Monday, January 7, 2013

Miss California's at the landfill

Tim and I swung through the south county earlier.  We spent some time at the Forest Lawn landfill and were just about to leave when he picked an adult California Gull off the front face.  The bird stayed just long enough for me to get a look through his scope before the entire flock took off.

I blasted blindly at them not knowing if the bird would come back.  Can you pick out the California?

It turns out it's there more or less centered, the upper left corner of the inset points to it.
After a few anxious minutes not expecting to have documented the bird it returned and settled back down on the southern face of the dump
Midday lighting with the bird shot through a chain link fence with the inevitable wind distortion didn't make for great shooting, but the long straight bill with black and red sub-terminal tip, leg color and darker mantle color is there.

Fortunately the birds took off again, though this time more slowly.  Nevertheless, if you think it's easy to follow one essentially identical gull out of at least 500 others through a chain-link fence and a view-finder with birds milling in both directions and clouds of starlings periodically chaffing the target, well feel free to try it.
California Gull has a bit more black in the primaries than does the average HERG or RBGU and a little heavier head streaking which streamed out from behind the eye.  A look at the upperside:

If you decide you want to try your luck, make sure you sign in at the landfill office.  This was the 3rd California Gull I've seen in Berrien; the county accounts for more Cal Gulls than the rest of the state combined.

3 comments:

Silly Putty said...

Very nice record, and photos!

Chris said...

Hi, occasional lurker here from western Lake Superior. Congratulations on the California Gull!

If you don't mind a question from someone who needs to go to remedial gull classes, is the "free flying" bird diagonally up and right from the California cluster a Thayer's?

Matt said...

Chris, I agree that the photo does show a bird with a lot less black than the average HERG. I'm not going to claim that I saw the bird in the field. I went back and looked at the other pics from that series. To me the bird still has the big body of a HERG, definitely has a light eye (not a deal breaker for THGU but not good), and seems to have a HERG bill rather than the usually finer THGU bill. The black in the primaries is reduced, typically though in THGU the black is narrower but actually extends farther up the primaries. I think (I'm not sure if I'm remembering this correctly) that the big subterminal white spot on p9 isn't good for Thayers either. I think it's probably a just a HERG with reduced black. I'll have to keep my eyes out to see if I can get pics of a similar bird, I'm going to run out of CR pics by the end of the week. Good eyes though on picking this oddball up.