Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Glaucous-winged Gull - One Foot

Last Friday during my trip to the coast, after the sun had disappeared behind clouds that had moved in during the early afternoon, I made one last stop at Hatfield Marine Science Center before heading home. I had not been to the science center in over ten years, so I was somewhat unfamiliar with what I would find, but I had heard that it could be a good birding area.
What I found was that one side of the parking lot was up against the bay and that there were birds swimming about. There were several Buffleheads, a Double-crested Cormorant and as I discovered tonight while going through the pictures, a Horned Grebe. There were also some gulls.
One of the gulls was quite a ways off, but I still had my camera equipped with the 600mm lens and the 1.7x teleconvertor. That gave me the equivalent of a 1500mm lens on a 35mm camera. That optical power allowed me to see the distant gull quite well.
What I discovered was a Glaucous-winged Gull that had a severed foot. It was standing in shallow water, hopping to get around with wings spread to keep its balance, as seen below. Not long after watching the gull, I observed it pull some type of mollusk from the mud under the water.It then took off flying in the general direction of the parking lot. I tried to follow it with my camera, but I am not as nimble with a big lens on a tripod as I am using my normal hand held 300mm lens. None-the-less, I was able to get a few reasonable shots of it as it flew off.Then it did something that I would not have been surprised at, had I lived in coastal areas in the past, or had been a life-time birder. It hovered over the asphalt and dropped the mollusk so that the mollusk broke open when it hit the ground.It then swooped down at the site of the carnage and proceeded to eat the juicy innards.While the act of dropping the mollusk was not an unusual sequence to have witnessed, what struck me was the fact that this disabled gull had adapted to its situation and was able to fend for itself in the face of such adversity.
It wasn't until it was all over, that I realized what the white crushed debris on the parking lot surface was. It was crushed shells from all the mollusks that must have been dropped by gulls over the years!

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