Friday, September 4, 2009

Do not put things off, particularly if you are a crab!

Text and photos (all copyrighted) by Tony Leukering

While out studying the plethora of Common Tern plumages on the beach at Cape May Point on the afternoon of 4 September, I noted a second-cycle Herring Gull leave the jetty to my east and fly toward the stretch of beach that I had staked out for photography. As Herring Gull is one of my very favorite beasts, particularly in subadult plumages and as I am interested in molt progression in many species, I photographed it coming in for a landing near me at

2:00 p.m.

One can easily see that the bird is nearing completion of its second pre-basic molt: its outermost two feathers on each wing are still growing and they are the last ones to be replaced. Then, at

2:04 p.m.,

the gull decided that it wanted to be on the other side of me, so it ran by me in the surf and by

2:06 p.m.,

it had set up shop searching for whatever unfortunates might make themselves noticeable to its staring yellow eyes. About then, the terns that I had been studying flushed off the jetty to the east, so I stopped watching the Herring Gull. Briefly. I noticed motion in the corner of my right eye, still at

2:06 p.m.,

and turned back to find that the gull had darted into the surf and caught the hapless victim depicted. Working quickly, and still at

2:06 p.m.,

the gull carried the crab up onto the beach, presumably to reduce the chance that it would escape in a wave, and proceeded, still at

2:06 p.m.,

to pound it with its bill and toss it around a bit. The crab tried putting up a fight, but the conclusion seemed foregone to me. And, in fact, at

2:07 p.m.,

the Herring Gull was trying to extract the last morsels from the nearly-empty shell. What a difference a minute can make, particularly in the life of a crab residing near Herring Gulls.

No comments: