Saturday, August 23, 2014

Birds Have Character

I can't think of any bird, other than the musgovy duck that rates as low as the laughing gull when it comes to respectable behavior. Not only that, it's so common. Everyone has their favorite or most sought after bird to photograph, the roseate spoonbill for instance. Oddly enough, one of my favorite birds to photograph is the laughing gull. The laughing gull (and gulls in general) has endearing qualities and characteristics that pique my interest. It may not be a noble bird like the osprey, but it is great fun to photograph.

If laughing gulls are photographed, it is mostly during their breeding season. In Florida, this occurs primarily in the Tampa region. Consequently, I rarely get to see them during this time. This is when the laughing gull stands out among other gulls with its black head and brilliant red beak. The mating behaviors are beautiful as well. Here's an image taken from Fort DeSoto in March of 2011. It's one of three or four that I have of laughing gulls exhibiting mating behavior (and it was a dull overcast day).

In south Florida, the time of year that I photograph laughing gulls is in the late summer and early fall months when the birds are not in breeding plumage. I see them by the hundreds on Biscayne Bay. I believe they migrate as their appearance dwindles with approaching winter. I first discovered the laughing gull while watching them roost on the sponge farm sticks located on the bay. Because the roosting space was minimal, the birds constantly fought each other, one bullying another off a stick. When I began noticing this behavior, I thought it would be fun attempting to capture them. And what a blast it was. First, gulls are quite beautiful in flight. Second, when they are screaming at each other, their faces are very expressive. Awesome subjects! And if you are lucky to have the wind blowing to your back, the birds will consequently face you as they attempt to land..

I also noticed that they liked to hang out in the seagrasses during low tide. This can also be lots of fun to photograph. It is here where I see the laughing gull intimidating other birds, primarily the white ibis. I've also seen them do this on Florida Bay chasing the snowy egrets. And of course, where you see diving brown pelicans, you will see laughing gulls. They are so obnoxious!

When it comes to bird photography, everyone has their favorites. Who can compete with the roseate spoonbill or American eagle? For me, the laughing gull beats a pair of spoonbills, most of time.

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