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? ;-)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas eve gulls & Blue Jay (or, 'The Year of the Iceland Gull')

On Thurs, 12-24, Heidi & I headed to Crouch/Garden Valley to look for one of 2 Blue Jays that have recently starting attending a feeder along with a few Steller's Jays. Actually, back in early November, Garden Valley birders had noticed a Blue Jay or two but it wasn't until last week that they starting keeping a regular schedule ... thanks to Sheri & Linda for keeping us posted!

In most years, I've been able to encounter 1 or more Blue Jays during the fall at Lucky Peak or elsewhere but this hasn't been so the last couple years so we had to go chasing! Progress on the 2009 year list has been quite slow of late - a combo of being busy with other things and it being a slower time of year with fewer bird species around - so it was fun when Heidi first spotted one in a conifer and then it came in to the feeder a few minutes later!

The feeder area by the Birding Store in Crouch

A nice of view of the nearby hills on a cold & beautiful winter day

A shot of the cooperative Blue Jay through my handheld ;-)

Since it didn't take long for a Blue Jay to arrive, we decided it might be worth a quick stop at the Boise dump (Hidden Hollow landfill) to see about the gulls on the way home. We'd found an immense adult Glaucous Gull as well as an adult Mew Gull (no pics) the day before so we wanted to see if anything new might be around.
Adult Glaucous Gull at the Boise landfill on 12-23

When we arrived, admitted gull lover and (fellow frequenter of dumps:) RL Rowland was already there & mentioned noticing an interesting-looking adult gull with grayish wingtips ... it soon flew in and landed nearby. It looked big and with gray-tipped wings as it flew in so we first wondered about Glaucous-winged but the yellow eyes, smaller bill, rounded head shape, and eyes more forward on face suggested otherwise. Maybe biased by the Glaucous the day before (which was cooperative on this day too & arrived about 30 min after we did), my first inclination was that it had some Glaucous in it - maybe crossed with Herring (which could help explain the gray wingtips). But, the longer we looked, the more we wondered about an adult Iceland (Kumlien's because of the gray, not white, primary tips) ... in particular, at one point after the gulls had been flushed & then settled again, the presumed Iceland was perched directly in front of the Glaucous providing a brief comparison. In addition to being smaller, the bird had a longer primary projection, daintier bill, more rounded head, and less of a 'tertial stack' (basically, more attenuated body shape) than the Glaucous.

This & the following 7 pictures are of the presumed Kumlien's (Iceland) Gull seen at the Hidden Hollow landfill (Ada Co dump) on 12-24. Notice the small, rounded head, relatively small bill, pink legs, yellow eyes, long primary projection, and somewhat deep belly. The key feature that got us thinking towards Iceland in the first place is that the primaries have gray shading ...

Here's the best shot I could get of the wing partly open - notice the big 'mirror' (white spot near tip of feather) on primary #10 - the outermost primary - and the gray (as opposed to black) shading at the ends of the primaries

with 2 adult Herring Gulls (1 standing, 1 sitting further back) at its right; the Herrings have longer, slightly thicker bills as well as a more squared-off head shape

Facing the camera (rear right, behind the hordes of Ring-bills and, based on mantle color, 1 California at front right) - notice the smaller, narrower head & neck compared to the Herring @ left

Here it is between 2 adult Herring Gulls (that have different amounts of head streaking)

It was just earlier this year (during spring migration) that we saw my first ever Iceland Gull in Idaho so 2 in one year seems mind-blowing! I'm hoping others, including the other big larophiles in the state, Cliff & Lisa Weisse, might get a chance to see it next week but we've all looked at pics and think it looks good for a Kumlien's!

It's been quite a year for gulls in Idaho, having now seen Sabine's, Bonaparte's, Franklin's, Mew, Ring-billed, California, Thayer's, Iceland, Lesser Black-backed, Glaucous-winged, Herring, & Glaucous in 2010!! Now, just waiting on the Western &/or Slaty-backed to arrive ;-).

Merry Christmas,


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