Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Duluth--Canal Park 1/17--Iceland Gull

World's largest lift bridge, Duluth's Canal Park
After lunch we drove back into Duluth to give the couple of birders who came in late a chance to see the Thayer's Gulls. As we were driving into the parking lot a huge completely white gull flew over the cars--a gorgeous adult Glaucous Gull. They are almost as large as Great Black-backed Gull and, to my mind, the most magnificent looking gull that I've seen.

We found the Thayer's Gull(s) pretty easily this time, as well as 4 more Glaucous Gulls in varying stages of immature plumage. A big gull like Glaucous might take 4 years to come to full maturity, so with two molts a year, there are potentially 8 different "looks" the gull can give you. I'm happy just to be able to pick out the common field marks that make it a Glaucous (or whatever the gull in question). I'm not too interested if it is 2nd or 3rd year. (I know all the arguments why this is a bad attitude. I'm also not too interested in those arguments.)

However, there was yet another gull to be found--an Iceland Gull. Coffee-with-cream colored except for white wing-tips which form a white triangle when it is swimming and an all black bill make this one probably a 2nd year bird.

What I enjoyed about seeing all these gulls was the close looks we were able to get. Usually, when you're looking at gulls, the conditions stink--they're far off, moving around, the wind is in your face, the light is bad--the two trips to Canal Park had none of those problems, so for once, I was able to enjoy gulls with a minimum of frustration.
Canal Park Smile
We repeated our trip to Superior Wisconsin, once more driving the roads around the Bong Airport. This time I counted 7 Snowy Owls. The group counted 10. Somewhere, I missed 3 but, as I always say, "I only need one." I'm not that concerned with going for a record number of snowies, but it was a good lesson in distinguishing between males, females, adults and immature birds. Shari took a photo of this pure white male just before the light totally faded on us.
Photo: Shari Zirlin
11 species (+1 other taxa)
American Black Duck  1
Mallard  100
American Black Duck x Mallard (hybrid)  2
Northern Pintail  4     
Common Eider  1     
Common Goldeneye  2     
Herring Gull  100
Thayer's Gull  3     
Iceland Gull  1    
Glaucous Gull  5    
Snowy Owl   7
American Crow  2

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