Just a few months ago, I was gulling with Ken McDermott and I mentioned to him that an immature LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL was one bird I would really like to see in Orange County. Well, thanks to Bruce Nott, I got my opportunity today. Bruce posted to the Mearns Bird Club app that he had one at the Newburgh Waterfront. At the end of the workday, I ran for the bird. When I arrived, there were plenty of gulls loafing on the docks just north of Billy Joe’s Ribworks, right where Bruce reported the bird.
Part of the reason I wanted to see this bird, is that I wanted to know if I would be able to identify it. The answer is yes and no. When I first went through the birds, I didn’t have any luck. I gave Bruce a call and we talked through the field marks, mostly things I knew from the books, but hearing from Bruce, on the spot, while I was looking, was extremely helpful. After hanging up with him, I located the bird in less than five minutes. The dark mantle and the size (smaller than Herring and larger than Ring-billed) were the initial giveaways. I also could see well in my scope that the bill and the bulge at the tip wasn’t as heavy as the neighboring Herring Gulls, and it also had that punched in the eye look (although if I’m honest, I feel like I can see that in some Herring Gulls too). This was an exciting bird for me, and I enjoyed viewing and photographing it. I have to wonder if I would have identified this bird on my own. It’s hard to say, but now having seen this one, it will help my chances in the future. Huge thanks to Bruce.