[Tweeters] Little Gull update 4-18-06

Ruth and/or Patrick Sullivan godwit513 at msn.com
Tue Apr 18 18:50:25 PDT 2006

Hello Tweets,

The adult LITTLE GULL previously reported by Brad Waggoner and other birders was again located this afternoon between 2:15pm-3:40pm at the south end of Yukon Harbor(south of the town of Manchester)at Colby in Kitsap Co. The bird was first detected after scanning through a large flock of Bonaparte's Gulls that poured into Yukon Harbor from northerly directions and finally landing at the mouth of Curley Creek. The Little Gull was located,as it actively bathed with a portion of the Bonaparte's Gull flock,as it lifted it's wings revealing the complete black underwings. The Little Gull's head was completely black lacking the obvious eye crescents of the Bonaparte's Gull,as well as the bird having a shorter stance. The size comparison was not much between the 2 species of gulls,but was apparent enough if the angle was just right. A beautiful gull and our first time seeing full adult bird in breeding plumage! The Little Gull soon moved to the open shoreline of the exposed mudflats near the mouth of Curley Creek and began to preen and rest amongst the Bonaparte's Gulls and we attempted to walk out as close as we could over the open mudflats,which were quite deep at times. We at this time also noticed that the Little Gull showed a slight "rosy" tinge to the white upperbreast(as viewed in the best lighting),but also noticed that a few of the Bonaparte's Gulls also showed that feature too. At the closest distance to the Little Gull we were able to get within 70 feet without any of the Bonaparte's Gulls flying off. We remained watching the Little Gull until it flew off by itself at 3:40pm leaving the large flock of Bonaparte's Gulls,as it continued northward then east towards Seattle and passing the north end of Blake Island. During this time we obtained our best contrast looks of the black underwings,as well as the rounded wings which seemed broader than the Bonaparte's Gulls. The mantle color was pale gray with a lack of black in the primaries as in the Bonaparte's Gulls. The Bonaparte's Gull flock at this location ranged about 400+ birds with many of the gulls remaining even after we left the location loafing along the shoreline at the mouth of Curley Creek. Only a portion of the large flock flew off to other areas in the direction of Blake Island. 33 Sanderlings and 1 breeding plumaged Dunlin were also observed at this location,as we watched the Little Gull.

*** A note to Little Gull searchers at the Colby location***

Beware of deep mud during low tide,if you wish to venture or hike ot onto the mudflats from the pull-off along Yukon Harbr Drive. The mud can be very tricky if walking closer to the Bonaparte's Gulls,if they are there. If you stand in one location too long the mud seems to pull or suck you in place then it can be difficult to regain your stance when trying to move.

The exact location we observed the Little Gull was accessed along Yukon Harbor Dr. SE,where we parked at a large pull-off just north of the address 2333 Yukon Harbor Drive. This is just north of McGregor Drive. Yukon Harbor Drive is accessed off of Southworth Drive,which is the main road connecting Manchester to the Southworth Ferry Terminal.

Initially,we began our searches for the Little Gull unsuccessfully from a limited pull-off along Olympiad Drive SE just north of the Southworth Ferry Terminal. This exact location was accessed by driving north of the ferry terminal along Olympiad Drive SE,as it winds through a residential area then finally bringing you to the waterfront near Harper. Our vantage point was between the mainland and the south end of Blake Island and during our visit we tallied 500+ Bonaparte's Gulls that foraged in a limited area in the current lines south of Blake Island. We carefully scanned through the flocks,as they would shift around following the current line then return to the same location of about a 1/4 mile stretch. We noticed that many of the Bonaparte's Gulls never flew around and just loafed on the water,but many birds did fly. We searched the flock between 12:30pm-2pm and also scanned Yukon Harbor,as well as scanned northward towards Bainbridge Island without locating any sizable Bonaparte's Gull flocks. Small numbers of Harbor Porpoises and California Sea Lions were also detected from the waters bordering Yukon Harbor and Blake Island. At 2pm many of the Bonaparte's Gulls lifted from to water and flew west to Yukon Harbor,so we followed them to the spot where we had the Little Gull. In all we estimated 800+ Bonaparte's Gulls in the entire area,but the birds shift around alot.

It may be different each day when and where the Little Gull may show up and the longer it stays the more area it may cover. The key is to locate any sizable Bonaparte's Gull flock and searching diligently through he flock,especially if the Little Gull isn't detected in flight. Tide conditions may also have a factor of where he gulls may be and during our visit tide conditions appeared quite low. It does seem quite likely the Little Gull could return to the mouth of Curley Creek to bath and clean itself during the afternoon/evening since it offers a site for fresh water,but if it is within the flock of Bonaparte's Gulls it could be more difficult to separate due to the distance. Lighting conditions also appear more favorable for viewing during the afternoon/evening for search for the Little Gull at least if searching between Manchester and Harper. Anyhow,the Little Gull is a superb bird to see and nice find for Brad Waggoner since it is still a very rare bird!

Our other highlight while searching for the Little Gull was a single LESSER YELLOWLEGS and 3 Greater Yellowlegs along Olympiad Drive at Harper,where all the yellowlegs foraged along the exposed shoreline,as well as called frequently. Good numbers of waterbirds were also noted as we searched for the Little Gull including good numbers of Horned and Western Grebes,Surf Scoters,Brandt's Cormorants and various other species in smaller numbers. 50 "Black"Brant,28 Pacific Loons and 18 Red-throated Loons were also encountered from Yukon Harbor. A single Caspian Tern and an Osprey were noted along the Harper waterfront north of the Southworth Ferry Terminal. A single adult male ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD was perched atop a conifer tree just south of the Southworth Ferry Terminal and small numbers of Violet-green and Barn Swallows were noted from various residential locations. Lastly,on our way home after crossing the Narrows Bridge 2 WESTERN SCRUB JAYS flew together south over Hwy.16 just east of Jackson Ave. in Pierce Co.

Away from birding we enjoy great views of the Seattle skyline from Colby,as well as Mt.Rainier too!

Good birding,

Ruth and Patrick Sullivan
godwit513 at msn.com

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