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Most Interesting, Charlene!!!

I sent three emails today about this revision and only Bob Fisher replied...

I concur with you and with Paul... My money is better spent elsewhere...

Patrick...
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Patrick Harrison
Shelbyville, Shelby County, Missouri
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Subject: Some thoughts on the new Gull guide
From: Paul Lehman <lehman.paul AT VERIZON.NET>
Date: Tue, 23 Nov 2004 12:36:30 -0500

IDFrontiers:

I picked up my copy of the new Olsen and Larsson gull guide a couple
days ago. I had briefly seen an earlier copy of the version that was
pulled from the market. In that earlier version I had seen quite a few
errors of information on status, distribution, and migration, and was
hoping most or all of them would be corrected in this new-and-improved
version. Unfortunately, such seems not to be the case. I have barely
thumbed through the book and have already noticed a bunch of incorrect
or misleading statements (some also with poor grammar, further
complicating interpretation). For example, statements about the Bering
Sea (in both Alaska and Russia) status and distribution of
Glaucous-winged, Slaty-backed, and Vega Gulls all have problems; and
data on the peak numbers of Lesser Black-backed Gulls in the East (e.g.,
in their stronghold in eastern PA) are obsolete. Now, if some of you
think this is splitting hairs, then look at the range map for Franklin's
Gull and note that the species is shown breeding in the western U.S.A.
only in approximately eastern Oregon and a bit of Idaho! I would assume
that a careful check of the book will turn up many other similar sorts
of errors.

As for the ID of birds....one species that has struck me already is
Slaty-backed Gull and a number of the photos of first-winter and
second-winter birds, particularly several of the photos between number
501 (which for some reason comes before photo 500) through 510. Now, I
must admit that despite spending some 250 days in early autumn at
Gambell, Alaska the past 5+ years--where I see up to several
Slaty-backeds most days I am there--I am still uncertain as to whether I
am seeing "pure," juvenile and first-summer/winter Slaty-backeds. I have
yet to feel comfortable identifying birds as such there, despite there
being the regular numbers of second-summers through adults (and at Nome,
200 miles away), regularly in the 10-20 birds per-fall-season range. So
we certainly assume that younger birds are present as well; but we are
leary calling some as such.  The problem is, many birds there, and shown
in photos 500-510 look a lot like darker Glaucous-wingeds (which are
increasing in the norerthn Bering Sea and are now bordering on fairly
common), or like birds that are probably hybrids involving
Glaucous-wingeds in part (e.g., with Herring, Vega, or Slaty-backed).
There are certainly lots of hybrid gulls floating around the Bering Sea.
(I've also seen what looked like a likely mated pair of Slaty-backed and
Glaucous-winged with 2 juveniles at Attu Island in Sep 2000.) All those
hybrids, the SUBSTANTIAL VARIABILITY shown in a number of species
(ESPECIALLY Vega, and also Slaty-backed and Glaoucous-winged), and the
worn plumages shown by some of the birds in Aug/Sep, makes a fair amount
of the early-autumn gull study at Gambell and other nearby locations
rather frustrating! The feeling of "inadequacy" runs rampant!

Anway, back to the gull-guide photos....How's about photo 501: what
eliminates a hybrid Glaucous-winged X Hering/Vega? Or 507, 509, and 510:
doesn't the gray coming in on the mantle look awfully pale for
Slaty-backed?

I am not professing to know the answers. But so far, I have gotten more
confused!

Help!

--Paul Lehman

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