More on the pale gull, and some summer diversion

21 07 2011

After an email plea from your SEANET blogger, super-birder and gull pro Steve Mirick most generously offered his thoughts on our white gull. Steve wrote, “Gulls are notoriously difficult at this time of year due to extreme feather wear on some individuals.  I believe that white feathers, especially will wear down pretty fast…The lack of any noticeable dark pigmentation in the flight feathers of the left wing would support the possibility of Iceland Gull.  I can’t say about the measurements.  The bill looks a tad thick for an Iceland Gull, but that may just be an appearance due to the lack of head feathers!
Although Iceland Gulls are rare in the summer, they do occur from time to time.  There had been one in NH up until a couple of weeks ago, and may still be around.”

Indeed, Steve himself spotted the Iceland Gull hanging out in Hampton, NH the first week of July. Up in Maine, where our Bird A was found by Helen Rasmussen. Helen follows the eBird alerts for Maine, and reports a handful of sightings of living Iceland Gulls made by birders farther north in Lubec, and at Acadia National Park. One was spotted in Scarborough, about 10 miles south of Helen’s beach, back in late May. So the species, while certainly not at all common in New England in summer, is not unheard of. Of course, neither are leucistic (pale) Herring Gulls. But, with Steve Mirick saying our Bird A could be an Iceland Gull, your blogger feels a great deal more comfortable calling it so. At least until someone else violently challenges the i.d.

Diamondback Terrapin tracks on Cape Cod. (photo by R. Jordan)

As for today’s diversion, with a soul-deadening heat wave gripping most of SEANET territory, I am sure many of you readers are not rushing out to the beach today. So I shall bring some beach sights to you. Dick Jordan, who walks for us on Great Island in Wellfleet, MA on Cape Cod, sent some very cool pics. He found some odd tracks on his beach, and after review by Mary Hake of the National Parks Service, they were determined to be Diamondback Terrapin tracks! Dick also spotted a beautiful breeding pair of American Oystercatchers. Fantastic!

American Oystercatchers at home in Wellfleet, MA. (photo by R. Jordan)

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