Naturespeak A naturalist's view of the world

June 13, 2007

See Gull?

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 10:54 pm

 With one out at the bottom of the 6th inning, Tiger outfielder Curtis Granderson drove a ball deep into right field off the Brewers pitcher.  Although there were at least seven outfielders in right, none reached the ball in time and it dropped in for a hit. Brandon Inge cruised home on Granderson’s triple.  Earlier in the same inning, a visitor ran between the plate and mound as Verlander launched one of his deadly fastballs.  The throw barely missed the intruder and it was a clean strike over the center of the plate.

  Fortunately, none of these incidences spoiled what turned out to be an historic game last night.  Neither manager objected to the extra fielders nor to the potential interference posed by the infield visitors.  Justin Verlander went on to pitch a no hitter and earn a place in the record books. 

  There were many newspaper stories about last night’s game, but the one that caught my eye shows one of those extra outfielders making a catch – it is a picture of a Gull catching a moth.  Yes, those extra outfielders and pesky infield visitors at Comerica Park are birds.  The problem I have is that everyone is calling them “seagulls.”  The latest AP article uses the term “seagull” in an otherwise factual article. In fact, one of the national TV announcers last week didn’t know what exactly to call them. He only stated that he knew “they weren’t pigeons because they were white.”

  I would never be able to call a ball game or write a decent sports story, so I guess my roll is reduced to that of the “resident baseball naturalist.”  As the RBN, my first duty is to point out that there is no such thing as a “Seagull.”  I will bypass the “no white pigeons” comment for now and simply state that the baseball “seagulls” in question are Ring-billed Gulls.

  Just as surely as the language of baseball includes fastballs, sliders, sinkers, and curveballs the language of gulls includes Ring-bills, Herrings, Bonaparte’s, and many more.  It would make for some pretty dull play by play for a commentator to simply say “Verlander makes a pitch and it’s low.  That pitch was high and inside. There he goes again with yet another pitch that just missed the corner.  Looks like Mr. Verlander really is a pitcher after all, Jim.”  The same goes for saying something like “Look Jim, there’s a seagull.” 

  As the RBN in the announcement booth, I could have added some color commentary such as “You know Bill, I just saw one of these birds flying over Anchor Bay the other day and I could have sworn it was a Bagel (get it – baygull). Gulls are all in the genus Larus, a group that is collectively known as “seabirds,” but many of them never actually see the sea.  The birds that we see out here tonight are Ring-billed Gulls, Larus delawarensis.”

  Now you know why there is no such thing as a RBN.

  Getting back to the bird in hand (or glove), the Ring-bill is the commonest of our local gulls. (Take a look at one of these birds patrolling a McDonald’s parking lot seeking wild fries.)  They are about 16”-17” long with a four foot wingspan.  The adults are mostly white with gray wings and back, but the most distinctive feature is the yellow bill with a prominent black ring near the tip. If you want to really get into gull lingo, you might find yourself saying something like “this species has a black ring at the gonydeal angle of the beak.” To say something like that is just as bad as saying seagull, in my opinion. That is geekspeak for the sharply angled expansion near the tip of gull beak, and is no substitute for plainly stating that “this bird has a ring around its bill.”

  The Herring Gull is another summer resident gull that might be confused with the ring-bill, but it is much larger.  It has a red spot at the gonydeal ang….excuse me, on the beak rather than a ring. While the Ring-bill has yellow feet, the adult Herring Gull has pink feet. Take a look here for a quick comparison. 

  As a water bird, at least in name, all gulls have delicate webbed feet for swimming and do hang around water most of the time. They are opportunistic omnivores, however, and will go inland wherever there is food in the form of fish, earthworms, grain, garbage, Big Macs, or even White Castles.  Insects are a specialty of this small gull.  Seeing a cloud of these birds following a farmer’s plow to get at the newly exposed grubs is a regular spring scenario. 

  Insects are apparently the reason behind the Comerica Park gull problem.  An invasion of army worm moths (take a look at the article in Weds., June 13, 2007 M. E.N.) have set a tempting table right smack dab in the middle of the ballpark.

  Army worms are drab looking little moths (see here) that often emerge in great numbers and, according to the A.P. story, get “sucked up into the upper atmosphere, carried along and then dumped down.” The stadium lights attract the moths and the moths attract the gulls.

  Ignoring the fact that this article refers to the birds only as “seagulls,” we can now consider this story factually complete.  We are talking about Army Worms, being eaten by Ring-billed Gulls, in Comerica Park.  And now, back to the game

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress