Monday, November 25, 2013

Black-headed Gull

Sometimes a good bird falls through the gaps, what with all the other things going on around Cape May at the moment. On November 16th, Sam Galick found a smart, adult Black-headed Gull at Miami Beach and, though several people managed to shoot straight over and get a look at the bird, it somehow never made it onto our blog.

Miami Beach has proved to be a regular location for this species in recent years, though Black-headed Gulls seem to more typically turn up there in late winter rather than in late fall. If you are not sure where Miami Beach is and want to go and check the place out, it's a section of beach on the Delaware Bay side of the Cape May peninsula, right at the northern end of Villas in Lower Township. It is best accessed by heading west off Bayshore Road along Miami Avenue. Park tidily near to where Miami dead ends with the beach and walk out onto the beach to view the shore line. Viewing here is usually best at high tide as the birds will be closer to you and will most likely be roosting in a tight group rather than scattered across miles of sand flats. Check local tide tables for tide times, or click on the Highlands Beach link on our News from the Cape page.

If you look north from Miami Avenue, you will see a sand bar, pushed up by water pumped out from nearby Fulling Mill/Fishing Creek. This bar usually remains uncovered by all but the highest tides and is the first place that gulls gather as the tide starts to fall. This is what makes this particular spot so good as a birding hot spot.

With the recent pulse of Arctic winds bearing down on us, gulls have been moving in impressive numbers - most notably Ring-billed Gulls over the past 48 hours - so Miami Beach may very well be worth keeping an eye on over the next few days.

Black-headed Gull at Miami Beach. This species looks superficially like an oversized Bonaparte's Gull, but notice the dark red bill and legs and the mostly gray underwing [all photos by Sam Galick].