Just a glimpse is good for gull-ible people

Posted Feb. 18, 2009, at 8:04 p.m.

I’ve been to Schoodic Point to see birds recently, and a highlight was seeing several gull species that one doesn’t see every day. To see many gulls, one has to go past Schoodic to Prospect Harbor, where there is a fish-processing factory.

Gulls are scavengers and sometimes predators. A handful of gull species can find food at that factory. Birders can find unusual gulls there.

So after seeing the beauty of Schoodic Point, we went on to Prospect Harbor. It is a working harbor, with a beauty of its own — a scenic town and bay with boats and wharves.

We scanned a large number of large gulls milling around in the sky, with more swimming on the waves and others on docks and boats.

We saw hundreds of herring gulls, the most common gull. We saw dozens of great black-backed gulls — the biggest gull in Maine — and dozens of ring-billed gulls. These three are the same gull species that hang out on the ice in Bangor along the Penobscot River park near the Sea Dog.

We went to Prospect Harbor to find the uncommon gulls. We scanned back and forth with our binoculars for glaucous gulls and Iceland gulls. It took awhile, in the cold and wind, and scent of fish, but we finally found both species.

We studied both carefully. The glaucous gull is larger than a herring gull. The first year glaucous gulls are all white — they have no gray on the wings, and no black on the tips of their wings, as herring gulls have.

The adult glaucous gulls are colored very light gray on their backs and on the top of their wings. They nest in the Arctic and are predators, eating fish, crustaceans, lemmings and the eggs and young of birds, such as sandpipers and ducks. In winter they go south to Maine, and become scavengers.

We also found a few Iceland gulls. They were smaller than the glaucous gulls. Their colors were similar to those on the glaucous gulls — light gray and white. The size and shape of these two gulls are quite different, however. Iceland gulls, being smaller, eat smaller prey in summer — insects, smaller fish, crabs, birds and eggs.

And, yes, they live in Iceland, and also around the north polar areas. But some come to Maine for the winter, so birders seek them out.

For information on Fields Pond Audubon Center, call 989-2591.

Training for nature volunteers

Volunteers are needed to lead nature walks at Fields Pond Audubon Center on Fields Pond Road.

Volunteers will lead small school groups through fields and forest, teaching the signs of spring. A background in environmental education is not necessary. The best qualification is an enthusiasm for nature.

Signs of spring naturalist training sessions will be offered 10 a.m.-noon Tuesday, Feb. 24; 9-11 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 26; 10 a.m.-noon Wednesday, March 4; and 10 a.m.-noon Friday, March 6, at the center.

For information, call Ruth Perry at 989-2591.

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