Laughing Gull at Dashield's Lock and Dam, Allegheny County, PA
At 4:15 PM on September 16, this Laughing Gull was discovered at Montgomery Lock and Dam in central Beaver County, fifteen
miles downstream along the Ohio River from the Allegheny County line. However, shorty after its discovery, it left
the Montgomery Dam area and was seen to head upstream (towards Pittsburgh) and disappear. This was likely the first
county record for Beaver County.
Exactly two hours later, anticipating a first county record for Allegheny, too, I was stationed at Dashield's Dam, and
sure enough, a Laughing Gull came drifting by headed upriver. Just above the dam, a group of about fifty herring
and ring-billed gulls were feeding and resting, and their presence drew the Laughing Gull down to the water where
it would ultimately remain for the rest of the night. I was able to get several nice pictures of this straggling juvenile that
was probably hatched on the Gulf Coast this summer and pushed into our area by Hurricane Katrina. (The pictures are
nice, but were taken in very low light which means high digital ISO settings and high noise levels in the pictures... but
The next morning (September 17) the bird was present at the dam at first light. Surprisingly, it flew back downriver
into Beaver County and after some patient searching, I was able to find it again from the Leetsdale boat launch as it headed
from Beaver County back up towards Dashield's Dam - making it a two-for-one county bird for me. This "localized" behavior
suggests that this particular individual may now have been present on this far eastern end of the Ohio River for several days
now, possibly ever since Katrina moved through western Pennsylvania.
This bird also represents a significant milestone for me - the 250th species I have recorded in Allegheny County.