30 November 2016

Monthly Notables November 2016

    • Black-legged Kittiwake (adult). Pueblo County, Colorado. 01 November 2016.
      • Continuing from last week of October.
    • Little Gull (adult). Union County, Indiana. 03 November 2016.
    • Black-headed Gull (adult). Accomack County, Virginia. 05 November 2016.
    • Yellow-legged Gull (adult). St. John's County, Newfoundland. 06 November 2016.
      • Continuing.
    • Thayer's Gull (adult). Nome County, Alaska. 06 November 2016.
      • Late. Very rare. 13th Fall Record for Nome.
    • Black-legged Kittiwake (juvenile). Lake County, Minnesota. 07 November 2016.
    • Laughing Gull (adult type). Mahoning County, Ohio. 07 November 2016.
    • Sabine's Gull (juvenile). Ketchikan Gateway County, Alaska. 09 November 2016.
      • Late. First November record for Ketchikan.
    • Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Portage la Prairie Area Co, Manitoba. 10 November 2016.
      • Continuing from June 2016.
    • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). Santa Clara County, California. 10 November 2016.
    • Western Gull (1st cycle). Salt Lake County, Utah. 11 November 2016.
      • Continuing from October 2016.
    • Black-legged Kittiwake (juvenile). Palm Beach County, Florida. 12 November 2016.
    • Ring-billed Gull (adult). Juneau County, Alaska. 13 November 2016.
    • Great Black-backed Gull (adult). Pueblo County, Colorado. 18 November 2016.
      • Believed to be the same returning adult for the 23rd year!
    • Glaucous Gull (juvenile). Power County, Idaho. 19 November 2016.
    • Vega Gull (adult). Santa Clara County, California. 22 November 2016.
      • Photos of a very promising individual with all the correct field marks. No open wing.
    • Slaty-backed Gull (adult type). St.John's County, Newfoundland. 23 November 2016.
    • Little Gull (1st cycle). Ventura County, California. 23 November 2016.
      • 3rd county record. First in 27 years for Ventura County!
    • Sabine's Gull (juvenile). Haines County, Alaska. 23 November 2016.
      • Late.
    • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Pierce County, Washington. 24 November 2016.
      • Reoccurring at this site.
    • Iceland Gull (1st cycle). Salt Lake County, Utah. 24 November 2016.
      • Apparent Kumlien's Gull.
    • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). Riverside County, California. 26 November 2016.
    • Slaty-backed Gull (3rd cycle). Metro Vancouver County, British Columbia. 27 November 2016.
    • Black-headed Gull (adult). Butler County, Pennsylvania. 29 November 2016.
      • Presumably returning to this site since 2008.

    Miscellaneous Notes.
    1. Reported early this month was an intriguing 1st cycle bird from Superior, Wisconsin (observed in September). Plumage entirely juvenile. Body size, bill size and structure all seemed perfect for Ring-billed Gull which it was associating with. However, the inner primaries and greater coverts were plain and uniformly dark like a Lesser Black-backed Gull (and this is what the observers initially identified it as). After some discussion on North American Gulls (NAG), the bird was thought to either be a RBGU x LBBG or a melanistic Ring-billed. There is some precendence for the hybrid theory (see photos here of a Spanish bird suspected of this mix). It's important to emphasize that this pairing has never been verified in the wild - no courting or nesting evidence. As for melanistic Ring-billed Gull, melanism in gulls usually expresses itself unevenly and tends to be more blotchy. The Superior gull was "perfectly" pigmented like a fresh juvenile LBBG. The most likely explanation is a juvenile Ring-billed packed with a high dose of melanin. Observers: Robbye Johnson, Thomas Shultz and others. 
    2. A banded adult type Lesser Black-backed Gull was reported on the Mississippi River at Lock & Dam 3 in Goodhue County, Minnesota. The bird was sporting a black field-readable band on its right leg with 3 white characters. It also wore a metal band on its left leg. Unfortunately, the 3 characters on the black band can not be read clearly, but the combination matches none from North America. The only LBBG banding program using a similar field-readable is from the UK. Observer: Alex Franzen.
    3. Continuing the trend of increasing reports, putative Herring x Lesser Black-backeds were reported from several regions this month (Michigan, New York, several from New Foundland and Florida). All reports/photos represent adult birds.
    4. A very interesting adult gull with Taimyr/Mongolian-like attributes was photographed in Alameda County, California on 10 November 2016. The bird does not resemble any taxon or putative hybrid that regularly occurs in North America (photos here). Observer: Noah Arthur.

    November 2016 Quiz

    Age: Pointed primaries, patterned wing coverts and some apparent juvenile scapulars assist in aging this gull as a 1st cycle individual. Most of the lower scapulars are juvenile (=1st basic), but the faint gray upper scapulars are non-juvenile (=formative or 1st alternate).

    Identification: The uniform paleness to this bird suggests a large 4-year white-winger. Our white-wingers are Glaucous, Glaucous-winged, Thayer's and Iceland Gull. The mostly black bill pattern would be inconsistent with Glaucous Gull, especially one that has already renewed some scapulars. The primaries are too pale for a Thayer's Gull. This leaves us with Glaucous-winged and Iceland Gull.

    A few features should immediately jump out at the observer as pro Glaucous-winged: This is a bulgy gull with a short wing projection and a long/strong bill. Iceland Gulls tends to show more petite bills, longer wings, and proportionally larger eyes placed lower on the face.

    This month's quiz bird was identified as a 1st cycle Glaucous-winged Gull. This age group regularly shows variable scapular molt early in its hatch year. The molt can be absent to extensive. The bill pattern also varies from all-dark to paling around the base. Interestingly, some hatch year Glaucous-winged Gulls show this "mismatched" whitish head against a darker body. Whether this is due to bleaching, an early molt restricted to the head/neck, or just natural variation isn't clear.

    January. San Mateo County, California.

    24 November 2016

    Putative Chandeleur Gull, California and Thiceland Gull

    Michigan City, Indiana. 20 November 2016.

    Chandeleur Gull

    Sunday was my first genuine attempt at finding large gulls this season. Southern Lake Michigan's putative Kelp x Herring Gull (Chandeleur Gull) was holding to its regular post at Michigan City.

    Always a late prebasic molt, p-molt is only about 1/2 way completed. The mirror on p10 is still relatively small (as it has been for years) with a squarish shape.

    Mantle color tending toward Kelp, being a couple of shades paler than the primary tips. The head is blocky and the bill is hefty - similar to many Kelps.
    I've now committed this bird's distinct voice to memory and this is how I was alerted to its presence. The long call doesn't sound like Herring Gull at all. Back in 2014 I also found this bird via its long call. After listening to multiple Kelp recordings, I've concluded that the voice is about as close of a match as one could expect for a bird that presumably has mixed genes.

    The assumption here is that this individual associates with Herrings, and likely breeds (or attempts to breed) in Herring colonies. This also implies that it probably summers to our north (as opposed to our south), moving in with the first big waves of Herring Gulls that arrive on Lake Michigan in the Fall.

    The underside to the flight feathers is dark gray (not black), and the legs are variably greenish-gray with very faint hints of pink, particularly around the webbing of the feet.

    California Gull

    Moving on, a continuing adult California Gull also brightened up the day. It's believed this bird has been in the area since late August.

    The upperparts are darker than most CAGUs I've seen in these parts, but the bill is longer and "stronger" than average. I'm not sure how useful it is to try to assign these out-of-range birds to a specific subspecies. Interestingly, California Gulls banded as chicks in the Great Basin - presumably nominate californicus - have been recorded in the Lake Michigan region.

    Thiceland Gull

    No Lake Michigan day of gulling would be complete without a "tweener". At rest on the water the bird looked like it was going to be a Thayer's Gull:


    Take a look at it in flight...

    The wingtips looked paler than expected, and the markings were limited to the outer webs.

    Fine, we'll call it a Kumlien's or whatever suits your fancy...

    01 November 2016

    Monthly Notables October 2016

    • Glaucous Gull (2nd cycle type). Essex County, Ontario. 04 October 2016.
      • Continuing since at least July!
    • California Gull (2nd cycle). New Haven County, Connecticut. 04 October 2016.
    • Great Black-backed Gull (juvenile). Galveston County, Texas. 07 October 2016.
      • Only the second time this species has been recorded in Texas in October.
    • Chandeleur Gull (adult). Mobile County, Alabama. 08 October 2016.
      • Tending toward Kelp. Associating with Herrings on Pelican Island.
    • Chandeleur Gull (adult). LaPorte County, Indiana. 09 October 2016.
      • Reoccurring southern Lake Michigan hybrid.
    • Mew Gull (1st cycle). Nome County, Alaska. 09 October 2016.
      • Apparent Kamchatka Gull in Gambell.
    • Black-legged Kittiwake (2nd cycle type). Johnson County, Iowa. 10 October 2016.
    • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Pierce County, Washington. 12 October 2016.
      • Continuing. This individual now a regular in the Gog Le-Hi-Te Wetlands area.
    • Iceland Gull (adult). Salt Lake County, Utah. 13 October 2016.
      • Kumlien's. First October record and earliest Fall arrival for Utah. Previous to this the earliest arrival was 04 November 2008.
    • Black-headed Gull (presumed adult type). Marion County, Kansas. 15 October 2016.
      • Photos of a red-billed bird were very promising but bird was not relocated.
    • California Gull (3rd cycle type). Rock Island County, Illinois. 18 October 2016. 
      • Recorded on the Mississippi River, moving between Illinois and Iowa.
    • Yellow-legged Gull (adult). St. John's County, Newfoundland. 21 October 2016.
      • The only location in all of North America where the species is expected.
    • Western Gull (2nd cycle). Morgan County, Colorado. 21 October 2016
      • Banded. Likely the same individual first found in Washington County in June. 
    • Little Gull (1st cycle). Oklahoma County, Oklahoma. 22 October 2016.
    • Black-legged Kittiwake (juvenile). Clark County, Nevada. 23 October 2016.
      • Less than 10 records for the entire state.
    • California Gull (adult). LaPorte County, Indiana. 24 October 2016.
      • In the area since late August.
    • Black-legged Kittiwake (juvenile). Ralls County, Missouri. 26 October 2016.
    • Little Gull (adult). Lake County, Indiana. 29 October 2016.
    • Black-legged Kittiwake (juvenile). Cook County, Illinois. 30 October 2016.

    Miscellaneous Notes
    1. Lesser Black-backed numbers begin to build in coastal Florida in October. On 17 October 2016, Michael Brothers observed F:003 in Volusia County, FL. This individual, banded on 20 March 2015 in the same county, is more evidence that Florida's growing LBBG population exhibits some winter site fidelity.
    2. Putative Chandeleur Gulls (Kelp x Herring hybrids) have not vanished from the earth. October has become the month that these hybrids are reported with more frequency, especially on the Gulf Coast. Two were recorded this month (Indiana and Alabama) with a third candidate in Texas (Galveston County; 12 Oct 2016). Note that roughly 30 hybrid types were found back on the islands in the breeding season of 2015. I do wonder why more pure Kelp Gulls are not being reported in the ABA area. Perhaps some are being overlooked as large Lesser Black-backs, or, most are programmed to "winter" south of the equator.