Monday, February 26, 2007

Ivory Gull... WOW

Here's what I saw today!

When I woke up yesterday morning, I had no thoughts of seeing an Ivory Gull for many years. When's the next time I can get to Newfoundland and hope and pray to see this bird? Well, luck would have it that one turned up in Piermont, NY yesterday just over the NJ border. Yowzers. A snowstorm last night made diminished the chances of this bird staying around, but the luck is still flowing. It was there this morning. I woke up at 9:00 after sleeping in for my "delayed opening" due to the snow. I checked my email and discovered that the bird was still there. There's not a whole lot of drama to this story. I sped up the NJ Turnpike, crossed the NY border and drove into the little town of Piermont. I got my directions messed up somewhere and couldn't find the exact spot for the bird. I managed to spot a car who seemed to be in a hurry. It was what I would define as a "lifer hurry". Naturally, I followed him right to the crowd of birders.

There it was... sitting on the ice in all its... whiteness. This visitor from the Arctic was a treat for the eyes. Devoid of any notable plumage characteristics aside from its red-tipped bill, beady black eye, and black legs, the adult bird was shining in all of its pure-white plumage.

After only a few minutes, it took off and headed to a different location further up the shore. All of the 50 or so birders there hopped in their cars and followed it. We re-found the bird as it flew past us and then banked over our heads. It put on quite a show. It perched on telephone poles, ate from a Ruddy Duck carcass, flew up and down the jetty, and generally didn't care that all of these birders and photographers were there.

The Ivory Gull is in some serious decline. High levels of mercury have been found in them in a recently published study. Also, global warming has had an effect on the sea ice that the gulls roost on in the Arctic.

Oh yeah, did I mention there was a Snowy Owl there too!?!?!

The Snowy Owl above had been there for over a month and this is where the Ivory Gull was originally found. I assume the person who found the gull was looking for the owl. This is a classic example of the Patagonia Picnic Table Effect.


Anonymous said...

Let's hope it stays another day at least! I'm coming from Cambridge, Mass to see it (I hope) tomorrow! After that, mayhaps the Smith's Longspur at Jones's Beach??? Good for you! (I was going to try to tempt you to come, but you already saw it!)

Patrick B. said...


I'm always up for a chase, so next time something appears and you want to go, let me know. I'll go for sure if I haven't seen it and I can get out of work. I should have taken the whole day off and gone to see the Smith's. I hadn't heard too much about it since last week so I didn't think it was still there. It is though. Good luck!!!

John B. said...

Wow. That is quite a bird.

Anonymous said...

Nice pictures! And great minds must think alike because the Patagonia Picnic Table Effect is the first thing I thought of when I saw this bird on the listserve.

Anonymous said...

Yowzers is right! Wow!!

Patrick B. said...

It was definitely an amazing bird to see and it's jumped right near the top of my list of favorite sightings. I hope it sticks around so a lot of folks can see it.

Anonymous said...

I can't express just how jealous I am of you and others who actually got a look at this gull I've already dipped twice since you told me about it yesterday! Congrats and grat pics.

Jochen said...

Well, unless the bird shows up close to Detroit as well, I'd suggest you leave at least the Western Solitary to me.
Come on, that would only be fair, don't you think!?
Cheers and congrats on such a brilliant bird!!

Patrick B. said...

The world of bloggers is collectively praying for the return of this bird.

That sounds like a good trade to me!

Jochen said...

Incidentally I also wrote a piece on a gull today, namely the bare part colouration of the Common Gull.
Now, ain't that an exciting match to this Ivory Gull?
Yeah, abso...f?*$&...lutely!

Anonymous said...

The world of bloggers' collective prayers were not answered today, as we dipped on the IVGU. There were, however consolation prizes, in the form of a Snowy Owl and Peregrine Falcon, the latter of which stayed all day at the pier pilings near the gazebo. It was also odd (for me at least) to see a raft of 13 Wood Ducks on the Hudson. I don't really associate them with this sort of wide-open habitat. Well, we've all been on unsucessful stake-outs, so I look forward to a future (more sucessful) chase! Best, Jeffrey

LauraHinNJ said...

Congrats, Patrick!

I think I might actually be able to recognize that gull - your top pic is beautiful.

Are you not even excited about the snowy? Or did you have it already?

Patrick B. said...

Don't get me wrong, the Snowy Owl was awesome. I've only seen one once before. It's not every day that a Snowy is overshadowed.

Anonymous said...

They are a spectacular bird aren't they? And very accommodating, they often come by and check things out when we are out on the land in the spring. I wonder if that was our resident peregrine also?

Susan Gets Native said...

***Jealous like you wouldn't believe***

Could you capture it and save it for us when we all come to NJ this fall?

Larry said...

Now that's a gull I'd like to see!
Excellent pictures too!

Gyorgy Szimuly (SzimiStyle) said...

How jealous I am :)))
Lovely birds which I have missed to see so far. Anyway every lifer is fantastic. Keep on thicking them ;)

BTW, nice and compley blog. Need to to go through :)))