Thursday, November 22, 2012

Gullz this weekend - world record?

On a totally different weather forecast, the Niagara River could finally have its first good weekend of the 2012-2013 gull season!

Cool weather for Saturday and Sunday (post cold front) should get the birds moving... Talking to Jim Pawlicki (from NY), has been interesting recently - as he's been able to nail down a Black-headed Gull and a Franklin's Gull that he thinks could be the same birds as last year..

If the California Gull has also returned (possibly? maybe?) then we are looking at a formidable list of gulls already!

Remember this post about "breaking the world gull species record" ?

Well lets update it to the 2012 list:


Great Black-backed



Lesser Black-backed

(4+5 = 9)

Rather rare but currently occurring:

Franklin's Gull
Black-headed Gull
California Gull 

(9+3 = 12) !!!! 

At this stage in the game, we are already 2 species shy of tying the world record, and 3 away from a "new" WR! 

The Superstorm Sandy factor:  something totally new for the 2012-2013 gull season!!

The following species were associated with Superstorm Sandy back in the first few days of November. There is a very real chance that all of these gull species have since left the province, but at the same time - there is also a good chance that a few individuals have been lurking out on the Great Lakes (especially Lake Erie) all this time - waiting for the weather to go fowl and make their incursion onto the river!! ;)

Ross's Gull - the one we had at Fort Erie could easily be lurking out there somewhere, only to re-appear in bad weather when lost of observers are out looking! 

Sabine's Gull - a few birds seen at Fort Erie at the same time. This is a rarity on the river in late November, but not at all out of the question in a regular year.... Maybe the odds will be slightly better than average in 2012? 

Laughing Gull - would be mega rare for location and date on the river in November, but somewhere in the range of 3-5 birds were seen on Lake Erie in Ohio this November (I assume because of Sandy?? Or a combo of Sandy and other weather patterns since??) The odds of a Laughing Gull have to be at least 25 times higher than average this year!! 

BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE - far and away the most likely of these 4 species in a "typical" year on the river, and having personally seen 110+ individuals on the Great Lakes back during Sandy - I've got to assume the odds are better than average for getting this species! 

For some reason, I'm expecting two of the above birds will put in an appearance in the next two weeks... Not sure exactly how it will shake down, (lots of reasons why each species could or couldn't still be around) - but we've got to hope that we will still reap some benifits from the awesomeness that was Sandy! 

(oh and getting 2 would give us 14 gull species!) 

So what else is there? How about: two other super rares: 

Mew Gull - the beauty of this "species" is we can get a tick from three different directions... Namely the "North American Short-billed" Mew Gull, the Siberian "Kamchatka" (Mew) Gull and the European "Common" (Mew) Gull... It seems likely that these birds will not remain a single species in the long run, but for now, they're only worth one on the list... 

Slaty-backed Gull - I remember way back when I first started looking at gulls, and this bird was still at cosmic level... All over North America this bird is becoming more and more regular - including on our beloved river... Would be a nice tick !

15 species is looking like a very real possibility when you break down the lists above... But it ain't over yet folks! Gulls are the ultimate vagrant bird. They can live and feed in virtually any environment, unlike those sissy warblers and flycatchers that just kill themselves.. There is the ever present possibility that something really insane will turn up! Some ideas: 

Ivory Gull - last year I included this species with the previous two "super rares" - but I've got to be honest with myself (and you) ... The appearance of this species in the fall on the river would be insanity! I still need this beautiful creature for my Ontario list.... 

Black-tailed Gull - Would be very happy to see this species put on a grand display for Ontario birders.. sure would be easy to pick out somewhere like Adam Beck! 

Yellow-legged Gull - not easy 

Heermanns Gull - Of all the gulls on this list, I think I may get the most excited to see (or dare I say, find) on the river in the fall... 

Kelp Gull - hahahaha... 

GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL - this is the prize awaiting all avid gull'ers in Ontario... THEEEE most overdue species for the province... Not sure what else can be said about it.. I want to find it... 

And if we DO find a Glaucous-winged, or some other insane vagrant.. It will only make our attempts to hit 15+ Gull species even easier!

Now we'll have to wait and see if I can even get out this fall (or if some other species like Franklin's get blown away by the cold front, making the odds much lower)..

All in a days work! 


  1. Skeeeeet!!

    We're leading our annual gull outing on Sat for the KWFN to niagara....

  2. Nice...I'll be there Sunday with the group from Guelph! Ken, nail down that Ross's for us will ya?

    I remember last December/early January where it was possible to get Franklin's, California, Slaty-backed, Kittiwake, Black-headed plus A. White Pelican, Black Vulture, Razorbill, and Fish Crows within a few weeks on the river! Hopefully this winter is just as crazy...

  3. Better get 16 species just incase the AUO throws a curveball and later regards Iceland and Thayer's as the same pressure ;)
    I gotta wait until the ofo weekend to go up to Niagara and so far the weather looks awesome! Though I sure would love to be up there this weekend for sure!

  4. But presumably the previous record also counted Thayer's and Iceland separately, so perhaps no extra pressure on that score.

    -- Nick