Mille Lac’s west shore

Posted on November 19th, 2008 – 9:56 AM
By Jim Williams

 bonapartes-winter-pair.jpg A good quick late-fall early-winter birding trip is a tour of the west shore of Mille Lacs Lake. Jude and I were there a feew of days ago, sun shining, water blue. We hoped to find loons in large numbers, but I think we were late. Common Loons gather on the lake during fall migration. Over 1,000 birds have been counted in one day. From the overlook at Garrison we had 17 in sight at once. There were Red-breasted Mergansers, Bonaparte’s and Ring-billed gulls as well. Red-breasted and Pacific loons can be seen there, too, but not this day. Several years ago a Yellow-billed Loon, an extremely rare lower-48 visitor was seen for a few days. It arrived late in the season. Ice formed, trapping it because it did not have enough opem water for the long running takeoff loons need. Eventually, a Bald Eagle ate it. (Pictured are a pair of Bonaparte’s gulls in winter plumage.)

3 Responses to "Mille Lac’s west shore"

Connie Nelson says:

November 19th, 2008 at 11:50 am

How can you tell one gull from another? They all look alike to me . . .

Jim Williams says:

November 21st, 2008 at 3:38 am

Practice, practice, practice. On the gulls shown here, look at the size and color of their bills. Note the dark spot behind the eye. These are identity clues. Gulls come in different sizes, with different pattens of black, white, and gray, different colored bills, leg and feet. If it doesn’t sound simple enough, it can be even less simple than it sounds. Gulls take as many as five years to acquire their mature feathering. Until then they can show a highly varied plumage of darker grays and browns. Stick with the bright white/gray/black bird for starters. Look at them closely with a good ID book at hand.