Friday, 5 October 2012

Mega Vega

(I'll get to some photos from the Moosonee trip soon - I promise!)

Yesterday night I was feeling bored with nothing to do, but then Kenny invited me to hang out with him and Brandon at the cottage down in Kingsville. I decided to go for the night, then hit up Pelee this morning with Brandon while Kenny did his surveys for work.

A probable Vega Gull had been found in the Pelee area on September 30 by Kevin MacLaughlin, Bill Lamond and Richard Carr. Kevin had subsequently seen it on Tuesday and was becoming more certain of the identification. I was hoping to see this rare Siberian gull but didn't really have high hopes since it had only been seen twice in 5 days. As I was waiting for the tram at the visitor's centre, Brandon texted me that the gull was at the tip! Unfortunately the tram ended up being about 30 minutes late, but eventually I made it down to the tip, just in time for the bird to have disappeared. Brandon showed me some photos and it definitely looked good for a Vega Gull.

After a couple hours of waiting, the Vega Gull finally made an appearance, standing on the island off the tip with a couple hundred of Herring Gulls with smaller numbers of Ring-billed, Great Black-backed and Lesser Black-backed. I was able to get a few crappy photos of it, but Brandon had his big gun out and managed photos with a lot more detail.

putative Vega Gull - Point Pelee

It\s the bird in the middle/left, more towards the front of the group. These photos are straight out of the camera - no editing.

putative Vega Gull - Point Pelee

Vega Gull is considered by some to be the Siberian subspecies of Herring Gull, while some notable gull experts and authorities across the pond consider it to be a seperate species. However in North America it is still listed as a subspecies of Herring Gull so it doesn't count towards the year list.

Some key field marks include the darker mantle than Herring Gull, but noticeably lighter than Lesser Black-blacked Gull. Its structure was very similar to Herring Gull, as was its size. It had pink legs with a slightly greyish tinge towards the base of the legs. The bill has a large bright red gonydeal spot. The primary pattern showed a "string of pearls" and wide trailing edge to the wings. It had unmolted primaries, consistent with Vega Gulls this time of year. For a good discussion on Vega Gulls, including Ontario's one and only previous record, see Kirk Zufelt's blog. This bird was remarkably similar to it.

This emphasizes the point that Point Pelee is the gull capital of the world! Alan, how many species does that make? Some notables at Pelee over the years include Slaty-backed Gull, Ivory Gull, Mew Gull, Ross's Gull, Kelp Gull, and now Vega Gull.


This weekend will be devoted to family gatherings, but if something MEGA shows up I may have to excuse myself ;) Otherwise, don't expect much birding from me! I'll get some of the photos up from Moosonee, including shots of Carolina Wren, Harlan's Hawk, and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. I also have a post about OBRC records that should be interesting! When is the best week in the fall to find rarities? Stay tuned to find out :)

1 comment:

  1. Also check out the following:

    Zufelt, K. 2012. "Vega" Herring Gull in Algoma District: A new taxon for Ontario. Ontario Birds 30: 13-25.