Saturday, January 02, 2010

First Birds of the New Year

Dropped Balls

Each January 1, I try to note the first bird I see or here. When I first got up I heard a bit of chattering that was not quite identifiable. So I saw my first bird of the year when I walked out the door – a Mourning Dove sitting in a tree.

I walked to my local park to see what birds were around. I was hoping I might see a Common Yellowthroat that I had spotted in the waning light of New Year's Eve. However, it did not emerge from the shrubbery, even with a bit of pishing and chipping by me.

Walking along the river, I saw most of the usual birds – hundreds of Canada Geese, dozens of Mallards, and a few Common Mergansers. Two Great Cormorants were sitting in the usual spot. At the park's frozen pond, I came upon a large flock of gulls. As I was sorting through and counting the common species, I saw the bird pictured below.

One bird is clearly not a Ring-billed, Herring, or Great Blacked Gull, the most common gulls in my area. At first it looked so large to me, I thought it might be a Glaucous Gull. However, some of the details do not fit: the legs are too rosy, the bill is short and all-dark, and the forehead is a bit steeper. So in the end I concluded that this must be an Iceland Gull. It is only the second time I have ever seen one; the last time I saw one was last January, on the very same pond.

The photo was shot through my binoculars. I was able to correct my identification in part because I stopped to make a quick sketch of the bird and note some critical details that my photographic method did not pick up so well. The sketch above might not look like an Iceland Gull (in fact it looks like a crow wearing bathroom slippers), but it gets the job done.

My last new bird for the walk was a Peregrine Falcon, perched high on top of a radio tower.

Blog Note: Last night I had to switch commenting systems because Haloscan, the commenting system I used for several years, was getting turned shut down as of January 2. Service with the new system, Echo, may be bumpy at first. I will make changes as necessary.