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 Comerica's gull problem explained.

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PostSubject: Comerica's gull problem explained.   Wed Jan 30, 2008 10:51 pm

Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Comerica Park pecking order: Bugs, birds, ball
Tom Gage / The Detroit News

DETROIT -- After that shutout Friday night, they were everywhere.

Around second, around third.

In the gaps, down the lines. Everywhere.

The Tigers with their 23 runs in the last two games with the Mets?

No, those darn sea gulls, which gave Comerica Park the look of a landfill site over the weekend, especially Sunday.

"Does this happen all the time?" one of the Mets asked Tigers first baseman Sean Casey. "First time I've seen it," Casey said.

First time anyone has, to this extent. There have been sea gulls at Comerica Park. They've even congregated on the field before.

But not like this.

What caused it? Food, of course. Moths.

The gulls weren't there to see the game, although the locals among them probably enjoyed the 15-7 outcome Sunday. They were there to eat. There were moths in the air, and better yet for the hungry gulls, easier-to-catch moths on the ground -- a bird's version of a burger and fries.

"You could see them pecking at something on the ground," Casey said. "They had a feast around me."

The birds were a nuisance, though. Not only that, they were a hazard to the players -- and that doesn't just mean to the players' hats. The birds were more on the ground than overhead.

First of all, as much in harm's way as they were, a gull could have gotten nailed by a batted ball. Can you imagine the explosion of feathers if one of Gary Sheffield's lasers had hit a gull?

But the real hazard was to the players if they'd been distracted while attempting to catch a ball. In any case, the birds were a problem -- and they would have been a problem again Monday had there been a game.

"They're still here," said a frustrated Heather Nabozny, head groundskeeper for the Tigers. "We're doing our humane best to get rid of them."

The Tigers don't have a bug expert on staff, but Monday they brought in a Michigan State entomologist who had watched Sunday's game on television. The insect specialist instantly recognized the problem.

"There'd been a huge hatch of moths elsewhere. We don't know where, it could have been miles away," Nabozny said.

"They were attracted to the lights for the Friday night game. It's just our bad luck we had games when those suckers hatched."

The moths were so attracted, however, that they stayed.

And when they stayed, word spread gull to gull.

Sunday was the day they all showed up.

So what are the Tigers going to do about it?

They can't do what Ted Williams used to do with pigeons at Fenway Park -- sit at home plate with a rifle and pick them off one by one.

"We're buying plastic owls, putting them on the field until the players need it, and seeing if that works," Nabozny said. "But there aren't a lot of plastic owls around."

A shortage of plastic owls?

If it's not one thing, it's another.

But there is this thought: Better get rid of the moths fast, or the gulls might find dinner being served soon after lunch.

Isn't it almost fishfly season?


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola


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PostSubject: Ring-billed Gulls & Army Worms at COPA   Wed Jan 30, 2008 11:04 pm

From Naturespeak:

See Gull?

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.


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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PostSubject: Re: Comerica's gull problem explained.   Thu Jan 31, 2008 7:27 am

our secret weapon! Except they were distracting us, too!
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PostSubject: Re: Comerica's gull problem explained.   Thu Jan 31, 2008 1:23 pm

That was pretty funny Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Comerica's gull problem explained.   Thu Jan 31, 2008 2:08 pm

there were a couple of close calls that got me to thinking, hey, we have at least 2 universities fairly close by with ornithology departments! Let's get to the bottom of this mystery before somebody gets hurt! and they did...
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