Date: 10/30/17 6:55 pm From: David Irons <LLSDIRONS...> Subject: [obol] Re: gull chart etc.
Alan raises a point that I've tried to make on numerous occasions. Becoming proficient at identifying birds is an ongoing process of assimilating layer upon layer of contextual information gathered through a unique set of observations (your own) over time. As this relates to gulls, I do not have sufficient words to describe the differences in mantle color between adult California and Mew Gulls, or to clearly explain how a first winter Mew Gull differs in appearance from a first winter Ring-billed Gull. I can try to tell you, but you won't be able to effectively use this information to correctly identify these species, unless we are standing together looking at the birds in life. You have to experience these birds for yourself to appreciate the differences and mentally catalog them for future use.
The only way to learn gulls is to look at lots of them and thoroughly study lots of individuals...same with Empids and other tough groups. These are time-consuming and frustrating slogs to enlightenment. Investing one's discretionary birding time traveling down a path with no obvious finish line is certainly not for everyone. Call me a glutton for punishment or a masochist, but grinding away on the hard questions is the part of birding I enjoy most. My approach to birding tends to generate more questions than it answers, which I find refreshing because I know I will never get bored or run out of new things to explore.
Some of my birding friends in Chicago do an annual "Gull Frolic" field trip, where they go out as a group and spend the day studying flocks of gulls. Perhaps this is something we need to do here in Oregon.
From: <obol-bounce...> <obol-bounce...> on behalf of Alan Contreras <acontrer56...>
Sent: Monday, October 30, 2017 3:55 PM
To: OBOL Birders Online
Subject: [obol] gull chart etc.
We are often tempted to use charts or matrices to sort out hard i.d. issues. Making yourself one as a study guide is fine, but for things like the larger gulls or, say, empidonax, you just have to spend a chunk of time looking at them. The charts and even the field guides are of limited utility until you have enough experience of the sheer variability of some birds.
For example, whatever the guides may say, California Gulls come in different sizes, mantle colors and leg colors—and that’s just the adults in one flock. So you learn to look at things like bill and head shape. Until you face the true horror of gulls in the field all the charts in the world won’t prepare you.
And then of course gulls hybridize. Fortunately Californias seem less inclined to do this, perhaps related to their interior low-latitude breeding areas.
I hope that our local bird clubs do “Joy of Gulls” field trips every year in, say, November or early December. A nice prep for CBCs.