01 December 2018

Land of the Rising Sun - Upcoming Japan Tour

Friends, I'm super excited to be leading a winter tour to Japan in December 2019 into January 2020. This remarkable island has to be the most alluring land mass in all of Asia. A wide range of ecosystems and climatic zones make for amazing bird diversity, and the spectacles of large bird congregations, at such close range, will make this a memorable and unforgettable experience!

I'm currently enlisting people to join me on this trip - please reach out if you or someone you know have any interest. Read for yourself what breathtaking birds we'll spend time watching, as we travel to the Land of the Rising Sun!

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Monthly Notables November 2018


  • California Gull (adult). Cameron Parish County, Louisiana. 01 November 2018.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (3rd cycle type). Curry County, Oregon. 02 November 2018.
    • 1st County Record. Retained p9-p10.
  • California Gull (1st cycle). Jacksonville, Florida. 07 November 2018.
  • Laughing Gull (1st cycle). Lake County, Indiana. 07 November 2018.
  • Little Gull (adult). Capital District, British Columbia. 07 November 2018.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Santa Clara County, California. 10 November 2018.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (adult). Pueblo County, Colorado. 10 November 2018.
    • Believed to be the same individual returning for the 25th year!
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (3rd cycle). San Francisco County, California. 12 November 2018.
    • 1st Farallon Island record. Missing left foot. Likely the same individual seen in San Mateo County in April 2018 (then a 2nd cycle). 
  • California Gull (adult). LaPorte County, Indiana. 12 November 2018.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Benton County, Washington. 16 November 2018.
  • Glaucous-winged Gull (1st cycle). Larimer County, Colorado. 16 November 2018.
  • Mew Gull (adult). Oklahoma County, Oklahoma. 17 November 2018.
  • Sabine's Gull (2nd cycle). Sarasota County, Florida. 18 November 2018.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). San Francisco County, California. 19 November 2018.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (1st cycle). Wilson County, Tennessee. 21 November 2018.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Georgetown County, South Carolina. 22 November 2018.
  • Common Gull (adult). Essex County, Massachusetts. 24 November 2018.
    • Returning for the third consecutive winter, this individual has a silver band on the right leg, originating from Iceland. No p8 mirror and a broken p5 band. 
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Nipissing County, Ontario. 24 November 2018.
  • Sabine's Gull (1st cycle). Sarasota County, Florida. 24 November 2018.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (1st cycle). Perry & Faulkner County, Arkansas. 25 November 2018.
  • European Herring Gull (1st cycle). St. John's County, Newfoundland. 25 November 2018.
  • Glaucolus Gull (1st cycle). Madison County, Mississippi. 26 November 2018.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). San Diego County, California. 28 November 2018.
    • Retained p8-p10.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (1st cycle). Clark County, Nevada. 29 November 2018.

Miscellaneous Notes

  1. An estimated 170 Lesser Black-backed Gulls were reported at the Findlay Reservoir in Hancock County, Ohio on 11 November 2018. This count would certainly be a new high record for the Great Lakes region. Observer Jeff Loughman. 
  2. On 15 November 2018, the Seaside City Council in central California approved a permit to have a floating Heermann's Gull nesting island put in place at Roberts Lake. 
  3. Six California Gulls were observed at a water treatment plant in Culberson County, Texas on 24 November 2018. To my knowledge this is a single site high count. Observers Martin Reid, Sheridan Coffey, Willie Sekula.

November 2018 Quiz

Age: We can be sure this individual is not sporting definitive adult plumage. The heavily marked tail, ink spots on the upper side of the secondaries (right wing), black-marked primary coverts, and smoky brown pigment on the under wing coverts along the leading edge (left wing), all make this a relatively straight forward bird to age. It has adult like gray secondaries and primaries, with broad white tips, ruling out a 2nd cycle. This individual would best be aged as a 3rd cycle type if we can agree it's a large, four-year gull.

Identification: The gray upperparts don't appear dark enough for any black-backed species. Which gray-backed gull has pale eyes and a medium size bill? The black subterminal tip to the bill superficially resembles Ring-billed Gull, but our bird has more of a menacing look with a barrel chested-body and broader wings. Of course if we were observing this bird in real life, we'd immediately get a sense for size and structure, but we don't have that information in a single snapshot. However, if it were a Ring-billed, it would be a 2nd cycle as this is a 3 year gull. The tail band is too wide for Ring-billed with black coming up more than half the length of several rectrices. Here's a typical tail band on a 2nd cycle Ring-billed Gull. It helps to zoom in on what look like pink feet (Ring-billed is yellow-footed).

Our November Quiz bird is a 3rd cycle Herring Gull, a species we should be comfortably familiar with anywhere in North America. Ottawa County, Michigan. December.