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Kumlien's Gull, Foster City, San Mateo County.

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  • Alvaro Jaramillo
    Hi folks I took my son to soccer practice, which was pretty near some good birding spots so I hit the Shell Bar in Foster City to look at shorebirds. In with a
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 12, 2013
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      Hi folks

      I took my son to soccer practice, which was pretty near some good
      birding spots so I hit the Shell Bar in Foster City to look at shorebirds.
      In with a group of 120 or so Ring-bills and Mews (handful of Californias,
      and two Westerns) was an adult Kumlien's Gull!! I was totally caught off
      guard as this would be the last place I would have predicted seeing this
      species, but there it was. I have been looking at Thayer's a lot this year
      and this bird differed in several respects:

      1) Most noticeable was that its mantle coloration was rather pale, in fact
      going back and forth it was about as pale as a Forster's Tern above!

      2) The structure was of a short billed, and had a distinctive dove-like
      expression due to the steep forehead and rounded head.

      3) Rather than the darker cinnamon brown streaking of Thayer's, this bird
      had very pale and diffuse streaking mainly on the lower neck, none on the

      4) The closed wingtips were not black, they were mid grey, a tad darker than
      you would see on a Glaucous-winged Gull, and the dark wingtip was quite
      reduced on the sitting bird.

      5) In flight the dark was reduced, essentially nothing from below, and above
      it seemed to be on the outer 3 or perhaps 4 primaries. As the bird flapped,
      you lost track that it had a darker wing tip, it looked essentially pale
      winged. But in photos the dark is clearly frozen in place and visible, in
      life it was very hard to see. This is in contrast with Thayer's where the
      dark is clearly visible from above.

      Other features

      1) Smaller in size than Western Gull by a large margin, but larger
      than Ring-billed.

      2) Similar in overall size to California, but more stocky bodied, and
      shorter billed, rounder headed.

      3) Eye mid pale, honey colored, not entirely dark. Could not see
      orbital ring.

      4) Legs short, perhaps shorter than on a Thayer's even. Not as bright
      bubblegum as on Thayers.

      5) Red gonys spot present, but very pale and diffuse.

      The bird was in view for about 5 minutes, perhaps more, before flying south
      towards Santa Clara County. I lost sight of it eventually, it kept on going.
      This was on a receding tide, and the bird was at least 150 yards from me
      visible through scope. Photos are with my 400 lens, so distant, but
      hopefully diagnostic. I was getting ready to digiscope with the phone when
      it took off. Here are 4 poor photos:


      This is my first "classic" Kumlien's Iceland I have seen here, all of the
      other Icelands I have seen in the Bay Area (I think its at least 4; 1 Santa
      Clara, 1 SF/Marin, 2 San Mateo) have been white winged birds. This was
      straight on mid-grey winged bird.

      Good birding


      Alvaro Jaramillo



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