Part two of my MLK weekend of birding picked back up on Monday with a visit to my native Chester County to one of my surprisingly favorite spots - Southeastern Chester County Refuse Authority in West Grove, PA! This location, known affectionately as SECCRA, is a landfill that is one of the best spots in the county to look for gulls! I have been going to SECCRA for years to search through large groups of gulls in order to find rarities, and the best time to look for rare gulls in our area is in winterI Over the years, I have been fortunate to find seven different gull species at SECCRA, the newest seen today - Glaucous Gull!
Glaucous Gull, SECCRA - 2017-01-16
Gulls are difficult species to identify because there are many different species, and each species of gulls has multiple plumages based upon their age and the season in which you are observing them. This Glaucous Gull in the above photo is the larger gull that is mostly white featuring a pink bill with black tip, pink legs, and white wingtips. This individual is a first year bird, and it takes four years for this bird to get its adult plumage (plumage is a bird's feather's appearance). Glaucous Gulls breed in the spring and summer in northern Canada and Alaska, but in winter, they often disperse into the United States and can be found in landfills or bodies of water with other gulls. In the above photo, the majority of the other birds are Ring-billed Gulls, a very common species in our area in winter, and they are showing their adult plumage. In the back row toward the left side, you can see a larger, brown gull, which is a Herring Gull in its first year plumage. I could write a post on just gulls in our area and their plumages, so I will leave my explanation of the above photo at that!
The two above photos are shots of groups of gulls! I show these as an example of what we usually deal with when at SECCRA or other gull watching locations. We typically scan flocks, looking for birds that are larger or smaller than the others, then focus on the details of those individual birds since size is a pretty reliable indicator of a different species. For some birders, doing this sort of scanning is maddening, but me? I LOVE IT! Due to our diligent work of scanning for gulls at SECCRA, I have identified the following species there:
1. Ring-billed Gull
2. Herring Gull
3. Great Black-backed Gull
4. Lesser Black-backed Gull
5. Iceland Gull
6. Laughing Gull
7. Glaucous Gull
Who knows what species we will find next! Until then, I leave you with a little spot of beauty taken earlier that day: A male Eastern Bluebird!