#460 Glaucous Gull

I had the car this morning while Beth was at church so I decided to see if I could chase down a few potential lifers that have been popping up at various spots in the county. First stop was Huntington Central Park to try for the Tropical Kingbird. (I missed that species just across the creek at San Joaquin last year, and twice at El Toro Memorial Park this year.) No joy though. I spent about two hours from 9:20 to 11:20 wandering around Lake Huntington, the frisbee golf course, and the horse stables. I ran into a couple of other birders and we found the Red-throated Loon, a Cooper’s Hawk, and many Black Phoebes. We even had one Kingbird flyover. However that one was most likely a Cassin’s and we were never able to relocate it.

After giving up on the flycatcher, I decided to drive down Warner to Bolsa Chica. However when I was abiout halfway there, Beth called me looking for a ride home from church–hers had bailed on here–so I headed back to Irvine. We grabbed lunch at the California Fish Grill, checked out the Circuit City “sale” prices (still 25% more expensive than everyday prices at Amazon.com), and briefly popped in Barnes & Noble. Then she agreed to go to Doheny State Beach with me if I bribed her with Golden Spoon frozen yogurt first. So after a quick stop for a Heath Bar/Latte combo, we headed south on I-5 to Dana Point.

I’ve been down to Dana Point a lot lately, which meant I was overconfident, missed the exit, and had to get off in San Clemente. We wound back to the harbor through some local streets and saw some interesting parts of Dana Point I’ve not seen before. We arrived at the beach about 2:45 and parked in the far part of the lot near the creek.

I set up my scope and began scanning the gulls. There weren’t as many as there’d been when we’d visited last month. These were mostly Heerman’s, Western, and immature Glaucous-winged Gulls. I think there was one California Gull mixed in with them, as well as a Snowy Egret.

And then suddenly there it was on the far shore. I’m not sure if it had flown in or we just missed it on first scan. However it was everything you want in a life bird: big, obvious, completely distinct from all other birds anywhere around it, and standing still so you could get great looks in the scope:

Almost completely white gull

This is a first or second winter Glaucous Gull, and is almost completely white aside from some pale brown flecks. Imagine a cross between a Cattle Egret and a Herring Gull, and you’d have the picture. There’s really nothing else it could be.

I know the picture isn’t great. I’m still getting used to the new DSLR. Next time I need to remember not use spot metering when shooting a large white bird on a gray mud flat. Also, the bird was just too far away for a 300mm zoom lens. I may need to add a 2X teleconverter for shots like this. I used a tripod and image stabilization, but I’m still not happy with the sharpness of this lens in the 150mm+ range. I’m not sure if that’s the lens’s fault (A Tamron AF 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Di LD VC) or if I’m doing something wrong.

After getting my fill of the gull, I spent some time scanning the ocean, hoping for a Pacific Loon, but all I could pick out were some Western Grebes. We also had one Willet fly by and a small flock of Tree Sparrows; and we called it quits for the day. Beth drove home along Pacific Coast Highway. The Prius is getting close to 50 mpg right now, which is nice.

Not sure when I might have time to get back to Huntington Central Park. The Kingbird may have left. If no one reports it, I may go looking for the Hammond’s Flycatcher at Fullerton Arboretum instead. Or I could go explore Mile Square Park where I’ve still never been. I may not have time to get out again for a couple of weeks, and by then who knows what may show up where.

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