Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Ivory Gull -- YES!

First let me acknowledge that my last blog entry was definitely pissy (and it didn't take Mark commenting on it for me to realize it), but if I'm going to do this blog then sometimes that's gonna happen. So let's put that aside and talk about Monday. I decided to take Monday off and we headed up to Cape Ann as soon as Mark got the first report that the Ivory Gull was still being seen. As much as I was excited about seeing the bird, I was a little apprehensive about the "crowds" that might be there. As it turned out, I was justified in both. When we approached that last part of the road out to the parking lot it was clear that the numbers of birders were huge. There was a truck with a plow parked across the road and it was clear that we would have to hike in from the Audubon property near the yacht club road. Actually talking with the two guys trying to get down to plow the Coast Guard property at the lighthouse was quite interesting. I won't go into the gorry details, but they were delightful and I was somewhat ashamed of being a birder....again. They had been waiting for over an hour to get to one of the guys' homes to plow out and had politely asked people parked along the road to move their vehicles so they could get in -- virtually none of the birders would do it. I even had a conversation with one birder who thought I was referring to the Coast Guardsmen when I said something to Mark about "the assholes". He commented that those two guys should realize the importance of this bird and just be patient. When he realized I was talking about the birders being total jerks he quietly moved off a few feet. Mark never made it out to the parking lot at the dogbar and I actually went just to let the birds know that the Gloucester police had been called and they would be ticketing and towing shortly! I admit I did take a minute or two to snap some shots, but with all the camera power present I didn't need to add to the chaos.
After apologizing again to the two Coast Guard guys for the rudeness of most of the birders present, we took off, both agreeing that we needed to get out of the zoo.

We decided to check out Rocky Neck and see if the gazebo owl was still present; but it wasn't there. We did enjoy the noises coming from the seals out on the rocks and commented how they sometimes look like any number of previous fat cats we've had.
Looking out at Ten Pound Island we had a Cooper's Hawk finishing off a meal and we just stayed put for a while enjoying the solitude and talking about the scene at Eastern Point and an article Mark's been planning to write for Bird Observer....more to come.
We decided to stop at Jodrey Pier on the way out and check the gull show there. There were decidedly less birders and the Iceland Gull show was quite enjoyable.
As we watched the flocks of mergansers, eider and goldeneye, Mark spotted the Black-headed Gull fly in and land with a flock of Black-backs.
The size difference was astounding; it almost looked like a shorebird among the bigger gulls.
Then someone spotted the Ivory Gull which had come into the inner harbor to feed and the handful of us that were there got some spectacular views....and without the craziness of the hoardes.
My inability to get one of the picture-perfect shots as he flew by at close range, made me realize (yet again) that I have to take time to read the manual that came with the camera and expand my repertoire of settings.
After just 2-1/2 hours on Cape Ann, we grabbed lunch and headed back to Worcester satisfied that we "erased" the earlier chaotic sighting with this much more laid-back viewing.

Now let's just hope there aren't any more super rare birds found for a while!


  1. Glad that you were able to get out and see the gull - and even better that you were treated to an almost private showing after having to deal with the chaos!

  2. Please note in the photographs, the birder's cars completely blocking the entrance to the Coast Guard facility and lighthouse, just out of sight to the left. Note the gate is clearly signed. We actually had one "caught out" birder try to say she didn't know there was a coastguard facility there. This with the gigantor lighthouse blocking out the sun.

  3. I have never been a "big time" twitcher, there are certainly pros and cons of "the chase". Aside from getting the bird the pros are often times bumping into birders I've not seen in years. Aside from missing the bird, the cons are it can be a circus as you've said above...and some but not all get carried away. Saturday was not too bad, there were probably fewer people and the weekend snow hadn't yet fallen. Most pulled well off the road and other could pass.
    One person got carried away and failed to pull all the way over blocking the road... another or maybe the same repeated to tell every one within ear shot he'd seen this..this...and the Ivory Gull within a few short hours...repeated over and over and over, until I was about ready to jump in Gloucester Harbor and drown myself or the other option. But, hey the guy was excited.
    In contrast, Sunday I snowshoed Harvard Forest during the afternoon, the very peaceful solitude and only a short supply of winter residents as one might expect in a winter mature forest (more or less. But, from an outdoorsman's perspect it was no less gratifying than Saturday's Ivory Gull...only different. But, I suspect I'll remember my first Ivory Gull (an adult to boot) a lot longer than Sunday's walk or maybe the contrast of the two will always be linked together.
    Hopefully things will be a bit more orderly now that the Plymouth bird was discovered and dilute the crowds.

    Glad you guys got the bird.

  4. I was hoping your would get out to Gloucester and get some pictures. I am not nearly as adventerous as you are so I get my rare bird fixes through you. ;o)

    What a lovely seagull. I had no idea birders where that intense. I can understand being excited, but one must never be rude about it. It gives birders a bad name IMO.

    Can't wait for your next field trip. ;o)

  5. Great job with the Blog Sheila! I enjoyed your Tufted Duck photos. I was at Apponoag Cove Monday but there was no sign of either the Tufted or the Hybrid.

    Michelle St.Sauveur
    Coventry, RI