By Andrea Wirth
On Saturday January 25th, 16 RRAS members and friends participated in the Lake Mead Midwinter Birding field trip. Our stops included Hemenway Harbor, Sail Beach, Boulder Beach, and 33 Hole. With the expertise of our guides (Alex Harper, Ben Zyla, and Brandon Miller) we got an excellent introduction on how to identify California Gulls and Ring-Billed Gulls, and tips for working through gull identification generally.
Gulls are complicated birds that take up to four years to reach maturity and distinguishing between the California Gulls and Ring-Billed Gulls (the ones you’re most likely to find at Lake Mead) can be difficult. Feather, bill, eye, and leg color are helpful when looking at adult gulls, but these are less helpful traits when the birds are young. So for those younger birds, or even for picking the odd bird out of a flock, Alex recommends also looking at posture as well as length and position of the primaries and tail when the gull is standing. California Gulls stand more upright and their primaries and tail feathers tend to point towards the ground where the Ring-billed Gulls’ posture is lower (maybe a little bit of a slouch) and their primaries and tail feathers don’t hang quite so low.
In addition to viewing and learning about gulls, some other bird highlights from the trip include:
If you are interested in learning more about gulls, here are some resources recommended during the field trip:
The ebird lists from the trip can be found here:
https://ebird.org/checklist/S63800560 (Hemenway Harbor)
https://ebird.org/checklist/S63772369 (Sail Beach)
https://ebird.org/checklist/S63783024 (Boulder Beach)
https://ebird.org/checklist/S63876911 (33 Hole)
Many, many thanks again to Alex, Ben, and Brandon for leading a great trip! We all learned a bunch and had a good time.