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.