Jo Swartz and I enjoyed an excellent Sunday’s birding in the Pine Falls area of Manitoba, Canada today.
The biggest highlight was this Lesser Black-backed Gull that I spotted on the ice at the edge of the Winnipeg River near St. Georges.
This first photo shows the features of this bird. I found it interesting that the primaries appeared to have no white tips although through the scope it was possible to discern the faintest of white tips at least on P8 (look closely in this photo). The dark smudge in the bill had me scratching my head at first but after the examining the bird more closely, I reconciled this feature with my determination that the bird was a third cycle individual coming into fourth year or "adult" plumage. Other features to note include the streaked nape, the pale yellow legs and the long wings that fall well beyond the tail. Click on photos to enlarge.
The second photo gives you a size and mantle shade comparison with American Herring Gull. You can see the faintest of black tip to a few of the tail feathers in this photo.
The next two photos show the bird in flight, offering views of the underwing and upperwing. Note the small mirror on the outermost primary for example, even though the white tips on the outer primaries are worn almost completely off. The lighting is a bit more direct in these flight shots and the legs appear more strongly yellow than in the previous photos. The combination dark smudge in the bill, pale yellowish leg colour (as opposed to bright yellow), very subtly black tip to central tail feathers and heavy neck smudging lead me to believe this is a third cycle bird (on the way to adult breeding plumage next spring).
As is finding one great rarity was not enough, there were more good birds on offer. Two Long-tailed Ducks, had been previously reported and they put on a great show – I was happy with this somewhat distant flyby photo opportunity.
A Townsend’s Solitaire had been reported in Winnipeg so we made a slight detour to see this annually occurring rarity. This bird was extremely obliging!
In addition, I took some time to photograph this Northern Hawk-Owl that was actively hunting on Maple Creek Road. This series of photos shows the owl coming in for a landing, balancing, posing and then taking off in their typical plunging style… the first photo is my favourite from a fantastic November day!
A beautiful day to be birding and a well deserved break from proposal and report writing!