F05, the Lesser Black-backed Gull first observed nesting on Appledore Island in May of 2007 is back on Appledore Island after wintering in Dayton Beach area of Florida. Not only is F05, the suave European gull, returned to Appledore, but Cassie has returned to Appledore. Cassie, better known in the science world as Mary Caswell Stoddard, was a college student in 2007. It was Cassie who endured endless hours for months of heat, rain, insects, and wind to observe and document F05’s most intimate life details as F05 and mate incubated two eggs and raised their two chicks in 2007. Cassie returned to Appledore yesterday, May 15, in her current role as PhD scientist at Harvard to begin some fascinating studies on color perception and pattern recognition in gulls.
It was only an hour after arrival that Cassie raced to the east side of Appledore to view LBBG. ‘So there you have it, folks’. LBBG F05, known about Shoals Marine Laboratory on Appledore as Pierre, has been reunited with the person with the most intimate long term knowledge of his behavior and relationships. F05 has also united with a conspecific; he has taken up housekeeping with a Herring Gull once again. His mate this year is A46, a bird banded as an adult in 2005. She’s since been seen almost every year, generally in that same area of the island. So far no eggs in the nest, but plenty of pair bonded behavior.
The last bit of news is potentially the most exciting; on a walk around the LBBG’s territory, Julie spotted a Herring Gull with unusually cheery, yellow-tinged legs. Standing beside a more typical Herring Gull for comparison, it appeared to us that the oddball bird had a yellowish-pink hue to the legs, and a slightly darker mantle, but no other deviations from Herring Gull plumage. Bill Clark has done some sleuthing around and has found several photos online of evident LBBGxHERG hybrids and they look strikingly similar to our bird of interest. Tomorrow, I hope to post some high quality photos for your perusal, gull blog readers. Hybrids of this sort are not new, and are relatively common in Europe. But the potential here is that this particular bird could possibly be the homegrown offspring of F05 and one of his past mates. That would be exciting news indeed. Keep your eyes on this spot for more, hopefully very soon.
(submitted by Sarah Courchesne with substantial contributions from Bill Clark)