Saturday, February 12, 2011


Checking the satellite for the area at 5am it pretty much showed that if I did go on a planned trip to Barnegat Inlet, I'd get there just as a wall of cloud rolled in. Having this happen to me once was quite enough, so I deferred the trip to Sunday and did errands and a trip to the local gull watching site: Florence.

Florence, on the NJ side of the Delaware where the river runs roughly east-west, overlooks the series of dumps in Tullytown PA. It's very much in the tidal section of the river although the salinity is probably somewhat brackish. The gulls often roost on the river where you can sort through them. However this has been trickier in recent years with the dump next to the river less active and grassed over. So on Sat morning: few to no gulls. Best birds were: Ring-necked Duck, Common Merganser, Great Cormorant (fly-by) and an immature Bald Eagle who was easy to track because it flushed all the geese, gulls and crows on the landfill.

I decided instead to head over to the PA side, taking the turnpike from near Florence just across the river. And got promptly gouged for a total in $3:40 in tolls. I'm sorry but if you gouge me on the tolls I don't spend $ in your township. Ever. Period. I also ended up being diverted nearly all the way up to the Trenton-Morrisville bridge by a road closure, so it was a total waste of time and $ in doing the driving shortcut. Tullytown is in a particularly ugly part of n.e. Pennsylvania - and given its location perhaps it should call itself the "Gateway to Garbage". But garbage means gulls.

On my detour I passed an incineration plant with a huge flock of roadside Starlings - not merely a few hundred but at least a thousand. Usually they are really traffic-savvy but I could see one or two roadkill ones which the Crows and one or two other Starlings were taking advantage of. Opportunistic cannibalism. There were simply so many that it would have been easy to kill a few had I not slowed down to 15 mph.

I could also see a large circling flock of gulls over a landfill to the west of where I was (i.e. n.e. of Tullytown) and this boded well for my ultimate destination, Falls Township Community Park. The lakes were frozen except for a very small open patch of water, but there was a flock of several hundred gulls there on the ice. Almost immediately I found an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull. Elsewhere Lesser Black-backed is a rare gull. In this general area it's not really that rare and in this flock there were at least 18 adults, outnumbering the Great Black-backed Gulls. I scoped the flock for several sweeps until I decided to warm up in my car and eat a bagel. After a little while I saw a paler gull fly up and got to examine a blotchy pale coffee-colored first winter Iceland Gull for a while. The Florence-Tullytown area usually hosts quite a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a few Iceland Gulls of a winter, and one or two Glaucous Gulls are often in the mix. Of interest were some Herring Gulls that had pure white heads and were getting into breeding plumage, although most were pretty strongly marked on the head. Most of the birds in this flock of all species were adults. There were probably other gull flocks nearby on the frozen lakes and impoundments, but its not always easy to find pull overs on public roads in this area.

Falls Twp Community Park is west of US-13 along Mill Creek Road, open dawn-dusk. From Trenton, south on Route 1 and then south on Route 13.

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