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Checklist S44607307

 
Location
Cohasset--Little Harbor and Sandy Beach, Norfolk County, Massachusetts, US ( Map ) ( Hotspot )
Date and Effort
Sun Apr 15, 2018 12:33 PM
Protocol:
Traveling
Party Size:
1
Duration:
3 hour(s), 49 minute(s)
Distance:
0.4 mile(s)
Observers:
Marshall Iliff
Comments:
Vin Zollo got the word out about a Mew Gull at Sandy Beach, Cohasset, at 8:30am but it was not until noon that I was free to go look for it. Photos from Vin and Dan Burton over the next couple hours showed some interesting traits possibly indicating American Mew Gull, L. c. brachyrhynchus, which is virtually unknown from the Northeast. When I arrived, Kathleen Rawdon was there and Dennis Peacock had just left, with "the" Mew Gull apparently missing. Wind was fierce with small snowflakes like tiny daggers in the fierce east winds. Tide was high and there were 150+ gulls on the beach and 200+ sheltering on the lee of offshore rocks (mostly Herring and Great Black-backed out there, I assumed). Some were bathing offshore as well and harder to check. Kathy and I walked down to the bridge (under construction) and found no gulls and so I returned to the beach while Kathy headed home, I immediately spotted the brachyrhynchus sitting among Ring-billeds and spent the next several hours taking pictures, occasionally scoping from the lee, and getting the word out. After 45 minutes or an hour, during one of the times the Mew Gull relocated down the beach, I started taking pictures of it only to notice 1) it was clean headed without streaking; 2) it was a Larus canus canus, European Mew; 3) it was banded with a blue ring on the left leg reading 74J. I initially assumed this was "the" Iceland-banded Common Gull from Lynn/Nahant, but Sean Williams reminded me that was a metal band so this one must be different. Over the next couple hours I saw one or the other Mew Gull on the beach for most of the time, but hung out through 4:15 hoping to get both on the beach together side-by-side. I never quite achieved that, largely because the wing and driving rain (regularly getting droplets on my lens, as seen in the duller gray photos below) made it very hard to scan and keep track of both birds. During my time there there was clearly a lot of changeover in the gulls, with Laughing, Lesser Black-backed, and Iceland all dropping in rather suddenly.

Impressive numbers of Mew Gulls, of several subspecies, being seen in New England and beyond this year, with several in New York, at least six this winter in Massachusetts, and a few others. It is possible that the very cold snap in western Europe, that caused a major lapwing exodus, also caused some European gulls to "flee" across the ocean. These likely would have ended up to our south, possibly lost among the large wintering Ring-billed numbers in the mid-Atlantic, and would now be moving back north (March-April). The same pattern in reverse has been implicated in Ring-billed and Bonaparte's records in western Europe (see Cottridge and Vinicombe 1997).

It is also amazing how often Mew Gulls occur in multiples. I have now seen Mew Gull in the state on four dates, and on four of those a second previously unknown bird has been involved as well: 1) one lone Kamchatka twitched 5 Mar 2011; 2) at least one Common Gull with excessive white in wingtip at Race Point 13 Mar 2016 the same day that a Common Gull with "normal" wingtips was photographed earlier in the day; 3) one Common Gull at Lynn Beach that was observing while Joe Paluzzi told me of a Mew Gull on nearby King's Beach, which proved to be a Kamchatka (probably the same returning bird seen since at least 2011); 4) Cohasset. Other multiple Mew Gull events have occurred in Connecticut (20-21 Apr 2016), Lynn/Nahant, and Race Point (15 Apr 2017).

Only one other birder came by during my entire 4 hours at the beach, which seemed odd for a first-ever twitchable American Mew--which of course is a likely split. WEATHER: Strong E or ESE winds, 20-25 mph, temperatures 35-38 F, alternating light rain, light snow, light sleet, and clear. Overcast most of the time but bright overcast for a very brief period.
Submitted from eBird for iOS, version 1.6.40
Species
22 species (+2 other taxa) total
6
Brant (Atlantic)
4
Canada Goose

harbor

2
Common Eider
45
Surf Scoter
5
White-winged Scoter (North American)
50
scoter sp.
1
Common Goldeneye

female

6
Red-breasted Merganser
1
Horned Grebe
6
Northern Gannet
125
Double-crested Cormorant
Breeding Code
NB Nest Building (Confirmed)
60
Purple Sandpiper

60 on rock offshore, sheltering on leeward side

2
Laughing Gull

*uncommon in Norfolk Co. in early spring; adults; photos

© Marshall Iliff

nice lineup of American Mew (front), Ring-billed, and Laughing

Age:
Adult
Sex:
Sex Unknown

© Marshall Iliff

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note European Mew just right of the Laughing

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1
Mew Gull (European)

***rare; adult; clean white head, eye dark brown with little pupil contrast, faint reddish orbital ring, size close to Ring-billed, clean yellow bill with faint ghost of ring on bill. Photos of spread wing confirm ssp. ID, notably showing narrow white tips to inner primaries that were notably narrower than secondary tips. Banded with blue band on left leg reading 74J and metal band (worn? No number obvious) on right which has been reported to Eurring.

Interestingly it fed both above the wave line and in the foam washed up by higher waves, as well as the wrack zone (rarely) like the American Mew, but seemed much more willing to feed in the wash zone of the waves, spending a fair amount of the time wading, swimming, or hover-pattering on the surface almost like a storm-petrel. The American Mew never did this latter behavior.

Interestingly, there were additional L. c. canus observed today at Race Point (continuing bird from 12-15 April at least, seen 15 Apr by Liam Waters et al.) and Collins Lake, Schenectady Co., NY

© Marshall Iliff

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© Marshall Iliff

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good underwing shot

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best wing spread from behind

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note band on left leg: blue 74J

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1
Mew Gull (American)

***mega; first or second photo documented state record first found by Vin Zollo at 8:30 this morning. Few along beach in several zones, including the high seaweed wrack where Ring-billeds and others may have been eating sand flies etc., along the edge of the waves almost Sanderling like, and in the foam washed up by the strongest waves, where lots of gulls seemed to be finding food. It never fed in the actual surf, although a couple times when it flew offshore to bathe or join other gulls it seemed to drop down and maybe pick something off the water and a few times when flying over the ocean along the beach it seemed to be kiting and looking for food to drop in on. note the behavioral differences in feeding behavior as compared the the L. c. canus.

Species ID obvious by small size, thin bill without ring, dark eye (dark chocolate iris contrasting with pupil only at best views at close range). Bright red orbital ring starting to show. Head still with some blotchy streaking on rear of head and nape and finer brown streaking around cheek. Olive cast to bill with some smudgy subterminal marks and egs olive-yellow and noticeably duller than nearby Ring-billeds. Compare to L. c. canus which was in high plumage with white head and brighter yellow soft parts.

Subspecies ID straightforward from the photos by: 1) small size relative to Ring-billeds, probably 15-20% smaller, apparent in multiple image below; 2) relatively short and fine bill, noticeably thinner and shorter proportionally than Common Gull narby; 3) mantle 2-3 shades darker than Ring-billed Gull with strongly contrasting tertial crescent which made it easy to pick out by mantle shade alone. The nearby Common Gull was maybe 1-2 shades darker and noticeably paler than the brachyrhynchus in direct comparison (see comparison shots under Herring and Ring-billed Gull below); 4) wing pattern with strong "string of pearls" effect and large white tongue tip on p8 which had black on the outer web reaching about 2/3 to primary coverts; 5) broad white tips to secondaries that extends to inner primaries (unlike L. c. canus). While sometimes a detailed analysis of wing pattern is required, the ID of this one was straightforward by the small size (eliminating Kamchatka) and traits such as mantle shade, structure, and broad white inner primary tips that easily eliminated canus.

This record would be the second photo documented state record following Will Sweet's record of an
adult photographed at Race Point Beach, Barnstable County, 15 Apr 2017 that was initially identified by several folks as a probable Kamchatka, but now appears to be a better fit for brachyrhynchus. Veit and Petersen (1993) mention two records of American Mew Gull, a first-cycle at Newburyport Harbor, 10 Oct 1980 (Veit, Perkins) and a first-cycle at Nantucket, 28-29 Sep 1981 (Perkins); the MARC has not received any documentation and both are quite unseasonal, so maybe better considered hypothetical.

There are just three other New England record (adult Aug 2013 at Thomaston and first-cycle Jan-Feb 2016 at Owls Head Harbor, both in Knox Co., plus 20-21 Mar 2016 at Hammonasset SP, Connecticut); small and dainty, back 2-3 shades darker, some streaking still on head; photos of wing pattern confirm subspecies; more notes to be added.

© Marshall Iliff

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© Marshall Iliff

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© Marshall Iliff

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droplets on lens in these shots

© Marshall Iliff

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droplets on lens in these shots

© Marshall Iliff

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© Marshall Iliff

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droplets on lens in these shots

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droplets on lens in these shots

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droplets on lens in these shots

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Sex Unknown

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190
Ring-billed Gull

© Marshall Iliff

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note brachyrhynchus Mew as well

© Marshall Iliff

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both canus and brachyrhynchus also in image

© Marshall Iliff

both canus and brachyrhynchus also in image

© Marshall Iliff

both canus and brachyrhynchus also in image

© Marshall Iliff

both canus and brachyrhynchus also in image

© Marshall Iliff

both canus and brachyrhynchus also in image

© Marshall Iliff

both canus and brachyrhynchus also in image

© Marshall Iliff

both canus and brachyrhynchus also in image

© Marshall Iliff

note American Mew Gull on right side of image

250
Herring Gull

© Marshall Iliff

both canus and brachyrhynchus also in image

© Marshall Iliff

1
Iceland Gull (Iceland)

SY; photos

© Marshall Iliff

© Marshall Iliff

2
Lesser Black-backed Gull

SY feeding offshore briefly and adult on beach for two minutes or so; many LBBG on the move now

40
Great Black-backed Gull
2
Black-capped Chickadee

a bit E of beach

1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet

heard calling quietly from pines; many migrants around recently

1
American Robin
2
Song Sparrow (melodia/atlantica)
 

Are you submitting a complete checklist of the birds you were able to identify?

Yes