SUNDAY, JANUARY 8th UPDATE: the gull was observed around the 1 o’clock hour sitting atop the blue industrial buildings visible from Lake Shore Park.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 7th UPDATE: Bret McCarty found the Black-tailed Gull this morning looking south from the Route 531 bridge in Ashtabula. Also seen by Jim McCarty, Ethan Kistler, Ryan Steiner, and Liz Clingman. The gull is going on a three month stay, which is certainly a record for the United States. See maps, below, of the key locations for finding this stunning bird.

THURSDAY UPDATE: 12/1: The gull was observed this morning by Jerry Takington and Suzanne Wagner as it sat atop the blue industrial buildings visible from point C (looking north) and point B (looking west). See maps and suggestions for finding the bird, below.

SATURDAY UPDATE: 11/26: the gull was observed primarily from Point B today, with the first observations from Lake Shore Park around 8:30 a.m. as the bird was resting atop the blue industrial buildings. Around 2 pm the gull was observed sitting on the beach at Lake Shore Park (point B) for a good 20 minutes before flying west. Before this it was observed resting atop the blue industrial buildings visible from the park for an extended period of time, before a Bald Eagle kicked up the crowd of gulls (point B). Photo below by Michele Rundquist-Franz, taken from Lake Shore Park this afternoon (11/26).

FRIDAY UPDATE: 11/25: Jerry Talkington observed the gull early this morning from point C. Soon after, the gulls dispersed to two slips to the east (just west of blue industrial buildings) and out of view. He refound it from a new location (point E) around 11:45 am. at a sewage plant. The birds were about 800 to 1000 meters distant and resting on the macadam  of the dock.  Around 1300 Haans Petruschke (following account by Haans) “spotted a dark wing being  stretched in the vicinity where Jerry had last seen the bird but we got no confirming look.   Around 13:40 2 Rock Pigeons came over looking like the Peregrine that had been harassing the Gulls all morning and this got the birds up.  Some of us were (me included) able to spot the Black-tailed Gull in flight and see the dark band on the tail. We watched it settle and were able to get undiagnostic looks for about 10 minutes then it turned toward us and was lost it in the crowd.”

Saturday observers would be wise to start at point C at dawn. Afternoon observers: anybody’s guess.

The following three photos taken by CHRIS WEST (copyright) on November 24th, 2011, from “Point C,” Ashtabula Harbor, Ashtabula County, Ohio.


Amar Ayyash, Chris West and their group of Illinois birders just called to confirm that they have seen and photographed, well, the Black-tailed Gull at 8:00 am today from POINT C (the cement bridge). IT IS RECOMMENDED THAT BIRDERS START AT POINT C AT DAWN. Then, visit point A.

Photo above: Jerry Talkington, Sunday, November 20th, 2011. Mouth of Ashtabula River.

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: 11/23:  Forwarding news of Josh Camp’s report from today (23rd) “Jen, Several of us observed the bird as it flew over the bridge (POINT C) at around 7:30 this morning and headed up the river. Later, at around 11:30, it was seen in flight near the bend in the river from the high ground due west of the old drawbridge (POINT A). Both looks were quick and in-flight but definite, with at least two observers of each. Josh Kamp”

Thursday (Thanksgiving) observers would be wise to start at POINT C in the early a.m., scanning the river mouth, the blue industrial building tops, the channel, and the river marina to the south. Then, it is recommended to visit POINT A, the overlook from the museum, where you will have a substantial view of the river and river mouth, harbor, and industrial grounds. Thanksgiving day reports can be made to Jen at 330-701-6452 (phone calls and texts are acceptable) or I will do my best to keep the listserv and blog updated.

TUESDAY UPDATE: 11/22: observed around 8:30 am by Robert Hershberger and David McConnell from point C looking northeast through scopes at blue industrial buildings. Bird observed in flight and resting on top of buildings. In addition, an adult basic Lesser Black-backed Gull, which is clearly larger in size (more Herring-like) and with far more apparent head streaking (BT Gull nearly white-headed save for extremely small area of smudging on rear of nape).

MONDAY UPDATE: 11/21: I just received word this evening that the Black-tailed Gull WAS OBSERVED today, in the river marina (can be seen from sites C and D) in the early morning hours, by Jeff and Sandy Fagan. Here is their account:

“We saw the bird at 7:40 AM at point C.  Bird was sitting on pier closest to the road just to the left of the yellow flotation device in the marina area.  It flew in, stayed for about 5 minutes and then flew out.  To our knowledge, there were no other reliable positive reports the balance of the day, and we were there until dark.  Mid afternoon, there was a Lesser BB Gull on the blue building roofs that received some attention. Same yesterday–might have been the same bird”

SUNDAY UPDATE 11/20: at dawn, 35 birders watched 5,000 Ring-billed and Herring Gulls stream south overhead the cement bridge (site C) heading south following the river inland. Far fewer birds remained in the harbor, marina, and industrial grounds. A gap of nearly an hour passed before WV birder Matt — keenly spotted the Black-tailed sitting with 40 Ring-bills on a sandbar just below the breakwall of the far northwest corner of the harbor. Birders rushed to point A (bluff overlooking the harbor, industrial grounds) and found the gull by looking straight north through a slim “window” looking through heavy machinery/cranes. Shortly after, an industrial site worker offered to take birders, one at a time in a pickup, out through the off-limits industrial site to where they could view the bird looking west across the river. Only a handful of birders were able to take up this incredible opportunity before the employee had to cease the kind service. The gull remained on the sandspit for a while longer. No other updates came in during the day until Steve Landes reported the bird (at 3:20 pm and then again just before 5 pm) from the building tops visible from the bluff at A, and shortly after, far better views of the bird from Lake Shore Park (B) as it sat on top of the blue industrial buildings.

Black-tailed Gull (Larus crassirostrus)

Black-tailed Gull photo above by Jeff and Amy Davis shot around 5 pm on Saturday, November 19th at point D overlooking the Ashtabula River marina, Ashtabula County, Ohio. Diagnostic dark gray mantle, slight size (similar to Ring-billed), thick black subterminal band on tail.

SATURDAY UPDATE:  SEE MAPS BELOW FOR LOCATION NOTES. After a day of no sightings (Friday), the Black-tailed Gull was RELOCATED this evening by Jeff and Amy Davis and Ken and Gretchen Beers. The bird was first located in flight at 4:30 p.m. at POINT A (see map) overlooking the river/industrial grounds. They watched the bird fly south towards POINT C. Upon arriving at the cement bridge at POINT C, they relocated the bird on the SOUTH side of the bridge, on the river, at the marina (POINTS D). It perched on the marina pilings and remained in view until 5:15 p.m. before taking flight. At that point, it was too dark to relocate the bird.

Thursday Nov 17th SUMMARY (see recommended action below):

This morning (Thurs) at dawn many birders arrived at point “C” (the cement bridge going over the Ashtabula River, with an open water channel  to the north). Last night (Wed) the gull was observed as late as 6 pm in this channel as was assumed to roost here. Early this morning, from this same spot, birders saw the gull pick up from the  channel at 7:15 am and fly west towards the river. The bird was then refound from point “A” (the museum hillside on the west side  of the river, accessed via Hulbert Road) and was observed by several as it fed in the river below and immediately to the north  at the river mouth. The gull associated with 200 plus Ring-bills here, loafing at the river’s edge, sometimes briefly going out of sight as it would feed up against the bank, then drift back out into view. After 9 a.m., the bird flew north and west out beyond the harbor. A LARGE gap of time this afternoon passed before the bird was refound at 3 p.m. NOTE that this is very similar to  it’s behavior on Wednesday (observed in the am, disappeared till 2:30 pm). Around 3 pm today, no doubt due in part to the rough weather (strong NW winds and snow) the gull was found, at a  distance, from point A looking east past the river and onto the industrial grounds. The gull was resting on a grassy strip with a  hundred plus gulls, and while it was seen fairly well and absolutely confirmed, the bird was tricky to see for most through the snow and a train that ended up partially blocking views. The gull remained at this location, in the middle of the industrial flats (which would be almost dead-north from point C, the bridge and channel) through the evening till dark.


Arrive before dawn and start at points C and D. Point C is the cement bridge (not the drawbridge) on route 531 with a small parking lot on the north side of the bridge. The channel lies immediately to the north and the river marina immediately to the south. The gull roosted here Wednesday night and on Saturday night it was seen here up until dark. If you do not see the gull from these points at dawn, go to point A (hillside overlooking river mouth and industrial flats) and look for the gull in the river below, as it tends to loaf forage at the river mouth and loaf in the middle of the river and *near the bank* (disappearing sometimes). It appears that after roosting, the bird will head towards the river mouth (Point A) to feed in the a.m. Midday is anybody’s guess and you will need to actively move yourself between points a, b, and c. In the late afternoon, it seems that the bird comes back to the river mouth (A), then the channel (C), and then the marina (D). Give yourself plenty of time to search.

Below is a map with highlighted locations and suggestions for finding the adult basic Black-tailed Gull on the Ashtabula river, harbor, and Lake Shore Park, Ashtabula County, Ohio. Fantastic find by Craig Holt. Observed and photographed by dozens of folks all the way up until dusk (and afterward, after the sunset, by finding the bird in a channel lit up by buildings!). There is plenty of ground to cover when seeking this bird. The harbor and industrial site, river, and channels are huge. It is likely that you will need to work back and forth from both sides of the river (sites A and B) multiple times in order to find the bird, which is quite active.


The bird was last seen Wednesday at 6 p.m. and Thursday at 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday (11/20) at 5:15 p.m. at locations “C” and “D”, looking SOUTH from the cement bridge on Route 531 (NOT the draw bridge). There is a parking lot on the north side of the bridge, and 400+ gulls came in to roost on the channel after dark. POINTS D lie on the south side of Route 531, (look for “BUMBOAT” and a door company sign). The next best site to try would be “A” which is accessed by taking Route 531 west over the drawbridge, then taking the second RIGHT onto HULBERT ROAD (a brick hill). Take Hulbert till it deadends and turn right. Park in parking lot on left then walk north and along fence so that you can view the river below. The gull spent a great amount of time on the river here. The next site is “B” which is Lake Shore Park. Take Route 531 east then turn LEFT onto Minnesota Avenue and take it straight out to the lake. Look northwest towards the industrial park and the gull was observed often as it sat on the roofs of the blue buildings.


“A” is the overlook of the river. The yellow dots mark the river below.

“C” is the cement bridge (not the drawbridge) where limited parking is available and offers views of the channel (also marked with yellow dots) to the north.

“D” spots are on the south side of Route 531, giving you views of the marina on the river.

“B” is Lake Shore Park. The two red dots represent spots from which to scan. The blue squares represent the buildings upon which the BT and other gulls rest/roost.



(Below) Black-tailed Gull in flight by Bruce Glick, Ashtabula River (Site A), Nov 16, 2011. CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR LARGE VIEW. 

Following photos by DANE ADAMS (Wednesday, Nov 16th, 2011) taken from point “A.” CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR LARGE VIEW.

NOTES ON IDENTIFICATION of this individual: Appears size of or slightly-smaller than Ring-billed Gull. Dark gray mantle close to shade of Lesser Black-backed Gull but very slightly paler. Nearly immaculate white below and on neck, head except for slight light-brown smudging limited to small area of nape. Pale yellow eye. Longish, slim bill with black ring and red tip. Very slender overall, with slim neck, slim-headed look and crown. Reminiscent of California Gull in giss. Long, attenuated wings. Wholesomely black primaries save for small white tips. Solid black tail band with terminal white trailing edge. Thick white trailing edge to wing. Pale yellow legs/feet. (Jen Brumfield).



  1. Pingback: Pat Heelen » Snowy Owling Adventure » Pat Heelen

  2. The black tailed gull was at the blue industrial buildings this morning (2/4). There was a snowy owl in a brush pile in front of a huge coal pile visible from SR 531, I suspect it is close to the ‘cement bridge’ on your maps.

    Thank you for creating such a useful website. We drove up this morning, leaving Geauga County around 9:30 and had great looks at both birds before lunch.

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