From a birder’s perspective, one particularly nice aspect of living in Lake Havasu City is the chance to just swing by Rotary Park on the way to the grocery store. I’ve had a cold the past few days and haven’t been out birding as much as I’d like, so a quick trip to the store seemed like the perfect chance to check the beach for gulls or early migrants.
When I walked onto the beach, I soon noticed a gull flock. When I walked closer, one of the first gulls I laid eyes on was surprisingly dark-mantled. A second glance revealed its small, unmarked bill. A Mew Gull!
I shot a few pictures with my iPhone, then contacted David as well as Oscar Johnson, Bob Baez, and Tim Schreckengost. All soon showed up, and we enjoyed long looks as the bird preened and loafed on the beach. It was even a lifer for Tim! Most of us were able to take photos and/or videos at leisure.
EDIT: Check out Tim’s commentary plus photos and video by Tim, and photos by Oscar, here!
Since seeing my first Arizona Mew Gull two years ago, I’ve seen a few more birds in the state, but this is my first adult. Most Mew Gulls to occur in Arizona are young birds. Reports have greatly increased in the past few years with increased coverage of the Colorado River corridor (including Lake Powell), but this species is still a very rare visitor. If accepted by the ABC, this will be roughly the 22nd record for Arizona. Interestingly, there were no records between 2000 and 2010!
It can be difficult to pick out an adult Mew Gull from a flock of Ring-billed Gulls. The mantle is darker, contrasting more with the white scapular and tertial crescents. The bird is smaller overall with a more rounded head and “cute” appearance; the small, slender, unmarked bill also contributes to this appearance. This individual shows a distinct grayish basal half of the bill, an interesting but fairly common variation.
The tattered appearance of the bird led several of us to believe that it likely wintered in the harsh conditions of Baja. With this bird’s appearance and the early arrival of Franklin’s Gulls, who knows what will be next? Iceland Gull, perhaps?