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I spent the morning yesterday counting birds with some new and old birding buddies during our local Great Backyard Bird Count which was held by the Presque Isle Audubon Society and organized by yours truly. While we got some nice birds in fair numbers despite the frigid conditions, we didn’t get the “rarity” we got last year in the Eastern Towhee. After our event I decided to venture out onto the park and see if I could find a few more species to add to our tally. There were plenty of ducks and gulls in and around the channel but nothing that would be considered out of the ordinary. I turned around and headed back west toward the head of the bay where Mike Weible had spotted some gadwalls and wigeons. I thought I’d take a look and was able to find those ducks as well as lots of Canada Geese, crows and 3 mute swans. There were thousands of gulls causing quite a cacophony. Suddenly they all flew up and to the east and in the crowd I spotted a gull I knew was different from the rest. It looked almost pure white and seemed larger than the other gulls. I was able to keep my eye on it for awhile but soon lost it in the crowd… I was sure I would never see it again amid all the thousands of other gulls despite its different plumage. Nonetheless, I waited, as birders are wont to do. In the world of birding, patience is not a virtue, it’s a necessity. After about 15 minutes most of the flock had flown back and landed in and around the open water. Then much to my delight, I spotted the white gull flying in with a few herring gulls. They landed on the ice on the other side of the water so were fairly far away. I had consulted my field guides while waiting and thought that the gull was likely a glaucous gull. I believe they are reported here every year but are not at all common. I had also gotten my camera set up while waiting and was able to take “a few” shots of the unusual gull.
Notice the white plumage of the glaucous gull compared to the white, gray and black plumage of the herring and ring-billed gulls.
This is a first cycle glaucous gull, as Jerry McWilliams explained to me. The eye is still black and in an older bird the eye would be yellow and the end of the bill would be pale, not black like this one.
After observing and photographing this bird for nearly a half an hour I realized something…This is one needle in a haystack that sticks out like a sore thumb!!