Last Wednesday, I and about 27 other birders boarded the Miss Cindy in Vermilion, Ohio, and headed out on Lake Erie. This was one of Jen Brumfield's freshwater "pelagics", and she and crew have drummed up amazing stuff in trip's past. This day, alas, we were treated to weather much too fine for good lake birding: high in the 80's, little wind, and calm conditions for the prior few days. One highs for cool blustery weather, just rough enough that the boat will still go out.
But in spite of that, it was a fantastic trip and I encourage you to try one of these. Jen's pelagics fill fast, and I'm not sure there will be any more opportunities with her this year. However, Black Swamp Bird Observatory has two trips this year; details RIGHT HERE. Sign up for one of them now!
In spite of the calm weather, we saw lots of interesting things. A Red-necked Phalarope, spotted by the inimitable Jerry Talkington, was a great find. So was a first of season Horned Grebe. Good looks at Common and Forster's terns. And lots of Monarchs - yes, Monarch butterflies! It was amazing to see the hardy insects making the open water crossing from Canada. In all, we sailed 67 miles and made it 12-14 miles out from shore. Monarchs, steadfastly winging south, were seen just about everywhere.
I was shooting my Canon 7D Mark II, coupled to Canon's 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 II lens. This is an awesome setup for bird photography, especially for handheld shots of flying birds from a moving boat.
A big challenge with gulls on a sunny day is overexposure. I almost guarantee that if you leave your camera in full auto, or any other setting with the exposure at neutral, you'll end up with blown-out overexposed images. The gleaming white on the birds really causes significant light blowback. For most of these images, the exposure compensation was dialed down a full stop, sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less.
Whatever you call them, gulls are fun to watch, and great practice for in-flight bird photography.