29 January 2015

American Herrings: Florida

I never pass up the chance to watch Herrings, especially when I find myself away from Lake Michigan. While in east-central Florida last week, I photographed a mixed array of wingtip patterns on adults - some that resemble what I think of as "Great Lakes Herrings" and others with less pigmentation to the wingtips (larger birds that I associate with having a Northern or Northeastern place of origin).

The first two individuals seen below were the most extreme in terms of limited pigmentation in the wingtips, and look very much like so-called Newfoundland Herrings. 

Notice on this bird the large apicals on the outer primaries and the large amount of white on p6 and p9.
Brevard County, FL. 24 Jan 2015. PHOTO 1 of 2.
I knew I'd be impressed when this bird opened its wings: complete white tip to p10 and no subterminal band or marks of any sort on p5. Apparently, the lack of any markings on p5 is not too uncommon in St. John's (Mactavish, pers. comm.). Mactavish & Jonsson include a similar bird in Photo 5 in their article on Niagara Falls versus Newfoundland Herrings (Birders Journal, V10 N2).

Same individual above. PHOTO 2 of 2.
This one shows less black on the bill, but similar-sized apicals:

Brevard County, FL. 24 Jan 2015. PHOTO 1 of 2.
 P10 shows light black to the edges of both webs and p5 a very faint bar:

Brevard County, FL. 24 Jan 2015. PHOTO 2 of 2.
Now for beach birds - all photographed at Daytona Beach Shores in Volusia County.

Amber-colored iris on a seemingly perfect adult. Photo 1 of 2.

Small spot on outer edge of p4. Photo 2 of 2.

Photo 1 of 2.

Small streaks on greater primary coverts, small spots on p4s and single mirror. Black on outer web of p8 somewhat extensive. Photo 2 of 2.

Big bull head and strong bill with moderate head streaking. Photo 1 of 2. 

A single large mirror on p10 showing a bit more black on the outer primaries. Photo 2 of 2.

A smaller bird that gave a Thayer's imperssion from a distance. Photo 1 of 2.

Medim sized mirror on p10. Extensive black on entire p9 and much on outer web of p8. Broken band on p5. Photo 2 of 2.

Extensive head streaking and black subterminal ring on bill. Very small apicals and pinkish bill suggest sub-adult (see next photo). Photo 1 of 2.

This was predicted to be a sub-adult in the field before the open wing was seen. Black markings on tail and primary coverts/alula. Black on outer webs of p4. Photo 2 of 2.

A beautiful, medium-sized, adult with much white on the underside of the far wing. 

Thayeri pattern to p9, no subterminal marks on p5. Note p4 and p2 broken. Photo 2 of 2.

Another adult but showing pink tones on most of the bill. Photo 1 of 2. 

Thin broken subterminal band on p10, assymteric mirror size on p9s and broken subterminal bands on p5. Photo 2 of 2. 

Obvious sub-adult per the large tertial spot. But not the strong, bright yellow bill. Photo 1 of 2. 

Tertial spot covered by scapulars in flight. Relatively extensive black on wingtip can be age-related. Interestingly, the black band on p5 is a faint color and not as black as p9-p10. Photo 2 of 2. 

Another large bird with relatively large white apicals. Photo 1 of 2.

Mirror only on p10. Black on p8 reaches close to primary coverts. Photo 2 of 2.

28 January 2015

Artsy Photo of Pierre

It seems Green F05, or Pierre, couldn't stay away from me. I've found him at Daytona Beach Shores on four consecutive days in the last week. I had no choice but to get a little artsy with this photo opportunity I had last Sunday.

Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). Volusia County, Florida. 25 January 2015.
You can read more about Pierre's legacy, here.

27 January 2015

Anomolous and Aberrant Laughing Gulls

With literally over 50,000 Laughing Gulls to pick through in Brevard and Volusia Counties last week, I was able to find a couple of birds that stood out in the ranks. I give you an "anomaly" and an "aberrant".

This first bird shows aberrant bare-part coloration. This orange-red color problem has been documented in the literature and doesn't appear to be too uncommon with Laughing Gulls. For whatever reason it tends to be found more in this species than other dark-legged hooded gulls.

Adult Laughing Gull. Daytona Beach Shores, FL. 24 Jan 2015.
This next individual has molted into a complete hood in the middle of winter - a real anomaly:

Adult Laughing Gull. Daytona Beach Shores, FL. 25 Jan 2015.
I've seen Bonaparte's with full hoods in late Fall and have seen photos of Franklin's with complete alternate hoods in winter (birds that perhaps had breeding hormones triggered a bit prematurely), but this was my first LAGU with a black head in winter. Stunning to say the least!

25 January 2015

Florida's First Banded Lesser Black-backed Gull

Historic! After several years of speculation and wonder, it's finally here. Michael Brothers and Jay Barry from the Marine Science Center have stepped up to the plate and begun a banding project on the local Lesser Black-backeds in east-central Florida. The color/sequence is white lettering on green plastic leg bands, F:###

A few of us shared in the excitement of observing the first ever banded Lesser Black-backed from Florida (Volusia County) yesterday evening:

GREEN F:001. Lesser Black-backed Gull (1st cycle). Daytona Beach Shores, Florida. 24 January 2015.

GREEN F:001 with 1st winter Herring.
GREEN F:001 (right) with larger first winter Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Contact Michael or Jay should you re-sight one of these birds or have any questions. Best of luck to them!

24 January 2015

First Cycle Herrings From East-Central Florida

A few first winter Herrings from the last two days. 

The almost all juvenile plumage on this bird got my attention. After sorting through more and more 1st cycle Herrings here, I've realized quite a few appear this neat and show "durable" juvenile plumages. The upperparts are exceptional for this time of year.

Herring Gull (1st cycle). Daytona Beach Shores, FL. 24 Jan 2015.
Same individual above. 
This next bird has also retained most of its juvenile plumage but is sleeker and has an attenuated look to the rear:
Herring Gull (1st cycle). Daytona Beach Shores, FL. 24 Jan 2015.
The tail pattern on this gull is not typical of 1st cycle American Herring, but perhaps within range. Besides being rather thin, there's limited pigmentation coming up the edges of both outer rectrices. The uppertail coverts are sparsely marked in comparison to the average Smithsonianus.

Next up is a pale, beefy individual, also holding on well to its first basic (juvenile) plumage:

Herring Gull (1st cycle). Cocoa, FL. 24 Jan 2015.

Finally, here's a first cycle that has renewed some of its scapulars, but shows a few interesting features:

Herring Gull (1st cycle). Daytona Beach Shores, FL. 24 Jan 2015.
Its jizz is reminiscint of something along the lines of Glaucous-winged or Slaty-backed. The pale edging to the primaries is rather noticeable. I did photograph it in the middle of preening and so the tertials are raised and the secondaries are drooping, as well as the lower belly feathers puffed out - something to consider when judging single photos. The faded and slightly worn greater coverts also superficially resemble what I'd be looking for in a 1st winter Slaty-backed.

There are lots of neat looking 1st winter Herrings to sort through down here. Much variation and difficult to relegate them to one or two plumage aspects...more details later.

23 January 2015

Daytona Beach Shores: Adult Thayer's

Few beaches - if any - top the gull congregation at Daytona Beach Shores in east-central Florida. This evening, we estimated some 60,000 gulls on a stretch of beach less than 2 miles long!

A small fraction of the gull flock on our Gull Fly-in field trip. 22 Jan 2015.
The gulls arrive every afternoon a couple of hours before sunset, having spent most of their day feeding at the local landfills. They eventually fly out to roost past the breakers out at sea. This is strictly a winter affair.

I'd estimate that over 85% of the gulls are Laughing Gulls (the largest winter concentration of this species in all of North America). But among them are decent numbers of Ring-billeds and a bewildering array of every plumage aspect of Herring one could fancy.

Here are a few of my non-Herring highlights from the day:

Kumlien's Gull (1st cycle). 22 Jan 2015.
Thayer's Gull (1st cycle). 22 Jan 2015.
Same individual above.
Great Black-backed Gull (adult type). 22 Jan 2015.
Great Black-backed Gull (1st cycle). 22 Jan 2015.
Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). One of roughly 30 LBBGs present. 22 Jan 2015.
Same individual above. Interesting 2nd basic tail pattern with half the rectrices white and the other half typical black.
Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). A petite bird with a pale plumage aspect (LAGU bill beneath). 22 Jan 2015.
I was thrilled to bump into Pierre, or "Green F05":

Seen here without a silver aluminum band on its right leg. 22 Jan 2015.
This individual is the most enthralling gull to have ever been followed by North American birders.

Our field trip "began" with us rushing all the arriving participants over to the beach to see the 1st cycle Kumlien's that I found earlier. As I was showing folks the bird - which was giving phenomenal looks - Michael called to tell me he was watching an adult Thayer's found by George Armistead down the beach. We hurried down there and ticked off this unusually rare plumage for Florida:

The whole group waiting for the adult Thayer's to move...about 30 minutes later, it finally gave us a nice profile view.
Only the 2nd (or 3rd?) adult Thayer's ever seen in Florida. 22 Jan 2015.
Pale iris not terribly uncommon in this species. Note the pinkish-purple orbital ring.

Thanks to George for getting us on this bird! A number of Floridians got a state bird out of it...and almost everyone present got their first adult for the state.