[birding] gulls

Joel Geier clearwater at peak.org
Thu Feb 28 17:41:09 PST 2008

Hi Kathy, Dave & All,

Just to add a bit to Dave's account:

It does seem like large concentrations of small gulls favor the southern
valley, more in Lane Co. than Benton or Linn or Polk. I also saw a big
mass of gulls along I-5 somewhere in the Coburg area, as I was blazing
south last weekend.

My impression is that annual ryegrass is more of a dominant crop in Lane
Co. than farther north in the valley, where more perennial grasses
(fescue, orchardgrass, perennial ryegrass etc.) are grown. I forget,
does Linn Co. bill itself as the ryegrass or fescue capital of the

Anyway, annual grass crops especially in the lowlands tend to be more
muddy in the winter than perennial grasses (which have more well-
established root systems), and could attract more of these big flocks of
small gulls. The fields in southern Benton County, such as around Finley
NWR, are similar to Lane Co. and do get big gull flocks in some years.
North of Corvallis, there are relatively few annual grass fields vs.
perennial grass fields.

According to farmers I've talked to, over the past 30 years there has
been a major swing in the WV from winter wheat to ryegrass. Perhaps
that's also a factor as winter wheat is a more robust grass that
establishes quickly in late fall. There has also been ongoing conversion
of pastureland to grass-seed farming (now nearly complete), which has
been devastating to species like Western Meadowlark, but might favor
wintering gulls.

Happy birding,

P.S. One of my more distinct birding memories is scanning one of these
flocks (mainly Mew Gulls) in a muddy annual ryegrass field on the north
side of (Finley) Refuge Rd. about 8 years back, and through my
binoculars seeing former Benton Co. birder Trent Bray jumping up and
down and waving his arms at me from directly on the other side of the
flock. Trent had located a Gyrfalcon that was also in the neighborhood
that year (originally found by Paula Vanderheul and Marcia Cutler along
Greenberry Rd.), and had it in his scope.

Joel Geier
Camp Adair area north of Corvallis

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