Friday, January 17, 2014

Gulls at Panama Viejo

The mudflats of Panama Viejo (Panama City's oceanfront) are well known by the huge numbers of peeps and seabirds that occur there, including a long list of gulls, including rarities like Gray-hooded or Bonaparte's Gulls.     I visit this place often, depending of the tide, and this time I was accompanied by my friend Benoit.  We started to search the hundreds of Laughing Gulls that were resting in the beach, when one bird caught our attention.
Nop, this is NOT a Common Black-headed!
Of course, the coral-red beak and pale legs triggered all the alarms, but the bird seemed to be exactly the same size as the surroundings Laughings, with same mantle color... after a while, the bird took flight, showing only black primaries with white rump and tail with some black spotting... a second-summer Laughing Gull with aberrant soft parts.  I have to admit that I was a little bit disappointed; however, we kept searching... finding some Franklin's Gulls mixed with the Laughings.
We not only saw gulls in Panama Viejo, there were some shorebirds, pelicans, frigatebirds and even a lucky Neotropic Cormorant with a freshly caught catfish in the beak... a huge one by the way!
The high tide gathered the flock closer to the mangroves. Suddenly, I noticed a large gull with conspicuous yellow legs standing with the Laughings, with noticeably darker mantle, pale eye and dark streaking in the head and neck.
Yeap! An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull in basic plumage.  The sun was bright and the bird far away... these photos are overexposed and cropped... but the main field marks are evident.  Notice how different the color of the mantle looks depending on the angle of the bird.
The Lesser Black-backed Gull is a very scarce migrant to Panama, although regular... with at least one individual recorded each winter.  This was a new year-bird for me, a good one in fact!

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