01 March 2011

Hammond Marina - Adult Kumlien's

I don't typically think of our wintering gulls as holding firm to winter territories, but for the first time, I've personally witnessed this. An adult Kumlien's Gull has been regularly seen perching on a sign at the harbor entrance at Hammond Marina in Indiana for several weeks. This is believed to be the same bird that has been sighted here since the winter of 2008-2009 (see photos)

Hammond Marina harbor mouth seen from fishing pier at north side of Whihala Park; 27 FEB 2011
After personally observing this behavior during two consecutive visits, I decided to test this observation. I approached the Kumlien's as closely as I possibly could and then began to chum in other gulls. As the Ring-billeds entered the harbor mouth, the Kumlien's became aggressive and it started to chase the intruders away from the harborh. It did this repeatedly and purposefully. Once the Kumlien's became overwhelmed it retreated to its perch as if to gather itself and reinforce its stance. It then came in for bread but I got the impression that it was doing this only to demonstrate to the other gulls that they were not exclusively entitled to feeding on its territory. Again, it would return to the harbor mouth and chase away any gulls that came too close to is quarters.

Adult Kumlien's Gull (L.g. kumlieni). Hammond Marina; 27 FEB 2011.
Later on this same day, I observed a 2nd cycle Thayer's Gull at the nearby fishing pier at Whihala Beach. I chummed the Thayer's in and when it was done feeding, it flew northeast towards the harbor.

                                       2nd cycle Thayer's Gull exiting the harbor, 27 FEB 2011.

It was quickly chased off by the Kumlien's. Once the Kumlien's escorted the Thayer's out of the harbor vicinity it returned to its perch, verifying for me an established winter territory. The Thayer's returned again and was chased off a second time!

I returned to observe the Kumlien's Gull for the next couple of weeks and on my last visit for the winter season, sure enough, it was still present holding firm to its perch. I tempted it one last time with some bread in which it sampled with little interest. The Ring-billeds came in as well and much of what happened a few weeks prior took place again, but with much less intensity on the Kumlien's part.

                                         Adult Kumlien's, Hammond Marina; 13 March 2011.

I'll be looking forward to seeing this guy next year - same time, same place! If I might add, the color and extent of gray on the outer webs of the outer primaries on this bird is my favorite stage for Kumlien's. It reminds me of my lifer adult Kumlien's that I observed on a very memorable day of watching gulls on Lake Michigan.