We have been having rainy, gloomy days here in Anchorage for weeks on end. Last Saturday was no exception. There was an Audubon field trip scheduled on that day but when I looked outside to see yet another wet miserable day I decided to stay home.
That was a mistake. Aaron Bowman the trip's leader spotted sub-adult, Slaty-backed and Thayer's Gulls at Cuddy Park. I have seen them both at Cuddy Park before but they are hard to get gulls. Slaty-backed are an Asian species that only occasionally shows up in Alaska. I have only seen one.
I had Monday off from work and low and behold, the day was bright and sunny. No painting for me, I headed to Cuddy Park and then to Spenard Crossing to see if the Hooded Merganser was still hanging around.
At Cuddy Park I saw lots of confusing sub-adult gulls. What species is the gull in the photo above? You tell me. I'm all mixed up.
I knew that I could not sort them out on the spot so I tried to photograph every gull present.
I make the assumption that the front gull is a typical adult, Herring Gull. What about the darker gull in the back? I wanted it to be a Thayer's Gull but they have darker eyes and are smaller than Herring Gull. I can only conclude that they are both Herring Gulls. Different subspecies?
This one looks like a typical first Winter, Herring Gull to me.
The first Winter, Slaty-backed Gull looks very similar. Which one is this? I do not know. The various field guide illustrations are far from definitive.
It must be an almost adult Herring Gull with the beginnings of a red spot on its beak.
The big gull on the left is presumably a Herring Gull and the gull on the right is a little smaller. They both seem to have dark eyes but that may just be the angle of the light. The smaller gull is probably Thayer's but I am far from certain. I gave up on gulls and went over to Spenard Crossing.
There were still plenty of Mallards, a few Wigeons, and lots of immature Shovelers like those above. There were some other ducks far across the lake that I could not see well enough to identify. If the Hooded Merganser was there, I did not see it.
I got this bathing magpie in mid blink.
"Oh it feels so good".
After the bath the magpie flew over to me. I got it in mid blink again.
This shot from a slightly different angle shows that the bird did not have a cataract on its eye. I believe that some of these magpies enjoy human attention. I have had lots of interactions with magpies in this same area over the years. Magpies like to play.