I was able to spend a few hours yesterday afternoon at a landfill in the Research Triangle area of NC. Birds numbered in the thousands, dominated by Ring-bills. There were several hundred Herrings scattered through the masses, as well as a healthy number of Lesser Black-backed and a handful of Great Black-backed Gulls. The highlight came in the form of two first cycle GLAUCOUS x HERRING GULL hybrids.
The first bird was a beautiful, subtle milky brown color, sporting brown primaries with thin white fringes. A large bird with a Glaucous-like structure and bill pattern.
|Flanked by young Herring Gulls. A lucky shot, note the pure white-winged bird with stretched wing to its right. More on that one below.|
The second GLGUxHERG was more Glaucous-like in body plumage. In fact, when I first saw the bird from just the neck up, I thought I had found a Glauc. But it was easily ID'd as another hybrid by those brown primaries and tail.
|vaguely reminiscent of a faded Thayer's Gull in this shot|
|dwarfing the first cycle LBBG (to the right, facing the same direction)|
For comparison, here is a "white-winged" gull that appears to be a leucistic Herring Gull. The snow white primaries and overall white body plumage suggest a white-winged gull such as Glaucous, but the bird's size and structure seem spot-on for Herring. Also, note the dark brown tail and seemingly randomly placed pigment in some of the upperpart feathers including the tertials. It's not easy to age a bird like this, but given its slightly paling eye, thick black ring on the bill, and other features such as an apparently dark tail and barred undertail coverts, I would guess the bird is in its second cycle or thereabouts.
|This was meant to be a photo of the hybrid GLGUxHERG (center), but note the leucistic Herring (center right) with its wing outstretched, revealing snow white primaries.|
The number of Lesser Black-backs was impressive, with a one-time count of 22 in view at once. I picked that moment randomly, and it was my only count. Who knows how many were there...30, 40, more? A repeated, dedicated count, especially by age class, would reveal a more accurate (and higher!) number.
|first cycle...looks delicious|
|first cycle LBBG (right) next to first cycle Herring (left)|
|second or third cycle|
|advanced first cycle or delayed second|
|adult (the darkest adult of the day)|
Not terribly exciting to someone from Connecticut, the "rarest" species of the day was Great Black-backed Gull, with at least 5 being seen (adult, second cycle, and 3 first cycles).
|out of focus but this is the only one I have with its bill out|
|first cycle, same as above|
|first cycle dropping behind a ridge|
|likely worn first cycle versus delayed second cycle, the "pale" base of the bill is just mud|
|the same second cycle as above|
I spent nearly 3 hours there yesterday but am already itching to get back. That'll have to wait until next winter though. The gulling was fantastic...much more interesting that I would have guessed inland NC had to offer. But the region has records of California, Thayer's, Iceland (several), and Glaucous (several) Gulls so it shouldn't have come as such a surprise. No pure Glaucous on this visit...just two mutts, but cool nonetheless.
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