I've generally considered myself to be a fledgling birder: I watch what comes to our feeders in the wintertime, and I listen and try to spot the birds hanging out with us in the summertime. Loosely, I keep a life list, and every so often (annually?), I must re-acquaint myself with some of the songs that I hear seasonally, because I tend to forget them over the winter.
Once in a while, we are treated to a rare sighting of something that doesn't inhabit this area on a regular basis. Ususally, that includes a species that will stop by while migrating further north. I love it when I spot a hooded merganser, as they look so exotic to me. This year, I happened to stop at the wayside at Swamper Lake, and there were two pairs of these, swiftly swimming away from me, so no chance for a photo.
Today, Greg noticed a flock of white birds on the Canadian side of the lake. He brought them to my attention, but with the binoculars, they were still too small and faraway to identify. He decided to hop in his boat to investigate further. I would have accompanied him, but I was still finishing up chores, as today is our first day officially open for the summer season. When he got back, he shared the photos and some video with me, while surrounded by bird identification books.
It didn't take him long to narrow down the list, and a short time after, he pretty much decided that it was a flock of Bonaparte's gulls. When we zoomed in on the photo above, the bird in flight showed markings that are characteristic of this type of gull.
He also got some good video of the birds leaving the water to fly around a bit.
Thanks to the Internet, we feel like we have made a fairly reliable identification. What sealed the deal for me, was the ability to listen to the audio file of the birds' call. Reading a description is helpful, but hearing a short clip of it makes it much easier to confirm. It's also nice to read up on the birds, more than just the short information offered in the field guide. For instance, I learned that this bird is named to commemorate Charles Bonaparte, a younger brother of the more famous fellow named Napoleon. Fun little facts that may someday be useful in trivia! If you want to read more about these gulls, just follow this link: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Bonapartes_Gull/sounds