During an otherwise slow month, the gull spectacle at the Davis Landfill and the Davis Wastewater Treatment Plant far exceeded any past reports. Thousands of gulls feed at the landfill and loaf on the treatment plant levees, and reports of three state review species brought out even reluctant gull watchers. Photos and documentation of Slaty-backed, Lesser Black-backed, and Iceland Gulls should be submitted to the California Bird Records Committee (californiabirds.org).
Topping the list was an adult Slaty-backed Gull found on 2/27, which continued through at least 3/7. Only since 2005 has this Asian species been on the official state list, and most records have been from Half Moon Bay. 1998 reports from Davis and Folsom Lake may be revisited now that this species is known to occur here.
Adult Slaty-backed Gull (dark-backed gull at center). Photo by Daniel Lee Brown, 3/4/09.
Same bird in flight showing the distinctive wing tip pattern: limited black with white “string of pearls.” Photo by Daniel Lee Brown, 3/4/09.
A very pale first-winter bird thought by many to be an Iceland Gull (possibly of the nominate race glaucoides) was found on 2/12 through at least 2/15. There were several apparent Kumlien’s Iceland Gulls also reported during the month (this subspecies is less distinctive, and there is controversy surrounding Kumlien's/Thayer's Gull taxonomy).
This beautiful white gull is thought by many to be a first-winter Iceland Gull. Photo by Todd Easterla, 2/13/09
The same bird in flight. Photo by Todd Easterla, 2/13/09
Adult Lesser Black-backed Gull. Photo by Todd Easterla, 2/12/09
An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull was found on 2/12 through 2/17, with a second-winter bird reported on 2/27, continuing into March, and another adult was found on 2/28. There had been no previous records for this species in Yolo County. It must be mentioned that these highlight gulls were all found by Todd Easterla. Locally impressive were up to four Glaucous Gulls and three Western Gulls among the multitudes at this site.
Aside from the gulls, this month produced much needed rain, but fewer bird reports than usual. Interesting finds include a Long-eared Owl at Cosumnes River Preserve (CRP) on 2/7, perhaps the same bird that was found on 1/1, and a Chipping Sparrow at Discovery Park on 2/24. A Common Poorwill was reported in a barn near Winters on 2/26. This species is rarely reported in winter, and can go into a hibernation-like state for weeks at a time. White-throated Sparrows were reported regularly at CRP and near the Gristmill access of the American River Parkway. It is widely understood that raven numbers are increasing, though 240 Common Ravens reported along a two-mile stretch of County Line Rd (Yolo/Colusa) is amazing. The report of a Western Kingbird at Stone Lakes NWR on the 1/3 Rio Cosumnes CBC was omitted from last month’s column. This species is perhaps less expected than a Tropical Kingbird in winter (that is certainly the case along the coast), but this year there were local reports in November (Lodi) and December (south of Davis).
Many of these reports first appeared on the Central Valley Bird Club Listserv. Visit www.cvbirds.org and click "Listserv" for details. With nearly 100 reports, it is impossible to list everyone; however, I want to thank the following for reports on the above species and for providing additional information: Steve Abbott, Roger Adamson, Dan Brown, Todd Easterla, Andy Engilis, Gil Ewing, Steve Hampton, Jim Holmes, Jeri Langham, Ed Pandolfino, Vance Russell, John Sterling, John Trochet, and Dan Williams. Thanks to everyone for their reports—without them, this column would not be possible.