Monday, November 5, 2012

Bonaparte's Invasion

With dreams of sugar plums Evening Grosbeaks dancing in my head, I spent the most of my time today at Lake Erie Metropark.  After walking the trails for a short bit, I spent the day at the hawkwatch.  

Golden Eagles. Check. Red-shouldered Hawks. Yup.  American Kestrel? Sure...a bit late, but tell her that!  All in all, a super day.  

So while the temperatures were chilly and the birding was great, it was, in my opinion, the gulls that made the day really fun.

No, not just any gull. This one:

Oh, I know what you're saying.  "Geee....a sea-gull.  Gross.  I can see those at the dumpster at Taco Bell."

This is a Bonaparte's Gull. I'm sure you have heard the name.  The little guy.  He talked funny.  Always had his hand in his coat (like they didn't have pockets at the time). Conquered Europe.  One source even has Bonaparte visiting San Dimas, California.  (Truly amazing when you find out that Napoleon died in 1821 and San Dimas was not even incorporated as city until 1960.   Most amazing, huh?)

All that aside, the gull is not named after the conqueror of Europe. It was named in honor of his nephew, Charles Lucien Bonaparte, an early North American ornithologist.  In any case, let's face it - this  has to be one of the coolest looking gulls in North America.  Forget the gross browns and grays that you see on "Gulless grosses taco bellus".

Nesting in trees, believe it or not, across much of the Canadian Shield region and west into Alaska, Bonaparte's Gulls are not at all uncommon in Michigan. During the autumn migration, a load of these white and gray gems will go parading around western Lake Erie.  They snag minnows out of the water with ease.  So dainty in flight, new birders often mistake them for terns.

Today's hawkwatch gave us a chance to really see them up close.

Even when the hawkwatching was good, it can only be better when Bonaparte's Gulls are "invading" the area. 


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