This morning when I walked my dog down to the water at our boat launch I saw, besides the hundreds of geese sheltering in the bay, an unusual gull. I, of course, had neither binoculars nor camera with me but the field marks were obvious to the naked eye: white gull, smallish, the leading edge of the entire wing was black for probably at least 1/4 the width of the wing, and there was also a black stripe across the outer edge of the tail. The flight was fairly buoyant as it dipped and glided over the water.
It wasn't until just now that I've had a chance to sit down and consult my Sibleys and the only gull I can see that matches what I saw is the Black-legged Kittiwake! Boy do I regret not having my camera with me because this would be a lifer for me and for the Chehalis Estuary but unless someone knows of another gull that it could be....I am 100% positive of the field markings.
Hi Kathy. You didn't mention bill colour, or any black mark behind the eye, but Black-legged Kittiwake sounds like a distinct possibility to me. I have 2-3 hours to kill tomorrow morning, while my car is in the shop in Chilliwack. Now, you have given me a place to go birding. I should be there between 10:30-12:30. I'll head to viewing platform. Maybe, see you there. Thor
Sounds like a great description of a Black-legged Kittiwake to me, Katthy!
A Sabine's Gull came to mind as well, although the tail is usually pure white. Then again, I have only had good looks at one in my life! If you get rid of the word "leading" edge of the wing and reduce the 1/4 black to 1/10, you could change it into a Bonaparte's Gull perhaps.
It is a very good description of a Kittiwake though, I would stick to your original identification.
Thor....I will try to find my way to that area around noon...that is when I usually take my beast for her mid day walk. I've been for two more walks today and didn't spot it again. It was too far off to see bill color or anything else....the black on the wings and tail was so obvious you couldn't miss it! I did think Sabine's gull as well (I've only ever seen an immature one) but when I checked Sibley's it didn't match where the Black-legged Kittiwake was right on.
Kathy et al: I was at the estuary for a couple of hours this morning, and no luck on the kittiwake. The gulls that were there were pretty hard to see in detail, as they were so far away. There were, however, a few smallish gulls around, and my best guess at 60x powere on my scope is Mew Gulls. I am sure this is not the gull you saw. There was no black blanding on the tail for one thing. Cheers, Thor
Thor....sorry I missed you...it's been one of those weeks and I didn't make it down there until about 12:30...knew you had been long gone because as I was approaching the bay by the viewing platform, I was startled by splashing in the water just on the other side....a pair of coyotes had obviously just swum across to the flats from the park....my dog went insane tracking them so I had difficulty doing anything but hold her back (she is a sled dog after all!).
Re the Kittiwake....I haven't seen it since the initial sighting...it was right in close...there was no mistaking the markings. There was a lot of bird activity in that big grove of cedars by the platform this afternoon....saw a Western Tanager...which amazed me, this late in the year! Couldn't make out much else due to my dog...there wasn't anything much in the water close in...no doubt due to the coyotes.
Nice work Kathy! What a great sighting!! The only other species that comes to mind could be Bonaparte's Gull but I think you know that species. Also, they're pretty small as well and dont have the wing markings as you described. Mew Gull size? No way that's a Mew Gull but the size should be similar (according to the book)
I wonder if that's a bird that will hang around for awhile! I sadly wont have a chance to look in the coming days.
Great find, Kathy!
Cool sighting of a late Western Tanager too!
Gord Fraser Valley Birding Administrator eBird Regional Editor (Fraser Valley)