Sunday, February 28, 2010

A strange gull

Two days ago, I went with Gloriela to Panama Viejo and Costa del Este, searching the Lesser Black-backed Gull sighted by the Ahrens last thursday. We found a really big flock of Laughing Gulls, most of them molting into breeding plumage and we even heard the "laugh" of this species. Almost immediately, one of the gulls caught my attention. Among the typical Laughing Gulls, I saw a Laughing-type gull with almost complete breeding plumage but with bright orange bill and legs. The complete effect was that of a gorgeous bird. Take a look:

Curiously, this is not the first time I saw a Laughing Gull with those striking variations in soft parts colors. Last april, a group of Auduboners (including me) found an adult gull with bright red bill and legs while seeking for rare vagrants in Panama Viejo (you can see a photo here) and I can remember others reports of variations in that same place (including birds with yellow legs, or only orange bills and so on...). I suppose that you can expect all sort of variations in such a big population of individuals, and is only matter of time to find one of these aberrant birds. I tried google image to find more photos and I find this and this other one. Notice that one of the gulls is listed simply as a "strange gull". Just compare it with a more typical molting Laughing Gull and you'll see that this "variant" is simply beautiful (at least for us). Well, after some searching we failed to locate the Lesser Black-backed Gull or any other gull except for few Franklin's Gulls that were in Costa del Este with a huge group of terns (Royal, Sandwich and Gull-billed Terns) and at least 18 Black Skimmers resting at the mudflats. Only one skimmer was flying, and that particular individual had a dark tail (south american skimmer?). Well, I suppose that I will need to go back if I want to see rare vagrants this year!

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