Monday, January 30, 2017

Gulls and more gulls in Canada

I've been back from vacation for a week now, and didn't blog right away because of the chores waiting for me.  Then, the flu struck.  *sigh*  I can't even gather enough brain cells to upload my art shots from the camera, photoshop them, and then talk about them.  So instead, you get bird photos.

Part of the reason for going to Parksville on Vancouver Island is the wonderful bay that the condo property sits on.  There are always birds there and depending on the tide, I can see a variety of sea birds that are normally much further out from shore or the kind of birds that like the exposed shoreline when the tide is out.   The additional attraction is if the weather is rainy and windy, the bay is so close that I can grab a quick outing when the weather clears slightly so even the worst weather day can still have some good birds.

And I got to refresh my birding ID skills.  Especially with gulls.  It's not hard to tell that a bird is a gull rather than an eagle or a hawk or a duck.  That part is pretty simple.  But which species of gull?  That part is much, much harder.  Fortunately for me, I remembered what part of the gull to look at to distinguish the species.  And the gulls really like hanging on the rock formations off the point where the hot tub is.  Yes, that too is part of why we go here so I can bird in comfort.

So, what do we look for to tell which gull species is here?  Face it, they are usually white with grey backs and a yellow beak.  What varies?  The size and shape of the bill, the bill markings (the one below has a medium size wide bill with a red dot on the bottom), the leg color (clearly pink here rather than grey or yellow, altho telling the pink and the gray apart can be difficult in less than bright light), and finally whether the wingtips are darker or lighter than the back.  The wingtips look like they should be the tail when a gull poses like this but with this guy, his tail is white, the wingtips are the longer grey with white stripes part.  There's some other things to look for like shape and contrast of white parts on the back, and relative darkness of the grey back, and if you've got a scope the eye color, but legs, bill, and wingtips will get most of the distinctions you need to really narrow it down.  

I'm calling this one a Thayer's Gull, but I'm not experienced enough with gulls to be totally certain as there's some hybrids that look a lot like this.  Part of my reason for wanting to upgrade my camera this year is so I can zoom even closer on some of these birds and do my ID later from the photo.  Which is why I have so many gull photos from Parksville.

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