[Tweeters] Slaty-backed Gull at Renton 1-29-07

Ruth and/or Patrick Sullivan godwit513 at msn.com
Mon Jan 29 19:33:13 PST 2007

Hello Tweets,

Today we birded from the Fife area in Pierce Co. to the mouth of the Cedar River at Renton. Our day began along S.R.509 near Fife,where the immature SNOW GOOSE and 2 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE were observed amongst a large flock of 75+ Canada Geese. This is the same location where Guy McWethy reported this same flock yesterday on Tweeters in a recently cleared field on the south side of S.R.509 between Alexander and Taylor Avenues. Traffic is quite busy along this stretch of the highway,as you drive east but this is at least one small pull-off along with fairly good shoulders for those interested. The Snow Goose is a good Pierce Co. species along with the 2 Greater White-fronted Geese that are much easier to get in this county,especially during migration. A single Am.Kestrel was also noted at the same location as the geese flock,as well as a Cooper's Hawk observed perched in a deciduous tree along the north side of S.R.509.

We arrived at the mouth of the Cedar River at 1:30pm,where a small amount of gulls gathered. With few gulls noted we decided to walk a portion of the Cedar River south from the north parking lot south to the first kiosk along the immediate shoreline. A few passerine species were of note including 3-4 Yellow-rumped Warblers, 5 Ruby-crowned Kinglets, 2 Lincoln's Sparrows, and 3 "Sooty"Fox Sparrows. The Lincoln's Sparrows and the "Sooty"Fox Sparrows were all observed along the brushy "greenbelt" along the west side of the Cedar River opposite the park area. By 3pm many gulls began to gather at the mouth of the Cedar River then at 3:30pm 2 adult Bald Eagles pursued an immature gulls,as both birds flew low over Lake Washington towards Gene Coulon Park. Both birds soon separated as one of the adult birds kept on the pursuit of the gull,then finally caught it on the surface of the water while all the remaining gulls at mouth of the Cedar River all flushed. During the main pursuit an adult Peregrine Falcon got interested in all the action by swooping in on the Bald Eagles two times before flying off and landing on a tall Boeing building nearby. Both Bald Eagles soon landed on a partially submerged log,as we looked east towards Gene Coulon Park and one bird dismantled the immature gull,as the other bird stood on the log nearby and watched. Within 10 minutes the gulls was fully plucked of feathers and the meal began and by 30 minutes the bird shared the catch with the other Bald Eagle. The bird remained on the log for another 20 minutes before flying off in different directions. 

The mouth of the Cedar River was completely void of any gulls until 4:15pm when many gulls began arriving from the southeast,which continued for the next 30 minutes and by 4:45pm there were good concentrations of gulls here and as we scoped eastward at Gene Coulon Park. We were soon joined by a few birders and at 5pm a 2nd winter plumaged GLAUCOUS GULL was spotted amongst the large gull flock along the outer edge of the sand spit. The bird was big and clearly a "normal" sized Glaucous unlike the adult female observed yesterday,known as "Bob". The Glaucous Gull was mostly observed preening and staying somewhat hidden amongst the other gulls,but it's overall larger,bulkier size and much whiter plumage separated it from the regular gulls. Overall the bird showed an overall white plumage with extensive smudgy areas on the mantle with a bicolored bill and a small,but pale iris.It was an interesting bird!

At 5:15pm Knute Hansen of Renton spotted the adult SLATY-BACKED GULL intermingling with other gulls on the outer edges of the mouth of the Cedar River. The bird soon lifted along with other gulls by a sudden,but unknown disturbance and within 10 minutes the flock soon resettled. The Slaty-backed Gull was soon relocated near the same location as it was previously and allowed great scope views by all 6 of us birders,as we watched it preen and hobble on one foot from its injured leg or foot. The bird was a life bird for 2 birders,which was that much more special including Knute,who originally spotted the bird! It is interesting how both the Slaty-backed Gull and the Glaucous Gull were not detected flying in,but it doesn't take much for a gull to sneak in amongst the masses of gulls. As the light began to quickly fade and temperatures dropped considerably we enjoyed great views of the Slaty-backed Gull until we all decided to leave at 5:45pm. Essentially,we left the Slaty-backed Gull and it was well worth the effort waiting for it by having patience although everyday is different here! This afternoon we thought there were much more gull concentrations than the previous day with far more numbers of Herring and Thayer's Gulls.

Other notable species observed from the mouth of the Cedar River included the following:

20 Greater White-fronted Geese
2 Greater Scaup
1 Eared Grebe
1 Spotted Sandpiper

Good birding,

Ruth and Patrick Sullivan
godwit513 at msn.com

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