Last winter's gull review

Today's cooler, blustery conditions combined with the appearance of an Ivory Gull in Cape May got me thinking more about the upcoming gull season and reflecting on last year's. The 2008-09 gulling in the northeast was pretty damn good and included a few really exciting birds.

The season started out with a bang exactly one year ago today with CT's first Slaty-backed Gull. On 12/12 an adult Thayer's Gull put in a brief appearance at the Windsor-Bloomfield Landfill, CT's premier gull hotspot, followed by a first-winter bird on 12/23. A Black-headed Gull spent the winter in New Haven Harbor.

Perhaps 'gull of the year' was a subadult Glaucous-winged Gull in Rochester, NH, found by Scott Young...a first record for New England.

Meanwhile Gloucester, MA was once again the gull capital of New England. I happened to already be up in Boston when news of an adult Ivory Gull broke on 1/17. I still get chills thinking about that weekend. Of course there were plenty of other gulls in the area, including multiple Thayer's, Lesser Black-backeds, Glaucs, and a staggering number of Icelands. Incredibly a second adult Ivory Gull turned up in MA, this one in Plymouth on 1/20 and spent a solid eleven days at this location.

Back in CT, the landfill had a couple of adult Glaucous Gulls and multiple sightings (or re-sightings) of first-winter Thayer's Gulls. Patrick Dugan and others then found another Slaty-backed Gull on 2/9 that stuck around for a couple days. I was busy with school and figured I had missed my chance at that bird...until James P. Smith relocated it up the Connecticut River valley at Barton Cove, MA on 2/20! This time I was free and able to go see the bird, which ended up sticking around for several days.

James wasn't done, finding an adult Thayer's Gull, also at Barton Cove. Then on 2/26 James turned up what just might have been a first-cycle Slaty-backed Gull at the landfill. Looks like a darn good candidate to me...

When the calendar turned to March, the gull focus in CT switched from the landfill to the coast, where the western Long Island Sound hosted an impressive congregation of gulls thanks to a now-annual bloom of barnacle [and other types of?] larvae. My good luck continued with an adult "Common" Mew Gull in West Haven, CT on 3/20. Milford Pt, not really known as a gull hotspot, delivered a couple of interesting birds a few days later. First, a possible Thayer's Gull on 3/22...I'm still not sure if this is a legit THGU or not. Then, a 1c HEGU showing some Old World-like features on 3/27. Another one I'm not sure about, and will probably never be identified, but I wonder if it's within range of argenteus. My last "good" gull of the season came on 4/5 in the form of an adult Little Gull in Southport, CT.

So that's about it! Obviously a CT-centric view, but I think I got most of the southern New England highlights. We had a solid 4+ months of fantastic gulling. If this winter is half as productive as last, we'll be in for some fun times...that is, if standing on a pile of shit surrounded by garbage trucks and bulldozers is your idea of fun:)

- Nick


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