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Checklist S29171194

Lake Hudson SRA, Lenawee County, Michigan, US ( Map ) ( Hotspot )
Date and Effort
Sat Apr 23, 2016 12:27 PM
Party Size:
1 hour(s), 3 minute(s)
1.0 mile(s)
Karl Overman
sunny 55F. I delayed putting this in to see if the Ross's Gull stayed for a second day but many looked for the bird the following day without success.
24 species total

basic plumage, seen from swimming beach


To some extent I fumbled the ball on this as I knew it was something unusual but in the field I never seriously thought “Ross’s Gull” so I didn’t try calling anyone to come to this fairly remote location. I saw two small gulls from the swimming beach. The closer one but still quite distant was a basic plumaged Bonaparte’s Gull. The second gull was even further away, close to the far side (300 yards?). I immediately was struck by the wing pattern--the outer edge of the wings seemed totally framed in a wide band of black. I really didn’t know what to make of that. Juvenile Little Gull? Juvenile Kittiwake? Aberrant Bonaparte’s? It looked more like the pattern of a juvenile Kittiwake of which I have seen quite a few over the years on the Great Lakes. I knew very well that spring Kittiwakes in any plumage are very rare on the Great Lakes and the one spring Kittiwake I did see and photograph, already had a plumage like an adult and this was in early April. Still not enough alarm bells going off for me for some reason. I did see the head quite well even though distantly--no black nape marking, a white head (no black cap as I would expect a non adult Little Gull at this time of year) and a black dot behind the eye. It now seems surreal that I had repeated views of this bird--always in flight--as I counted Ruddy Ducks! I had a strange thought about the head of this gull as i looked at it from time to time--Gull-billed Tern. Now it obviously was a lot closer looking to a Bonaparte’s than that tern but it underscored to me that something was not quite right with this bird. In the field it never crossed my mind to rule out Ross’s Gull so I never looked for underwing pattern and I never focused in the field on the tail shape. How I wish I had. I knew something was not right about this bird and my only hope was to try to photograph it which I did even given the great distance. Once home, I hit the books and came across photos of Ross’s Gulls into May with this bold wing pattern but no Kittiwakes in spring that looked like that. Also at least two of the photos show a wedge shaped tail. The tail shape, size and wing pattern leads to the conclusion that it was a Ross’s Gull on this otherwise unassuming inland lake. The gull was still present when I left.