09 December 2013

Ross's Gull: Lake Red Rock

On Sunday, 01 December 2013, Iowa birder Aaaron Brees found an adult Ross's Gull at Lake Red Rock in Marion County, Iowa. Being only 4.5 hours away, I was able to sneak away to see it. I was accompanied by Bob Fisher and Indiana birder John Kendall.

When we arrived, a few birders were lined up and thought they had the bird in the scope, but weren't sure. I asked if I could take a peek in their scope, and it took 2 seconds for me to confirm they had the bird: "Yep, that's the Ross's!".

Ross's Gull (basic adult). Marion County, Iowa. 04 Dec 3013.

The pink suffision on this species is so consistent and striking. In fact, the species' binomial, Rhodostethia rosea, describes this characteristic.

We chummed and got a couple of hundred Ring-billeds very close to shore, but the ROGU wanted nothing to do with all of the commotion. My theory is that chumming may in fact be counterproductive at times, discouraging the bird from coming close.

We eventually lost the bird and then went to the west side of the lake to look for a 1st cycle LIGU that was being seen earlier in the week. Me missed the LIGU, but refound the ROGU from the Elk Rock boat launch. It was a great exercise watching this bird flying at a distance, with great side-by-side comparisons to the Bonaparte's.

Nothing like a Ross's Gull to get winter gull season in full speed. It's worth noting that this is the 3rd occurence of this species at Lake Red Rock (4th state record). If I've done my homework correctly, no other single site has recorded more Ross's Gulls in the lower 48 states - that's good gull trivia!! What's so special about an inland lake (Iowa's largest) in the middle of a corn desert? Lots of riverways and small lakes are probably part of the reason these rarities get funneled in to these "larger" lakes. Who knows.