Friday, April 15, 2011

White-winged Gulls

Glaucous Gull
Following up on the previous post, that same gull flock from which I pulled a putative "Nelson's Gull" last Wednesday today had both white-winged species, Glaucous and Iceland Gull. The two Glaucous and one Iceland I saw all seemed 'pure' individuals;  the hybrid "Nelson's Gull" was not  relocated.

Glaucous Gull with Herring Gulls
For that matter, neither were the two Lesser Black-backed Gulls I found in that same flock on Wednesday. I suspect this flock has a huge turnover, and virtually anything could show up here. It comprises mostly Herring Gulls (70%, I estimated), with Great Black-backed and Ring-billed Gulls present in smaller numbers.  I tried counting the flock on the east side of the False Hook, and came up with 1,400. Several hundreds more were situated on the western side of the False Hook, but by the time I got there, substantial reshuffling had taken place and an additional count seemed futile.

Glaucous Gull, with Manhattan and Coney Island in the background
All too often, I hear birders dismiss the gulls as "too difficult". There is of course a bewildering variation among immature Herring Gulls, which some find intimidating and others a huge turn-on. But the two 'white-winged' species, Glaucous and Iceland, stand out and are easily found in a gull flock.

Iceland Gull, not exactly hard to spot in this flock
This flock may well have other species less easy to pick out. The weather forecast for tomorrow is strong on-shore winds, so the best birding on Sandy Hook tomorrow will likely not be provided by the raptors, but by the gulls.

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