30 September 2020

Monthly Notables September 2020


  • Slaty-backed Gull (3rd cycle type). Sitka County, Alaska. 02 September 2020.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (2nd cycle). Huron County, Ontario. 02 September 2020.
  • Glaucous Gull (2nd cycle). Glynn County, Georgia. 04 September 2020.
    • Continuing from June 2020.
  • Franklin's Gull (2nd cycle). Prince County, Prince Edward Island. 04 September 2020.
    • Continuing from July 2020. 
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Lane County, Oregon. 06 September 2020.
  • Little Gull (2 - 1st cycles). Cook County, Illinois. 07 September 2020.
  • Little Gull (1st cycle). Inyo County, California. 09 September 2020.
    • 2nd County Record. 
  • Little Gull (1st cycle). Jefferson County, Colorado. 11 September 2020.
  • Sabine's Gull (juvenile). Pictou County, Nova Scotia. 15 September 2020.
  • Sabine's Gull (7 - juveniles). Bay County, Michigan. 16 September 2020.
  • Black-headed Gull (1st cycle). Norfolk County, Ontario. 16 September 2020.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Mendocino County, California. 16 September 2020. 
  • Franklin's Gull (1st cycle). Juneau County, Alaska. 16 September 2020.
  • Little Gull (adult). Johnson County, Iowa. 19 September 2020.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Mississauga, Ontario. 21 September 2020.
    • 1st September Record locally, and for the entire Great Lakes region.
  • Laughing Gull (2nd cycle). Maricopa County, Arizona. 20 September 2020.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (adult type). Keith County, Nebraska. 20 September 2020.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Pierce County, Washington. 24 September 2020.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). San Miguel County, Colorado. 24 September 2020.
    • 1st County Record.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). Yavapai County, Arizona. 24 September 2020.
    • 1st County Record.
  • Laughing Gull (adult). Douglas County, Wisconsin. 26 September 2020.
  • Red-legged Kittiwake (2nd cycle type). Nanaimo District, British Columbia. 27 September 2020.
1. There was an above average presence of Little Gulls throughout the lower 48 this month, many in mostly fresh juvenile plumage. 

2. Lesser Black-backed numbers were likely the highest they've ever been in September throughout the interior, especially in the far southwest United States.

3. A 2nd cycle type Red-legged Kittiwake was observed for less than an hour in Deep Bay (Vancouver Island). This appears to be the 2nd occurrence of this species in BC.

September 2020 Quiz

Wisconsin. February.

Age: Profile and stature suggest a large-white headed gull. An open wing would be helpful for such a plumage aspect, but the overall muted and plain pattern to the tertials and upperwing coverts, as well as the amount of adult-like gray on the back, suggest a 2nd cycle type gull. The primaries, particularly p7-p8, are gently rounded at the tips, which should help move us away from 1st cycle. The bill pattern, with yellow on the nail, is also more expected on an individual beyond its first cycle. 

Identification: Beginning with the primaries, we note a dark brown coloration -- not black -- with prominent pale edging, especially on p5-p6 (closest to the tertials). The tertials are a couple of shades paler, encircled with a pale outline. The coverts become a shade paler than the tertials and have a noticeable frosty look. And so from the wingtip to the lesser coverts, the bird gradually goes from dark to pale in an even manner.  Structurally, the bill is relatively thin with no noticeable buldge at the gonys. The head is nicely rounded, and the head and breast markings are more smudged than streaky. Also helpful here as a supporting field mark is the vividly pink legs. All of this points toward a white-winged gull -- too lanky and small-billed to be Glaucous-winged, which leaves us with Iceland Gull. 

Additional Comments: Note that Glaucous-winged x Herring Gulls can approach this plumage aspect. Those hybrids tend to have a heavy-chested appearance, as well as more body behind the legs and slightly shorter-looking wings than this. But surely there are instance when these two -- Thayer's and Glaucous-winged x Herring hybrids -- can be difficult to separate. 

01 September 2020

Monthly Notables August 2020

  • Glaucous Gull (2nd cycle). Glynn County, Georgia. 01 August 2020.
    • Continuing from June 2020.
  • Thayer's Gull (2nd cycle). Lorain County, Ohio. 02 August 2020.
  • Laughing Gull (juvenile). Monroe County, New York. 03 August 2020.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult type). Worcester County, Maryland. 03 August 2020.
  • California Gull (2nd cycle). Sangamon County, Illinois. 04 August 2020.
    • Continuing from July 2020.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Essex County, Massachusetts. 04 August 2020.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (3rd cycle). Portage la Prairie Area County, Manitoba. 07 August 2020.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Kings County, Prince Edward Island. 08 August 2020.
    • 2nd Province record, which comes less than two weeks after the 1st province record.
  • California Gull (2nd cycle). Wagoner County, Oklahoma. 09 August 2020.
  • Laughing Gull (adult type). Marin County, California. 15 August 2020.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Cook County, Illinois. 18 August 2020.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Capital District, British Columbia. 21 August 2020.
    • 2nd Vancouver Island record.
  • Little Gull (juvenile). Stark County, Ohio. 23 August 2020.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (juvenile). Erie County, New York. 25 August 2020.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Central Okanagan District, British Columbia. 26 August 2020. 
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Clallam County, Washington. 27 August 2020.
    • 3rd County Record.
  • Laughing Gull (juvenile). Niagara County, Ontario. 27 August 2020.
  • Laughing Gull (juvenile). Erie County, New York. 27 August 2020.
    • Same individual as Niagara County, Ontario.
  • Sabine's Gull (2nd cycle type). Lake County, Tennessee. 27 August 2020.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Anchorage County, Alaska. 26 August 2020.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (3rd cycle). Kenai Peninsula County, Alaska. 27 August 2020.
  • Little Gull (juvenile). Highland County, Ohio. 29 August 2020.
  • Laughing Gull (2nd cycle). Eddy County, New Mexico. 29 August 2020.
  • Heermann's Gull (1st cycle). Skagway-Hoonah-Angoon County, Alaska. 29 August 2020.
  • Little Gull (juvenile). Kossouth County, Iowa. 30 August 2020

  1. August saw countless reports of juvenile Heermann's Gulls all along the California, Oregon and Washington coast. The breeding season of 2020 proved to be a banner year with respect to breeding success, one that has not been witnessed for the last 3-4 years.  

31 August 2020

August 2020 Quiz

Massachusetts. July. 

Age: The outer primaries on both individuals are tattered and faded, but the upperparts are largely new. There are obvious molt gaps throughout the upperwing coverts, especially the greater coverts. Both birds appear to be in their 2nd molt cycle with retained juvenile primaries

Identification: The size difference seen here is real, as can be seen from the bill and head dimensions, as well as body and leg girth. The individual on the left is a standard 2nd cycle Great Black-backed Gull with white body, checkered upperparts and a stout bill. On the right, we see a thin bill, sleek rear to the body, and what looks like a svelte, long-winged gull. The upperparts are too solidly dark and checkered for a 2nd cycle Herring, and the clean white underparts also don't evoke thoughts of that species. This bird is a Lesser Black-backed with a somewhat cleaner white head and neck than average, and upperparts that still don't show any signs of adult-like gray. The bicolored bill is also more advanced than many similar-aged Lessers which typically have more black blended through the bill base. Here's my idea of a more average-looking LBBG for comparison.

Of interest here is that GBBG and LBBG don't often look this similar at one year of age, but these two are surprisingly similar. Size and structure are very helpful here.

01 August 2020

Monthly Notables July 2020

  • Glaucous Gull (2nd cycle). Glynn County, Georgia. 01 July 2020.
    • Continuing from June.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Clark County, Ohio. 02 July 2020.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (adult type). Del Norte County, California. 08-18 July 2020.
  • Franklin's Gull (2nd cycle). Orange County, New York. 10 July 2020.
  • Glaucous Gull (2nd cycle). Talbot County, Maryland. 10 July 2020.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Kenai Peninsula County, Alaska. 10 July 2020.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Lorain County, Ohio. 11 July 2020.
  • Sabine's Gull (adult). Barnstable County, Massachusetts. 12 July 2020.
  • Heermann's Gull (2nd cycle). Duval County, Florida. 12 July 2020.
    • Present on the eastern FL coast since August 2019. 
    • Now well into its 2nd prebasic molt with p1-p7 replaced. 
  • California Gull (2nd cycle). Alfalfa County, Oklahoma. 15 July 2020.
  • California Gull (2nd cycle). Springfield County, Illinois. 19 July 2020.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Mobile County, Alabama. 19 July 2020.
    • Continuing from June. 
  • Ring-billed Gull (adult). Skagway-Hoonah-Angoon County, Alaska. 19 July 2020.
  • California Gull (2nd cycle). Delaware County, Ohio. 21 July 2020.
  • Black-headed Gull (juvenile). Dillingham County, Alaska. 22 July 2020.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Barnstable County, Massachusetts. 26 July 2020. 
  • Franklin's Gull (2nd cycle type). Prince County, Prince Edward Island. 27 July 2020.
  • Laughing Gull (adult type). Keith County, Nebraska. 28 July 2020.

31 July 2020

July 2020 Quiz


Age: This appears to be a large, four-year gull. Based on the rounded primary tips, muted pattern to the inner primaries and wing coverts, moderate gray on the back, and largely white tail coverts, we can safely assume this is a 2nd cycle. A 1st cycle holding on to all its flight feathers would likely show less gray on the back, and patterned uppertail coverts and greater coverts. A 3rd cycle would show adult-like primaries, or at the very least, adult-like inner primaries, which this individual does not. 

Identification: Based on the darker gray scapulars that have come in, we can eliminate paler-backed species such as the Iceland Gulls, Herring Gull and even Glaucous-winged Gull. One may ask, how do we correctly interpret the gray on the back, and this could be done by judging the white on the uppertail coverts. The white on the uppertail is a true white -- not blown out and not covered in shadow. Thus, we can visually measure the contrast between the gray upperparts and the uppertail to get a sense of gray values.

This is a broad-winged bird with noticeable white tips across the secondaries. It looks too broad winged for Lesser Black-backed and the bill appears too heavy for that species too. Judging from the swollen bill appearance and smudged head and dusky neck markings, this bird best fits a 2nd cycle Western Gull, and is actually a fairly typical bird. A 2nd cycle Yellow-footed Gull at this time of year would show some indication of adult-like flight feathers and should perhaps average more gray on the upperwing coverts. The date and location also support Western Gull. 

01 July 2020

Monthly Notables June 2020


  • Glaucous Gull (2nd cycle). Lincoln County, Oregon. 01 June 2020.
    • Continuing. Apparently only the second "June" record, locally.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (adult). Montreal County, Quebec.03 June 2020.
  • Sabine's Gull (adult). La Vallee-de-l-'Or County, Quebec. 04 June 2020.
  • Franklin's Gull (2nd cycle type). New London County, Connecticut. 05 June 2020.
  • Laughing Gull (2 - 2nd cycles). Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. 10 June 2020.
    • 2nd County Record. 
  • Glaucous-winged Gull (2nd cycle). Wichita County, Texas. 08 June 2020.
    • Pending acceptance. Would be 2nd State Record. 
  • Great Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Lake County, Illinois. 10 June 2020.
  • Laughing Gull (2nd cycle). Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. 11 June 2020.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Cape Many County, New Jersey. 13 June 2020.
  • Glaucous Gull (2nd cycle). Glynn County, Georgia. 13 June 2020.
  • Laughing Gull (adult). Jackson County, Colorado. 13 June  2020.
  • Iceland Gull (2nd cycle). Allegan County, Michigan. 15 June 2020.
  • Laughing Gull (2nd cycle). Cerro Gordo County, Iowa. 15 June 2020.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). Albany County, Wyoming. 16 June 2020.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Queen Anne's County, Maryland. 19 June 2020.
    • 1st County Record. First summer record for MD since 2008.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Bay County, Michigan. 20 June 2020.
    • 2nd County Record. Last seen in Bay County in December 1981. 
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Barnstable County, Massachusetts. 21 June 2020.
  • Heermann's Gull (2nd cycle). Duval County, Florida. 21 June 2020.
    • Now in it's 2nd plumage cycle. Same individual since August 2019.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). Mendocino County, California. 22 June 2020.
  • Franklin's Gull (1st cycle type). Macomb County, Michigan. 25 June 2020.
  • Sabine's Gull (2nd cycle type). Los Angeles County, California. 27 June 2020.

  • The biggest surprise this month was the apparent Glaucous-winged type from Wichita County, Texas. It looks like a bona fide Glaucous-winged Gull, but bleaching on the primaries makes it impossible to ascertain previous patterns. Uppertail pattern favors Glaucous-winged Gull over a hybrid.
    • 08 June 2020 - 2nd prebasic molt in motion with p1-p2 missing.
    • 11 June 2020 - new p1 barely visible, just beyond primary coverts.
    • 12 June 2020 - p3 missing, new p1 now clearly visible well beyond p-coverts.
  • The other highlight this month is alternate adult Black-headed Gulls found in random places that they're not usually expected in the summer. Most notable is Bay County, Michigan which had not seen this species in the county in 39 years, and is now a first summer record. 
  • Finally, summering Lesser Black-backeds in the interior continue to increase in the summer season, especially for the last 3 consecutive years. Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska all reported 1-3 birds each. All of these individuals, expect for Wyoming, appear to be one-year-olds beginning their 2nd plumage cycles.