There was a huge number of Bonaparte’s Gulls lining the far shore, huddled together on the sand. Well, it was a huge number to me. I counted 124 at least, as far as I could see. I had never seen that many Bonaparte’s Gulls together before! Then, this is also my first spring with my very own spotting scope; last spring I had to ID birds at very close range. I put my scope safely back on the quad, then set out down the beach with my camera. I went for the closest Bonaparte’s Gulls that I could see, but they were much further away that I had thought looking at them through my scope. I slowly walked towards it in a zig-zag pattern to get closer. If you walk in zig-zag rather than a straight line, they won’t feel that you’re as much of a threat and will likely let you approach closer than if you walked towards them in a straight line. It’s a trick that my mentor Cameron Eckert taught me, and a very good trick it is!
After taking a few pictures the Bonaparte’s Gull walked into the water and swam away, so I set out for another one. The next one I found was foraging along the water’s edge with a bunch of Herring and Mew Gulls. This one seemed tamer than the last one, and let me approach even closer. However, there was a certain distance that it wanted to keep me at. Once I reached the limit of that distance, it would start walking away from me at the same pace I was. The moment I stopped, it would also stop. It was standing in the water watching me as I crouched down on a point of sand sticking out into the lake. It was almost as if it knew I really wanted to take pictures of it. It was very cooroporative and posed for me, just as long as I stayed that certain distance away. It was like we had made an agreement of some sort without saying anything.
After spending a while with the Bonaparte’s Gull I took the quad and went further down the beach to look for shorebirds. I only had to go 300 meters before I found a pair of Lesser Yellowlegs foraging along the shore. I shut off the quad and took some pictures of them too. Every once in a while the Yellowlegs that I am assuming was the male, would stand up and sing this beautifully clear, wavering song, his breeding call. Then the other one, which I am assuming was the female, would watch him sing and then run or fly over and start foraging again beside him. As dusk fell, I checked off a few more species for the evening: Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, and Varied Thrush. I went home very happy that evening, because it turned out to be a really beautiful night after all.