31 July 2018

Monthly Notables July 2018


  • Black-legged Kittiwake (1st cycle). San Mateo County, California. 02 July 2018.
  • Laughing Gull (1st summer). Clay County, Iowa. 03 July 2018.
    • 1st County Record.
  • Bonaparte's Gull (1st summer). Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. 09 July 2018.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (4th cycle type). Inuvik County, NW Territories. 09 July 2018.
  • Mew Gull (1st summer). San Luis Obispo County, California. 10 July 2018.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (1st summer). San Mateo County, California. 12 July 2018.
    • Possible first local summer record.
  • Franklin's Gull (1st summer). Newport County, Rhode Island. 16 July 2018.
    • 13th State Record.
  • Glaucous Gull (1st summer). Suffolk County, New York. 17 July 2018.
  • Mew Gull (2nd summer type). Humboldt County, California. 19 July 2018.
  • Sabine's Gull (2 first summer individuals). St. John's County, Newfoundland. 19 July 2018.
  • Laughing Gull (adult). Lambton County, Ontario. 21 July 2018.
  • Iceland Gull (1st summer). Chatham-Kent County, Ontario. 22 July 2018.
  • Glaucous Gull (adult). Monroe County, New York. 23 July 2018.
  • Glaucous-winged Gull (1st summer). Kiholo Bay, Hawaii. 23 July 2018.
    •  Continuing from June. 
  • Iceland Gull (3rd summer). Yukon County, Yukon Territory. 26 July 2018.
    • Putative Kumlien's Iceland Gull. 
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd summer). Portage la Prairie County, Manitoba. 27 July 2018.
  • Glaucous Gull (adult). Niagara County, New York. 27 July 2018.
    • Apparently the same out-of-season adult seen in Monroe County on 23 July 2018.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult type). St. John's County, Newfoundland. 28 July 2018.
  • Glaucous-winged Gull (4th cycle type). San Diego County, California. 28 July 2018.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (2nd summer). Oliver County, South Dakota. 29 July 2018.
  • Laughing Gull (adult). Ventura County, California. 31 July 2018.

  • Some promising news with respect to Heermann's Gulls in the state of California. Local birders and conservationists Joanna & Byron Chin documented two separate nesting sites with perhaps up to 11 young successfully fledged in Seaside. Efforts are underway to build and maintain a small man-made island on Roberts Lake. This island will replace the old sunken island that the colony used in the past. Check out this inspiring video by Byron where a drone is used to survey the lake: https://www.facebook.com/SeasideHEEGs/videos/500183813749205/
  • A small Iceland Gull colony of approximately 150 birds was discovered on 17 July 2018 in northern Quebec along the Hudson Strait. The observer who reported the birds, Alexandre Anctil, made the sighting overhead from a helicopter. The adults - rearing young - are described as pale and gray-winged, not dark-winged. Alexandre explained to me that from a distance, he thought the gulls would be the more expected Glaucous Gull. This colony is one of the largest of its kind to be found at such a southern latitude (61.682593N 71.767582O). The age breakdown is estimated to be 100 adults and approximately 50 chicks. 

July 2018 Quiz

Age: The medley of old and new mottled upperparts, along with retained, pointed, outer primaries give the impression of 1st summer gulls. Indeed all three of our July Quiz birds are roughly 1 year of age (now in their 2nd prebasic molts).

Identification: We'll begin with the darkest individual on the far left. The lightly barred undertail coverts and significantly solid dark upperparts suggest a black-backed gull. The defined striations along the nape and neck are found in Lesser Black-backed Gull, and the size and structure agree with that species.

Next, the lighter individual on the far right shows a mixture of pale grays to the new scapulars. These feathers are light enough to steer us away from a dark-backed gull. The heavily marked undertail coverts and body structure fit Herring Gull, and there is little doubt it is any other large pale gull.

The trickiest of our group is the center bird in the back. At first glance one may pass it off as another young messy summer Herring Gull. However, the delicate bill and small rounded head give it a more graceful expression. There are hints of a pale uppertail and pale underside to the left wing (compare this to the darker underside of the Herring Gull's right wing). The smaller and more compact size is also noteworthy. The center gull was identified as a 1st summer Thayer's Iceland Gull. An open wing to seal the deal:

The underside to the primaries are genuinely pale and not strictly due to fading and bleaching.

Our July 2018 Quiz was taken in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin on Lake Michigan. 23 June 2018.

30 July 2018

Juvenile American Herrings - Late July

Photos taken on 29 JULY 2018 

A set of 10 juvenile American Herrings Gulls from Lake Michigan (Milwaukee, Wisconsin). Herring Gulls nest throughout the downtown area here on rooftops, along riverbanks and undisturbed outcrops along the lake.

Of particular interest is the variation found in the greater covert patterns. See for instance the lightly marked and checkered pattern on individual #2 & #5 versus the heavily blotted pattern of individual #4 & #6.










7th Cycle Great Lakes Herring Gull

Below are images of another known-age, known-origin, American Herring Gull that I found in Milwaukee, Wisconsin over the weekend. It's undergoing its 7th prebasic molt.

Federal Band #: 1106-19241. Banded as pullus on 15 June 2011 in Egg Harbor, Wisconsin (Door County).

Most interesting about this bird is that it shows a p9 mirror on what is presumably a 6th generation primary. Two mirrors on Great Lakes Herrings is, in my estimate, found in only 10-15% of adults, at best.

01 July 2018

Monthly Notables June 2018

  • Franklin's Gull (adult). St. John's County, Newfoundland. 03 June 2018. 
  • Heermann's Gull (1st summer). Pima County, Arizona. 05 June 2018.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (3rd summer). Portage la Prairie County, Manitoba. 07 June 2018.
  • Herring Gull (1st summer). Eddy County, New Mexico. 08 June 2018.
  • Mew Gull (2nd cycle). Rimouski-Neigette County, Quebec. 09 June 2018.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Kitsap County, Washington. 13 June 2018.
  • Franklin's Gull (1st summer). Somerset County, Pennsylvania. 15 June 2018.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (2nd summer). Inuvik County, Northwest Territories. 16 June 2018.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). San Mateo County, California. 18 June 2018.
  • Laughing Gull (1st summer). Alger County, Michigan. 22 June 2018.
  • Ring-billed Gull (2nd summer). Keewatin County, Nunavut. 22 June 2018.
  • Thayer's Gull (1st summer). Sheboygan County, Wisconsin. 23 June 2018.
  • Mew Gull (1st summer). Los Angeles County, California. 24 June 2018.
  • Laughing Gull (adult, 2 second cycle types). Berrien County, Michigan. 28 June 2018.
    • The 3 individuals seen together may constitute a state high count for a single site.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (1st summer). Berrien County, Michigan. 26 June 2018.

30 June 2018

June 2018 Quiz

Age: At first glance this appears to be an adult, or an adult-type, large white-headed gull. The light gray tips to the median coverts are reason enough to suspect this is a sub-adult bird.

Identification: This month's quiz bird is dark-backed with rich yellow legs. There aren't many species that meet this criteria in North America. Lesser Black-backed Gull, California Gull and Yellow-footed Gull should all be considered.

I will dismiss California Gull on the count of it being a noticeably paler species than what is seen here. On the palest end, California Gull scores a 5 on the Kodak Gray Scale, and a 7.5 on the darkest end. The palest Lesser Black-backed Gull (subspecies graellsii) scores a 9 on the Kodak Gray Scale, and a 13 on the darkest end (nominate fuscus - unrecorded in North America). Yellow-footed Gull (monotypic) ranges 9-10.5.

We are left with Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-footed Gull. The bill on our bird is thick all throughout and shows a noticeable bulbous tip. This seems much better for the Mexican species. Zooming in we note a darkish iris and yellow orbital. Adult type, and even many sub-adult Lessers, show eyes that are considerably paler than this. Lesser Black-backed also sports a reddish orbital ring.

Our quiz bird is indeed a Yellow-footed Gull photographed at the Salton Sea in Imperial County, California. September. 

01 June 2018

Monthly Notables May 2018

  • Slaty-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Camrose-Llyodminister County, Alberta. 02 May 2018.
    • Continuing from April 2018.
  • Glaucous Gull (1st cycle). San Mateo County, California. 02 May 2018.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). Natrona County, Wyoming. 03 May 2018.
  • Little Gull (adult). St. Louis County, Minnesota. 04 May 2018.
    • 2 adults seen in the area on 12 May 2018.
  • Iceland Gull (1st cycle). Harrison County, Mississippi. 08 May 2018.
  • Herring Gull (1st cycle). Mohave County, Arizona. 09 May 2018.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (1st cycle). Burleigh County, North Dakota. 12 May 2018.
  • Iceland Gull (1st cycle). Cook County, Illinois. 12 May 2018.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Aleutians West County, Alaska. 12 May 2018.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Saint Paul Island, Alaska. 16 May 2018.
    • Apparent 6th record for the island.
  • Glaucous-winged Gull (adult). Fort Smith County, Northwest Territories. 18 May 2018.
    • 2nd record for the Yellowknife area. 
  • Franklin's Gull (1st cycle). Transylvania County, Pennsylvania. 18 May 2018.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Anchorage County, Alaska. 19 May 2018.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Kodiak Island County, Alaska. 20 May 2018. 
  • Ross's Gull (adult). Kusilvak County, Alaska. 24 May 2018.
  • Heermann's Gull (adult). Yuma County, Arizona. 25 May 2018.
  • Laughing Gull (adult). St. Louis County, Minnesota. 26 May 2018.
  • Common Gull (adult). Avalon Peninsula. Newfoundland. 26 May 2018.
    • Found in a Ring-billed Gull colony. No evidence of nesting. 


An apparent 1st cycle Laughing x Ring-billed Gull was photographed in by Janice Soos Farral in Lucas County, Ohio in early May. Photos here.

2. The dark-winged 1st cycle Ring-billed Gull photographed in Lansing, Michigan in early April 2018 was apparently spotted in Berrien County, Michigan on 09 May 2018. This individual may clarify the juvenile Ring-billed observed in Wisconsin Point a couple of years ago, suspected of being a Ring-billed x Lesser Black-backed Gull. Previous to this, solid dark wings as such have only been reported in small, hooded, gulls in North America.

3. Back in March of 2018, Pennsylvania Game Commission biologists fitted 9 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls with satellite transmitters. As of 21 May 2018, two individuals had made it to southwest Greenland, and 5 others were to the far northeast between the Bay of Fundy, Northern Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Copyright Pennsylvania Game Commission.

31 May 2018

May 2018 Quiz

Age:  A known-age bird, this individual was banded in Door County, Wisconsin as a nestling. The overall appearance suggests a 1st cycle and the pointed primary tips reinforce this.

Identification: In some ways, a 1st cycle California Gull may approach what we see here, but that species tends to have a longer and more tubular bill. The bill on our quiz bird is stout and widens at the base. Depending on the time of year, we'd expect a more sharply demarcated bill pattern for California. At this age, California Gull has a longer-wing appearance with an attenuated feel to the rear. The silvery 2nd generation scapulars are suspiciously similar to many Herrings at this age, and of course, that's what this individual is. Structurally, it looks fine for a Herring Gull. The solid brown wing coverts are a result of the feather edges fraying, which eliminates much of the pale edging we'd see soon after fledging.

This individual was rescued by the Wisconsin Humane Society after being trapped in a deep windowsill between buildings. Luckily, it was soon released where it then made its way over to Berrien County, Michigan. It was banded as a chick on 24 June 2013. I photographed it in southwest Michigan on 07 December 2013.

29 May 2018

1st Cycle Laughing x Ring-billed Gull - Ohio

Here's a neat 1st cycle photographed by Janice Farral in early May 2018:

Lucas County, Ohio. 

The aspiring hood, leg color and bill pattern make this a great candidate for Laughing x Ring-billed Gull, tending toward the latter. Interestingly, not too far to the east in Lorain, Ohio, observers recorded an adult Laughing Gull being courted by an adult Ring-billed Gull last Spring. A putative hybrid was also seen in Lorain last year.

30 April 2018

Monthly Notables April 2018

  • California Gull (1st cycle). Volusia County, Florida. 06 April 2018.
    • Apparently the same individual seen here in February 2018.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). New Hanover County, North Carolina. 08 April 2018.
  • Little Gull (adult). Sangamon County, Illinois. 11 April 2018.
  • Common Gull (adult). Barnstable County, Massachusetts. 14 April 2018.
  • Mew Gull (adult). Norfolk County, Massachusetts. 15 April 2018.
    • 1st county record. Perhaps the first well-documented brachyrhynchus for the state.
  • Common Gull (adult). Norfolk County, Massachusetts. 15 Aril 2018.
    • Blue leg band, 747, on left leg, originating from Iceland. This individual was seen on the same stretch of beach with the Mew Gull above. See here. Not to be confused with the metal-banded Common Gull also originating from Iceland.
  • Mew Gull (adult). Schenectady County, New York. 15 April 2018.
    • Apparent 1st county record.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (1st cycle). Burleigh County, North Dakota. 17 April 2018.
  • Little Gull (adult). Ingham County, Michigan. 18 April 2018.
  • Mew Gull (1st cycle). Scott County, Iowa. 18 April 2018.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Warren County, Pennsylvania. 19 April 2018.
  • Mew Gull (adult). Keith County, Nebraska. 21 April 2018.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). San Mateo County, California. 24 April 2018.
    • Distinct bird with missing left foot.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (1st cycle). Cameron Parish, Louisiana. 24 April 2018.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Robert Cliché County, Quebec. 27 April 2018.
  • Ivory Gull (adult). Nome County, Alaska. 28 April 2018.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Camrose-Lloydminister County, Alberta. 29 April 2018.
  • Little Gull (adult). Sullivan County, New Hampshire. 30 April 2018.

April 2018 Quiz

Age: The gray back and proximal wing coverts suggest an adult bird, but which species?

Identification: Note that Bonaparte's is easily ruled out due to the white trailing edge. Black-legged Kittiwake would be a good guess, but the pattern on the upperwings and primaries contradicts its age. That is, only a young Black-legged Kittiwake would show the white triangle seen here, but it would be coupled with a black carpal bar. Also, traces of a black tailband would be present if it were the more common kittiwake.

From the looks of it, this appears to be a "smaller" gull, mostly recalling Sabine's Gull. But there are some small, subtle, features on this bird that nail the identification: Notice the white sliver on the outer scapulars on the right wing. Zooming in, there is a thin white partition between the scaps and upperwing coverts. This is not found in any Sabine's Gull, but is found in Swallow Tailed-Gull. And. And. And...last, but not least...adult Sabine's have black-ish legs - not the relatively bright pink legs seen in the photo above. 

I think we can be sure that if we ever saw our April Quiz bird, head included, we'd have no trouble agreeing on Swallow-tailed Gull.

Swallow-tailed Gull. Everett, Washington. 02 September 2017.

29 April 2018

Race Point Beach

I spent last weekend at Race Point Beach on the far north tip of the Cape Cod peninsula. I've never been disappointed visiting this site. Gulls abound here and the diversity of species is some of the best I've experienced. This year, it seemed I was a tad late for large numbers of winter gulls and a tad early for spring migrants, but still, 10 species on Saturday speaks to the magnitude of this stretch of beach.

The highlights of my 10 species list include Black-headed (adult), Black-legged Kittiwake (1st cycle) and Glaucous (3rd cycle type). I estimated between 20-30 Kumlien's Gulls of all ages. 1st cycles were mostly ragged and as pale as one could expect for late April. Also of note was a single thayeri type.

This Glaucous easily matched most of the Great Black-backeds in size. 
1st cycle Iceland Gull with 1st cycle Great Black-backed, and Herrings. 

Lots of bleached 1st cycle Icelands were lingering

Most of the 600+ Laughing Gulls present were adults, but here's a 2nd cycle type. Note the incomplete hood and black tertial markings. Spread wing below.

The black alula and primary coverts readily age this bird as a sub-adult.

It's breeding season and the gulls are busy at work...

Bonaparte's were streaming by all day working the offshore Atlantic Right Whale buffets.

Another highlight is this banded 1st cycle Herring Gull.

This sighting reinforces the belief that there is a regular exchange between NF Herrings and those of the NE United States, particularly from Maine and Massachusetts. An important question that may be worth investigating is whether or not this exchange is a function of age. Do younger birds winter farther south, and stay to the south in their formative years? Are adults more likely to "return" to the north Atlantic - particularly to breed - when the become of age?

31 March 2018

Monthly Notables March 2018

  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). San Mateo County, California. 01 March 2018.
  • Mew Gull (adult). Kings County, New York. 02 March 2018.
  • Thayer's Gull (adult). Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia. 03 March 2018.
    • Continuing from previous month. 
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (1st cycle). Douglas County, Kansas. 04 March 2018.
    • Continuing from previous month. 
  • Laughing Gull (1st cycle). Mohave County, Arizona. 04 March 2018.
    • Continuing from January 2018.
  • Black-tailed Gull (adult). Del Norte County, California. 05 March 2018.
    • Continuing from previous month.
  • Kumlien's Gull (1st cycle). Harrison County, Mississippi. 07 March 2018.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). San Diego County, California. 08 March 2018.
  • California Gull (adult). Cuyahoga County, Ohio. 08 March 2018.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (3rd cycle). Pierce County, Washington. 09 March 2018.
  • Mew Gull (adult). Plymouth County, Massachusetts. 09 March 2018.
  • Mew Gull (adult). Lancaster County, Nebraska. 11 March 2018.
  • Mew Gull (adult). Mohave County, Arizona. 11 March 2018.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (1st cycle). Chatham County, Georgia. 14 March 2018.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (1st cycle). Plaquemines County, Louisiana. 16 March 2018.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Santa Clara County, California. 17 March 2018.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Baltimore County, Maryland. 17 March 2018.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Monterey County, California. 18 March 2018.
  • Sabine's Gull (adult). Los Angeles County, California. 23 March 2018.
  • Sabine's Gull (adult). Marion County, Oregon. 25 March 2018.
  • Kamchatka Gull (adult). Digby County, Nova Scotia. 25 March 2018.
    • Continuing from previous month. 
  • Great Black-backed Gull (adult). Mobile County, Alabama. 28 March 2018.
  • Franklin's Gull (1st cycle). Union County, Pennsylvania. 31 March 2018.

Miscellaneous Notes
  1. An assembly of Heermann's Gulls (~100) appear to be preparing for nesting in Seaside, California.

March 2018 Quiz

AGE: The rounded primary tips, plain and muted pattern to the wing coverts, along with the gray mantle feathers can be combined to age this individual as a 2nd cycle. A pale eye is revealed when zooming in closely and this readily points away from a 1st cycle.

IDENTIFICATION: There are several features on this large gull that suggest a white-winger. Notice the "venetian blind" effect on the outer primaries. In particular, the outer webs and inner webs show a consistent dark, then pale, pattern. The appearance of the upperwing is plain and uniform with what could be described as a velvety feel. The cold blue mantle feathers are neat and tidy, fading into the upperparts with little effort.

So which white-winger is this? Thayer's Gull immediately comes to mind, but why not a Herring Gull? Herrings are much more contrasty at this age and typically show messier upperparts that are more splotchy. Also, a Herring Gull should show darker primaries and tail band - black if you will. Also, the all-black bill isn't unusual for this age in Thayer's, but it would be unusual for a Herring in its 2nd plumage cycle.

Here's a typical 2nd cycle Herring Gull for comparison:

The bi-colored bill and darker inner webs to the outer primaries point away from thayeri. 

Our March Quiz bird is indeed a 2nd cycle Thayer's Gull, photographed in Port Washington, Wisconsin. February 2018.

01 March 2018

Another Cali Gull & Laughing!

I made one last trip to Port Washington yesterday, hoping to relocate the adult Slaty-backed Gull - no luck! I was joined by Wisconsin birder Ted Keyel for most of the day where we observed gobs of Iceland and Glaucous Gulls. Not a minute went by where we didn't have a white-winger zipping past us or perched in sight. The gizzard shad die-off was yet in full swing!

1st cycle Glaucous and Iceland Gull. Port Washington, WI.

As a consolation for having missed this particular SBGU thrice this season, a 3rd cycle type California Gull - my first for Ozaukee County - and an adult Laughing Gull helped repair spirits. 

3rd cycle California Gull. The long bill, dark eye and heavily marked hindneck are distinctive.

Adult Laughing Gull. This individual walked within a few feet from us. The reward for patience!

A well-marked Iceland Gull with pale eyes.

Adult Iceland with dusky eyes and primary pattern that is noticeably slaty black.

Presumed Kumlien's Iceland Gull with just a hint of dark outer vanes on p9 and p10. A stunner!

2nd cycle Thayer's Iceland Gull. Inicidentally, this is the March Quiz Bird.

A different perspective of the same individual pictured above. The wing linings are in great condition for late winter.

Eight species of gull was good enough for me, and Ted's company was most edifying. I believe our final count was ~10 Great Black-backeds, ~4 Lesser Black-backeds, ~2500 Herrings, and ~600 Ring-billed Gulls. Lake Michigan at its finest!

Monthly Notables February 2018


  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Brevard County, Florida. 02 February 2018.
    • Continued from previous month.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (1st cycle). Coffey County, Kansas. 03 February 2018.

  • Slaty-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Monterey County, California. 05 February 2018.

  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Onondaga County, New York. 06 February 2018.
    • Same individual found in Oswego County in January 2018.

  • Mew Gull (1st cycle). Tarrant County, Texas. 08 February 2018.

  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Benton County, Washington. 11 February 2018.

  • Black-tailed Gull (adult). Del Norte County, California. 11 February 2018.

  • Thayer's Iceland Gull (adult). Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia. 14 February 2018.

  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Los Angeles County, California. 15 February 2018.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult type). Seneca County, New York. 16 February 2018.

    • 2nd County Record. Same individual from Onondaga and Oswego County.

  • Slaty-backed Gull (3rd cycle). Middlesex County, Massachusetts. 16 February 2018.

  • California Gull (1st cycle). Volusia County, Florida. 16 February 2018.

  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Columbia County, Oregon. 18 February 2018.
    • Showing a peculiar orange color to the legs, and especially on the bill.

  • Common Gull (adult). Essex County, Massachusetts. 19 February 2018.
    • Same banded adult with silver band from last year. Banded in Iceland 2013.

  • Kamchatka Gull (adult). Digby County, Nova Scotia. 19 February 2018.
    • Presumably a returning bird, first detected last winter.

  • Little Gull (2nd cycle type). Barren County, Kentucky. 20 February 2018.

  • California Gull (2nd cycle). Kleberg County, Texas. 22 February 2018.

  • Slaty-backed Gull (3rd cycle). Kennebec County, Maine. 23 February 2018.
    • Apparently the same individual that was found in Massachusetts the week before.
    • 2nd State Record. Incidentally, the first state record was also from this site.

  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Ozaukee County, Wisconsin. 24 February 2018.
    • On-and-off from January. 

  • Laughing Gull (adult). Ozaukee County, Wisconsin. 27 February 2018.

  • California Gull (3rd cycle). Ozaukee County, Wisconsin. 28 February 2018.

  • Great Black-backed Gull (adult). Pubelo County, Colorado. 28 February 2018.
    • Believed to be the same adult returning for the 24th winter.


The theme in February was Slaty-backed Gulls. Multiple adults, two 3rd cycle types and a 2nd cycle type were seen and photographed in the lower 48. This continues to beg the obvious question: how many 1st cycle birds are being overlooked?!

The increase in Kamchatka Gulls between Nova Scotia and Massachusetts might be contributed to several returning birds. Nonetheless, this novelty is curious to say the least and it'll be interesting to see where we go from here. 

28 February 2018

February 2018 Quiz

AGE: The brown wing coverts and black tailband point to a small-ish 1st cycle gull.

IDENTIFICATION: This 1st cycle gull already shows all-gray upper scapulars and gray on the inner median covert. The gray is relatively dark - darker than, say, Bonaparte's. The smudging around the neck and breast recall Franklin's and Laughing Gull. The black bill and black legs are not only species-specific, they're seasonal characteristics in this species. The bill is rather heavy and the outlines of the eye crescents are relatively thin. On Franklin's, the bill appears shorter and thinner, and the head typically keeps a quasi-hood toward the back of the head. Inscribed in this hood are usually much more bolder eye crescents. These marks, along with messy underwing coverts, and black coming all the way out to the outer edges of the outer tail feather, all point directly to a 1st cycle Laughing Gull.

Brevard County, Florida. January.

18 February 2018

IOS Gull Frolic 2018

The 17th Annual Illinois Ornithological Society Gull Frolic was held on Saturday, 17 February 2018, at the Winthrop Harbor Yacht Club in Lake County.

Over 150 participants attended along with a number of local bird clubs and organizations. Our guest speaker, Jennifer Brumfield, absolutely rocked and pumped birders with a ton of inspiration!

IOS Vice President Ted Wolff greeting the group before Jen's talk.

Donnie Dann receiving a recognition award from IOS President Matthew Cvetas.

We enjoyed mid-30s most of the day with very little wind - perfect weather when compared to last year's 50F that left us with no ice and no gulls.

A selection of gulls, terns and jaegers displayed by Doug Stotz with the Field Museum.

We had a fun assortment of Iceland Gulls, and also checked off our "other" winter gulls.

Lake Erie meets Lake Michigan.
Left to Right: Amar Ayyash, Chuck Slusarczyk Jr, Jen Brumfield

Enough gulls to busy the crowd!

I must say with this being our first winter where thayeri is lumped with the other Iceland Gulls, there wasn't mass confusion some people predicted there might be. Dark birds were called Thayer's and pale birds were called Kumlien's (as we've done for some years). Confusing birds weren't labeled, but rather explained as "points" on the cline. Here's my list:

16 x Iceland Gulls
  • 11 thayeri (7 adults, 2 first cycle, 2 second cycle)
  • 4 kumlieni (3 adults, 1 sub-adult)
  • 1 thayeri-kumlieni (3rd cycle type)
1 x Glaucous Gull (adult)
1 x Great Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle)
3 x Lesser Black-backed Gulls (adult, 2 third cycles)
550 x Herring Gulls (including a stunning leucistic adult)
18 x Ring-billed Gulls (only 1 first cycle noted)


Adult 1

Adult 2

Adult 3

Adult 4

Adult 5

Adult 6. I observed this distinctive bird at the
Lake County Fairgrounds the day before. See below.

Some damage to the right wing with p8 ripped off.

Adult 6 seen at LCF, Friday, 16 Feb 2018.

2nd cycle Thayer's. Flight shot below.

Somewhat pale but bleaching and fading has set in.

One of two 1st cycle Thayer's. Same individual below.

1st cycle Thayer's (left) and Herring Gull (right).
Chuck Slusarczyk Jr shared a photo of a Thayer's that brought the total up to 7 adults. Incidentally, this was the same adult with broken p6 band that I observed at the Lake County Fairgrounds on Friday, 16 February 2018. In fact, 3 of the 5 Iceland Gulls from my Friday LCF visit were in attendance at the Gull Frolic. A 30 mile roundtrip flight!

Adult #7 Same bird above.


Adult 1. Early Morning bird.

Same individual above.

Adult 2. Mid-day Bird.

Same bird above.

Adult 3. Late-day bird. Stunner!

An adult type Kumlien's with a pale eye and mascara.
Perhaps best aged as a sub-adult.

Same bird above. Brown wash to p-coverts and dirty alula.

An intermediate thayeri-kumlieni 3rd cycle type. 

Other Stuff

3rd cycle Lesser Black-backed with missing p9/10 on right wing.

Adult Glaucous with same Lesser above.

1st cycle Ring-billed Gull.

An apparent leucistic adult Herring Gull only
seen by the early morning crowd.

 2nd cycle Great Black-backed with Herrings. 

Adult Thayer's, Adult Glaucous and 3rd cycle Lesser Black-backed with a group of Herrings.

Ten of us stuck it out until about 4:30 pm, at which time the snow coming down on our optics made viewing difficult. The roads were becoming increasingly messy and so we called it quits while we were ahead. Happy smiles all around.

Thanks to all who attended. See you next year!!