11 October 2011

Loyola Park Franklin's

I never tire of observing Franklin's Gulls, especially on the Chicago lakefront where this species is uncommon. The nice thing about getting Franklin's here is their willingness to allow relatively close views. My experience with this species on the lakefront has been pretty consistent: they allow good initial views upon approach but then they soon become skittish and demand their space. My feeling is that they initially perceive me as an ordinary beachgoer that's walking by, but then when I stop and make eye contact they, naturally, become nervous.

Steve Spitzer found and reported 3 FRGUs at Loyola Park on Saturday, 8 October 2011. Surprisingly, Steve's birds were still there the next evening. I made it out to the park after a brutal battle with post-Chicago-Marathon lakefront traffic. My effort was rewarded with this adult that came right in with a group of Ring-billeds:

Adult Franklin's Gull; 9 October 2011; by Amar Ayyash.

The other two birds were first cycles that seemed happier on the lake and would not get up for me. They sat about 100 yards out as if to take in the scenery of beachgoers and boaters. Here's one of those youngins beautifully captured by Illinois birder Matthew Cvetas:

1st cycle Franklin's Gull; 9 Oct 2011. by Matthew Cvetas

Steve Spitzer refound this same individual today on 11 October 2011 (first seen on 8 Oct 2011). This is somewhat unusual as Franklin's spend no more than 1-2 days at a site when they're seen on Lake Michigan. They always seem to be in a hurry to get where they're going, especially in the spring. Somewhat puzzling is the absence of the adult and the other first cycle individual. Franklin's typically come and go together when migrating but I suppose there comes a point in their journey where certain individuals split off. Could it be that this individual needs more time to refuel? Could its health be compromised? Maybe it's just enjoying this stagnant pressure-system that has been hovering over the Midwest for the last week or so. One Chicago birder reported seeing what he felt was the adult at nearby Fullerton Beach on Monday (the only day none of the 3 birds were reported at Loyola since Saturday); The red tip on the bill was the reference mark used.

Coincidentally, I found a 2nd cycle Franklin's at Loyola Park this past spring and so I'm starting to wonder if this site regularly attracts this species during migration. In any event, these transients will soon finish their transequatorial journey to the southeast coast of the Pacific where they'll winter in and along the Humboldt Current. Here, they'll congregate with hundreds of thousands of other gulls including their mostly sedentary South American relatives, namely Andean, Gray, Gray-hooded, Kelp and Belcher's Gulls. Ah, what I'd give for one of these relatives to accompany our Franklin's back north next year.

Ramble over.