After finishing up my lakewatch with the Grube party, I decided to walk the length of Miller Beach from the concession stand at Marquette Park to the USX impoundment - 4 miles back and forth. I've always wanted to try this walk, hoping perhaps something good would come in off the lake. I've been told by several people in the past that the beach proper is usually bereft of birds and staying stationary is the way to go when birding here. Occasionally, birds land on the beach, but overall, birding this site is strictly in the form of lakewatching. I went on with my walk and thought, if anything, I would at least have an opportunity to evaluate the local Ring-billeds and Herrings. About 80% of the adult Ring-billeds that I encountered were growing the outer 2-3 primaries. This molt stage gives the standing bird an interesting appearance. Some appear to have very short wing projections or zero wing projection such as this individual:
|Coincidentally, this photo was taken on 09 Sept 2010 at Montrose Beach in Chicago but many of the|
Miller Beach birds looked very similar. Could it be that Ring-billeds on Lake Michigan
conclude thier prebasic molt around September?
I stopped several times as I approached the USX impoundment and the walk took a bit longer than expected, but when I did get there, I found several jaegers (positively identified were an adult Long-tailed and 2 juvenile Parasitics), 4 Willets and 1 possible Marbled Godwit - one after the other. Nice sized flocks of Common and Black Terns were moving through which is always promising.
After about 45 minutes of scanning the horizon at the impoundment, a 1st cycle Bonaparte's gave me a good run. This individual had what seemed like no secondary bar (perhaps an illusion at such a distance). The ear spots appeared so large that they gave me the impression of what looked like a juvenile Black-legged Kittiwake's hindcollar. If it wasn't for this bird's weak M-pattern, I may have seriously called it a kittiwake - of course being in early September is reason for pause. Why would a juvenile kittiwake in September have a weak carpal bar? Generally speaking, September is for Sabine's and November is for kittiwakes. October is up for grabs. When viewing lone birds like this at almost a mile away, the imagination could easily spin out of control. My senses are usually recalibrated after the first few lakewatches of the year. This idea is very similar to how one has to retrain their ears to the various sounds of wood warblers when spring rolls around.
A few minutes later, a dark-mantled gull with narrow wings and pointed wingtips approached from the east some 400 yards from shore. I instantly ruled out the two common gulls that are found close to land, Ring-billed and Herring, based on the all dark primary tips. I stayed on this bird for a few more seconds as it continued to inch closer and closer (by the way, 400 yards is pretty close when doing a lakewatch). I thought the only thing this could be is a Laughing Gull, and sure enough, as it worked its way west past the impoundment, it proved to be a second cycle LAGU:
|Table and data provided by Kenneth Brock.|
Data compiled by Amar Ayyash. Source: Meadowlark.