year white-wings, which turned out to be a Glaucous and an Iceland – bill, size, structure and primary projection seen well for comparison. A 2nd winter Iceland was then found bathing. Nearing midday the majority of the group headed home, but as they left the gulls got up and 2 minutes later they re-assembled in front of us. A 1st year gull with brown primaries was soon spotted standing alone, and was watched as the tide changed and floated the birds up river. About Iceland size; dark eye; dark smudge around the eye; it’s bill 80% black; it’s mantle just beginning to show a little gray; obvious brown primaries with pale fringes, it made a quick wing stretch showing pale inner webs; brown tertials with dark centers, contrasting with the darker primaries……Thayers. A great way to end the day!