05 November 2014

October to November Weekend: Black-backeds

The last day of October saw the strongest winds/storm of the season down here on southern Lake Michigan. With sustained N-NW 35-45 mph winds and rain for most of the day, we had high hopes for migrating waterbirds, and birds we saw. We observed 2 juvenile Sabine's Gulls at the Miller Beach Lakewatch. I also recorded a personal high of 11 Great Black-backeds for an October day (5 at Miller, 6 at the Port - only 2 adults).

GBBG (2nd and 1st cycle). Gary, IN. 31 Oct 2014. Yes. The skies were gloomy.
On Saturday, November 1st, I hit the Chicago lakefront as the winds were from northeast. The most notable gull was a 2nd cycle Lesser Black-backed mixed in with the foraging Herrings. The birds knew exactly where they should be feeding and were strategically working sections of the breakwall that the northeast waves were crashing against.

Lesser Black-backed (2nd cycle with 2nd cycle Ring-billed). Chicago, IL. 01 Nov 2014.
On Sunday, 02 November, I checked a few spots along the eastern Indiana lakefront. The damage along the flooded beaches was staggering. But the gulls were there - unfazed! I spotted a 1st cycle Herring with a federal band and started to work out the sequence. This one was tricky as it was standing between a flock of 60+ Herrings. I didn't want to move too fast, knowing that if one bird flushed, they'd all flush. Ten minutes of work went to waste when the the bird decided - of all the birds standing there - that it wanted to leave. I'm sure it had its reasons. I was very disappointed as I only recorded 3 digits from the prefix.

But no sooner did I look back at the flock, this 1st cycle Lesser Black-backed appeared:

So much for an all jet-black bill. This individual doesn't show the black-white peppered aspect that many North American observers have come to expect on 1st cycle LBBGs.

Just like the flank and lower belly area, the neck too shows some "spotting" that's not typically found in Smithsonianus.

Although it has a relatively wide tailband, more marked uppertail coverts than average and hints of a paler window, I think it's perfectly fine for a pure LBBG.

 To wrap up this post, here's a 1st cycle Great Black-backed from Montrose Harbor in Chicago- 04 Nov.

Fault bar across the tailband or expected pattern?

Note the brown & white dotting to the underwings and spotting along the flanks, similar to LBBG in some respects. 
Compare the underwing linings to this Lesser Black-backed:

LBBG (1st cycle). Whiting, IN. 09 Feb 2013.