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Long Island Sound Gulls & Plankton Trip- March 9, 2019

39 of us, plus 3 crew from the Maritime Aquarium, assembled at the Norwalk CT dock around 9:30 am and departed at 10 am for a six-hour cruise in LIS Long Island Sound. It was a gorgeous sunny morning with temperatures in the 40s. Our primary goal was to find the large flock of gulls which often assemble in these waters in March, apparently feeding on plankton of various types. We wanted to learn more about what these thousands of gulls were eating, more than a mile offshore, and of course, to look for any special gull species, such as Little Gull. We sailed SW around the Norwalk Islands and then went east toward Stratford. As we approached Bridgeport-Stratford waters, we could see a long line of white dots on the horizon, which turned out to be a flock of about 3,000 Ring-billed Gulls (also including 4 Iceland Gulls and 2 Bonaparte’s Gulls), in waters teeming with zillions of 1mm plankton and a few jellyfish. A plankton tow in these waters revealed barnacle larvae, copepods, and phytoplankton (diatoms mostly). We also took an underwater video which revealed small mobile worm-like creatures, with their identity TBD. Are the gulls and other species eating barnacles and/or these “worms”? The plankton samples we collected will be analyzed at several laboratories this month, with some to be preserved at Yale’s Peabody Museum. Everyone enjoyed the gulls, the plankton, the 39 people on board, the ship, the crew, and the amazingly beautiful warm sunny day on the water. Hopefully we can run this trip again next year, and will plan it soon. Details can be found at: https://sites.google.com/view/lisgullsplanktontrip/home

Respectfully submitted, Thomas Robben

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