In 2011 we had lots of participants and lots of species. In 2012 the weather cut participation, but we still had more than the usual gull species. And in 2013 we had more than 30 participants, 4500 individual gulls, but only managed the 4 common species--the rarities just weren't to be found. None-the-less it was an incredible day of birding with the Utah Birders and Great Salt Lake Audubon.
The week before the event we changed the location of the event to the Lake Park Facility in West Valley City because in the past month the common 4 plus Lesser Black-backed, Western, Mew, Glaucous, and Glaucous-winged Gull had all been reported from here. 9 species of gull and easy viewing made it an ideal meeting place. The fact that Farmington had been 100% frozen the past 2 weeks also led to our trepidation of hosting the event there. Another major change this year was the start time of 12:00 noon, instead of 8:00am. We followed the lead of Colorado and their Gullapalooza, finding that the number of participants upped when they changed their start time to noon last year.
To yesterday. Jeff Bilsky, Kenny Frisch, and I met up early to go and check the gull situation at Decker Lake, Lake Park, Lee Kay Ponds, and the International Center. Although we knew Lake Park had the most potential, the good gulls end up showing up at all of these places. Decker Lake had a fair number of California and Ring-billed Gulls, but no larger winter gulls. Heading towards Lake Park we got excellent looks at a MERLIN just east of Bangerter Highway.
At Lake Park there were about ~1000 gulls on the Stonebridge Golf Course pond, so we figured that would be a good stop later in the day. At the west pond at Lake Park we arrived to fog and about 500 gulls roosting next to the target Parking Lot. When we set up scopes to try and look through them, everything took flight and circled the pond.
We headed back to Lake Park to wait for the trip to begin. While we waited a BALD EAGLE made a pass and most of the gulls left.
We took the group and crossed the field from the Target where we met and headed to the west pond at Lake Park. As we walked over hundred of gulls came pouring into the basin from the north. It was a perfect start to the trip and gave everyone the opportunity to be immersed in the gulls. We set up and started scanning the 400 gulls on the water. The majority were the common 2, but there were a number of HERRING GULLS mixed in, and one 1st winter, and one 2nd winter THAYER'S GULL. Both Thayer's took flight shortly after we started looking at them. After exhausting the gulls here, we walked around the pond and ogled the gulls in the field next to the Target. Nothing new mixed in but we set up some great scope comparisons of Herring and California Gulls and giving us a chance to show everyone a 1st winter California Gull.
Figuring their would be some mixing up, we headed everyone to Lee Kay Ponds to give Lake Park a bit of a rest. At Lee Kay there were about 800 gulls on the ice. The lighting wasn't great, but even with what we had, there was nothing out of the ordinary mixed in. The highlight for many was a FALCON (probably Peregrine) that was dive bombing a flock of starlings far out over the dump, and a Bald Eagle perched along the power poles.
We checked out the International Center where about 250 Ring-billed Gulls and a handful of California were roosting on the ice. Again, nothing unusual mixed in. A Red-tailed Hawk flew over flushing all the gulls which left, and headed south towards Lake Park.
At this point we headed everyone back to Lake Park and headed to the main pond at Stonebridge Golf Course. We found decent lighting on the northwest side of the pond and spent considerable time scanning the large flock on the ice. Again, nothing unusual was mixed in. It was almost unbelievable to have looked through so many gulls and not being able to find a single odd ball. It was also a little frustrating because we knew there had been some really good birds here within the last couple days.
To end the day we headed back over to the west pond and made our way to the west side of the field south of Target where we had great lighting to view the gulls there. Again, the common 3 gave great looks, and in the light provided ample photo ops.