19 October 2008

Evening Grosbeaks and Thayer's Gull

It's been a while since my last post, but it's not because I haven't been birding. I have. Desperately. I'm so close to the record that I've spent ten or fifteen hours each weekend for the last two or three weeks birding, plus several hours during the week wherever I can fit it in. But, of course, the new birds are now few and far between.
On Friday, a school holiday, Stephanie and I hiked around Swan Peak looking for some of the mountain species I still haven't been able to find like Pine Grosbeak, White-winged Crossbill, and Evening Grosbeak. We didn't find any of these, but we did find nine Dusky Grouse, a species I took a special trip for a few weeks ago.

Yesterday Craig Fosdick and I birded all day, from the south end of the county to the northern border with Idaho. We were mostly looking for species that winter on the ocean but get lost inland this time of year, like the scoters, Long-tailed Ducks, and Pacific Loons. We didn't find any of these either, but while we were scanning Hyrum Reservoir, Craig heard a single call note above and quickly pointed out a flock of eight Evening Grosbeaks passing high overhead. The birds continued out over the reservoir, and we never saw them land. These birds are probably part of another kind of migration happening right now: the vertical migration. Rather than flying from north to south, these birds may have come from higher elevations down into the valley. Other vertical migrants we found in the valley today included Red-breasted Nuthatches and a Townsend's Solitaire.

Today I wanted to take a quick trip to Sue's Ponds to look for shorebirds, because I'm still hoping I can pick up a Dunlin or maybe something completely unexpected. The shorebirds were there in good numbers, and included ninety Long-billed Dowitchers, eight Pectoral Sandpipers, and one Stilt Sandpiper. But the highlight was not a shorebird, it was another surprise gull: at least two Thayer's Gulls (one is shown in the photo above - note the pink legs; brownish, not black, wingtips; and the relatively rounded head). I thought I might be able to find this species later in the winter, but I didn't expect them this time of year.


Ryan O'Donnell said...

I've solicited advice from several birding listservs about the identity of this bird. Opinions range from pure Thayer's Gull to pure Glaucous-winged Gull, but at the moment, the identification with the most support seems to be a Herring x Glaucous-winged hybrid. I'll keep this blog updated by adding comments until I feel some conclusion has been reached (even if that conclusion is that the bird is unidentifiable), and I'll adjust the year list as necessary at that time.

Sparverius said...

Only 3 more to go! (or 4, if this gull is removed from your list). Good luck.

Ryan O'Donnell said...

See my post for the 24th of October about my conclusion on this gull - and another one seen that day.