Notes From The Field

The thermometer was reading in the single digits as I backed the bird-mobile out of the garage and pointed it towards Voice of America Park to meet up with Jon for a morning of river birding. If my memory is correct it was last year when Jon and myself birded together, so this was a long overdue trip.

The reason we meet at such an unusual location was to be as close to I-75 so we could then make our way towards Dayton. For the past few weeks it’s been one of the go to spots for unusual Gulls, other than Lake Erie. Great and Lesser Black-backed, Iceland and Glaucous Gulls have been seen with regularity, so not wanting to be left out we made our way north.

This recent cold snap has left little if any open water on most lakes and ponds, so finding open water is pretty important for both waterfowl and gulls. Now there’s plenty of rivers that probably has open water where we live, but the reports coming out of Dayton can’t be ignored. Plus I found out later Jon hasn’t got Iceland Gull on his life list, and the most recent sighting was 10 days old. I was familiar with where the Iceland Gull was seen by a local birder both myself and Jon know, so that’s where we went first.

IMG_2068Great Miami River looking downstream.

IMG_2069Great Miami River looking upstream with loads of geese and ducks

We pulled onto River Road in Dayton and parked at a small college lot. Walked across the street and was greeted with loads of gulls and ducks and geese. This section of the Great Miami River doesn’t freeze over as fast as other sections due to a treatment plant inflow and another small stream which keeps the water flowing.

IMG_2062Snow Goose

We hit a couple more spots along a half mile section of river just south of the city. Common and Hooded Mergansers, Common Goldeneyes, and plenty of Ring-necked Ducks were the prevalent species. Then we moved to a spot across the street from the University of Dayton Arena.

Iceland Gull (Larus glaucoides) is most commonly seen along the Atlantic Canadian and Northeast region of the United States. But they do wander. And for the most part us birders in the Southwestern part of Ohio know that if you want to find an Iceland Gull is to go to Lake Erie in the Winter. A little bit smaller than a Herring Gull, but larger than a Ring-billed Gull, we had our job cut out to find this bird. A small, slender bill, pink legs, and primaries that extended well past the tail were key field markings we need to key in on. As we scanned the gulls, it was Jon who first said, “I have a gull with no black wing tips”. I got on the bird.

Iceland Gull!

Time for the happy dance.

Damn, gotta run back to the car to get my camera. Age and absent-mindedness reared it’s ugly head as I searched frantically in Jon’s car for my camera.


We had to leave the gull and back track to try and locate my camera. After 15 minutes of heart stopping anxiety I finally found it where I left it by the river.

Quick, have to get back to the Iceland Gull.

IMG_2108And in typical form, a crappy picture. The sun was in the worst spot in the sky, hence the glare. Plus I had to use the digital zoom to get even close for a picture. But there he/she is. A 1st winter Iceland Gull.

IMG_2073With this picture you can see how the primaries extend past the tail.

So if you happen to live within a 30 minute drive or so of Dayton, check out the Great Miami River. As I write this post more Great Black-backed Gulls are being seen.              Great spot.


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