Sunday, January 18, 2009

Ivory Gull!

Today I did some serious bird chasing.  I know I recently said that I don't tend to do much of this, but there was something in the air today and I couldn't resist.  It's not so much that the location I drove to was in any way extreme - it's a place I regularly visit in the winter, only about an hour's drive away.  Nor the time; Sunday morning is the best time in my schedule to go birdwatching.  It's that I drove through a somewhat nasty snowstorm to get there, in my poor little slip-sliding Honda civic.  

But this was a bird I couldn't resist - the Ivory Gull, an extremely rare visitor from the arctic, and as beautiful a bird as I can imagine.  This is a gull that everyone can love, a medium-sized bird (close to a ring-billed gull) with absolutely snow-white plumage - not bone white, not ivory like its namesake - beautiful, pristine snow-white, with short black legs, black-pearl eyes and a blue-gray beak tipped in mild orange.  My picture above does not do the bird justice; I still haven't gotten the hang of taking pictures through my scope.  Visit this site  for a wonderful series of photos of this startling bird taken by Len Medlock.  

It was found yesterday at the southern tip of east Gloucester, spending its time between a little cove there and the dog bar breakwater that runs out into Gloucester Harbor.  It has been reliably found there over the last two days, and has honored all comers with amazing views, even as close as twenty feet.  I'm not sure if I can really recommend going up there in this weather just to see a bird, even this bird, but it's made my day, especially now that I'm back home safe and sound.  Something about seeing a beautiful bird like this that rarely leaves its home turf above the arctic circle, even in the dead of winter.  I don't know why not; the pickings have got to be better down here in Massachusetts.  It's continually amazing to think of the birds that survive all season long in the long, cold darkness of an arctic winter.  

A few other fun birds were also around, Iceland Gulls, Gadwalls, Buffleheads, Surf Scoters, Common Loons, but I mostly just watched the Ivory Gull to my heart's content and then cut my losses as I was getting soaked in what was a stiff, wet sleet out on Cape Ann.  Driving back to Newton, a quick spin on the radio of 'Our House' by Madness lent a moment of fun into an otherwise stressful drive through the snow.  

Adios, Amoebas!

p.s.  For some perspective on dedication in birders, I met folks at the cove this morning who had driven ten hours through the night, through constant snow, from Ithaca NY, to see this gull.  

1 comment:

sandy said...

Brian,
I always read your blog, but this one inspires me to comment. I love your writing and am glad you saw that wonderful bird and got home safe and sound. I'm looking forward to read about your farming experience also.
Sandy
Nick's mom