20 April 2015

Hammond Kumlien's & Spring Records on Lake Michigan

I try to keep close tabs on the Hammond Marina Kumlien's Gull once we get this late in the season. Yesterday, I found it hanging out on the "No Wake" sign at the harbor mouth - my third sighting of it this month.

It wouldn't be unusual for this bird to continue into the last week of April. On average it seems Kumlien's - in general - linger later into the Spring on southern Lake Michigan than do Thayer's. For what it's worth, here are both the Illinois and Indiana record late dates for this species, respectively: 26 May 2005 and 12 May 1999. There are no June records of this species in either state.

Interestingly, there are later Thayer's records in Illinois (28 May 2008) and Indiana (20 June 1978). The Wisconsin lakefront, having so much more shoreline and being some 300 miles to the north of us when considering the northernmost extreme of the state, occasionally sees these white-wingers into June.

I personally have a Thayer's June record from Sheboygan, Wisconsin and a record late date from 11 July 2014 (Sheboygan, Wisconsin). But still, on average, there seem to be more Kumlien's records on Lake Michigan later in the season than Thayer's.

13 April 2015

2nd Cycle GBBG with Fish & 1st Cycle RBGU with Wide Tailband

Calumet Park. Chicago, IL. 12 April 2015.

Great Black-backeds generally don't allow close approach on Lake Michigan, but this youngster has let its Spring restlessness get the best of it.

I was able to patiently stalk it and eventually shorten the distance between us:

And a nice show was had...

Next up, the tailband on this 1st cycle Ring-billed is impressive, with dark coming all the way up towards the bases of the outer tail feathers:

These bands are variable - some being very narrow while others as thick as what's seen on the bird above (here's a collage I've put together demonstrating this).

Finally, the "pink" Ring-billeds on the lakefront continue to increase. The discoloration of their legs is, again, more evidence that they've been exposed to an external substance (i.e., iron ore dust/powder):

05 April 2015

Adult Kumlien's: Hammond

The longer I watch gulls, the more I'm absolutely convinced that this family of birds exhibits a great deal of site fidelity. Today I observed the adult Kumlien's Gull at Hammond Marina in Indiana (reoccurring since at least 2009). As is usual, the bird came in for a couple of minutes, gave a few long calls and then retreated as the gull flock grew (mostly Ring-billeds with about 10 Herrings and a couple of Great Black-backeds):

Kumlien's Gull (adult). Hammond, IN. 05 Aprl 2015.

I'm always too late when it comes to recording this bird vocalize in time!
Interestingly, an adult Thayer's flew in and tangled with this bird on the water for about 15 seconds, before making as if it was flying in towards me, but circled back and kept on to the northwest towards Chicago. I also observed a 1st and 2nd cycle GBBG today, and that's about it.

Ring-billed Gull (1st cycle). Whiting, IN. 05 April 2015.

Two replaced tail feathers - one adult-like and one less advanced. 
With a good deal of juvenile neck and breast streaking.

02 April 2015

Young Great Black-backeds & More

Some photos from this past Sunday, 29 March 2015 - Lake County, Indiana.

GBBG (1st cycle - photo 1 of 3).

GBBG (1st cycle - photo 2 of 3).

GBBG (1st cycle - photo 3 of 3).

GBBG (1st cycle).

GBBG (2nd cycle - photo 1 of 3).

GBBG (2nd cycle - photo 2 of 3).

GBBG (2nd cycle - photo 3 of 3).

HERG (1st cycle).

HERG (2nd cycle).

HERG (3rd cycle type - photo 1 of 2).

HERG (3rd cycle type - photo 2 of 2).

HERG (3rd cycle type - photo 1 of 2).

HERG (3rd cycle type - photo 2 of 2).

HERG (adult type - with Ring-billed below).

Ring-billed (2nd cycle type).

Ring-billed (2nd cycle type).

Ring-billed (adult, left - 2nd cycle type, right).

"Pink" Ring-billed (adult type).

"Blue" Ring-billed (adult, banded in Chicago, 2007 - photo 1 of 3).

"Blue" Ring-billed (adult, banded in Chicago, 2007 - photo 2 of 3).

"Blue" Ring-billed (adult, banded in Chicago, 2007 - photo 3 of 3).

01 April 2015

March 2015 Quiz

Let's get the gull in flight out of the way first: Adult Laughing Gull. Franklin's Gull would be a fair contender but definitive adults tend to show less black on the outer primaries with traces of a white medial band. The medial band partitions the black subterminal region from the gray on the upperwing (see here).

Now for the standing birds. Both are in their 1st plumage cycle (first winter) and happen to be the same species. Interestingly though, the bird on the right appears smaller and has greater coverts that are darker and more solid. Those two characteristics alone may convince an observer that they're looking at two different species, but this is nothing more than expected "variation" found at the species level. Note that the overall uniform brown coloration to the upperparts is a good indication we're looking at black-backed species, and not Herring Gulls. The anchor-shaped centers to the lower scapulars, all-black and straight bills, and elongated look to the wings all point towards Lesser Black-backed Gull. The lightly barred undertail coverts and lower belly (seen better on the right bird) is also a good indication of a non-American Herring taxon.

First cycle LBBG presents some challenges for beginning birders. Identifying them is much more a matter of being familiar with Herring Gull and eliminating that species first. My advice would be to stay with any gull that you suspect may be a 1st cycle Lesser until it opens its wings and until you see the uppertail pattern (here's an example showing the paler uppertail coverts and darker inner primaries).

This photo was taken in Volusia County, Florida on 24 January 2015. Incidentally, the smaller individual on the right is Florida's first banded Lesser Black-backed Gull, and was sexed as a female (which average smaller bodies and proportions than males).

Monthly Notables March 2015

March 2015
  1. Kamchatka Gull (adult). Lynn, Massachusets. 01 March 2015.*
  2. California Gull (adult).Clarksville, Indiana. 01 March 2015.
  3. Kamchatka Gull (adult). Lynn, Massachusetts. 04 March 2015.** 
  4. Heermann's Gull (2nd cycle). Pima County, Arizona. 17 March 2015.
  5. California Gull (adult). Lake County, Indiana. 17 March 2015.
  6. Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Marquette, Michigan. 22 March 2015.
  7. Little Gull (adult). Hall County, Georgia. 23 March 2015.
Of note this month is an important lesson to be learned about under-monitored areas. David Brown and company found 3 first county records in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania at the Williamsport Dam: Glaucous Gull (1st cycle - 24 March), Kumlien's Gull (2nd cycle - 29 March) and Lesser Black-backed Gull (1st cycle - 30 March). The observers feel this rash of new county records is due to an increase in effort and isn't likely due to an unusual occurrence.

*Apparent northeast Asian taxon, Kamchatka Gull (L.c. kamtschatschensis).
** Amazingly, a second adult Kamchatka Gull (a noticeably smaller bird) was also found in Lynn (the same site as the 01 March bird).