01 August 2019

Monthly Notables July 2019

Sightings:
  • Little Gull (1st cycle). Norfolk County, Ontario. 02 July 2019.
  • Glaucous Gull (2nd cycle). Lake County, Illinois. 06 July 2019.
  • Franklin's Gull (subadult type). District of Columbia. 08 July 2019.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (3rd cycle). San Francisco County, California. 08 July 2019.
  • Iceland Gull (2nd cycle). Barnstable County, Massachusetts. 11 July 2019.
  • Glaucous Gull (2nd cycle). Sanilac County, Michigan. 17 July 2019.
  • Laughing Gull (adult).  Labrador-Happy Valley-Goose Bay County, NL. 19 July 2019.
    • 2nd Labrador Record.
  • Laughing Gull (juvenile). Lancaster County, Nebraska. 19 July 2019.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (1st cycle). Wabash County, Illinois. 24 July 2019.
  • Laughing Gull (2nd cycle). Pinal County, Arizona. 26 July 2019.
  • Heermann's Gull (juvenile). Polk County, Iowa. 28 July 2019.
    • 1ST STATE RECORD. 
  • California Gull (juvenile). Wilkin County, Minnesota. 28 July 2019.
Notes:
  1. A belated report of the Pallas's Gull found on Shemya on 02 May 2019. The bird was found expired on 14 May 2019. The specimen has been preserved and is now at the University of Alaska Museum collection in Fairbanks.


July 2019 Quiz


Age: The darker bird on the left has an all-dark bill with a fair amount of juvenile scapulars and wing coverts. It's safe to age it as a 1st cycle. Given the leg color and largely juvenile plumage, we can assume it is a hatch year (HY). But what about the paler gull on the right? It too looks fine for a 1st cycle. Note its predominately brown-patterned wing coverts, post-juvenile scapulars with brown shaft streaks, notched tertials and pointed primaries. The gull on the right is undergoing a more extensive post-juvenile molt (gray lesser coverts coming in as well as a few inner median coverts). It also has a more advanced bill pattern and leg color.


Identification: The apparent difference in size and plumage aspects may suggest two different species, but this isn't the case. Based on bill size and overall proportions, they don't look like any of our large 4-year gulls. Both birds have relatively messy and contrasting upperparts and this is typical of young Ring-billed Gulls. The paler bird on the right is a typical 1st cycle Ring-billed. The pink bill base, paling white head and neck, silver-gray post-juvenile feathers and hints of a lightly marked tail band are supportive. The smaller bird on the left is also a Ring-billed, but perhaps one that hatched later in the breeding season. Mew Gull is eliminated by several features: 1) the wide bill base, 2) the gray inner greater covert, which Mews don't show in their hatch year, 3) the largely messy and contrasting plumage with dark-spotted post-juvenile upper scapulars. Mew shows a more warm aspect with softer textures and feather edges that are more broadly pale and uniform.

Both of these hatch year Ring-billed Gulls portray some of the variation found in this age group. Dark versus pale, and small versus large are appreciable differences that are encountered routinely.

August. Cook County, Illinois.
 


01 July 2019

Monthly Notables June 2019

Sightings:
  • Black-headed Gull (1st cycle). Iosco County, Michigan. 01 June 2019.
  • Heermann's Gull (adult type). Gila County, Arizona. 03 June 2019.
  • Bonaparte's Gull (1st cycle). Harrison County, Mississippi. 03 June 2019.
  • Ross's Gull (1st cycle). Nome County, Alaska. 06 June 2019.
  • Glaucous Gull (1st cycle). Jefferson County, Louisiana. 08 June 2019.
  • Laughing Gull (1st cycle). Faribault, Minnesota. 09 June 2019.
  • Thayer's Gull (adult). Orleans County, New York. 14 June 2019.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Matagorda County, Texas. 14 June 2019.
  • Little Gull (1st cycle). Woodford County, Illinois. 17 June 2019.
  • Sabine's Gull (adult). Central Okanagan District, British Columbia. 28 June 2019.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia. 28 June 2019.

June 2019 Quiz


Age: The above bird looks typical for an adult, large white-headed gull, while the bottom gull appears to be a typical 1st cycle.

Identification: Beginning with the adult, the slaty gray upperparts point to a black-backed. The bulbous banana-yellow bill and clean white head have the stamp of a Western Gull (although Yellow-footed can't be safely ruled out without leg color). The 1st cycle doesn't appear to be the same species based on the thinner and smaller bill, as well as narrower wings. The lack of an inner primary window, with double-brown "secondary" bars, and sharply demarcated black tip to the bill, give us every reason to believe this is a California Gull. The medium gray post-juvenile scapulars that have come in also support California Gull.

June's quiz birds are indeed an adult Western and 1st cycle California Gull.
Santa Cruz County, California. January. 

01 June 2019

Monthly Notables May 2019

Sightings: 
  • PALLAS'S GULL (Ichthyaetus ichthyaetus - adult). Aleutians West County, Alaska. 02 May 2019.
  • Glaucous Gull (1st cycle). Monroe County, Indiana. 02 May 2019.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult type). Valdez-Cordova County, Alaska. 02 May 2019.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (1st cycle). Halton County, Ontario. 03 May 2019.
  • California Gull (2nd cycle). Cook County, Illinois. 04 May 2019.
  • Black-tailed Gull (adult). Valdez-Cordova County, Alaska. 06 May 2019.
  • Iceland Gull (adult & 1st cycle). Cook County, Illinois. 12 May 2019.
  • Franklin's Gull (1st cycle). Rockingham County, New Hampshite. 14 May 2019.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (adult). Central Okanagan District, British Columbia. 15 May 2019.
    • 2nd Province Record.
  • Glaucous Gull (1st cycle type). St. Bernard Parish County, Louisiana. 17 May 2019.
  • Little Gull (1st cycle). Trumbull County, Ohio. 23 May 2019.
  • California Gull (2nd cycle). Sheboygan County, Wisconsin. 26 May 2019.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). North Slope Borough, Alaska. 27 May 2019.
    • Likely a first for Utqiagvik (Barrow).
  • Laughing Gull (adult). Boulder County, Colorado. 29 May 2019.
  • Black-tailed Gull (adult). San Mateo County, California. 30 May 2019.
  • Franklin's Gull (sub-adult). Crawford County, Pennsylvania. 31 May 2019.


Notes: 
  • A remarkale adult Pallas's Gull was found and photographed on Shemya Island by Richard Fischer on 02 May 2019. A first for the ABA area, the sighting struggled to excite many as the island is inaccessible to the public. Fischer relocated the gull the following day and secured more photos. This brings the list of gull species recorded in the ABA area up to 30.
  • During a shorebird survey on the Chandeleur Islands, Oscar Johnson & Matt Brady reported at least 30 putative Kelp x Herring hybrids, including nests. Johnson reports birds nearly as dark as Kelp were observed, and some slightly darker than Herrings with greenish legs and reduced p9-p10 mirrors. 

31 May 2019

May 2019 Quiz


Age: There are two generations of flight feathers seen here. The three outer primaries appear to be the juvenile (1st basic) feathers of a smaller hooded gull. This is also true for the secondaries with brown trailing edge. The 5-6 newer inner primaries are 2nd generation, and so we can be sure this bird is a 2nd cycle. Assuming this is a resident of the northern hemisphere, we might guess it's the boreal spring/summer.

Identification: This month's quiz isn't too bad if we narrow down our choices to a hooded gull with a moderate sized bill in proportion to the head, a dark trailing edge and narrow tailband. Black-headed and Bonaparte's are the top two contenders. Black-headed typically shows dark pigment on the underwing (all that's seen here is a shadow effect and no black). The all-black bill also points away from Black-headed and favors Bonaparte's. May's quiz bird is a relatively straight-forward one-year old Bonaparte's molting flight feathers.

Muskegon County, Michigan. May.

27 May 2019

Ten Is The Magic Number - Or Is It Eleven?

Every May since 2014, I've made it a point to run up to Wisconsin at the height of migration to attempt to see as many gull species possible. 8-9 species is relatively "easy" to get, with 10 being a good day. Yesterday, 26 May 2019, I tallied 9 species in Sheboygan and finished up with my 10th in Port Washington.

Sheboygan: Franklin's (1 sub-adult), Laughing (1 adult), Little (2 first cycle), Bonaparte's (~250; 95% first cycle), Ring-billed (~200; 80% first cycle), Herring (~300; 90% first cycle), Iceland (2 second cycles), Lesser Black-backed (4; two third cycle, two first cycle), California (second cycle).

Port Washington: 1st/2nd cycle type Glaucous Gull.


2nd Cycle California Gull (PB2 molt in motion with inner primaries molting). New scapulars, several tertials and inner upperwing coverts via 1st prealternate.

1st Cycle Little Gull (lower left) with similar-aged Bonaparte's Gull. Gray scaps likely formative. Black cap coming through most likely via 1st prealternate.

Same Individual Above. Note the darker, and thus stronger, outer webs to the primaries are entact.

1st Cycle Bonaparte's with nearly complete hood - an exception to the rule. Entire upperwing appears juvenile. Scapulars are formative, while the black head and white neck are 1st alternate.

Adult Herring Gull glamour shot. One of only a handful of definitive adults seen in Sheboygan.

2nd Cycle Thayer's Gull. The protected secondaries and tailband were sufficiently dark. The scapulars (at least the outer and lower feathers) and 2-3 new upperwing coverts are likely 2nd alternate.

1st Cycle Herring Gull with upperparts recalling Vega HERG, although the well-marked uppertail was typical Smith. Scapulars are 1st alternate, likely acquired last fall. Median coverts emerging (flat gray), perhaps best attributed to first prealternate molt resuming in spring. 

This is only my second time seeing California Gull in the spring/summer season in Wisconsin and it's reassuring to know an 11th species - Great Black-backed Gull - was possible in Manitowoc. Other species that I think are real possibilities for a "Big Gull Day" in this region are Black-legged Kittiwake and Slaty-backed Gull. The latter is a highly desired bird outside of the winter season!