01 June 2018

Monthly Notables May 2018

  • Slaty-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Camrose-Llyodminister County, Alberta. 02 May 2018.
    • Continuing from April 2018.
  • Glaucous Gull (1st cycle). San Mateo County, California. 02 May 2018.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). Natrona County, Wyoming. 03 May 2018.
  • Little Gull (adult). St. Louis County, Minnesota. 04 May 2018.
    • 2 adults seen in the area on 12 May 2018.
  • Iceland Gull (1st cycle). Harrison County, Mississippi. 08 May 2018.
  • Herring Gull (1st cycle). Mohave County, Arizona. 09 May 2018.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (1st cycle). Burleigh County, North Dakota. 12 May 2018.
  • Iceland Gull (1st cycle). Cook County, Illinois. 12 May 2018.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Aleutians West County, Alaska. 12 May 2018.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Saint Paul Island, Alaska. 16 May 2018.
    • Apparent 6th record for the island.
  • Glaucous-winged Gull (adult). Fort Smith County, Northwest Territories. 18 May 2018.
    • 2nd record for the Yellowknife area. 
  • Franklin's Gull (1st cycle). Transylvania County, Pennsylvania. 18 May 2018.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Anchorage County, Alaska. 19 May 2018.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Kodiak Island County, Alaska. 20 May 2018. 
  • Ross's Gull (adult). Kusilvak County, Alaska. 24 May 2018.
  • Heermann's Gull (adult). Yuma County, Arizona. 25 May 2018.
  • Laughing Gull (adult). St. Louis County, Minnesota. 26 May 2018.
  • Common Gull (adult). Avalon Peninsula. Newfoundland. 26 May 2018.
    • Found in a Ring-billed Gull colony. No evidence of nesting. 


An apparent 1st cycle Laughing x Ring-billed Gull was photographed in by Janice Soos Farral in Lucas County, Ohio in early May. Photos here.

2. The dark-winged 1st cycle Ring-billed Gull photographed in Lansing, Michigan in early April 2018 was apparently spotted in Berrien County, Michigan on 09 May 2018. This individual may clarify the juvenile Ring-billed observed in Wisconsin Point a couple of years ago, suspected of being a Ring-billed x Lesser Black-backed Gull. Previous to this, solid dark wings as such have only been reported in small, hooded, gulls in North America.

3. Back in March of 2018, Pennsylvania Game Commission biologists fitted 9 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls with satellite transmitters. As of 21 May 2018, two individuals had made it to southwest Greenland, and 5 others were to the far northeast between the Bay of Fundy, Northern Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Copyright Pennsylvania Game Commission.

31 May 2018

May 2018 Quiz

Age:  A known-age bird, this individual was banded in Door County, Wisconsin as a nestling. The overall appearance suggests a 1st cycle and the pointed primary tips reinforce this.

Identification: In some ways, a 1st cycle California Gull may approach what we see here, but that species tends to have a longer and more tubular bill. The bill on our quiz bird is stout and widens at the base. Depending on the time of year, we'd expect a more sharply demarcated bill pattern for California. At this age, California Gull has a longer-wing appearance with an attenuated feel to the rear. The silvery 2nd generation scapulars are suspiciously similar to many Herrings at this age, and of course, that's what this individual is. Structurally, it looks fine for a Herring Gull. The solid brown wing coverts are a result of the feather edges fraying, which eliminates much of the pale edging we'd see soon after fledging.

This individual was rescued by the Wisconsin Humane Society after being trapped in a deep windowsill between buildings. Luckily, it was soon released where it then made its way over to Berrien County, Michigan. It was banded as a chick on 24 June 2013. I photographed it in southwest Michigan on 07 December 2013.

29 May 2018

1st Cycle Laughing x Ring-billed Gull - Ohio

Here's a neat 1st cycle photographed by Janice Farral in early May 2018:

Lucas County, Ohio. 

The aspiring hood, leg color and bill pattern make this a great candidate for Laughing x Ring-billed Gull, tending toward the latter. Interestingly, not too far to the east in Lorain, Ohio, observers recorded an adult Laughing Gull being courted by an adult Ring-billed Gull last Spring. A putative hybrid was also seen in Lorain last year.

30 April 2018

Monthly Notables April 2018

  • California Gull (1st cycle). Volusia County, Florida. 06 April 2018.
    • Apparently the same individual seen here in February 2018.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). New Hanover County, North Carolina. 08 April 2018.
  • Little Gull (adult). Sangamon County, Illinois. 11 April 2018.
  • Common Gull (adult). Barnstable County, Massachusetts. 14 April 2018.
  • Mew Gull (adult). Norfolk County, Massachusetts. 15 April 2018.
    • 1st county record. Perhaps the first well-documented brachyrhynchus for the state.
  • Common Gull (adult). Norfolk County, Massachusetts. 15 Aril 2018.
    • Blue leg band, 747, on left leg, originating from Iceland. This individual was seen on the same stretch of beach with the Mew Gull above. See here. Not to be confused with the metal-banded Common Gull also originating from Iceland.
  • Mew Gull (adult). Schenectady County, New York. 15 April 2018.
    • Apparent 1st county record.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (1st cycle). Burleigh County, North Dakota. 17 April 2018.
  • Little Gull (adult). Ingham County, Michigan. 18 April 2018.
  • Mew Gull (1st cycle). Scott County, Iowa. 18 April 2018.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Warren County, Pennsylvania. 19 April 2018.
  • Mew Gull (adult). Keith County, Nebraska. 21 April 2018.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). San Mateo County, California. 24 April 2018.
    • Distinct bird with missing left foot.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (1st cycle). Cameron Parish, Louisiana. 24 April 2018.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Robert Cliché County, Quebec. 27 April 2018.
  • Ivory Gull (adult). Nome County, Alaska. 28 April 2018.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Camrose-Lloydminister County, Alberta. 29 April 2018.
  • Little Gull (adult). Sullivan County, New Hampshire. 30 April 2018.

April 2018 Quiz

Age: The gray back and proximal wing coverts suggest an adult bird, but which species?

Identification: Note that Bonaparte's is easily ruled out due to the white trailing edge. Black-legged Kittiwake would be a good guess, but the pattern on the upperwings and primaries contradicts its age. That is, only a young Black-legged Kittiwake would show the white triangle seen here, but it would be coupled with a black carpal bar. Also, traces of a black tailband would be present if it were the more common kittiwake.

From the looks of it, this appears to be a "smaller" gull, mostly recalling Sabine's Gull. But there are some small, subtle, features on this bird that nail the identification: Notice the white sliver on the outer scapulars on the right wing. Zooming in, there is a thin white partition between the scaps and upperwing coverts. This is not found in any Sabine's Gull, but is found in Swallow Tailed-Gull. And. And. And...last, but not least...adult Sabine's have black-ish legs - not the relatively bright pink legs seen in the photo above. 

I think we can be sure that if we ever saw our April Quiz bird, head included, we'd have no trouble agreeing on Swallow-tailed Gull.

Swallow-tailed Gull. Everett, Washington. 02 September 2017.

29 April 2018

Race Point Beach

I spent last weekend at Race Point Beach on the far north tip of the Cape Cod peninsula. I've never been disappointed visiting this site. Gulls abound here and the diversity of species is some of the best I've experienced. This year, it seemed I was a tad late for large numbers of winter gulls and a tad early for spring migrants, but still, 10 species on Saturday speaks to the magnitude of this stretch of beach.

The highlights of my 10 species list include Black-headed (adult), Black-legged Kittiwake (1st cycle) and Glaucous (3rd cycle type). I estimated between 20-30 Kumlien's Gulls of all ages. 1st cycles were mostly ragged and as pale as one could expect for late April. Also of note was a single thayeri type.

This Glaucous easily matched most of the Great Black-backeds in size. 
1st cycle Iceland Gull with 1st cycle Great Black-backed, and Herrings. 

Lots of bleached 1st cycle Icelands were lingering

Most of the 600+ Laughing Gulls present were adults, but here's a 2nd cycle type. Note the incomplete hood and black tertial markings. Spread wing below.

The black alula and primary coverts readily age this bird as a sub-adult.

It's breeding season and the gulls are busy at work...

Bonaparte's were streaming by all day working the offshore Atlantic Right Whale buffets.

Another highlight is this banded 1st cycle Herring Gull.

This sighting reinforces the belief that there is a regular exchange between NF Herrings and those of the NE United States, particularly from Maine and Massachusetts. An important question that may be worth investigating is whether or not this exchange is a function of age. Do younger birds winter farther south, and stay to the south in their formative years? Are adults more likely to "return" to the north Atlantic - particularly to breed - when the become of age?

31 March 2018

Monthly Notables March 2018

  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). San Mateo County, California. 01 March 2018.
  • Mew Gull (adult). Kings County, New York. 02 March 2018.
  • Thayer's Gull (adult). Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia. 03 March 2018.
    • Continuing from previous month. 
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (1st cycle). Douglas County, Kansas. 04 March 2018.
    • Continuing from previous month. 
  • Laughing Gull (1st cycle). Mohave County, Arizona. 04 March 2018.
    • Continuing from January 2018.
  • Black-tailed Gull (adult). Del Norte County, California. 05 March 2018.
    • Continuing from previous month.
  • Kumlien's Gull (1st cycle). Harrison County, Mississippi. 07 March 2018.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). San Diego County, California. 08 March 2018.
  • California Gull (adult). Cuyahoga County, Ohio. 08 March 2018.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (3rd cycle). Pierce County, Washington. 09 March 2018.
  • Mew Gull (adult). Plymouth County, Massachusetts. 09 March 2018.
  • Mew Gull (adult). Lancaster County, Nebraska. 11 March 2018.
  • Mew Gull (adult). Mohave County, Arizona. 11 March 2018.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (1st cycle). Chatham County, Georgia. 14 March 2018.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (1st cycle). Plaquemines County, Louisiana. 16 March 2018.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Santa Clara County, California. 17 March 2018.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Baltimore County, Maryland. 17 March 2018.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Monterey County, California. 18 March 2018.
  • Sabine's Gull (adult). Los Angeles County, California. 23 March 2018.
  • Sabine's Gull (adult). Marion County, Oregon. 25 March 2018.
  • Kamchatka Gull (adult). Digby County, Nova Scotia. 25 March 2018.
    • Continuing from previous month. 
  • Great Black-backed Gull (adult). Mobile County, Alabama. 28 March 2018.
  • Franklin's Gull (1st cycle). Union County, Pennsylvania. 31 March 2018.

Miscellaneous Notes
  1. An assembly of Heermann's Gulls (~100) appear to be preparing for nesting in Seaside, California.