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!!


11 February 2018

Port Washington Iceland Gull Bonanza

Rebecca Sher from Sheboygan County Audubon got in touch last weekend to tell me about the growing number of gulls in Port Washington. We decided a gull day was in order and quickly put together another winter workshop.

Roughly 1/4 of the congregation with what appeared to be thousands more outside of the harbor.

We held the indoor segment at the local library, which to my surprise, attracted around 40 participants. We then headed out to the harbor where we found upward of 5000 gulls feeding on large quantities of gizzard shad.

Adult type Herring Gull with breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

Icelands for Everyone

We found an impressive assortment of Iceland Gulls. Going through my photos, I can make out 27 distinct individuals (14 thayeri, 11 kumlieni, 2 thayeri-kumlieni). More impressive was the variety of intermediate ages, especially 2nd and 3rd cycles.

1st cycle Thayer's

1st cycle Thayer's-Kumlien's type. Pure speculation :)

1st cycle Thayer's type. 

2nd cycle Thayer's type.

1st cycle Kumlien's. 

Same bird above. A frayed and worn bird with what may have been a stress bar across the tail. 

A pale 2nd cycle Thayer's type.

3rd cycle Kumlien's

A large, dark, Thayer's (back) with a smaller and slightly paler adult Thayer's (front).

Adult Thayer's-Kumlien's type with pale wingtip.

Adult Kumlien's with zero pigment on wingtip. The gray upperparts werejust a smidgen paler than Herring, but nowhere near as pale as a Glaucous.

Presumably as pale as Kumlien's gets, but more study needed. 

Same bird above.
And as the light began to fade, we got bombarded with another wave of adult Kumlien's:

Same bird as above. P6 with pale and incomplete band.
A medium-marked Kumlien's with weird subterminal band on P9. See below.

Same bird above. 

A paler adult than the one above. And cuter. 

We also had ~12 Glaucous Gulls with about half adults and half 1st/2nd cycle types.

Adult Glaucous with Herrings scheming...

1st cycle Glaucous Gull hoping to become a postcard.
We had ~ 8 Great Black-backeds and zero luck turning one into "the" Slaty-backed Gull. Lesser Black-backeds were MIA with only 3 birds found (adult and two 1st cycles).

The Wisconsin lakefront is a vast playground filled with great gulls waiting to be found and enjoyed by birders. A big thanks to Rebecca and Sheboygan County Audubon Society for hosting another great outing!