31 December 2014

First Cycle With Herring x Lesser Black-backed Features

Adult Appledore Gulls (putative Herring x Lesser Black-backeds) are being reported frequently in Eastern North America these days. I have to wonder what percentage of these birds are F1 hybrids, backcrosses, aberrant Herrings or Lessers, or just completely different hybrids that are not on the radar at this time. In any case, the question of what 1st cycles Appledore Gulls look like persists and very little data is available.

Below is another set of photos of "what I imagine a 1st cycle hybrid" might look like. Ethan Gyllenhaal and I observed this individual in Northern Illinois on 23 Dec 2014 - neither of us was comfortable assigning a label to it:

Features that seem intermediate or atypical for one or the other species:
  • Straight, thin, black bill more like LBBG than Herring.
  • Neat, brown, plumage aspect with checkered wing coverts.
  • Inner-primary window is not typical for Herring but too pale for LBBG.
  • Thin tail band with white upperwing coverts, and whitish outer tail feathers.
Is this an Appledore Gull? Who knows. Off to the next one...

30 December 2014

Lake County - More White-wingers

Greg Neise and I hit a few Lake County spots on Monday, 29 December 2014. Here are the day's highlights:

15 Thayer's Gulls (13 adults, 2nd cycle, 1st cycle).
4   Kumlien's Gulls (all adults including an all white-winged individual).
4   Glaucous Gulls (3rd cycle, three 2nd cycles).
1   Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult).

Thayer's Gull (1st cycle). Waukegan. Lake Co, IL. 29 Dec 2014. A cooperative individual.
Same 1st cycle Thayer's as above with 1st cycle Herring.
2nd cycle Thayer's. Primaries a bit pale but the harsh lighting is mostly to blame for this.
2nd cycle Thayer's.
2nd cycle Glaucous Gull - 1 of 4 on the day.
2nd cycle Glaucous Gull. Waukegan. Lake Co, IL. 29 Dec 2014. 
Adult Thayer's Gull - small spot on outer web of right p4. Lake Co, IL. 29 Dec 2014.
Same individual above.
Kumlien's Iceland Gull (adult). Lake Co, IL. 29 Dec 2014.
Sub-adult wannabe Slaty-backed...Herring Gull (3rd cycle). 
Adult Lesser Black-backed Gull - our only LBBG for the day.

We had a bit of an eagle disturbance. Always on the lookout for raptors, every single one of our gulls picked up and flushed before either of us could spot this Bald Eagle:


The only gull that didn't fly off was this injured/sick adult Herring. The eagle took a few tries at him...

We didn't think this would end well for the Herring but it stood its ground (literally) and the eagle left it be...a good ending in my book.

I remain impressed by the relatively good numbers of white-wingers being found this season! Ring-billed numbers were holding steady at Waukegan Harbor (~ 70 individuals, mostly adults). Still no snow and it's a couple of days from 2015...I'm not complaining.

28 December 2014

Project Gullstorm Done Done it Again

Ethan Gyllenhaal and I found this 2nd cycle Kumlien's Iceland Gull in northwestern Lake County, Illinois, near the Countryside Landfill on Tuesday:
KUGU (2nd cycle). Lake County, IL. 23 DEC 2014.

Amazingly -- well maybe not amazingly, but interestingly -- two days later on Christmas Day, we observed it again, but this time some 45 miles to the southeast on the Chicago lakefront with our CBC group:

KUGU (2nd cycle). Cook County, IL. 25 DEC 2014.

It put on a great show for all of the Lakefront CBC counters at the Museum Campus, and at one point, Kelly McKay remarked how the looks we were getting "just can't get any better". I replied that we had a bird two days prior that can "literally" be this bird's twin. I didn't think much more about it for the rest of the day.

Sure enough though, after thoroughly checking both sets of photos, I was able to confirm it's the same bird based on a few plumage details - another neat data point in understanding the movements of our gulls!

                                             Lake County Photos                         Cook County Photos (images a bit saturated)                         
My best guess for why this bird would now be on the lakefront - and not at the landfill - is rather simple: perhaps it found little food at the landfill as fresh shipments of waste aren't brought in on days it's closed (i.e., Christmas). It's not unusual for many gulls to abandon landfill sites on days there aren't free meals being served. I'm sure it as well as many of our wintering gulls resort to working the lakefront and other bodies of water on holidays and Sundays.

I refound this same gull on the Calumet River on 08 February 2015

KUGU (2nd cycle). Cook County, IL. 08 Feb 2015.

3 sites in the last 6 weeks. This one gets around fast!!

27 December 2014

Chicago Lakefront CBC

For the 3rd consecutive year now I've participated in the Chicago Lakefront CBC which more or less concludes at the Museum Campus where we count gulls.

In a little over an hour, we tallied 7-Thayer's, 1-Kumlien's, 1-Lesser Black-backed, 1-Great Black-backed and 1 intermediate 3rd cycle Thayer's/Kumlien's. It was a fun session as we were hit with a flurry of Thayer's that I don't think anyone was expecting, especially given the mild winter we're having.

Thayer's Gull. 31st Harbor. 25 Dec 2014.
Thayer's Gull. Museum Campus. 25 Dec 2014.
Thayer's Gull (3rd cycle type). Museum Campus. 25 Dec 2014.
Thayer's Gull (2nd cycle). Museum Campus. 25 Dec 2014.
Thayer's Gull (2nd cycle). Museum Campus. 25 Dec 2014.
Thayer's Gull (1st cycle). Museum Campus. 25 Dec 2014. This individual displays some oddities...look for a future post describing some Glaucous-winged x Herring traits.
Kumlien's Gull (2nd cycle). Museum Campus. 25 Dec 2014.
Kumlien's Gull (2nd cycle). Museum Campus. 25 Dec 2014.
Lesser Black-backed Gull (1st cycle). Museum Campus. 25 Dec 2014.
2nd cycle Thayer's (back) and 1st cycle Thayer's/Glaucous-winged hybrid thingy....
Both 2nd cycle Kumlien's and Thayer's.
I was very happy to snap both of these birds in one frame...it's relatively tough to record any 2nd cycle white-winger here in Chicago on any given winter day.

Thanks to Joel Greenberg and the Williamsons for leading the pack. This CBC has quickly become one of my favorite winter events.

26 December 2014

Lake County Fairgrounds: First Cycle Great Black-backed

Ethan Gyllenhaal and I found this Great Black-backed at the Lake County Fairgrounds on Tuesday - only my 2nd one for this site (3rd for this general vicinity):

GBBG (1st cycle). Lake County, IL. 23 Dec 2014.
GBBG (1st cycle). Lake County, IL. 23 Dec 2014.
Although it was a bit squat it towered over all of the surrounding Herrings:

Seen here with 2nd & 3rd cycle type Herrings.
We also had a nice mix of Thayer's (8 total, including a 3rd cycle and a 1st cycle):

Thayer's Gull (1st cycle) with adult type Herring. Lake County, IL. 23 Dec 2014.
Thayer's Gull (1st cycle) with adult type Herring. Lake County, IL. 23 Dec 2014.
Thayer's Gull (3rd cycle type). Lake County, IL. 23 Dec 2014. Unlike most adults we see with heavily marked heads and necks, this individual had markings coming all the way down to belly and flanks.
Dotted tail pattern is one of the heavier-marked tails I've seen on a 3rd cycle type THGU.
Thayer's Gull (adult). A long slender bill, and big beefy head, with a beady eye. 
The highlight for both of us - which was the last bird of the day - was this Kumlien's Gull that came storming in while we were watching the 1st cycle Thayer's:

Kumlien's Gull (2nd cycle). Lake County, IL. 23 Dec 2014. Textbook.

We also had 3-4 adult type Herrings with extensive white on p10/p9. Here's one that stood out due to the disheveled outer primaries:

So-called "white-winged" Herring.
I'm seeing many more of these Herrings in the last two years. It could simply be a matter of never having good looks like this at the large numbers of wintering birds we get here.