Posts Tagged ‘Thayer’s Gull’

Gulls Gone Wild!

April 20, 2015

17th-19th April – West Haven, CT (click images for larger view)


First-cycle Thayer’s Gull, West Haven, CT 19th April

After Nick Bonomo refound the adult Kamchatka Gull at Oyster River on the West Haven, Milford border, (first found in Southport, CT by Mayn Hipp and Mike Warner a week previously), Oyster River had been given a good going over by a few locals, mainly because it was a great loafing spot for gulls and hosted CT’s only Ross’s Gull in the 80s.

The birds are frequently disturbed here by Joe Public and when flushed, frustratingly often fly off into the sound and despite checking the area, the Kamchatka Gull had not been seen since. Nick and I did find a surprisingly late Snowy Owl along the same stretch of coast. Later that night, amazingly enough, Keith Mueller, birding the same spot an hour before Nick refound the Kamchatka, had unwittingly photographed another Mew Gull while taking shots of Bonaparte’s Gulls. The images appear to show the Eurasian race of Mew Gull, known as Common Gull.

On Friday 17th, I had left work early for a Dentist appt. Deciding to head down to Oyster River on spec, I was just leaving New Haven, when Nick called to tell me Keith had relocated the Kamchatka Gull back at Oyster River. Panicking, I set off only to hit rush hour traffic. Halfway there I got a call that the bird was flushed by a clammer and was not on view. AAARRRGGGHHHH!!! Relief came when Keith called back and said he had it out on the flats. A mad sprint later and the bird showed excellent roosting on the flats.

Adult Kamchatka Gull, Oyster River, CT

Adult Kamchatka Gull, Oyster River, CT

I spent Sunday afternoon 19th April birding, but  there was no sign of the Kamchatka Gull or any other gulls for that matter. Taking my usual route back to the house, I stopped at the West Haven boat ramp, as I often do to check out any gulls. There were few birds in evidence but I did spot a first-cycle Iceland Gull on the water.


_P9A4672After shooting it for some time, I left. As I was reversing back, I caught a glimpse of a bird landing below the dock, but the metal barricade obscured everything but the underside of the wingtip. It looked surprisingly silvery, but didn’t strike me as Iceland. My spidey sense was tingling, so I stopped the car, got my bins and peered over the barrier to find a first-cycle Thayer’s Gull staring back at me. Holy !!!@@$$$$.


Doing a double-take, I checked off the short primaries with nice silvery fringes, brown, pale-tipped tail and overall bleached, cafe-au-lait plumage. Structurally it was all thayeri with short legs, a slight pot-belly and a disproportionately small, but pear-shaped head. The bill was mostly dark, just beginning to get some flesh-color at the base. Thayer’s retain their juvenile mantle feathers until later in the winter and upperparts seemed to be all worn first generation feathers, again supportive of Thayer’s Gull.

_P9A4882In flight, coffee-coloured (not blackish, or dark brown) tail, secondary bar and outer webs to the outer primaries all screamed..RESULT!!

_P9A4778Nice pale underside to primaries, here the light showing through illuminating the “venetian blind” effect on the primaries.

_P9A4845Note color of primaries and tertial centres being rather uniform and not contrastingly darker as some of the similar, bleached Herring Gulls nearby. What a cracking bird! I’ve always dreamed of finding something like a Mew Gull or a Franklin’s Gull here, but Thayer’s was not really on my radar.

A fantastic few days of birding on my local beaches!

_P9A4254Snowy Owl, Bradley Point, West Haven..a nice consolation for missing the Kamchatka Gull on the first evening.

Kumlien’s Gulls

January 25, 2011

Nice evening light prompted a quick sojurn down to look for Kumlien’s Gull at the boat ramp. Immediately upon arriving located a nice juv. Kumlien’s standing near the shore – nice grey wash to the underparts made it a different bird to last week’s individual.

This bird has a more wholly blackish bill and nice grey bloom to the underparts than last week’s bird. This is a fairly typical kumlieni at the paler end of the spectrum. A fairly classic bird as far they go here in CT. In the UK, would you confidently identify this as a glaucoides Iceland Gull?

This bird has narrow, indistinct sub-apical tips to the primaries and a mottled/marbled tail but in a vagrancy context this would be a difficult call in Europe.

Alex hanging out at the boat ramp with the local pigeons. In the background, a constant reminder of my most sought-after State bird!

Here’s a couple of shots of returning adults from CT in year’s gone by..

Ad. Kumlien's Gull, CT, USA, February 2006. Note nice slate markings on primaries and amber eye - some are dark-eyed as in Thayer's but many here show a dull amber iris.

Ad. Kumlien's Gull, CT, March 2007.

Truly exquisite birds and a joy to photograph. Several Thayer’s Gulls have been seen in CT in recent years, and for comparison here are some shots of a bird that Nick Bonomo and I found in December 09 at the Hartford landfill – CT’s mecca gull spot. Initially briefly glimpsed by Nick, it promptly disappeared before we could clinch it, but after searching with James Smith, we managed to work through features and obtain some nice photos of this birder’s bird. In addition to an adult Thayer’s, Nick also found the State’s first Slaty-backed Gull the same winter!

Juv. Thayer's Gull, CT Dec 2009 with juv/f-w Kumlien's Gull (on right). Note the overall color, primary pattern, scapulars and tertials. In changing lights, this bird took on a chameleon-like appearance appearing very difficult to pick out from the young 'smickers'. Here it shows the nice cold, marbled appearance that was typical in overcast conditions.

In flight..

Note mostly all dark bill, primary pattern, solid brownish tertials with mottled tips, dark earcovert patch, dark secondary bar and wholly dark brownish (not blackish) tail,

Note compact shape (short legs, plump body) and nice "white-winged" like under primary surfaces. Undertail coverts also nicely vermiculated.