On August 2nd, I set out to scan Lakeview Beach for shorebirds like any other August day. I anxiously await the return of shorebirds every year. It doesn’t even matter which ones. Send them all my way because I can’t get enough of them! However, there weren’t any shorebirds. It was kind of windy and looked like it might rain. Lucky for me, I have no problem sitting on the beach and scanning gulls.
This day there were quite a few and I’ve been enjoying my time with one particular 2nd cycle Lesser Black-backed Gull. If I sit next to any dead fish on the beach – this bird will get close! I think it’s really cool to be close enough to get not grainy photos of gulls. I also had three Caspian Terns I was watching. There were two adult birds and a juvenile.
While I was watching the Terns, I noticed a Herring Gull-sized bird behind the juvenile Caspian Tern. I thought to myself…that bird looks like an Iceland Gull, but it just HAS to be a Herring Gull with bleached primaries. It made more sense to me based on the time of year. I’ve never seen an Iceland Gull when it’s warm in Ohio. So, I did what I usually do – photographed the bird so I could ask for ID help later. But for some reason I failed to get open wing shots. I posted to the North American Gulls page to inquire if this bird was indeed a bleached out Herring Gull. Open wing shots are very helpful when trying to identify gulls. They told me that open wing shots would be helpful, but others also suspected that this bird was indeed an Iceland Gull.
The route that I take to Lakeview had a bridge that was closed for a week, so I didn’t return to check on the gull until August 11th. When I walked onto the beach, able to find the bird pretty quickly! I was surprised that it was still there! I was able to get fairly close and I took even more photos. This particular day, there were a dozen people letting their kids run though the gulls. Yes, they see me there with my camera and binoculars and still let their kids run through the birds as if it is some kind of Olympic sport. It’s rather irritating. The gulls would fly out to the breakwall, but fortunately they kept coming back. I figured my chance for open wing shots was gone – my reaction time is not quick. After scanning for maybe 20 minutes, I relocated the gull out by the breakwall. And it was bathing! Now was my chance – and I did it! Got the open wing shot to confirm that this bird was a Thayer’s type Iceland Gull. In Ohio! In August!
Now it’s kind of a project for me – to document the molt pattern on this bird! I returned to find the bird again on the 12th with my friend, and fellow Rogue Birder, Tim. We also scoped for birds with bands on their legs and found FOUR different banded birds! I don’t remember why, but I skipped the 13th. When I returned on the 14th to check with my friends Beth and Tom, the bird was not there. We got there kind of late and I’m guessing the pint-sized Olympians already scared the birds from the beach. On the 15th I relocated the bird on the breakwall. I didn’t observe it very long because the beach was kind of crowded. The bird was still present on the morning of the 16th and I got to observe it for at least a half hour before an Eagle scared it away. And you can bet I’ll be back to watch it while I anxiously await the return of shorebirds!