Wednesday 10 February 2016

A Saturday Sale on Hybrids - 5 Gulls and a Duck

The morning of Saturday 6 Feb was devoted to gull watching at Quidi Vidi Lake in the hopes of connecting with some great rare gull that we had not yet discovered.  With several thousands of gulls around St. John's, one Slaty-backed Gull or whatever could live undetected for weeks or perhaps one was wandering the North Atlantic up to yesterday and discovered this gull mecca today and decided to drop in.

No rare gulls were seen.  Digging through the gulls always turns up a few hybrids. Some individuals get to be known. Sometimes you find one not yet seen this season. Hybrids get the camera's attention if not just to keep the trigger finger limber lest the rare one shows up. Below is the Saturday haul of hybrids

A familiar individual being rather photogenic for a week or more at the Virginia River mouth. A typical looking 1st winter hybrid Great Black-backed Gull x Glaucous Gull.  The wing tips being same colour as the back is the best way to know it is a hybrid. 

An adult hybrid Great Black-backed Gull x Glaucous Gull.  Even on a bird at rest the excessive amount of white visible on the upper and underside of the folded primaries gives this one away.  The upper parts colour being barely paler than a GBBG is standard for this hybrid combination.

There are two or three adult hybrid Lesser Black-backed Gull x Herring Gulls around each winter in St John's. There are at least two individuals this winter. They look amazing familiar.  I wonder if we are seeing the same birds every winter for a number of years. The legs are typically pinkish-yellow. The shade of gray on the upper parts are half way between a Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gull. The wing tip pattern of this individual is highly typical of Newfoundland smithsonianus Herring Gulls showing gray tongues extending deep on P9-P7.

Glaucous Gull x Herring Gull hybrids are probably outnumbered by GLGUxGBBG hybrids in recent years.  This is a 2nd winter hybrid Glaucous Gull x Herring Gull.  It has a Herring Gull patterned tail. Overall a little darker than average for this hybrid combo.  

 This adult gull resembling a Great Black-backed Gull had a pale back. The wing tip pattern appeared similar to a GBBG but was not photographed or well seen. If you look closely at the third photograph you will see that the tip of Primary # 5 just below the folded tertials has just a small black mark on  the outer web where as the GBBG shows nothing but black in this area.  The jury is out on this bird. It looks like a GBBG crossed with either a Herring or Glaucous Gull.


This hybrid Ring-necked Duck x Lesser Scaup is back at Quidi Vidi lake for its second winter. Can you see how we came to this conclusion?  What you can't see is the spread wing - the white wing stripe spread across the secondaries stopped before the primaries.  

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