Late yesterday afternoon during the annual Shaver’s Creek Birding Cup my team, the Nemesis Birders, were racing around trying to pick up as many new species as possible before the 7pm finish time. We were headed from Black Moshannon SP and going to finish out the day at Bald Eagle SP, however when we passed Curtin Wetlands a large flock of Ring-billed Gulls were gathered in the grassy fields nearby. We were down to the wire, with the potential to break the old Birding Cup record but couldn’t turn down a quick scan through the flock to see if anything interesting was mixed in. Our eyes were quickly drawn to the only black-headed gull present among subadult Ring-billed Gulls and a few immature Bonaparte’s. Even though we could only see the bird’s head, its size, darker gray mantle color, and big white eye arcs pointed to Franklin’s Gull without a doubt. We couldn’t believe our luck, and it was a truly unexpected bird for our big day.
This is the 2nd record of a Franklin’s Gull for Centre County, and only the 3rd for central Pennsylvania. The 1st county record is from July 23rd, 1983 at Bald Eagle SP. As of the evening of May 4th, the Franklin’s Gull is still present, though it has been seen at the swimming beach at Bald Eagle SP when it isn’t at the pasture to the west of Curtin Weltands. Here are a few photos that I was able to take today, showing the bird’s field marks, especially the black tips on its wings.