27 October 2012

California Gull in New Buffalo Michigan

American Herring Gull numbers are beginning to build significantly at various hotspots along lower Lake Michigan. This only means one thing: among them will be some goodies!

I went out to Berrien County Michigan today to observe the relatively large number of Lesser Black-backeds, of which there were plenty, but much more surprising was this California Gull:
California Gull (1st cycle). New Buffalo, MI. 27 October 2012.
The mostly pink bill with black tip grabbed my attention right away. First cycle American Herrings don't typically loose that much black to the bill this early in the fall, and when they do, it appears as a blend of black and pink and is not as sharply demarcated as in CAGU. Also, the post-juvenile molt of the scapulars is rather advanced for the 1st cycle Herrings we're seeing on southern Lake Michigan right now. The gray coloration also stands out and is a bit dark for a Herring.

Overall, this bird appeared messier than the surrounding first cycle smithsonianus birds that were present, but I should mention that 1st cycle CAGUs on the West Coast currently appear much messier than this individual and don't have such "nice" looking post-juvenile scaps right now. Alvaro Jaramillo explained to me that this bird's upperwing coverts are exceptionally neat and appear very "Herring-like". The uniform gray on the scaps is also much "neater" than what is being seen on October CAGUs along the Pacific.

Note the "double" wing bar formed by the darker bases to the greater coverts. It's not uncommon for CAGUs to have a few inner primaries with pale inner webs which resembles Herring.

As for Lessers, I found at least 5 (3 first cycles, 2 adults) but probably could have pulled out another sub-adult if I had the time to comb through the incoming flocks. These birds use the beach as a preen/lube spot before roosting out on the lake for the night.
First cycle LBBG

First cyle Lesser harassaing adult Ring-billed.
Two of the three young Lessers working the surf together.
My estimate of the number of American Herrings at this site is between 600-700 birds. It's not even November yet! WOW!!


 And one last shot of the Cali Gull's wings:


  1. Hey Amar, it's Martin Reid: I'll try again as this bloody system took to to a Google log-in page, and I had to look up my password, etc, so it timed out. I hate these protocols...
    That 2nd 1C LBBG is might interesting, as it seems to have pure white bases to the outer Rs - !? Do you have any more photos of it - maybe a standing shot plus a close-up of the spread uppertail?

    1. Hi, Martin. I think you're referring to the one chasing the Ring-billed, right?