November 1, 2011, Nikon D300, 70-300 AF-S VR @ 240mm, ISO 400, 1/1250th second @ f/11, -2/3rds ev compensation
Having just recently written about the thrill of seeing rare birds with my post on Surf Scoter I wasn’t expecting to follow up so soon with another rare bird post. But with a report of a Black-legged Kittiwake only 35 miles south of me in Casa Grande, AZ, on October 31, I couldn’t resist another quick chase for another rare species for AZ.
The Black-legged Kittiwake is a gull of the oceans, seldom seen at inland locations. When I lived in NJ I would see them in flight near shore when I’d scan with my spotting scope, and even get photo opps when out on a pelagic trip as in this photo.
Date unknown, Nikon camera and lens, film
In AZ they are quite rare, as you’d expect of an ocean-loving bird in the desert. But this adult bird in Casa Grande is my second for AZ; my first was this immature bird that was discovered at a golf course pond in Gilbert on January 1, 1997.
January 1, 1997, Nikon 8008, Nikkor 400/5.6 MF lens plus TC14 (1.4x), unknown film
The 1997 gull was first winter bird, easily seen from the striking pattern on the upper wing and the black bill. The Casa Grande gull is an adult, as is the gull in flight from NJ, with plain gray wings on top and a yellow bill.
The gull is still present in Casa Grande on November 5, hanging out at an artificial pond by a housing subdivision surrounded by desert. The gull has been feeding on bread and crackers tossed out to the resident coots and domestic ducks by local residents, as well as feeding on the small fish to come to feed on the handouts. Some observers have speculated that this bird is sick and have suggested that it be captured for rehabilitation, but I saw no indications of sickness and hope that well meaning people will not attempt a capture.
On my visit on November 1 I was able to view and photograph the bird at very close range while the locals were tossing out food. I took well over 200 photos (gotta love digital!) and was able to use my 70-300 zoom hand held for most of them. I am nowhere near finished editing them but wanted to get one of the early shots posted. The lead photo was taken in harsh early afternoon light without fill flash so the contrast is high and barely covered by the camera’s dynamic range. I’ve considered a return visit for early morning light but dread the thought of collecting even more images of this bird to edit.