The Susquehanna River has been hosting several rare Little Gulls (code 3) this winter but I’ll admit, I am not super confident in my gull identifications. Besides, the Susquehanna isn’t exactly a creek! The fact that thousands of other similar looking gulls (specifically, Bonaparte’s Gulls), are frequenting the same stretch of the river near Lancaster, had discouraged me from even trying to locate our smallest North American gull the past two months.
However, three consecutive daily RBA (rare bird alert) texts informing birders of a Little Gull localizing between the bridges in Wrightstown, motivated me to try this afternoon.
I banked some credit this morning and vacuumed and mopped all of the floors around the myriad of boxes cluttering our 5-day new residence in Manayunk…..before suggesting a journey to the Susquehanna River. It worked!
As soon as I reached the John Wright restaurant parking area on the shore between the two bridges, I set up my new Swarovski scope within speaking distance of a young fellow intently staring through a much more impressive optic set-up than mine. I spent ten minutes scanning the vast river, trying to find the one white bird with a black underwing. Nothing. I was experiencing a competitive birder’s dilemma. Keep searching on my own….or ask the guy next to me for help. I chose the latter.
“Sure, I’m on it now, straight out about half a mile”, he stated matter-of-factly. I thanked him and fumbled for my camera which was twisted around my binoculars – both dangling and clanging against my tripod. The bird floated downstream with hundreds of its identical cousins until a certain point whereby it flew back in the reverse direction. Its rounded gray wings, edged in white, contrasted brightly with the opposite black underwing. There was no doubt…#698!