24 July 2013

Back to Sheboygan: Gullextravaganza!

Sheboygan Wisconsin's North Point Park is unquestionably one of the premier gulling hotspots on western Lake Michigan in the summer months. Where else can you tally "8" gull species on a mid-summer day? On 14 July 2013, I had the following, all in about 7 hours of working the gull flocks from Kings Park to Deland Park to North Point:
  • 3 Little Gulls (all second cycles, now with primary molt initiated)
  • 2 Laughing Gulls (1 adult type and 1 second cycle)
  • 1 Franklin's Gull (adult type)
  • 1 Great Black-backed Gull (2nd/3rd cycle type)
  • 14 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (12 individuals in one view; photographs confirmed 2 more)*
Of course the three common species were also present in good numbers:
  • 200 Bonaparte's Gulls (most first summer birds, i.e., early second cycle types)
  • 900 Ring-billeds Gulls (a mixed bag of ages with decent numbers of juveniles present)
  • 150 American Herring Gulls (few definitive adults)
*Now a record high for me on Lake Michigan, the 12 Lesser Black-backeds seen together at Deland Park is unprecedented. The increase in summering LBBG on Lake Michigan is becoming a reality much faster than I imagined it would be when putting together my review of this species' status in "Rethinking the Lesser Black-backed Gull in North America" (Birding; V45 N1, pp.34-41).

8 of 12 LBBGs at Deland Park. Most are 1st summer birds in their 2nd molt cycle.
The Little Gulls that have been summering here since late May have progressed nicely with their upperwing covert feather growth and are too in their 2nd molt cycle. Here's one photographed with its bigger cousin:
First summer Little Gull (2nd cycle) with similar aged Bonaparte's Gull. North Point Park. Sheboygan, WI. 14 July 2013.
And a first summer Laughing Gull:
First summer (2nd cycle) Laughing Gull with Ring-billed Gulls. North Point Park. Sheboygan, WI. 14 July 2013.

The gulls here are all mostly feeding on the dying shad that lazily swim near shore. In fact, hundreds were seen dead along the shore, especially on the north beach between the water filtration plant and the "gazebo". The smell was classic "Salton Sea" and I had no objections to this, at all!

Some of our more common species that posed nicely:
First summer (2nd cycle) Bonaparte's Gull.
First summer (2nd cycle) Bonaparte's Gulls.
Juvenile American Herring Gull.
Juvenile Ring-billed Gull (so-called "cinnamon" type).
Finally, I was able to get a good minute's worth of a Little Gull close to shore on video, feeding: