Little Gull - juv/first-winter, Unity Park, Turner's Falls. Franklin Co., MA. November 20th, 2016.
A late afternoon reward for sticking around on a cold, blustery Sunday afternoon. Little Gull is an ABA Code 3 species.
As with the previous Sunday (a day that produced a Mountain Bluebird in Turner's Falls) I had no specific plans for local birding today. Other than a female goldeneye sp. that may have been a Barrow's and a first-year male Lesser Scaup, incidental birding opportunities at Turner's Falls had produced relatively little. Indeed, the overall atmosphere was that of a quiet day and, as I closed my day in the fading light at Unity Park, my expectations were relatively low. As the weather worsened, I noticed several large gulls arriving high from the north-east. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a small gull appeared high over the Gill side of the river. As it approached the assembled Ring-billed Gulls I had my first taste of the identification as a brief dorsal view showed a thick black 'M' on the upperside contrasting with an especially white rump and tail, and a very neat black band at the tip of the tail - "Little Gull!". I watched and photographed transfixed, trying not to loose track as it careened about the sky on the squally north-westerlies. It showed some interest in joining the Ring-billed Gulls before moving off high to the south-east after which I lost it. The Little Gull hadn't returned by the time I left. At the time, the observation seemed quite long but my camera details show that bird was in view for just two minutes between 16:11 and 16:13 hrs.
Little Gulls are not too difficult to see in very small numbers in coastal Massachusetts, Outer Cape Cod being especially good for them at the moment. However, they are exceedingly rare in the interior and I'm only aware of three other records prior to this sighting. They include two spring records from Berkshire County and one from Gill, Franklin County. The latter bird was an adult that I found during an extreme Nor'easter on December 21st, 2008; http://pioneerbirding.blogspot.com/2008/12/little-gull-turners-falls-1221.html