I woke up this morning to news that an Ivory Gull was being seen in New York, about two and a half hours from my home. Having daydreamed about seeing this rare Arctic gull for years, there was nothing to do but to jump in the car with my nine-year old (if they can open school late for snow, I can cancel it for a day to show my 4th grader an all-white gull that eats dead seal carcasses left by Polar Bears!). We arrived at the designated spot and followed a half dozen birders on foot for about half a mile. And there it was, a beautiful white bird, sitting on top of a telephone pole, with 40 birders standing around below it. After 20 minutes, it flew off, circled around, and came back a couple times--landing on a piling, picking up part of a dead fish, and flying off again. Amazing. I wasn't ready for the colors on the bill--red, orange, yellow, green, blue. If you live on the East Coast, this is a good bird to chase. Since these birds are declining, possibly due to melting of Polar ice caps due to global climate change, and possibly due to mercury poisoning, there's no telling how many opportunities we'll have to see these birds. They almost never get this far south. (Photo: Phil Jeffrey)
Also in the area, and at one point in the same binocular field, a wintering Snowy Owl. As one birder commented, its not very often that you see a bird that makes a Snowy Owl look off-white--but an adult Ivory Gull sure does that. Some birders have seen this Ivory Gull pick at scraps of a duck killed by this owl, so its quite a scene there on the banks of the Hudson River 20 miles north of NYC.
My 4th grader was happy to see the gull, as well as her second Snowy Owl, and to play in the snow for a little while. She read her autographed Kaufman guide half way home. Hopefully she'll remember this twitch, and feel a connection to the Arctic wildlife that need our protection.
More on this bird:
The City Birder