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Last Friday, I had already decided that I was going to look for gulls the next day. The only ones I usually see are Ring-billed, Herring, Black-backed and the occasional Laughing Gull that hangs outside of the comedy club. My plan was to make an attempt to figure out the age of gulls based on their plumage and markings. On the same night, a report came across that a Slaty-backed Gull had been found at the Windsor Landfill. This would be the first confirmed record of one in Connecticut. A very skilled and determined birder named Nick Bonomo was the one who found it. I decided to take a ride the next morning to see if the gull was still around . I arrived at the landfill as soon as it opened along with 20 other birders. Soon after we arrived, We saw this (1st winter?) Iceland Gull.
There must have been well over a thousand Gulls at the dump, probably more. I didn't take the time to count them.
We found the bird we were looking for within the first half-hour that I was there. In all honesty, I don't know that I would have picked this gull out amongst the others that day if I were by myself. I guess I'll never know. Another birder who was knowledgeable about gulls found the slaty-backed for us. I had to see it a few times before I was able to clearly distinguish it from the other gulls. The photos I took of the bird of the bird came out poorly. You can see the Slaty-backed Gull does have very pink legs and somewhat of a pot belly. It also has black wing tips with white dots that you can see when the bird flies. Click on the link for Nick Bonomo's blog: Shorebirder to see a detailed description of the SB-Gull along with some great photos of the bird. It was fun to know that I was seeing the first confirmed Slaty-backed Gull in Connecticut. One birder from New Jersey told me that he had missed this particular gull on five previous attempts.
I watched gulls at the Windsor Landfill before heading off to Wethersfield Cove to have a look at what was hanging around there. I took notes, photos, and even made sketches of the gulls that I saw. I posted the photos on a bird identification website and sadly discovered that my assessment of the gulls ages were mostly wrong. A lot of them turned out to be "sub-adults according to other birders who had some experience with gulls ." In fairness to myself, I didn't even see sub-adult listed as one of the choices in my field guide. I'm thinking about purchasing a gull specific field guide to help me gain a little more knowledge on the subject. I saw a review by Mike of 10,000 Birds for a field guide called Gulls Of The Americas.
Does anyone have a recommendation for a field guide that specialize in gulls?
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Here's a video of the Slaty-backed Gull in action. There was a lot of noise from the wind but you can also hear birders talking in the background, some of whom came from out of state just to see the Slaty-backed Gull.