Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gulls, gulls and more GULLS!

Glaucous Gull (all photos by Dan Casey)

Sunday, the 23rd, Dan Casey and I went to the local Gullery (landfill) to see what we can see.

We arrived and found the gulls in the best viewing area. A large flat area, a short distance from the active dumping area. From a hill, we surveyed the birds with meticulous precision. With out to much trouble we found several young Thayer's Gulls, and a possible adult. The adult bird just didn't "look" right for the both of us. The young Glaucous Gull stuck out quite well. It actually took us awhile to see that there was actually 2 of them right next to each other. We were to busy looking at this funky looking Juvenile bird. After watching it for a while decided it was a Glaucous-winged x Herrring hybrid, or called a "Nelson's Gull".

Justify Full
Pruabable "Nelson's Gull"

After the tractors left the active dumping area, the gulls frenzied at the abundant meat, as hunting season is a month old, and a week left. I watched the frenzy, not looking for rarities at the moment, with aww. It was the coolest site to behold. Almost a thousand of the most rugged, and graceful birds on earth were throwing them selves over eachother for some pieces of week old deer guts. Again, a site to behold... While watching this humboling event, I noticed something odd about a certain adult gull. The real birder inside overtthew the bird'watcher' and said "HOLD ON! That bird was whiteish wingtips. Actually they are the same color as the birds back!" That is when my heart skipped a beat. I knew it was a Glaucous-winged Gull, but fearing embarrassment, I quickly checked my ID, looking at all the fieldmarks. All that was audible was some mummbled "wow...uh... oh my god... wow... oh mY GOD!" Reasuring myself with the self check I shouted "Glaucous-winged!! Adult Glaucous-winged!" Dan Casey quickly returned with "What!? Where?! Adult? really?" I could tell in his voice he was full of excitment, but with a touch of disbelief, as I have been wrong before on snap ID's. But on this, I was 110% sure.
I answered "Right in front, on the garbage. Unless it is some wacky hybrid, it is an adult Glaucous-winged Gull." At that moment, the bird flew. Going to the right. I tried to give directions to Dan, but then the bird turned and went to the left, then out of site behind the garbage. We searched franticly for the missing bird. Like mad men we devoured every glimpse of possible light wingtips. I was to the point of possibly crying. (not really, just was really dissapointed, and needed something to say) After about 20 minutes, we kinda gave up, as all the birds scattered in several directions because of our frantic running, and searching. We retreated to the hill, and searched the flock of gulls that landed at the flat area. A quick, but precise scan came up negative. Some more gulls were filtering in form other directions. As I was admiring the amazing acrobatics of the arriving gulls, I noticed one had light wingtips. "wow, here it is I think" I announced, looking up. Dan knew where to look. "Yup, that's your bird. That's your bird." he said calmly, holding back the little spark of excitment that comes with rare birds, and the pure obsession with birds of all kinds. The gull came in from above, showing off its cleverly colored wingtips to us like a first-time goldmedalist. The lifebird came in and landed with the rest, to try to blend in with the usual residents. Many photos where taken, and there was much rejoicing (inside joke with monty python fans).

Glaucous-winged Gull

Glaucous-winged Gull

That gull took my life list to 321, and my Big Year for Flathead County to 213.

One other really sweet bird we saw, was a Light phase Harlan's Hawk. Less then 1% are light phases. That was a really cool looking bird.

Thanks to Dan Casey, who made this trip possible, and that much more memorable.

1 comment:

  1. Man, that looks like so much fun. Congrats on the lifer!

    By the way, are Nelson's Gulls GWGUxHERG or GLGUxHERG? I always thought they were GLGUxHERG, but I'm probably wrong.