24 May 2016

Little Gulls & Whaaa....

Manitowoc, Wisconsin scored big this past weekend. Charles Sontag & Mark Hodgson happened on an alternate White-winged Tern on Saturday, 21 May 2016 - only the 2nd record for the Western Great Lakes. Coincidentally, the first record also came from Wisconsin (Jefferson County; 05 July 1873. Ludwig Kumlien).

Bruce Heimer and I made the 3-hour jaunt for this one. It didn't take much to convince me as I bird this site multiple times in the Spring/Summer.

Here's my lousy photo of the tern:

WHITE-WINGED TERN. 22 MAY 2016
And of course a few Littles:

1st Cycle Little Gull rebuking a similar-aged Bonaparte's Gull.
Most of the LIGUs found here are 1st summer birds. An apparent adult was reported moments before we arrived. We never did see it, but photos confirm at least 5 LIGUs were present this past weekend, including a 1st cycle with an almost full hood, decked out with pink blush throughout.

Is there a LIGU in this photo...?

Of course there is...
This one here was hawking insects over the impoundment for a few moments:



Beside hawking insects over the lake, the birds are here feeding mainly on dying alewives. Here's a glimpse of a small segment of the group flushing:


It's nice to see these diminutive, tern-like, gulls with their smaller cousins. Their feeding preferences, fight patterns and breeding habitats are much more alike when compared to those of the larger gulls.

22 May 2016

Prebasic Molts in 1st Cycle Ring-billed Gulls

1st cycle Ring-billed Gulls typically begin their prebasic molt in mid-May. The molt is initiated, or at least detected, by the dropping/replacement of the innermost primaries.

Typical mid-May Ring-billed Gull (second calendar year).
The 3 innermost primaries have dropped. Tinley Park, IL. 21 May 2016.
1st Summer Ring-billed with obvious molt gap where the secondaries & primaries meet.
 The innermost primary and outermost secondary have emerged.
Tinley Park, Illinois. 07 May 2016.

This individual has dropped a few secondaries and a couple of primaries:

P1-P2 new. P7 appears 2nd generation. Tinley Park, IL. 21 May 2016.
Interestingly, p7 on the left wing is 2nd generation. This feather has an odd-shaped tip that's emarginated. It's also a bit worn. It very likely replaced an accidentally dropped juvenile primary (as opposed to being part of the current primary molt). Note p7 on the right wing is still juvenile (1st basic).

Same individual above. Both P1-P2 new. P7 old. 
Most adults haven't begun dropping/replacing primaries or rectrices yet (i.e., the prebasic molt). They begin molting almost an entire month (or two) later than 1st cycles. The demands of courting, pairing up and nesting are taxing enough and hence molt is delayed.

03 May 2016

Birder Beware - Bleached Pigments

It's Spring. Large white-headed gulls have been wearing their juvenile flight feathers for nearly an entire 12 months. By now, many are showing primaries that are worn, faded, and yes, bleached.

1st Cycle Ring-billed Gulls. Cook County, Illinois. 01 May 2016.
The individual to the left is showing typical, dark primaries that appear to be in very good condition. The bird to the right has primaries (and tertials) that have a light brown coloration. These feathers appear diluted in color because of bleaching. Both birds are the same age, except the individual to the left hasn't suffered the effects of bleaching.



Birders should keep this in mind especially when assessing white-wingers (i.e., Thayer's and Kumlien's in particular) and suspected hybrids. A bleached Thayer's in California at this time of year may tempt one to call it a Kumlien's. Similarly, a dark Kumlien's in Toronto may be suspected of being a bleached Thayer's, and so on and so forth.

The implication here is that some birds may not be safely identifiable at this time of year only because of this ambiguity of "true" pigment.

01 May 2016

Monthly Notables April 2016

  • California Gull (1st cycle). New Haven County, Connecticut. 01 April 2016.
    • Continuing first state record, last reported on 16 April.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Pierce County, Washington. 05 April 2016.
    • Continuing on rooftop.
  • Little Gull (1st cycle). San Diego County, California. 07 April 2016.
  • Common Gull (2nd cycle). La CĂ´te-de-GaspĂ© County, Quebec. 09 April 2016.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Forteau, Labrador. 11 April 2016.
    • First record for Labrador.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (1st cycle). Emmet County, Michigan. 12 April 2016.
  • Little Gull (adult). St. John's County, Newfoundland. 17 April 2016.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). Clallam County, Washington. 22 April 2016.
  • Little Gull (1st cycle). Lake County, Illinois. 23 April 2016.
  • Thayer's Gull (adults - 8). Toronto County, Ontario. 23 April 2016.
    • A new one-day high count for the Greater Toronto Area. 
  • Ross's Gull (1st cycle). Lenawee County, Michigan. 23 April 2016.
    • Probable. Upperwing pattern could fit 1st cycle Little Gull or even an odd Black-legged Kittiwake. Most promising is what appears to be a wedged-shaped tail.
  • Little Gull (adult). Riverside County, California. 23 April 2016.
  • Kelp Gull (adult). San Francisco County, California. 26 April 2016.
    • The absence of a p10 mirror suggests this is a reoccurring individual first discovered in San Mateo County in April of 2015.
  • Iceland Gull (24). Toronto County, Ontario. 30 April 2016.
    • A new one-day high count for the Greater Toronto Area. Various ages. Recorded by Owen Strickland (the same observer who recorded the Thayer's high count for this area on 23 April 2016).