20 September 2016

New Buffalo Lesser Black-backeds

A brief visit to New Buffalo, Michigan last week yielded a nice count of 8-9 Lessers. Juveniles - as per usual - have arrived in mid-September.

Juvenile LBBG. Berrien County, Michigan. 15 September 2016. 

Same individual (right) seen here with a banded hatch year Herring.
My second juvenile Lesser on the day.

17 September 2016

Gray Gulls at Brookfield Zoo

Brookfield Zoo in Cook County, Illinois houses about a dozen Gray Gulls (Leucophaeus modestus). The birds are in a reliably large enclosure with a dozen or so Inca Terns and a contingent of Humboldt penguins. Having never seen the species before - which requires a trip to the western coast of South America (from central Peru down to Chile) - I was happy to spend a couple of hours observing these birds.

Flight feather molt similar to many of our northern hemisphere gulls in September.

The species reminds me most of Laughing Gull, especially bill size and proportions (but perhaps with a slightly larger body). The voice is unlike any gulls I know but the quality is nasally.

In a recent interview I did with Birding magazine, I commented that Mediterranean Gull or Gray Gull would be the next ABA gull for our area. My prediction is that Gray Gull will occur first with recent records creeping into Central America. There is a disputed account from Louisiana (December 1987) of a bird that may or may not have been that species (interestingly, a melanistic Laughing Gull wasn't clearly eliminated - a photo can be found here).

16 September 2016

18th & 9th Cycle Herrings From E of Chambers Island, Wisconsin

I found 4 banded Herrings on Thursday, 15 September 2016, here on southern Lake Michigan.

Here are the two that obliged, providing full readings:

Adult 0966-44575. Banded as a chick on 17 June 1999, East of Chambers Island, WI.

Adult 1106-08886. Banded as a chick on 17 June 2008, East of Chambers Island, WI.

Unfortunately, the bird of most interest to me - a hatch year - evaded me and took off before I can get to work on it. 

Juvenile Herring with federal band on right leg. Pictured with juvenile LBBG.

An adult type, likely from northern Michigan also got away with 3 missing digits (1146-02***). So 4 banded birds, with a 50% success rate at recording the entire band number. Yes, frustrating at times, but well worth the effort to me. Those banders that insist on not using large, color, field-readable bands must know that so many more data points would be obtained in much less time and effort. I'll leave it at that.

01 September 2016

Monthly Notables August 2016

  • California Gull (2nd summer type). Mason County, Illinois. 01 August 2016.
  • Laughing Gull (juvenile). Lancaster County, Nebraska. 01 August 2016.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Pierce County, Washington. 01 August 2016.
    • Continuing.
  • Western Gull (2nd cycle). Washington County, Colorado. 01 August 2016. 
    • Continuing from previous month. Banded on Farallon Islands in the summer of 2015.
  • Herring Gull (1st summer). Imperial County, California. 05 August 2016.
    • Continuing from July.
  • Mew Gull (2nd summer type). Larimer County, Colorado. 05 August 2016.
    • Unprecedented. A total of 3 individuals found in the state this month (see below).
  • Black-headed Gull (adult type). Lyon County, Minnesota. 08 August 2016.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (adult). Harrison County, Mississippi. 11 August 2016.
  • Mew Gull (2nd summer type). Larimer County, Colorado. 11 August 2016.
    • Individual #2.
  • Laughing Gull (adult). Grays Harbor County, Washington. 12 August 2016.
  • Glaucous Gull (2nd summer type). Chatham-Kent County, Ontario. 14 August 2016.
  • Mew Gull (2nd cycle type). Loveland County, Colorado. 16 August 2016.
    • Individual #3.
  • Little Gull (adult type). Ottawa County, Michigan. 12 August 2016.
  • Franklin's Gull (juvenile). La Haute-Côte-Nord County, Quebec. 19 August 2016.
  • Mew Gull (juvenile). Grant County, Washington. 20 August 2016.
  • Laughing Gull (adult). Haldimand County, Ontario. 27 August 2016.
  • Sabine's Gull (juvenile). Beauharnois-Salaberry County, Quebec. 28 August 2016.
  • Mew Gull (juvenile). San Mateo County, California. 28 August 2016.
  • California Gull (adult). LaPorte County, Indiana. 31 August 2016.
    • First August record for the state.

Miscellaneous Notes 
  • Heermann's Gull produced another poor breeding crop this season. Very small numbers of juveniles were reported from Baja California as well as the California Pacific Coast. 
  • An adult type California Gull from Colorado was found with one pale eye. Although we don't think of this species as ever showing pale irides, it has been recorded. Considerations of Ring-billed x California or Herring x California hybrids are not unfounded as those hybrids have been reported (primarily in the Great Basin). The August bird was a typical CAGU, minus the pale left eye. 
  • An interesting adult type from Ipswich, Massachusetts (Essex County) - first thought to be a canus taxon, then canus x delewarensis - may have been an abnormal Ring-billed Gull missing most of the black subterminal ring on the bill, coupled with dark eyes. Size, gray upperpart coloration, leg color, and primary pattern agreed with Ring-billed Gull. 07 August 2016. See North American Gulls on Facebook for photos.
  • Laughing x Ring-billed Gull (adult). Back again since at least 2004, this apparent F1 hybrid is seen sporadically in the summer months on southern Lake Michigan. 21 August 2016. Cook County, Illinois  & Lake County, Indiana.
  • Several Mew Gulls were detected this month in a number of western states. Close observation and data from the last few years suggests some young birds begin moving south sooner than previously thought.

August 2016 Quiz

Lesser Black-backed Gull. Brevard County, Florida. January.

This month's quiz bird has a relatively fresh set of feathers, undoubtedly in its first plumage cycle. Structurally, it appears long-winged and this is a helpful clue that may be used with some experience.

The very plain, blackish, secondaries as well as the dark greater primary coverts and outer greater secondary coverts give the impression of a black-backed species. There's also a straight, all-black, bill with a contrasting white head. These field marks are consistent with 1st cycle Lesser Black-backed Gull - an age group that often goes overlooked by many on this continent.

Several quiz participants were stumped by the apparent inner primary "window" and felt this looked better for Herring Gull. Although we don't usually associate pale inner primaries with Lessers, it's not unusual for the species to show this. Note that a much more faint window is visible on the right wing and this is simply an effect caused by the primaries on the left wing being more spread, and hence the pale inner vanes are almost completely exposed, showing the palest portions of those feathers. The window dissipates quickly depending on the bird's behavior or the angle the observer is viewing from (see here for another example).

Another point that was raised as evidence for American Herring is the wide tail band. The tail band is wide, and even wider toward the outer rectrices. Admittedly, most Lessers have thinner tail bands. But note the solid, white, base color to the uppertail coverts. In Herring, the uppertail coverts tend to be more concolorous with the rest of the upperparts, and at the very least, more barring is visible (like so, scroll down for a spread tail).

This month's quiz bird was designed to show two features on LBBG that our popular bird field guides don't necessarily discuss. Paler inner primaries and wider tail bands don't necessarily rule out Lesser Black-backed Gull.