Monday, February 20, 2012
Gull Frolic 2012
Every February, the Illinois Ornithological Society hosts a gull-watching event at Winthrop Harbor known as the Gull Frolic. I had already signed up for myself and Greenturtle, in anticipation of my Illinois Ultimate Birding Year, as gulls are really hard to distinguish and I figured that the Frolic would be a fun way to learn more about them and maybe get a few Life Birds to boot.
But then, you know how it goes. Life intervened. If you have read my latest couple of posts, you will have already learned that I was laid off and now find myself pinching pennies and worrying about the future. My Ultimate Birding Year has been canceled, or at least postponed. And although I had already paid for the Frolic, there was still the not insignificant matter of the price of gas to and from the event, as Winthrop Harbor is north of Chicago, almost into Wisconsin, quite a long drive from Clinton.
But nothing is as cheering as a potential life bird, so with a bit of nagging from Greenturtle, I decided to attend after all. It was a very long trip. We left around five in the morning and arrived at the harbor at eight thirty. OK, did I mention how long the drive was? Luckily we had an audio book that was pretty interesting, Spook Country by William Gibson, to help us pass the time.
The first thing I noticed when we arrived at Winthrop Harbor were the ducks in the water.
Mostly, there were greater scaup and common goldeneyes, although I also saw a couple of buffleheads, a ring-necked duck, and some common mergansers. Most exciting of all was a life bird surf scoter.
There was also a snowy owl perched upon the breakwater. And here I was so nervous about if I would see one at Montrose Harbor last month, never suspecting that I would soon have another chance!
As far as the gulls go...despite having a Frolic hosted in their honor, they mostly didn't show up. There were a lot of ring-billed and herring gulls in the vicinity.
I did get a quick look at a Thayer's gull, which was a first for Illinois, and someone apparently saw an Iceland.
The talk by Chicago-land birder Amar Ayyash (I was already familiar with his blog, Anything Larus), was quite interesting, I got a life bird and a couple of "firsts" for Illinois. It was a good event, and perhaps the mild winter kept the variety of gulls away. Overall, a day I would recommend to Illinois birders.