30 August 2015

Late August Ring-billed Gulls and a Juvenile Herring

August is quickly coming to an end. The majority of hatch year Ring-billeds are showing noticeable post-juvenile scapulars - some with only a few new feathers here and there, while others with a complete new set of scaps.

Juvenile Ring-billed. Ghost Type. No "renewed" scapulars shown. Chicago, IL. 29 August 2015.
Juvenile Ring-billed. Cinnamon Type. Note the row of missing juvenile scapulars. 2nd generation scapulars (short, dark gray) are beginning to take form. Chicago, IL. 29 August 2015.
Ring-billed Gull in formative plumage. Virtually all of the juvenile scapulars have been replaced via the preformative molt. Also, a couple of median coverts, as well as the lowest tertial, appear non-juvenile. Chicago, IL. 29 August 2015.

Very advanced for late August. Preformative molt seems to have included more than half of the median coverts and nearly all of the scapulars. Note the single advanced, gray, tertial but with brown shaft streak. A bit confounding is the bases to the upper tertials which are advanced gray as well. See below for the left wing. Chicago, IL. 29 August 2015. 

Slightly less renewed upperwing median coverts on this wing. The lowest tertial seems to have a brown center (barely showing here). Open wing shots below.


For the sake of not having August end without posting a single Herring photo, now this:

Classic Smith! Chicago, IL. 29 August 2015.

Basal 2/3 of bill beginning to pale and a few renewed scapulars (see below).
Dark gray splotches are post-juvenile. My guess is juvenile feathers that are replaced this early are weak feathers that fall out in earnest, probably before fledging. Finally, I've never really paid much attention to the broad white tips to the lowest scaplulars. After looking back at photos from previous years, I guess this isn't an uncommon feature on my local HERGs on Lake Michigan.

15 August 2015

Crème de la Crème - My Favorite 20 Gulls

A collection of some of my favorites. Some were picked based on "rareness", some because of the stunning plumage being worn, and some simply because I'm fond of the circumstances involved in taking that photograph. Enjoy!

20. Bonaparte's Gull (1st cycle). Lorain, Ohio. November 2011.

I snapped this photo from the now inaccessible pier at Lorain Harbor where it was feeding with 10,000+ Bonaparte's. This was a fine day of gull-watching that began with a successful Black-tailed Gull chase.

19. Yellow-footed Gulls (adults). Salton Sea, California. August 2010.

Spending a couple of days on the trail with the godfather of California Birding, Guy McCaskie, and observing some 300 Yellow-footed Gulls with him remains my most memorable experience from the Golden State. 

12 August 2015

Adult Lesser with Complete Band on P4

I've been meaning to post this individual for some time. Pictured below is an adult type Lesser Black-backed with a full subterminal band on P4:

LBBG (adult). Brevard County, Florida. 26 January 2015.
I've seen a fair number of adults with markings on P4, but I can't recall ever seeing one with a full band like this.

09 August 2015

August Ross's Gull in Southern Quebec

Yeah, so a Ross's Gull was spotted in Quebec on 04 August 2015. Yep, early August!

Photo posted by Samuel Denault on ABA Rare Bird Alert FB.


Les Escoumins is on the St. Lawrence River, about 150 miles northeast of Quebec City.

Les Escoumins (red pin) is on the north side of the river. 

Who Found This Rare Gem?

Jean-Guy Beaulieu found and photographed the bird, but apparently most of the general birding community wasn't aware of this sighting until it was posted on FB on 07 August 2015. It was reported at the same spot two days after the initial sighting. From the photo, it appears the bird has some black showing on the lower greater coverts and black on the retained outer primaries.  

Thanks to Jim Pawlicki for bringing this one to my attention.


Speaking of August Ross's, I've learned that North American Birding phenom, Bruce Mactavish, has an extraordinary record from 9-11 August 1991 (L'Anse-aux-Meadows, NL).

Photo by Bruce Mactavish. 09 Aug 1991.
The precedence of Bruce's bird and this most recent sighting suggest early August may be a good time to start dreaming about, and actively searching for, this perfectly constructed gull (at least via the input and output regions of the Gulf of St. Lawrence). Bruce describes his bird as having black marks on the upperwing coverts and feels this hints at some immaturity. Hence, we might be able to say that an exceptionally early Fall Ross's Gull is more likely to be an after hatch year bird, but not fully adult.  

02 August 2015

Boring Ring-billeds Again

Truth be told even I have a limit for the number of adult Ring-billed Gulls I could look at before having to soon move on. But juveniles - juveniles are a different thing. Their fresh plumages and neat patterns make them difficult to ignore. Mid-late summer is the only time to familiarize ourselves with these plumages and their variation.

A couple of years ago I introduced the birding community to the "Types" of Ring-billed juveniles one might find in the field. Broadly, we have Brown, Ghost and Cinnamon Types.

Juvenile Ring-billed Gull (Brown Type). Tinley Park, Illinois. 02 August 2015.

01 August 2015

July 2015 Quiz

Age: The wing coverts have a plain but marbled pattern, pointing away from a first cycle gull. The tertial tips also show relatively broad pale tips with a similar marbling effect - this all points away from a first cycle.

Monthly Notables July 2015

July 2015 Notables

  • Mew Gull (apparent 3rd cycle type). San Francisco County, CA. 01 July 2015. Continuing from late May.
  • Little Gull (1st summer). Dane County, WI. 01 July 2015. Continuing.
  • Little Gull (1st summer). King County, CA. 01 July 2015. Continuing.
  • Glaucous Gull (2nd summer). Manitowoc County, WI. 06 July 2015. Continuing. 
  • Chandeleur Gulls (Kelp x Herring hybrids, 20+). St. Bernard County, LA. 08 July 2015.
    • By far the most exciting news in the ABA area this month. A small team of surveyors from LSU found multiple adult and sub-adult putative hybrids on Chandeleur Island on 08 July, and then again on 10 July 2015. Per Dan O'Malley, 3 nests were found (one empty, one with two eggs, and one with one chick being protected by adult-type hybrids). Hybrids from this island have not been reported post-Hurricane Katrina. More on the history of this hybridization event can be found here. Access to the island is restricted.