Wednesday 18 December 2013

Yellow-legged Gull... finally!

Ever since Bruce Mactavish found a Yellow-legged Gull in late October I've visited Quidi Vidi lake and nearby areas 18 times in hopes of seeing the bird. About 4 days ago, the lake froze over attracting several thousand gulls to roost there. The best chance and place to see most rare gulls in St. John's is on the lake when it's frozen, so I was optimistic that I'd find the gull this week... especially because I didn't have any lectures!

Today I decided to wait until the afternoon to visit the lake and my first stop was at the Rennies river outflow. The usual concentration of Iceland Gulls was there with one of the adult Common Gulls. After scanning those gulls a few times I drove over to the Virginia River outflow. While pulling up to a parking spot I started scanning the gulls that were bathing in the small bit of open water, to my astonishment in that quick scan I noticed a darkish gull with a bright white head and yellow legs!!! I hadn't even stopped the car when I had found the Yellow-legged Gull!

I quickly opened the door and took a few pictures in case the gulls flushed. Thankfully they didn't and I was able to study the bird for the next 45 minutes.

In some pictures it looks like there is a bit of grease above the eye, but I think it is just displaced feathers because I didn't see the darkness when it was roosting.

There did appear to be a few faint streaks on its nape (not visible in these photos) that are remnants from its basic plumage.

Notice the stout bill with obvious orbital ring around the eye:

The white trailing edge to the secondaries are visible in this photo:

 Bright yellow legs:

The mirror in p10 is visible here, a minority of YLGU's have a mirror in p9 as well, p5 has a slightly larger white apical spot than the other primaries:

The red gape is very obvious in this photo (it seemed to be more concealed on the birds left side):

Even when the bird was roosting it stood out from the several Lesser Black-backed Gulls due to the white head and slightly paler mantle:

It was nice to see that the bird is actually quite easy to pick out from a large flock of gulls, I was getting worried after several visits to Quidi Vidi that the slightly paler mantle than a LBBG would make it hard to find.

To my knowledge this is only the 4th time the/a Yellow-legged Gull has been seen since Bruce first found it in October. It'll probably be seen more often now that Quidi Vidi is frozen over!

Now I can finally go to Quidi Vidi and not worry about looking for the YLGU, and instead can focus my attention on other gullzz.