A (mostly) friendly competition between 2 avid birdwatchers that are also friends/co-workers. Who can observe more bird species in Idaho in 2009? Will they still be friends at year's end? ;-)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Black-tailed Gull!! (in Washington)

OK, so maybe this isn't relevant since it didn't occur in Idaho, but it is birding .... and, I received official permission from 'the boss' herself to see this bird w/o her since it wasn't in Idaho. Quite magnanimous, huh?


The story: Last week I was attending a conference in Forest Grove, OR (Partners in Flight Western Working Group) Tues - Thurs. I planned to stay thru Friday in case I decided to join the conference field trip and/or do some other birding. Good thing b/c about a week before the conference, I caught wind of an adult Black-tailed Gull being seen near Tacoma, Washington. I watched the Washington birding hotline all week to see if it was sticking around ... and it did!

Even better news was that Jon and Dave (IBO 2009 hawkwatchers) were on a road trip and arriving in Portland Thursday night .... and they wanted to go up and see the bird and were willing to bring me back to the Portland airport in time for my Friday night flight! The next AM, I got up way-too-early to take various modes of public transport to meet those guys in Portland and they met me in the 'Batmobile' (Dave's sweet ride) and we headed north. Near Battleground, we picked up Stephanie (IBO '09 songbirder - who's about to fly to Australia for a field job!). As she got in, she said, "so, what rare birds are we going after?" Seriously? I love it! Jon hadn't even told her what species we were chasing but she was up for an adventure!!

We arrived to Tacoma just before noon and followed my friend Drew (we took Ornithology together at The Evergreen State College in 1994 and have remained friends and birding/traveling buddies since) to the viewing site. We only had about 10 minutes before a major squall rolled in and chased us down the road. BUT, we were able to locate the bird pretty quickly and enjoyed some quick views at a major lifer for all of us.

To escape the rain, we headed down the road a couple miles to a quirky restaurant called 'The Ark'. We walked in with binoculars around our necks, looking wet and a little bewildered ... one employee asked, "what are you guys up to? birdwatching?" to which we replied, "How'd ya know?" .... "your hat says 'Birdnerd' and you're wearing binoculars!" .... "good point ;-)"

Dave & Jay trying to identify a pair of small, black (& stuffed) birds that resembled a cross between a crow, a Burrowing Owl, and a puffbird ;-) that we found in a Tacoma restaurant called 'The Ark' (they were missing one of their Zebras ...)

After a while, the rain cleared so we raced back to the site to enjoy more views of the bird ...

Birders lined up on shore viewing the Black-tailed Gull (Stephanie, of recent Lucky Peak fame, is at front and my old buddie, Drew - brown hat -, came to meet us even though he'd already seen the bird)

The big gull roost on log booms in the harbor

The main view we had of the Black-tailed Gull as viewed from shore through the scope - you can see the darker mantle than surrounding gulls (including a couple of California Gulls) as well as the smudgy, hooded look to the head (characteristic of adults in winter). Other gulls present include Mew and Bonaparte's.

A close-up view of the adult Black-tailed Gull (by John Puschock; for more pictures, click here)

All in all, a pretty sweet day ... I got to see an old friend, see a major lifer that I'd hoped for over the years, and got to enjoy some time with some characters from the awesome '09 Lucky Peak crew.

Happy birding,



  1. I saw those reports, too, and have been hoping it'll stick around until Christmas when I go back there to visit my family!

  2. I just saw that you're doing alright for gulls in Utah about now!! Little, Sabine's, and an adult Kittiwake in the same place ... dude!

    But, I'll still hope the Black-tailed sticks around for you ;-)