Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Last of the Migrants

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.


John Holmes said...

Gulls are "difficult" - good luck with the ID of those..

john said...

Alas, I have given up.