Wednesday, 11 February 2009
Adult Heerman's Gull- one of my favourites
Glaucous-winged Gull- 1st winter
(all photos California)
Ballona Wetlands, Los Angeles, California, 02/02/09
Jamica Bay Wildlife Refuge, New York, 08/02/09
A short trip to the states with the band allowed me to grab a couple of days in the field at each end. Always a much appreciated bonus. To help me decide where to spend my day off in L.A. I consulted David Lindo's excellent 'Urban Birder' website. The obvious contender for central L.A. was the wetland area around Ballona Creek, on the coast just North of LAX airport, so off I duly headed. This area consists of some saltmarsh with pools, scrub, a shallow lagoon with muddy margins surround by houses (Laguna del Rey), a tidal creek, and a harbour-like area impounded by several large, rock breakwaters. The whole area was very rich in birds. Unfortunately I didn't have time to visit an additional reed-fringed, freshwater lagoon nearby, but it looked pretty tasty from the road.
Just offshore was a raft containing 4 species of grebe and the breakwaters were heaving with pelicans,cormorants and Sea-lions. By the creek were several Willet and Hudsonian Whimbrel, and a group of peep's roosting, consisting of Least and Western Sands and Sanderling. The saltmarsh pool held a flock of Black-bellied Plovers and a single Bonaparte's Gull.
The scrub held a good few passerines including Anna's and Allen's Hummingbirds and Say's and Black Phoebes.
Laguna del Rey held many bathing or loafing Gulls, a few Marbled Godwits and the three commoner herons. The mature trees surrounding the lagoon held at least half a dozen Yellow-rumped (Audubon's) Warblers.
(systematic list to follow soon)
A few days later I had the chance to go birding in New York, so I chose to go to Jamaica Bay, in conditions about 25c cooler!
The West pond at Jamaica Bay was completely frozen. The East pond was 90% frozen but the open patch held a nice group of Hooded and Red-breasted Mergansers and Goosander, along with Buffleheads, American Wigeon, Gadwall and a group of Ring-billed and American Herring Gulls. Every now and then the gulls would take to the air as a couple of Northern Harriers patrolled the edge of the lake.
Out in the bay it was low tide, so a lot of the birds were rather far away and the Snow Geese were nowhere to be seen! However there was lots of good stuff on offer.
Large numbers of Brants and Black Duck fed on the falling tide. The bayside scrub was jumping with Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warblers and I got great views of American Tree Sparrow.
On top of all this was the oppurtunity to study American Herring Gull in large numbers, at close range, in all plumages. Call me sad but this is exactly what I did for about 2 hours! One thing I noticed was how variable they are (like all the large white-headed gull complex). Some birds looked like they would really stand out if they turned up in an Irish harbour, but some just didn't.
With the adults I noticed the Glaucous-like head profile mentioned by Olsen and Larsson to be particularly noticable on a lot of birds (this being the NE population). This is a combination of a longer, heavier bill than 'argentatus/argenteus', coupled with a flat crown.
(systematic list to follow)