Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Lesser Black-backed Gulls at Donaldson Park

Yesterday as I made my usual route around Donaldson Park, I encountered a sizable gathering of gulls spread over the artificial pond and the nearby baseball field. In the midst of the flock on the baseball field, I spotted a Lesser Black-backed Gull, which sat down on the ground as I watched it, but before I took a photo. You can see its small size and dainty features in comparison to the burly Herring Gull seated just behind it. There is some streaking on its head, but it was very light streaking, and hard to see in the photo above.

When I moved over to check out the gulls on the pond, I was surprised to see yet another Lesser Black-backed Gull, first in the water and then preening on the shore. This individual had much heavier streaking on its head than the other bird and shows a dark gray mantle and yellow legs. Again, it appears small and dainty compared to the Herring Gulls around it.

Finally, as I was finishing my route, I noticed this Lesser Black-backed Gull standing in one of the soccer fields. The gulls had reshuffled a bit in the meantime, and I suspect that this was the same bird as the first individual I saw rather than a third individual. As with the first bird, the head streaking is barely noticeable, and the red dot at the gonys is roughly the same size and shape as on the first bird. So when I entered my checklist into eBird, I entered two rather than three Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

My walk yesterday was also significant as it was the first time I heard House Finches singing this year. For me, the first House Finch song is a leading indicator of the coming spring. Yesterday was indeed a spring-like day, with a high of at least 60°F and an overall feeling of warmth.