ANOTHER Lesser Black-backed Gull

November 30th, after a lovely day rediscovering the now-returned Nutting’s Flycatcher, hiking in the Bill Williams, and finding my La Paz County Winter Wren, I thought I had used up all my birding karma for a little while.  Still, when I pulled into the refuge headquarters to scan the Bill Williams Delta, a not insignificant part of me was hoping that the Lesser Black-backed Gull would show up (click the link for more on LBBG identification).  So while I was sitting in the car starting a BirdLog checklist and I happened to put my binoculars on a brown gull that looked awfully white-rumped, I wasted no time grabbing camera and scope, jumping out of the car and setting up to scan.  I quickly got the scope on a brown gull, but was disappointed to see just another California Gull.  Used to disappointment after three solid days doing nothing but looking for that LBBG, I sighed and scanned on.  Then immediately got on another brown gull, this one with a white rump and white-based tail with a contrasting black band.  The Lesser Black-backed Gull!!

Long wings, masked appearance and white tail with black band.

To say that I was excited to see this bird would be something of an understatement.  Not that it wasn’t fun birding around Havasu for three days and finding some other rarities and all, but I kind of ran myself ragged looking for that bird in Lake Havasu City.  I chased and missed the first state record, as well, a bird near Phoenix in 2006.  So after snapping some photos, I laughed and danced a jig and I’m sure some refuge visitors wondered what was going on with the lunatic with the scope and camera.

Fishing with Ring-billed Gulls

Soon, David had arrived from Havasu.  The bird had flown to nearby Havasu Springs, so we drove over and found it loafing on a beach.  David, being the real photographer between us, had taken control of his camera and got some much better shots.  It was he who first wondered whether it might be a different bird.  I had noticed that it seemed much whiter than in John’s photos, but I didn’t think much of it.  Now much closer to the bird, I checked it out in the scope, and sure enough, it was messier-looking than John’s bird, without those nice clean edgings on the mantle feathers.  It was a single feather, though, that finally convinced us that it was a different bird.  In the flight shots above, note an obvious missing primary on the left wing.  One of David’s photos shows that this feather isn’t missing altogether, but is actually growing in, and it’s more than four days along.

Narrower tertial edgings and messier scapulars and wing coverts than the Lake Havasu City bird
Better photo showing how white the plumage is.  Photo by David Vander Pluym
White plumage streaked with brown, masked face.  Photo by David Vander Pluym
The magical photo showing the primary growing in!  Photo by David Vander Pluym

Exciting times here on the river!

About Lauren Harter

I live in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, where I work as a field biologist and spend as much of the rest of my time as possible looking at (and listening to!) birds.
This entry was posted in Bill Williams, Identification, La Paz County, LCRV, Mohave County, Vagrants. Bookmark the permalink.

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