Friday, February 24, 2012

Glacous-winged Gull X Herring Gull Hybrid

Head and bill detail of a second cycle Glaucous-winged Gull X Herring Gull hybrid.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Common Murre Flocks

This winter has been absolutely spectacular for the number of Common Murres on the central east coast of Vancouver Island. In over 15 years of intensive birding in this region, I have never seen anything like it. In January, I counted over 260,000 Common Murres off the mouth of the Little Qualicum River. Numbers like that for any species are only rarely seen in the Salish Sea, and I have yet to come across any previous counts of Common Murres in this area that even come close. Closer to home, numbers of Common Murres in NW Bay in the past 10 days have numbered somewhere between 20 and 30 thousand birds. Again, no one that I have talked to has ever seen these numbers locally.
Today we rowed from Moorecroft out towards the Ballenas Islands. The Common Murre flock in that area looked to be spread over an area about a 500 metres wide, and about two kilometers long. We were able to count 15,700 Common Murres in a couple of hours, but a rising SW wind forced us to turn back for home long before we finished counting.

We also came across a 2nd year Kumliens type Iceland Gull out there today. Although rare, this species (or hybrid type depending on how you define such things) does turn up here in Spring when the herring are spawning. I generally see a half dozen a year here. Finding what appears to be a glaucoides type Iceland Gull is certainly more difficult, but they turn up as well, almost annually.

Monday, February 13, 2012

California Gulls Return

Today marked the first time since the second week of December that we have seen California Gulls at Moorecroft Regional Park. This species typically leaves the Salish sea around mid December each year, and heads west, spending the next two months well offshore.
In mid February it is typical to see a few California gulls one day, and hundreds the next, as wave after wave soar east across Vancouver Island, searching for concentrations of Pacific Herring. By the time the herring begin to spawn, California Gulls will be one of the more abundant bird species in the area.
Most of the California Gulls we see in this area (including the adult illustrated in the above photos) are of the albertensis subspecies. These birds will feed in this area until late march when they will migrate to interior areas to nest. Although some will nest on lakes in British Columbia, most of the birds we see are probably migrating to the Canadian prairies to nest.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Herring Gull X Glaucous Gull hybrid

On February 8 2012 there were quite a few gulls hauled out on the rocks that fringe Second Bay here in Moorecroft Regional Park. Scanning through them with the scope, it is obvious that birds are moving into the area in anticipation of the spawning of Pacific Herring. The numbers of Thayer's Gulls and Herring Gulls seems higher each day. This is a great time of year to search for rarities, as large numbers of gulls from all directions stream into the area looking for herring and herring roe to fatten up on before continuing their migrations to the nesting grounds. One interesting bird yesterday, was what appeared to be first cycle Herring Gull X Glaucous Gull. People sometimes refer to this hybrid as a "Nelson's Gull", although this hybrid type on the west coast rarely looks anything like the photos and illustrations of what are generally referred to "Nelson's Gulls" in the east. This likely because the Herring Gulls on the west coast do differ from those on the east coast, especially in sub-adult plumages.