Friday, February 16, 2018

"Herring" Gull Study

Some interesting "Herring" Gulls from Brownsville, Texas


Started with this bird on Feb 2 - strong impression of Nelson's Gull (Herring X Glaucous) on the Herring side of things, but very dark primaries and tail worried me. Especially with such hyper-bright-pink legs and bill... Why would a bird that looks 100% like Herring in the wings, look like 100% Glaucous in the bill? Shouldn't the bill be duskier? Or the primaries at least be somewhat paler than a normal Herring?

(Pictures taken in the fog, so they're a bit washed out) 

Posted them online, and gull master Bruce MacT quickly pointed out that it looked like a Nelson's Gull.. hmm..


Fast forward to a few days ago, and I was on the lookout for this and/or similar birds. And I found them...

Bird #1:

Looks so much like a Glaucous X Herring, that I was pretty darn tempted to call it a Glaucous X Herring... It also looks remarkably similar to the Feb 2 bird, but I'm reasonably confident they're different birds (lacking the hyper-pink bill/legs, greater coverts aren't as tidy, pale areas in the scaps are missing etc).

Problem though - it doesn't have paler primaries or tail - they look just fine for Herring...

Bird #2:

More Herring like, and appropriately titled as such (i think) - but not all that dissimilar to the first two birds... If anything, the duskier bill pattern would otherwise make me more comfortable in suggesting it had 5-10% Glaucous in it...

Bird #3:

A ghostly first year Herring - and again, probably safe to call it such, but there are a lot of similarities between this bird and the ones posted above it... Enough to make me assume they're all Herring Gulls, rather than Nelson's?? (even the very Nelsony-looking birds I first posted?)


Things got really interesting when I noticed a few "older" birds that shared a similar look - very Nelson-looking beasts with pale plumage - but primaries and tail that look fine for Herring. Check out bird #5:

Gray mantle feathers coming in were quite a bit paler than typical when compared to the nearby Herrings... Which (I think) is interesting given that subjadult pale mantled gulls often look artificially "darker" mantled due to the brown immature feathers mixed in... typically i'd ignore a bird like this as "individual variation" in Herring Gull, just frostier than usual, but the next bird just piled it on deeper & higher:

Bird #6

Surely this is a Nelson's Gull, right? Pale mantle - GISS like Glaucous... Except for those jet black primaries...


When working in the Prince Rupert, British Columbia area, I was impressed with how difficult it was to find a "pure" Herring Gull - >95% of the "Herring Gulls" I saw, seemed to have at least SOME measure of Glaucous-winged Gull genes...

After this recent dump-visit, I can't help but think there is a Herring Gull colony somewhere in the Canadian arctic, perhaps one of the northernmost colonies, where they all look a bit Glaucous-like, but are not readily producing F1 Nelson's Gulls...


Interestingly, there was also a Glaucous present:

So what do you think? Are these birds Herring Gulls? Or did I see 4-5 Nelson's Gulls, at the same place and time, in south texas?

Thursday, January 4, 2018

a ice video

Couldn't go two months without a blog post... This one is... pretty dull...

I've added a few new blog/photo posts to my "old" website recently as well:

My fingers are crossed for some birding/photography later this winter - which will hopefully translate into some interesting material. Ugly gulls and weather posts will be the meat and potatoes here, and the "journal" on my peregrineprints site will house any photos I'm happy with! 

Anyone remember the website/blog glory days of 2005-2010?

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Old School Ugly Gull Post

I encountered this beast of a gull yesterday in Waterloo... Conventional wisdom would say it's an ugly intermediate bird in the new "Iceland" Gull spectrum, but I had strong impressions of Glaucous-winged while viewing the bird... Clearly it's not a Glaucous-winged, but a hybrid Glaucous-winged X Herring Gull seemed like a reasonable explanation (other than the fact I don't think there are any documented records of this hybrid in the Province...) I'm lucky to have pretty extensive experience with this combo (esp. for someone who lives in Ontario) during several trips to the northern BC coast... Here's my thoughts:

- it's pretty big (HERG size)
- it generally looks "broad" in flight (wide body, wide wings etc)
- it has a GWGU-ish belly
- has a slightly contrasting whitish head with a bit of a dark mask (something I associate with GWGU hybrids) 
- the tertial/covert/scap pattern is crazy (tiny white flecks?) which I associate w/ GWGU hybrids, and I'm not sure if I've seen it on Kumlien/Thayer types... 
- it has GWGU-like uniformity to the plumage (only slightly darker outer primaries and tail) 
- the primary projection appear(s/ed) short
- it's difficult to tell if it's in juv or 1st basic plumage... (I wouldn't expect this issue with a fresh Kumlien's/Thayer's type?)
- there's something about how the feathers extend up the underside of the bill that reminds me of GWGU and not "Iceland" - but I haven't looked into it enough to be sure... 

Here's 25 pics of the beast - what do you think? Am I on to something, or am I just getting rusty? 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Two reasonably unrelated vlogs

#1 is a look at some neotropical insanity happening NOW on in the southern maritime provinces...

#2 is about a monster low pressure system that will pass by (rapidly) tomorrow...

What.. whatcha think?

Friday, October 20, 2017


Perhaps others already know of this, but it was new to me and has obviously direct implications to our collective goal of identifying creatures in the natural world...


Although the Dunning–Kruger effect was formulated in 1999, the cognitive bias of illusory superiority has been known throughout history and identified by intellectuals, such as the philosopher Confucius (551–479 BC), who said, “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance”.


While generally directed at the initial spike in confidence, I felt the more interesting element was the decrease in confidence that follows - and the subsequent rise in confidence once again... A quick internet search hasn't directed me past that initial spike in confidence... Perhaps there is nothing interesting that occurs after that point (e.g. it's straightforward, the more you learn the more confident you become) - but I want to read more!


Active time of year for weather... Nothing has really been jumping out at me, but maybe we'll get lucky with some Cave Swallows in the next little while... And as always, it only takes one bird...

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Pelagic Carpooling!?

HEY! Who want's to carpool to Massachusetts for some killer pelagic birding?

Offshore Oct 14-15 (overnight!) Cost: $330 USD for the pelagic part

Who can say no to this?!

Time is running out!


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Vloggin' time! La Nina watch in effect

A lil video that could be an early indicator of good biridng in Apr/May 2018! It's never too early to plan...

Important to note that we're only in a La Nina "watch" and not an official la nina, but thought this would be a good time to chat about ENSO and it's effect on our climate/local weather events.