California Gull (Larus californicus) is listed as “Rare (How lucky can you get)” in the ABA/Lane guide to southeastern Arizona, and as “Uncommon transient and winter visitor with a few records in summer” for Maricopa County in Birds of Phoenix and Maricopa County (both guides are covered in the list of Arizona birding books on my web site). So it shouldn’t be a surprise that I don’t get to see many of them in AZ and that I get a typical birder’s thrill whenever I do see one around Phoenix.
On my visit to the Gilbert Water Ranch on March 20 (detailed in this previous post) I was hoping to see a Bonaparte’s Gull (another uncommon to rare bird locally) had had been discovered the previous day), and was delighted to find it in the same pond as reported once I was admitted beyond the locked gate.
Two hour’s later as I was starting back to the exit I was surprised to see a gull obviously not a Bonaparte’s fly past. From my brief look I thought it might be a Ring-billed Gull (the species most likely in AZ) but to be sure I went onward to see if it had paused in any of the other ponds. When I reached the pond with the distant Bonaparte’s in it I was happy to see another larger adult gull standing in the shallows near the middle of the pond.
With only my 8x binoculars I couldn’t see much small detail so I turned to the excellent LCD display on the back of my Nikon D300 and kept increasing the magnification until I got a good look at the bill. The red spot and lack of a ring made it obvious that this wasn’t a Ring-bill.
When the California Gull took flight a few minutes later I was able to get a series of the bird in flight including the image at the top of this post. There was plenty of good light so I had already set the ISO down to its lowest value of 200 so I could crop more than usual and still retain good detail. The result shows good feather texture, the light trailing edge to the upper wings, the dark gray trailing edge to the under wings, the red and black on the tip of the beak, the medium gray mantle, and the yellow legs and feet.
Nikon D300, Nikkor AF-S 300/2.8 plus TC20E III (2x), Gitzo carbon fiber 1325 tripod with RRS BH-55 ball head and Sidekick.