When I have a question about birds, I ask my friend Bonnie….. a birder. When we have traveled together, I have seen her (on many occasions) quickly digging binoculars out of her handbag to try to identify a bird in flight. I love that! A couple of years ago on Cape Cod, we both watched a bird doing something funny and I said “Look at the funny sea gull!”. That’s when I learned that there is NOT one bird that has the name of “Sea Gull”. Weird, huh? So she is my go-to-girl when I have a question about a bird.
This is not a “Sea Gull” it’s a Ring-billed Gull. I know this now because Bonnie met me on the beach at Gulf Side City Park to teach me about birding. We made a deal …. if I would teach her a little about shelling, she would teach me a little about birding. What a deal!!
She brought her binoculars and her Sibley Field Guide To Birds book to give me my first lesson on shore birds. So when we saw the Ring-billed Gull, she whipped out the Sibley and flipped to this page to show me this……(click it to enlarge)
Then we saw a Ruddy Turnstone….
Then she quickly turned to this page…but notice how many different changes and colors the Ruddy Turnstone goes through as it matures.
Then we saw a Laughing Gull. They really sound like they are laughing when they communicate.
Here is the Sibley page for Laughing Gull (again, notice the color changes!)…
So when we came across the next bird, Bonnie had to use process of elimination to figure out what bird this was. Notice the reddish color of the inside of the beak, the orange legs and the rest of the coloration.
The conclusion was that this is an adult nonbreeding Common Tern that is in a maturing stage to an adult breeding Common Tern. This was so much fun to figure out! You have to look at every detail of beak, legs and color patterns through the binoculars. It’s a puzzle.
This is one of my favorites to see on the beach. I love that little spiky hair-do ( okay, it’s really called a shaggy crest) . I think it was extra spiky since the fog was so thick and everything got damp so quickly… so it was even cuter. This is the Royal Tern…
Here are the details…
See? Birding is so similar to shelling. We identify both of them through patterns, colors, destinations, process of elimination ….and both of these beautiful sites are found by just taking a walk along the beach at any given time of day on Sanibel or Captiva. Here are just a few photos of the shells. I really was so much into the birds, I’m not sure I held up my end of the bargain to teach her about shells. Oops! Well, I’ll have another good reason to get together with Bonnie. :)
Very informative-Iwill use this when I do my post about the birds I photographed.
Holy Smokes, or should I say FOG! That wrack line in the picture of Bonnie holding the Skate Egg Case is pretty amazing. Looks like you should be finding some fabulous stuff in those lines!
I always just called them gulls and never realized there were so many different kinds! Guess I was too busy looking down… ;) Thank you Bonnie and Pam!
PS–the Lace Murex is stunning!
I am so proud to have such smart, interesting and beautiful girlfriends. Thanks for all the great info girls!
This is my favorite birding website because you can hear the distinct sound each bird makes. Listen to the difference between the Common Tern and Royal Tern. Amazing! It’s very easy to do a search located at the top right corner of the pages.
How wonderful~you bring together two of my favorite hobbies! Have I told you how much I LOVE this blog?!
Love the beautiful birds. And the lace murex of course. I would love to find one of those some day!!
Hey Pam! I got some shots of those gull-like birds yesterday and there was a guy there telling me how rare it was to see the black ones during the day…said they usually only come out to hunt at night. And that they are the only ones who’s bottom bill is bigger than the top one. Who knew?
I’ll send you the pic when I download.
The bird you saw was a Black Skimmer.The lower jaw, or mandible,is longer than the upper jaw. This bird has a unique way of fishing for his prey. He will fly a few inches above shallow, calm water with his lower bill partly submerged. When the bill “hits” something it snaps shut. Since Skimmers feed by touch they are able to feed at dawn, dusk and in the dark. They have great night vision that enables them to fish with this unique method. One can see them resting on the beaches in large flocks during the day.
Keep your eyes peeled for new birds.
Happy shelling and birding
Thank you for the sanibel accomodations info!… and for taking me away from all this cold and snow with your beautiful daily photos…
Perhaps one of these days I”ll be birding and shelling along side you..
Pam, I so love your column. I have been coming to Sanibel for 40 years and I think you should “sell” your shell column to the Island Sun or the Islander. Many years ago, there was a weekly shelling column by someone named Captain Mike and in that column, he related what he was finding the past week on which beaches in terms of shells. Your column is so good and so thorough and helps us shellers so much that I really think it ought to be published. I now live part time in Fort Myers and am shelling on days when I think it will be good. The formula for the best shelling to me is full moon, winter, low tide, NW or W winds after a storm.
The man who ran the shell shop across from Dairy Queen(his name escapes me) used to write for the shopper. He was wonderful at identification and the cleaning of shells. For instance, he said that 100% bleach was fine for shells except for the already shiny ones. 100% would not change the color of any shell.
From the Sarasota shell fair this weekend, Peggy Williams, who leads great shelling trips to the Bahamas, Venezuela, Mexico, and others, says she no longer uses Muriatic acid but uses a green colored toilet bowl cleaner which also has acid. She dips the shell in the cleaner while water is running and immediately washes off the shell.
All for now–keep up the blog. I cannot tell you how much experienced and novice shellers appreciate your effort!
I just heard about that toilet bowl cleaner too but haven’t used that yet. Thank you so much for all of your info AND encouragement!
I love sanibel and captiva and I often read your blog for my little dose of peace. Could you tell me what those off whitish things are that the skate egg case is resting on? They look like egg casing material but ???
Those are parchment worm casings- check out this post with other IDs and more photos… http://www.iloveshelling.com/blog/2011/09/27/as-the-sanibel-sky-terns/
Thanks so much for the bird info, Pam….it is so timely as I got lots of beautiful bird pictures when we were there end of January and now I know what to call them!
I agree with Carol…you are a wealth of information and I just love the virtual shelling …..your video is in the exact spot we Sani-Belles went crazy finding so many treasures. A Shelling Trip!! Pam, you could do that! Shells & Sea Glass! Yes!! count me in!
I found a four skate egg cases awhile back, but it’s the only time I’ve ever seen any since I’ve been collecting beach finds. That wrack line is most impressive. It makes me wish I could spend a few hours there looking through it!
Cannot wait to paint and photograph those birds, and see those shells! Thanks for the info-entertaining as always!
Counting the days until my return to Sanibel/Captiva in March–just for four days–but better than no days.
Hope the shells and birds will be in full force–and the sun too, after this unbelievable winter.
I love your blog, Pam!!
Thank you so much.
Love the murex. My daughter and i enjoy reading every post. There’s always something new to learn. AND it helps get us through this long Michigan winter