Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ivory Gull--No; Black-tailed Gull--Yes

Wes picked me up at 6:30 AM and we bombed down the road to Pismo Beach in hopes of seeing the ivory gull. Unlike yesterday afternoon and most of the night when it rained, this morning dawned clear and sunny. We hit the prime ivory gull site to find at least 10 birders with many scopes already in position waiting for a sighting. Finding out that the gull had not been seen yet, we then drove 6 miles south down the beach looking for it, but to no avail. We then headed north about 1/2 mile to the other key site, but again found nothing.

The next move was to work our way further north in an effort to find a dead seal or sea lion carcass that it might have moved to feed on. We spent the rest of the morning looking and ended up 50 miles north at San Simeon. The best we could do for all our effort was the zebra in the top photo. Just after we found the zebra Wes got a call from Todd McGrath alerting us to the discovery of a black-tailed gull down in Long Beach just south of LA. Like the ivory gull, the black-tailed is very rare in CA having been seen only twice before. It is also extremely rare anywhere in North America.

It was about 11:45 when we got the news, and we were about 275 miles from where the gull was found. Without a second thought we put the car into overdrive and ripped our way down to Long Beach. All the way down Wes was calling other CA birders to alert them to the find, and in turn we were getting calls from birders already watching the gull. Fortunately we hit no major traffic and arrived in Long Beach at 4:15 to find at least 30 birders lined up with cameras and scopes checking out the black-tailed gull.

We were able to watch the bird up close and personal for about 30 minutes before it and the mob of other gulls it was hanging with took to the air. The middle photo above is of the black-tailed gull (left bird) standing next to a California gull. Note the black-tailed is darker gray, and has red and black on the tip of its bill, a bit brighter white arcs above and below the eye, a more prominent/dark hindcollar, and of course a black tail (remember to click on photo to enlarge). The bottom photo is of some of the birders on the scene including Wes (hawaiian shirt) and Todd (to the right of Wes in blue jeans wearing a ball cap).

For the week 51 birds have been seen of which 11 today were sea gull species, and the black-tailed brings the YTD to 689. The gull is also a life bird for me and Wes. We are now back at Wes' house in Solvang. Tomorrow we will try one more time for the ivory plus be looking for some other possible rarities. Stay tuned!

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