Saturday, January 26, 2008

Sunnyside Gulls

As I wrote in an earlier post, I have been taking a walk down to the waterfront along Sunnyside Park, Toronto every day before the TOC trip on Sunday. What I have discovered is that I wish I had been taking this walk more often because there is always the possibility of something good showing up. Thursday I had a Glaucous Gull, Friday a possible Iceland (more on this in a minute), and today a Great Black-backed Gull flyby (my first for Sunnyside Park).

In his blog, Blake Mann has quipped that gulls love ice and I do believe he's onto something. Today had the highest number of gulls I've seen yet along the waterfront; there was more ice, it was snowing, and the sky was overcast but the gulls seem to like it that way. Unfortunately, for all of the gulls that were present, I couldn't pick out anything out of the ordinary Ring-billed/Herring except for the Great Black-backed Gull I already mentioned. The same Redhead flock must be spending the evenings in the same location as around 200-300 birds are always present in a large group along with a spattering of dabblers and the rare Long-tailed Duck when they venture closer to shore.

After talking with Marianne, I'm confident that the bird I had on Friday was an Iceland Gull. When resting on the ice, this individual had limited white on its primaries and was about the same size as the surrounding Herring Gulls. It also had limited streaking on the head and neck. When it took flight, there seemed to be even less dark at the end of the wing and I knew I had a white-winged gull but I didn't see the bird long enough to convince myself it couldn't have been a Thayer's. My experience with studying gulls is pretty dismal at this point so I'm not sure I'm confident enough to start identifying gulls as if it's a simple task. Especially since I'm without scope in Toronto right now, so although the gulls are close enough for me to get a good idea with binoculars, I can't really put together enough different field marks to get the full picture.

Any tips for the next time I get a white-winged gull? What should I look for between Glaucous/Iceland, Iceland/Thayer's, etc.?

And although this has nothing to do with birding, a quick word about Heath Ledger, who was on the rise towards becoming one of our generation's great actors. I will remember him best for his role as Ennis in Brokeback Mountain. His passing is a great loss.

1 comment:

Blake A. Mann said...

Jeremy, I found a Kumlien's type Iceland Gull today. That was a real bonus. Look at size difference if possible. If it is bigger than a Herring gull, it should be a Glaucous. Iceland are smaller than Herring. If there is nothing to compare it to, then you may have a challenge! First basic of Iceland tend to have an all black bill, while the Glaucous has a black tip on a yellowish bill. There can be variations though. A second basic Iceland can have a black tip on a yellowish bill as well. Adults, well, I guess you better study you new gull book!