The Ross’s Gull (code 3) is an ARCTIC bird rarely seen in the Lower 48 states. It would be a “code 5” except that you can reliably see it in October…..in Barrow, Alaska! Two weeks ago I had a plane ticket from Tucson to SF to see the celebrated Ross’s Gull in Half Moon Bay. That was the bird that thrilled thousands of birders for three days but perished at the talons of a peregrine falcon in front of hundreds. Luckily I checked the SF birding Listserv six hours before the flight and saved myself $ and anguish.
It makes NO SENSE but another Ross’s Gull was reported last weekend in the Adirondack region. I don’t believe two Ross’s Gulls have ever been spotted in the USA (ex-Alaska) in the same year. This incredible sighting is clearly a result of climate change combined with a greater number of keen-eyed birders around the country. This first-year-very-lost-male has been walking ON frozen Tupper Lake (nr. Lake George) for several days desperately searching for its next meal. Locals have tossed carrion onto the ice to help it refuel. Another peregrine will likely predate this little, fatigued and conspicuous gull any day.
Fortunately for me, I had a trip planned to Vermont this week. A three hour detour to see a “life bird” was a no-brainer. But would the bird survive long enough for me to see and photograph it? Selfish thought, I know, but that’s being totally honest.
As I pulled into the designated viewing spot….the Tupper Lake boat launch…an enthusiastic young fellow dressed in barely more than a tee-shirt and blue jeans in the 10F temperature, waved me over to a group of ten others gathered at the ice’s edge. I checked the license plates of the other cars as I tried to calmly walk over to them. Ct, Mass, Md, NY, NY, NY, and me. The bird was about 1/4 mile out on the ice and the 26 yr old Yale PHD student eagerly showed me the Ross’s Gull through his scope. I thanked him, learned he was at Middlebury the same time as my Tyler, and he was quickly back on his way to New Haven to make a night class.
I reflected on our brief exchange. Seeing another life bird is exhilarating and it is sort of comforting feeling relatively “normal” in this crowd of birding zealots. But mostly I was gratified to know that the next generation of birders had fledged.