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how many Laughing Gulls???? (and new Yellow-headeds)

1:58 pm

It has not only been a good spring for Franklin’s and Bonaparte’s Gulls, but it has also been a good (record high) year so far for Laughing Gulls. A presumed new Laughing was found today (Monday) in the Tijuana River Valley in the sewage flood overflow area where the mid-April Semipalmated Sandpiper was present to the west of Hollister Avenue near “PonyLand.” This bird is in the most immature plumage of all the birds seen over the past few months, with a dark cowl, darkish wash to breast, extensive brownish to the wing coverts, and a bold, black, complete tail-band. The first Laughing Gull this year was the long-staying bird seen by many birders bordering the sod farm between 25 Jan-6 Apr, which had a somewhat similar head pattern (cowl) to today’s bird but had gray wing coverts and only a few partial black feathers remaining in the tail. A Laughing present at the Tijuana River mouth area from 11 Apr-3 May has been treated by many as being this same bird from the sod farm, but it is NOT. It is yet a new bird with a 2/3-3/4 dark hood, a clean white tail, and a clean white breast. But during this same period there was another, a one-day bird–28 Apr–at the Tijuana River mouth that did match the sod farm bird, with a grayer breast than the older looking bird also at that site. (A similar bird to the original sod farm individual was also seen at the salt works on 25 Feb.) And if this wasn’t all complicated enough, between 12-17 Feb there were actually TWO birds seen simultaneously at the sod farm area, the second bird being a youngster that looks similar to the bird found today–but if the same bird then it would have been missed for 2-1/2 months!
And we’re not done yet….. Other individuals were seen at the San Diego River mouth on 10 Feb, at San Elijo Lagoon on 6 Mar which then may or may not have been the same individual then seen the following day at Batiquitos Lagoon on 7 Mar, with also a bird at Batiquitos on 23 Apr which looked similar but would have needed to have gone under the radar for 1-1/2 months.
So, the January-May total of Laughing Gulls in the county is, I think, somewhere between five and nine individuals–a new record. My vote is for a total of SEVEN, given the various plumages, date-spans, and long time periods of missing birds.
And if you sick and tired of Laughing Gulls, then I’ll mention that there were two new Yellow-headed Blackbirds today also west of Hollister where today’s Laughing Gull was.
–Paul Lehman & Bill M. Tweit, San Diego/Olympia