26 November 2013

Lake County Fairgrounds: Pale-eyed Thayer's, 1st Cycle LBBG

The kids and I spent a few hours watching the gulls in the parking lot of the LCF on Sunday. The result was 2 Thayer's (adult types) and 2 Lessers (adult, 1st cycle). We've had our coldest Novmeber in 13 years, which has rendered all of the local water bodies frozen for now.

The gulls use this parking lot to rest after feeding at the nearby landfill to the west. Once there's no water for them to bath in or drink, they readily abandon this site and move out. My feeling is that they go to the Zion landfill which is closer to Lake Michigan - just a guess.

Here's a somewhat pale-eyed Thayer's. Howell and Ellitott found that only about 14% of Thayer's Gulls (in California) could be called "truly dark-eyed", while 20% were found to be "pale-eyed". They went on to say that about 66% of birds are somewhre in between.

Thayer's Gull (adult). Lake County, IL. 24 November 2013.

Lesser Black-backed Gull (sub-adult). Lake County, IL. 24 November 2013.
Lesser Black-backed Gull (1st cycle). Lake County, IL. 24 November 2013.
This individual was very cooperative, coming in for bread and chasing the adult Ring-billeds for their catches. I've observed this behavior before where young Lessers chase adult Ring-billeds for their catch, but won't chase the Herrings.

Notice the post-juvenile scapulars on the upper back. I've marked the photos below with N (for new prealternate feathers) and J (for juvenile, 1st basic, scapulars):

Here's the unmarked image:

24 November 2013

Black-legged Kittiwakes, Kumlien's and a Possible Nelson's.

Trying to get the biggest bang out of my birding, I've been splitting my Saturday's up between lakewatches and combing through the gull flocks at the local beaches.

On Saturday, I started at the Marquette Park concession stand in Indiana around 7:00 am. As I was getting out of my car, John Cassady, Bob Hughes and Karen Mansfield yelled over that I need to get on an incoming adult Black-legged Kittiwake. I ran over just in time to watch it fly right past us in the surf (the closest I've had an adult on Lake Michigan). So in record time, I had the highlight of my day and probably could have hung it up right there and then.

But being the hopeful person I am, I ran down to the beach and started chumming. About 5 minutes later it returned - with a friend:

Adult (left) and 1st cycle (right) Black-legged Kittiwakes. Gary, Indiana. 23 November 2013.
Other highlights here included a 1st cycle Glaucous Gull (FOF), adult type GBBG, and a 1st cycle LBBG (picked out in flight by Bob Hughes as we were casually conversing - impressive).

I headed over to Michigan City next where the winds were brutal (coldest day in almost 11 months). Nothing of note here but an adult type GBBG on the beach.

My last stop was New Buffalo Beach in Berrien County, Michigan. The gulls were mainly in the harbor mouth. Things got interesting here: Thayer's (adult), Kumlien's (2nd cycle), LBBG (2 adults, 1st cycle), GBBG (adult), Glaucous (1st cycle) and an adult type Nelson's (Herring x Glaucous).

Kumlien's Iceland Gull (2nd cycle). New Buffalo, MI. 23 November 2013.

The bill size and shape (not to mention the blocky head) are very unlike the delicate and refined Kumlien's that are depicted in field guides. My guess is this is a male.


I also had this small first cycle LBBG that gave great comparisons with the nearby young Herrings:

LBBG (back). New Buffalo, MI. 23 November 2013.

Most interesting at New Buffalo was this adult type Nelson's:

The pigmentation on the primaries appeared light black (well, not jet black is a better description), with large apicals and extensive white on the underside of the opposite wing. The big block head, stout bill and beady eye all gave a Glaucous feel, not to mention the large tertial crescent. I put this one down as a putative second generation hybrid, tending towards Herring.

11 November 2013

Adult California Gull: New Buffalo, Michigan

A quick scan through the gull flocks at New Buffalo Beach yesterday produced this gorgeous Cali Gull:

California Gull (adult). Berrien Co, MI. 10 November 2013.
This was a rather hefty one, stacking up nicely to the nearby Herrings:

It really isn't too difficult to pick these guys out. Note the dark eye, yellow legs and slightly darker upperparts.
This is the second year in a row that I find a Cali Gull here. Last year's bird was a 1st cycle in late October. This is also my second CAGU in the area in two weeks!! I really do think the best window for sighting this species on southern Lake Michigan may be late October-early November (but more data are needed).

Another highlight was this rather dark Kumlien's Iceland Gull (stage 4-5) that looked intermediate at times (depending on the lighting):
Kumlien's Iceland Gull (adult). Berrien Co, MI. 10 November 2013. Slightly underexposed in this image.
The thought of this being an Iceland bothers some people (especially the more west one travels), but the wingtip coloration and pattern is better for KUGU. These photos do the bird much more justice:

Compare the slaty-gray wingtips of the Kumlien's to the true black of the Ring-billed's wingtip.
This open-wing shot is a bit blown out (overexposed), but the wingtip has an unmarked P5 and pigmentation restricted mainly to the outer web of the outer primaries.

It was a relatively small gull with a nice helmet-head - a very social gull too, coming in just as frequently as the Ring-billeds!

10 November 2013

Two Little Gulls: Carlyle Lake

Dan Kassebaum, Leroy Harrison and myself had two Little Gulls at the Carlyle Sewage Ponds yesterday. Not bad considering this is a review species in Illinois.

Little Gull (1st cycle). Clinton Co, IL. 09 November 2013.
While we watched this bird for most of the morning, another one snuck in between 10:30-10:45 am. It was quickly picked out by Carlyle Lake guru Dan Kassebaum.:

Little Gull (1st cycle). Clinton Co, IL. 09 November 2013.
The best way to tell them apart is in flight (see the tailband, for instance). I don't remember the last time 2 Littles were reported in Illinois and so we were totally stoked.

Doc shot of 2 LIGUs (left) with 2 BOGUs (right).
Also of interest was a flock of 18 Franklin's Gulls with a posturing Laughing Gull (adult) among them. Here's the Laughing Gull as it came right in, asking to be made famous:

Adult Laughing Gull. Clinton Co, IL. 09 November 2013.
Carlyle Lake is perhaps the most reliable place to see LAGU in Illinois (Dan has records for every month of the year, and it seems every time I read his reports one is being seen). Also a regular straggler at Carlyle of late is Lesser Black-backed Gull (first summer birds - 2nd plumage cycle - in particular). Here's a rather raggedy sub-adult, still completing it's prebasic molt:

Lesser Black-backed Gull (4th cycle type). Clinton Co, IL. 09 November 2013.

Franklin's Gull (adult type). Clinton Co, IL. 09 November 2013.

American Herring Gull (3rd cycle type). Clinton Co, IL. 09 November 2013.

03 November 2013

First Weekend of November 2013

Saturday, 02 November 2013:
Lakewatch at Miller Beach in Indiana produced a somewhat late juvenile Sabine's and an adult Little Gull (first adult in 4 years on the IN lakefront). Also of note were two other 1st cycle LIGU sightings after I left (just after I left...), and 2 inland records of first cycles in IL (Lake Shelbyville on Saturday and Lake Carlyle on Sunday).

A 3rd cycle type Great Black-backed and 250+ Bonaparte's Gulls were also seen on Saturday. At one point we had 15+ BOGUs land on the beach and then came in for chum.

Great Black-backed (3rd cycle type). Outer primaries and inner secondaries still growing.
Gary, Indiana. 02 November 2013.

Sunday, 03 November 2013:
Hammond Marina in Indiana produced a nice mix of 25-30 American Herrings that are slowly trickling in closer and closer to shore. Here's a rather interesting 2nd cycle type with advanced inner primaries:

It's been brought to my attention that banded Euro Herrings with inners this advanced are almost always birds in their 3rd plumage cycle. Here's one from last winter that looks similar:

Whiting, IN. 04 January 2012.

This adult type American Herring also stood out amongst the crowd as it had no subterminal band on P5 (p-score 1) and mirrors on both P10 and P9.

The white tongue tips on P6-P8 and black bayonet pattern on these feather tips is much more in line with the so-called "Newfoundland" types rather than the Niagara or Great Lakes birds.

Adult type American Herring with limited black in wingtips.

In other Great Lakes birding news, Ohio had an adult Sabine's today on Lake Erie and a first cycle Little. The Sheboygan area reported an adult type Glaucous today (03 Nov) and Duluth a first cycle Glaucous on Friday (25 Oct). Indiana's first and only October Iceland Gull (L.g. kumlieni) was found on the lakefront on 28 October 2013. The earliest such record for southern Lake Michigan is an adult type on 24 October 2009 (State Line Beach. Lake County, IL).