Posted by: atowhee | January 9, 2020


The dog and I did lots of chores this morning, then she (Nora) decided to go birding.  I then decided to tag along.  She let as long as I brought plenty of dog cookies. Of course.  We first went out to try to find some of Paul Sullivan’s friendly Wrentits.  Struck out.

I just felt like it might be a good day.  In the dense fog at Joe Dancer this morning we found the Lincoln’s Sparrow in the wetlands there. This is the best my camera could do:linc2 (2)And we had our FOY American Goldfinches at our feeders–three of them, And we added a fifth member to our CB Chickadee flock.  Turns out Nora was prescient, maybe she just smelled good birding.  ON PHeasant Hill Road a score of Common Mergansers were snoozing along the edge of the quarry pond.  When  they saw us they steamed to the far side, wheezing loudly as they went,  It was the most noise I have ever heard from that species.  Along Muddy Valley Road we had a Bald Eagle plenty of ducks, Acorn Woodpeckers.  There were red-tails and kestrels galore on every road we drove.  Heading north on Delashmutt Lane we first found a pair of harriers, one a  male being attacked (no feathers plucked) by the larger female.  A pair of mated red-tails sitting side-to-side on a utility pole crossbar.  And at the north end of the road, almost to Hwy 99, a 120 acres of gulls. Oyez, oyez.
I love these birds for more reasons than I have space to list.  Like most of Wall Street they are human in their greed.  They are quick, clever, relentless.  Given thumbs they could earn an MBA, launch a tech start- up, use backruptcy to become a president.  When I see gulls I see life in its toughest, its most taking, yet deeply wise.  They are too tolerant to stick to our prescribed, artificial species rules.  Gull sex is gull sex, come what or who may. To believe in species around these birds you have to be “gullible.”  That the other reason to love ’em, their name is imminently punacious.  It is gull-darn word-twisting.  Gullumphing.  Photo gulleries.  Art gulleries.  Gullden Globe Awards.  Good gully, Miss Molly.  If I blog about them do they become e-gulls?  They hang out in mixed flocks (by our species definition) making them egullitarian, right?
Most of the birds in the field were Glaucous-winged Gulls, either deliberately or accidentally.  They are our largest common gull anywhere in Oregon. They breed coastally but many wander short distances inland in winter. They are generally pale and “pure” GWs have no black feathers, ever.  They are four-year gulls, taking that long to work up to mature, adult plumage…going through molt after molt.

These are adults,  white chests, some smear of gray on the head…in winter.  Elongated head to allow for the muscles to work that big and strong beak.  Compare to image of a tiny, two-year Bonaparte’s with its woodpecker-like beak in your field guide. Then there come the complications:d-g (2)Just look at the front four, all juveniles…no white plumage yet.  All probably born along the Oregon Coast last spring. Newcomers to Yamhill.  Bird on far left has black in his wings.  He must be at least part Western, or maybe California I(much less likely as they tend to breed inland). Looks like it could be second year bird.  Front-most bird is pale and likely a “pure” Glaucous-winged.  I use the word “pure” not to denote anything positive or racist but simply to describe likely genetic content. The two right-hand gulls almost certainly are part Western and are first year, no black yet  but the furthest right is very dark, maybe all or mostly Western.

The front bird appears to be first-year Western, dark, elongated head.  In the back is a mature gull, pure white head but look closely. That head seems to be roundish.  I take this to be a third year or older California Gull which is often–in appearance–a trimmed down Western Gull with smaller beak and rounder head.  Breeds often inland here in the west.  Ok, ready to try to sort?d-g4 (2)
Left to right, front birds (those in background mostly GW though I think the middle one is California): Two first or second year Glaucous-winged. Third from left and the next two darks ones: likely first year California, note roundish head and how much smaller the middle one is compared to the nearby “big” gull.  Big gill, sideways to camera in center…should be a Glaucous-winged but for those dark wing feathers.  Seems to mature bird but at least one-quarter Western.  What birders up Port Townsend way call the “Olympic Gull.”  In the air and tail toward us: likely young GW.  Far right, dark plumage and black wing tips–an immature gull, likely two years or three old and at least part Western.  Elongated head means not California.  Keep in mind all this is based purely on visual evidence, no genetic testing being done to support or diss my guessimations.
d-g6 (2)Above, all GWs?  Wait, second from right bird turning away, black tail feathers thus some Western genes in the family lineage.  Below: three perfectly honest first-year GWs:d-g8 (2)Here we have two open-winged young GWs among some adults.  Note how some of their wing feathers are actually paler, not darker as in many gull species. Don’t ask about that dark character walking left to right in the background.  Even his mother may not know for sure.d-g9 (2)There was also at least one small, pale Ring-billed Gull…with black wing tips but it was far away and wouldn’t hold still.  Thank the birdign gods there a few birds out in the field that were exactly what they appeared to be:d-g7 (2)This gullerel (similar to doggerel) was sent to me by a reader:

The Sea Gull

Hark to the whimper of the sea-gull;

He weeps because he’s not an ea-gull.

Suppose you were, you silly sea-gull.

Could you explain it to your she-gull?

-Ogden Nash

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