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Thanks to Charlene and Jackie for posting this morning's finds.  As Charlene mentioned, I was a certainly beside myself when I got to Riverlands, St. Charles County, this morning and quickly found some of the less common gulls.  To make it even better, they were all found along Riverlands Way across from Wise Road (well, all but one of them) - Many MoBirds readers may be used to hearing/reading of rare gulls at Riverlands, but the truth is that they are usually on the Illinois side - So, it was a real treat to get them all on the Missouri side this morning.  Anyways, here is the scoop and links to photos:
 
Ellis Bay (observerd from Riverlands Way approximately across from Wise Road):
Their were 100's of gulls all over this morning as the ice starts to melt.  One of the first birds I noted was this first-cycle THAYER'S GULL:  http://www.pbase.com/jpuf/image/131525588  Note the dainty all black bill, round head without a sloped forehead.  Tertials and primaries brown (not black)...  and although not observed well in the photo, the primaries were all edged pale.  Further out in Ellis Bay an adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL was observed.  At this point I meandered further down Riverlands Way to look for the Short-eared Owl that has been seen as of late.  However, I had a hard time focusing on the grasslands with all the gulls I could see down at the dam.  So, I drove down to the dam and immediately found the first-cycle GLAUCOUS GULL flying around the spillway, and later sitting on the dam wall. 
 
Eventually I made my way back to checking out the gulls again from Riverlands Way and Wise Road.  No sooner than pulling up this time I noticed there were now 2 adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS sitting on the ice:  http://www.pbase.com/jpuf/image/131525336  Shortly after scanning to the left of one of the Lesser Black-backeds I saw this bird:  http://www.pbase.com/jpuf/image/131525586  (note the bird on far left)...  Could not believe it at this point, an adult ICELAND GULL to add to the mix.  This might have been the first time I called to let Charlene know things were going very well with the gulls at Riverlands.  Here is another shot of the ICELAND'S wings spread:  http://www.pbase.com/jpuf/image/131525587  After feeling I exhausted my search of this location I decided to take a quick spin to the confluence to see if a Short-eared Owl was hanging out along the confluence road.  No luck again with the Short-eared Owl, but did observe one of the MERLINs that has been being seen as well as an adult PEREGRINE FALCON. 
 
Back to watch the gulls from Riverlands Way across from Wise Road...  Well, this is where it gets interesting.  All the gulls listed above were still present.  Then I noticed another 'near adult gull', with a slightly darker mantle.....  Well, at least it appeared slightly darker.  However, at this point there were no birds next to it to have a direct comparison of mantle colors.  I have been fooled enough by lighting to know how mantle colors of gulls change depending on the angle of the sun, cloud cover, etc.  Regardless, I was positive this bird's mantle was at least a shade or two darker than any Ring-billed or Herring Gull that I could see, off in the distance, and certainly paler than the Lesser Black-backed Gull directly off to my right.  Eventually it happened, a Ring-billed Gull flew in for direct comparison - Yes, the mantle is definitely darker...   http://www.pbase.com/jpuf/image/131525589  The eye was certainly brown, the bill even appeared to be rather parallel sided at this point, but not quite the easy 'adult' bill colors of the bird I was wanting it to be...  http://www.pbase.com/jpuf/image/131525591  That is OK, I just coughed it up as likely being a third-cycle bird.  And, yes I certainly realize the bill does not appear parallel sided at all in the picture - But that was only noted  after looking at these pictures - In the field it certainly 'looked' parallel sided.   Back to the past tense... the bird was certainly longer and more slender looking than the Ring-billed.  Well, it eventually took flight for a short while where I was able to get a couple OK flight shots:  http://www.pbase.com/jpuf/image/131525593  http://www.pbase.com/jpuf/image/131525594  Somewhere in here I felt pretty good that I had a California and made my second call to Charlene.  Eventually it landed and an adult Herring joined the mix....  Yes, certainly smaller than a Herring, mantle color is still grayer http://www.pbase.com/jpuf/image/131525592  Legs do appear pretty pink though?  I thought this was OK for a California Gull an a non-adult plumage...
 
So, to try to wrap up this post on New Year's Eve and join my family's fun festivities...   Well, I think I might have called this bird a California too quickly.  The bill is wrong, the leg color is wrong.  I am not sure what this bird is, hybrid something with Lesser Black-backed?  I don't know.  I would GREATLY appreciate any feedback - Likely others on the list would also appreciate it.  Until then I will research much more myself (or 'play birds' as the family calls it), maybe I will even get to break out those new Pyle guides I was so kindly given for Christmas....  But, the truth is I think I made a mistake - What a tricky bird....  Bottom line, I do not think the fieldmarks equal California Gull. 
 
Happy New Year - Good Luck to all those able to make the count tomorrow at RMBS.
 
Josh

 
Joshua Uffman
St. Louis County, MO
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MO-Records: www.showme-birds.com
Bird Photos: http://www.pbase.com/jpuf
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