Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Signs of spring and gulls

What a gorgeous day here in NJ! It was in the mid to high 70's and I even saw some dude walking around town without a shirt on. As for signs of spring, our juncos have begun singing and, as I write this, I hear my first robin singing outside. Spring is here!

After work, I stopped at a park along the widest area of the Raritan River. This area of the river always has tons of gulls gathering there. Seeing as its only 10 minutes from my house, I really should bird here more. I was hoping to maybe find an Iceland Gull, Glaucous Gull, or a Lesser Black-backed Gull. As I sat there and sorted through the various plumaged Herring and Ring-billed Gulls, I wondered how people learn about gulls. The little knowledge I have of gulls is limited to what I've learned while on field trips. I purchased Jon Dunn's two videos on gulls. There is obviously a lot of care put into these videos and a lot of knowledge can be gained by studying them, but Dunn's monotone voice is enough to drive you nuts. I don't claim to be even an intermediate larophile, but I plan on continuing my learning. How have you learned about gulls? Please share.


LauraHinNJ said...

I mostly try to ignore them! I think they're a "learned" taste for really advanced birders who need a challenge to keep birding interesting.

drew said...

I totally agree with your assessment of Dunn's monotone voice. I have the large gulls video but I feel that I have learned more by going out with my friends who already have a good grasp of the gulls and then I can learn in the field from them. Sometimes watching a video can be too intense to pick up all the subtleties. Best of luck though!

Anonymous said...

When I lived in MA and NJ, I used to spend a lot of time looking at Herring and Ring-billed Gulls on ponds and ballfields in the parks. The old rule holds true: the better you know the common ones, the more easily you'll pick out the 'good' birds. A warm winter's day at Florence used to be very instructive, too, though I hear the concentrations have moved to the other--the PA--side of the dump now.
Several years ago, I discovered the real solution to gull difficulties: I moved to Arizona!

Patrick Belardo said...


I'm with you. Personally, I learn better by immersion anyway.


That's a good perspective on gulls. They are definitely a "learned" taste.

Jochen said...

First you try and sort them out with an ordinary field guide.

That doesn't work.

Then you get a special gull identification book which you read and learn by heart. Feeling much better equipped now you go out with that book and hey... it seems to work for the first - say - 100 gulls.


Then you find gull 101 which has you all confused because it doesn't match anything written in the book by the "experts".

Then suddenly you realize that books over-simplify the matter and you get frustrated because you know that the efford of learning by heart the expert book was useless.

If then you still feel like being remotely interested in gulls, you start your own little "research", which means you imagine that nothing is known about gulls and you're the new guy upon whom all hope of the birding community rests, so you make your own sketches, draw your own conlusions, take pictures, etc. and slowly, gradually develop some sort of understanding and comprehension that gulls are just a huge mess no matter how hard you try and that their variation is beyond the limited dimensions of the human mind.
I am at this latter stage now with a few gull species (haven't tackled them all yet). There surely are stages beyond this which I have yet to find out.
If one of these levels will eventually include any confidence in identifying a gull? We'll see...

Anonymous said...

hey Patrick,i live in St.John's Newfoundland/Canada.We are a island
in the North Atlantic.We have a place called Quidi Vidi Lake.At this lake during winter,we have a
large number of gulls,Greater and lesser black backed,glaucous,laughing gull,herring gull,mew gull,iceland,ivory(one a winter),and the list goes on,for many an American,we are the hottest spot to view and study gulls,please come and get all the
info you require regarding gulls,and
e-mail at
for more info,if you do decide to come,you will not be disappointed