19 February 2014

Gull Frolic 2014

Gull Frolic 2014 started out sort of slow, but picked up with a big punch after lunch. I was really worried the gulls would not cooperate this year as they've been staying outside of the harbor all winter and resting on the ice well off-shore. This is the first winter ever where I've observed the gulls do this. That is, the first winter where they've prefered to rest out on the lake rather than on the docks in the harbor. Polar Vortex? I'm not sure, but I don't like it!

Birders on the "board-walk" studying the gulls in the harbor!
I, as always, tried to keep a gull-list, which is almost impossible to do accurately given all the gull traffic and various sightings made by different people. What birds are re-counts? What birds haven't been counted, and so on and so forth. We did tally 8 gull species with a new Frolic species: SLATY-BACKED GULL.

Slaty-backed Gull (adult). North Point Marina. Winthrop Harbor, IL. 15 Feb 2014.

This Asian gem caused a lot of excitment throughout the day. Birders went back and forth to the Lake County Fairgrounds, nearly 15 miles away, where it was giving great looks in the parking lot. I spotted the bird the previous day with Maarten van Kleinwee, and the gull gods sent it back for many a birder to check off on Gull Frolic Day! To read more about this bird's initial sighting click here.

During the last 45 minutes of the Frolic, as we were cleaning up and organizing furniture, Matthew Winks ran in to tell us the bird was out in the harbor. We ran outside like children trying to catch the ice-cream truck and watched it put on a nice 20 minute show. It passed us several times, spent time bathing and resting, and finally picked up and flew out on the lake with most of the gulls. We were stoked:

The horse-shoe birders of the day. Lucky 13 (inlcuding me)!
And now the rest of the boring gulls...

1st cycle Glaucous.

1st cycle Thayer's.

Adult type Thayer's.

Adult type LBBG.

Adult type LBBG.

Adult type Thayer's thingy...

1st cycle Thayer's.

Adult type Thayer's thingy...

Sub-adult LBBG

Slaty-backed Gull: Lake County Fairgrounds

On Friday, 14 February 2014, I spotted an adult Slaty-backed Gull in the parking lot at the Lake County Fairgrounds. The identification was made within seconds of viewing the bird.

I was with visiting gull enthusiast, Maarten van Kleinwee, who has come from the Netherlands to watch gulls in the southern Lake Michigan region. Maarten and I were off to a good start with a few Thayer's, a Kumlien's and 2 Lesser Black-backeds, when I noticed a dark-backed gull landing right of our car. I glimpsed a flash of pink on the legs and the rest was history:

Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Lake County, IL. 14 Feb 2014.
As we were observing the bird, Andy Stewart pulled up and introduced himself. We told him we had a surprise. To not risk shifting the birds in undesired directions, I suggested Andy get in my car so that there wasn't too much going on at one time. He took in this lifer at a distance of no more than 20 feet. The bird could not have been more cooperative!!

After getting the word out, several birders showed up and began checking off this Asian rarity. This will be the 5th Illinois State Record and 1st Lake County Record.

13 February 2014

Whiting Redux: 09 Feb 2014

I spent a few hours on the beach at the BP Refinery on Sunday. Things quickly picked up with 5-6 Thayer's, 2 Kumlien's (1st and 2nd cycles) a Lesser Black-backed (2nd cycle) and ~ 8 Glaucous and 20 Great Black-backeds.

Most interesting was the advanced 3rd cycle to near-adult type Thayer's. I've seen many 3rd cycle Thayer's this year that look nearly adult, but there's always something that gives it away: be it a dull bill with black subterminal markings, or extensive pigmentation to the wingtips.

10 February 2014

The Works at Whiting & Hammond: 02 Feb 2014.

Met up with John Kendall and several Indianapolis birders for gulling at the BP Refinery last Sunday. Here we had 29 GBBGs, 7 Glaucous and 1 adult Thayer's.

I then went to Hammond afterwards and was treat to the adult Kumlien's (reoccurring) and a wintering 1st cycle Kumlien's.