Friday, November 6, 2009

MA - small larid, Ring-billed? - 11/05

presumed Ring-billed Gull - first-cycle, Barton Cove, Turner's Falls, Franklin County, MA. November 5th, 2009.

In late October Frank Bowrys mentioned seeing a possible Mew (Common) Gull at Barton Cove, Turner's Falls. His bird was a first-cycle and since that time I've been making scans of the cove's Ring-billed Gull flock on a regular basis. Today, this bird caught my attention. Initially it was breast on, swimming between two Ring-billed Gulls and looked tiny, roughly comparable to seeing a Franklin's Gull on the water between two Laughing Gulls. When it turned its head, the bill looked small, petite and mostly dark. At this range (c.200 meters), dusky markings around the eye gave the head a very different look to the accompanying Ring-billed Gulls, and for a moment I felt sure that this was the bird that Frank had seen in late October. I ran (literally) to the parking lot closest to the dam where the gulls 'free-load' from bread thrown for the ducks. A handful of Ring-billeds were on the water but the bird in question was missing. Could I really have been that mistaken? I turned around to face the parking lot with my back to the river, and there standing alone on the bike path was the gull of interest. It still looked dusky, petite and maybe even darker mantled than most Ring-billeds present. The head and bill jizz was especially dainty but the bird flew and landed back in the water before I had chance to get some reasonable images.

Sadly, by this time, most of the Ring-billeds were heading back up-river for roosting so I couldn't get any good images of the bird in question directly alongside typical Ring-billed Gulls. However, this image set may give an impression of how the bird appeared in the field. As I watched and photographed it at very close range, I couldn't see any actual plumage features that would be unusual for first-cycle Ring-billed Gull, and certainly couldn't find anything that would point strongly toward this bird being Mew or Common Gull.

As it happened, after seeing the images Frank was able to confirm that this individual and his own observation did NOT match. I'm not quite sure what the make of this bird, other than it being a 'runt' Ring-billed Gull. I've seen small birds before but nothing quite like this, and would have said it was about 5-10% smaller than average in direct comparison to the Ring-billeds present.

It also means that Frank's bird is still out there!!

NB. Several American Tree Sparrows at Unity Park as well.

1 comment:

Harry said...

Hi there,
Speaking from a European perspective, as someone very familiar with 1st cycle canus, this bird strikes me most as being a 'runt' Ring-billed Gull. The pattern of the spread tail, with black 'bleeding' back towards the base from the tail band, is something I associate with 1st cycle Ring-billed, as is the pale grey colouration of the greater coverts.