Breakthrough In Gull ID

I have so much to blog about the Space Coast Bird Festival, but I'm still here in Florida and birding like crazy. Monday is my final leg of the festival: a pelagic birding trip. Sunday, I had a major breakthrough in my gull identification ability. Part of it was really great teachers (who don't make you feel bad for misidentifying a gull). I'll go more in depth about that later but here is the moment where I realized I don't completely suck at gull id:

The beaches at Daytona are an evening staging area for thousands of gulls. They congregate there before roosting offshore. Several of us were combing the beaches for lesser black-backed gull, Thayer's gull, and Iceland gull. My buddy Clay had just arrived when someone reported an Iceland gull waaaaaaaaaaay down at the other end of the beach. Several of us booked it there on foot as fast as we could. In the distance, we could make out one birder frantically taking photos, we figured he had the gull. As we approached, we saw people running towards the gulls (it's a public beach) and the whole flock flew up and away. The birder who had been taking photos was in a vehicle, so he drove over to us. He said that he watched it take off and had a general idea of where it landed. His vehicle was packed with equipment, but he offered to let us stand on the floorboards and hang on as he drove to the far end where it landed.

Above is a reenactment. Four of us clung to the vehicle as it headed down the beach. We all watched and scanned for a lighter gull that could be an Iceland gull amid the darker laughing, herring and ring-billed gulls. Then, as we were coasting down the beach, with my naked eye, I spotted it. The vehicle came to a stop, we jumped off and...

We got some great looks and great shots of the Iceland gull. I can't believe I picked it out with my naked eye. Gulls are not so scary after all! I blogged about this particular species of gull earlier this winter, only it was much colder and in Minnesota. The gull was also much further away. Having one so close on a balmy beach was so much better. This is a first cycle (hatched last summer) Iceland gull, it is very pale and frosty looking, note that it does not have dark wingtips, making it easier to distinguish of many of the other gulls out there.

I promise this won't be an all gull all the time blog, but let me assure you, it is possible to gradually learn your gulls.

Now, here's hoping I don't barf on the pelagic birding trip.