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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Weird Gull seen on Sanibel-Captiva Christmas Bird Count!

Strange Gull with bright orange-red legs and bill seen yesterday on our Sanibel-Captiva Christmas Bird Count, FL.

It did not look like the usual gulls but turned out to be a Laughing Gull in winter plumage with abnormally colored legs. The legs are supposed to be blackish in winter. This is unusual but not unheard of as we have seen this abnormal coloration in legs and bill before a few times in Laughing Gulls. As a matter of fact, we have a photo of a bird like this in our The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America.  In summer this bird gets a black head and dark red bill and legs are dark with reddish undertone.

The most unusual gull for here we saw was this first winter Great Black-backed Gull, which is not frequently seen or, when seen, is in low numbers, on this Christmas Bird Count.

Here it is with a first winter Lesser Black-Backed Gull (left), another unusual gull for here, but not as uncommon as the Great Black-backed Gull. Great size comparison between the gulls here. The 3 Laughing Gulls and one Ring-billed Gull (between the two big gulls) seem small. The Great Black-backed Gull lives up to its name.

They were fighting over a bag of garbage.

Here's the first winter Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Amazingly we saw 52 Ospreys. This female was 

sitting on her nest platform. Ospreys are beginning to breed here at this time of year.

Don and Steve Oresman, who we were with, scan the beach. We covered the north end of Captiva Island at South Seas Plantation.

In a pond, we saw a dark blob on the far side. Hard to make our until I took the photo with my Canon SX 50, long telephoto super zoom point-and-shoot camera. Then we could see it was a Green Heron hiding in the vegetation.

And a big treat was this Magnificent Frigatebird.

We participated yesterday in the Sanibel-Captiva, FL Christmas Bird Count, covering the north end of Captiva. We found this weird gull with bright orange red legs and bill and it did not initially look like any of the usual gulls found here such as Ring-billed Gull and Laughing Gull. A brief thought was could it be a rare gull, such as a Black-headed Gull. On closer inspection it was the exact same size and shape as the other Laughing Gulls but with abnormally colored legs. In winter Laughing Gulls have dark legs and bill and in breeding plumage these turn a dark red and the head is black. Amazingly the more unusual bird we found, for here, was the Great Black-backed Gull, only seen infrequently or in low numbers on this count. Where we live in NH, this is a common gull.
We had lots of fun and another highlight was the large number, 52 of Ospreys seen. Hope you had fun on your CBC.

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