19 August 2014

American Herrings on Lake Michigan: mid-August

Here's a small collection of American Herring Gulls photographed 5-12 miles offshore from Berrien County, MI. The birds were photographed from a boat with a crazy mix of weather conditions, beginning with partly cloudy skies, bright sunshine, heavy overcast and then intense fog. As is typical on these boat trips, we begin with more Ring-billeds 1-2 miles from shore, and then transitioned to a majority of Herrings at about 5 miles.

Juvenile (HY bird). 17 August 2014.
Juvenile (HY bird). 17 August 2014.

Likely an individual molting from 1st cycle to 2nd cycle (2nd CY). The inner primaries are adult-like and there is the possibility that this plumage is a retarded 3rd basic type. 17 August 2014.
First summer (2nd CY). Second prebasic molt is nearly complete. 17 August 2014. 

Another individual with somewhat advanced inner primaries (note the prominent white tips on p1-p2), but my impression is that this is a first summer bird molting into 2nd basic. 17 August 2014.

A second summer individual molting from 2nd basic to 3rd basic (3 CY). 17 August 2014.
Same individual above.

A second summer bird molting from 2nd basic to 3rd basic (3 CY). 17 August 2014.

Adult type. 17 August 2014.
At approximately 12 miles from shore, we lost ALL of our gulls (despite still providing chum). The heavy fog might be the reason why the birds dropped off, or perhaps it's a simple "cost-analysis" solution that the birds have worked out in the summer months.