Not Just a Gull!

Like most birders in our region, I have a list of species that I think might show up. Not regular rarities but megas, firsts, the big one. On that list was a gull from South America and Africa, the Kelp Gull. Sure it looks like a midget Great Black-backed Gull but just imagine how far it has travelled and wonder why it ever decided to keep on going north until it found itself standing malar-by-gular with our regular Herring, Ring-billed, the aforementioned beast the Great Black-backed. Not to mention those weird albinos, Iceland Gulls – like an ugly Snowy Petrel I suppose. Well a Kelp Gull did make it here and was found by Jim Edsall in the best traditions of such stellar discoveries, when he wasn’t really looking for one but just doing what all birders do, bird (even when they are pretending they are not birding).
It may be that the gull was present earlier the same day but the pixels confirming the fact were deleted (for now perhaps), it may also have been around a while or maybe that fateful afternoon when Jim did a casual scan and saw the gull was the very first time it had been seen in Nova Scotia. Naturally the trip was on, only three hours away so but no big deal, but no need to get there for first light, it was probably a pre-roost gathering that contained the beauty and so, hopefully, the same mix of gulls would assemble the following day, late afternoon, and the prize would be ours. Good plan, poorly executed by the gull as it didn’t show. For Nova Scotia, the gathering was substantial and inevitably we attracted the attention of quizzical locals, many of whom walk the area of MacCormack’s Beach daily and almost certainly saw the gull on their previous days jolly.

Where did it go is the ultimate question. Probably not too far would be the reasonable answer. It could have followed a boat out to sea, in which case it could end up anywhere. On the day of discovery it will probably have roosted with the gull mass, wherever they gather daily, maybe a static piece of water, quite probably on the ice on the said piece of water. It won’t have a particular affinity with any of the other gulls present and so would likely just wander off with one of the departing packs and do what gulls do, roam around searching for food. My prediction is that it will appear again somewhere. Off a fish plant, on a ball park loafing area, on a frozen lake, around a sewage farm or, and perhaps the gulls favourite party place, at the dump, I presume they have one in Dartmouth or at least nearby, that is the place to go look at. Obviously this may just be wishful thinking on my part but this is the winter, the gulls aren’t doing too much at present so I bet it is there, somewhere.

My birding has been a bit fitful locally, mostly because of the weather but also because we are in a January slump when even the lively gales didn’t bring us the alcids we all expected. The regular spots have been scoured and, ironically and despite the same area having been regularly checked, the first Dovekie of the year was found by Ervin at Clark’s Harbour wharf on one of his visits.

This seems to be the year of close (for me) sea duck with both Surf and White-winged Scoter hanging around inside the wharf at Daniel’s Head. The Horned Grebe is also still around too. Just offshore the duck melange always has Black Scoters surfing the waves and gobbling items unseen.

A second trip of the year to Meteghan again failed to provide the Kamchatka Gull for continued scrutiny. A bonus for the dip was a couple of Barrow’s Goldeneye, a Digby County tick, not that I keep a Digby list.

A few days earlier we’d chased a couple of Sandhill Cranes in South Ohio, Yarmouth Co. The views were ok but we didn’t stay too long. These early arrivals may be the vanguard of breeders so worth keeping track of.

In the yard the Fox Sparrow finally came close enough for a photo, taken hanging out the bathroom window but not too shoddy.

Our regular Merlin has also been coming, sitting on the weather vane and giving the sparrows and doves the evil eye.

I also lucked in good views of the Daniel’s Head Snowy Owl. It seemed to like the rock pile by the road, ignoring the passing trucks. The rock pile has since gone but the owl lingers around the head if your luck is in.


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