This week’s photo, taken November 30, 2013 at Gog-Le-Hi-Te Wetlands in Tacoma, WA, features an adult SLATY-BACKED GULL, in winter plumage.
On Saturday, I visit Gog-Le-Hi-Te Wetlands for the first time, and I am amazed at the sheer number of gulls in the area. Hundreds are either bathing in the ponds and the adjacent Puyallap River, roosting on the rooftops of nearby buildings, or they are en route from one spot to another. I’ve been told that this wetlands is one of the best places in the country for THAYER’S GULLS and, with the help of another birder, I soon locate a few Thayer’s floating on a pond amongst the more numerous GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS. I begin to study my latest life bird, the Thayer’s Gull, yet only a few seconds pass before another gull appears that’s noticeably different than the rest. It’s a dark-winged bird, and it lands in the middle of the large gathering of light-colored gulls. Move over, Thayer’s Gull. SLATY-BACKED GULL is now my newest life bird!
Slaty-backed Gulls are more likely found in Russia, Korea, Japan or China than in North America. However, each year, some Slaty-backs show up in Alaska, and a few wander down to the “Lower 48,” where they are considered quite rare. One Slaty-back has spent several winters at Gog-Le-Hi-Te, and I feel fortunate to capture a few photos of it during my brief visit.