Friday After Work Lifer

Is there any better way to end a week on a Friday than having an afternoon lifebird on the San Mateo Coast? I was about to find out as I left work and headed west to Half Moon Bay, recently christened, “The Rare Gull Capital of the United States”.

The rare gull in question was the slaty-backed gull (Larus schistisagus). This large four year gull is an Asian gull that is rare in Alaska but is even rarer along the western coast of California. This was my sort of lifer.

The last time the adult gull had been seen was at 5:30 on the previous afternoon at the Pilarcitos Creek mouth as it entered the Pacific at Venice Beach in Half Moon Bay.

When I arrived at about 4, there were over one hundred gulls preening, resting, and bathing on the beach and in the creek and about 10 birders combing through the mixed species flock.

Now which one of these gulls has a slaty back?

I figured patience was the order of the day. I was hoping the gull would appear and we had many eyes trained on the group.

I shared a conversation with Sterling and a non-birder lady that when a little something like this:

Lady: What are you looking at?

Birder: Gulls.

Lady: Oh seagulls! Why are there so many here?

Birder: The fresh water from the creek, they bathe and drink from it.

Lady: Why don’t they drink from there? (she points to the Pacific Ocean).

Birder: It’s the ocean. It’s saltwater.

dsc07389 Another oddly pixilated photo of the mixed gull flock at Pilarcitos Creek. I’d call it art if it weren’t a complete accident.

It was starting to get colder but the mix flocked provided me with many different looks at gulls of different ages and species. But the the large gull with a dark slaty-grey back had not yet appeared.

Then at 5:20, out of thin air, the adult slaty-backed was spotted on the southside of the creek, 20 yards away! Lifer #512!


A rather crappy digiscope of the adult slaty-backed gull.


A great way to end the week: a lifer and a beautiful sunset at Venice Beach.

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