Rare Arctic Gull in Massachusetts

By: Anthony Watts, Watts Up With That (from icecap.us)
By: Anthony Watts, Watts Up With That (from icecap.us)

One of the claims about “global climate change” is that it will affect the normal ranges of flora and fauna of our planet. Well, with a very cold northern hemisphere this winter, that seems to happening. A bird not seen (as a mature adult) in Massachusetts since the 1800's , an Ivory Gull, normally an inhabitant of arctic areas, has been spotted. Here are the details from the Plymouth, MA Patriot-Ledger. - Anthony

GULL-LOVER’S TRAVELS: Birdwatchers flock to Plymouth to spot rare specimen
PLYMOUTH Jan 28th, 2009

The temperatures were in the single digits, but not low enough to keep the gawkers away. A celebrity was in town, behind the East Bay Grille, a visitor not seen in these parts in decades, if not longer. But these weren’t paparazzi, and this wasn’t a Hollywood star. Rather, they were avid birdwatchers - about 20 in all - braving the frigid air as they scanned the bay and the edges of the breakwater with binoculars and spotting scopes.

And they would be rewarded, catching a glimpse of a glimpse of a rare, fully mature ivory gull. A birdwatcher reported seeing one in Plymouth last week, and another was spotted at Eastern Point Lighthouse in Gloucester. From Sunday through Tuesday, the avian visitor was a regular in Plymouth, much to the delight of birdwatchers, who came from near and far in hopes of adding the extremely rare bird to their life list.

Ivory gulls normally stay well above Newfoundland, living on Arctic ice where they follow whales and polar bears to feed on the scraps and carcasses they leave behind after making a kill. Until this year, the last report of a fully mature ivory gull in Massachusetts was in the 1800s. Three immature birds were seen in the 1940s. In 1976, another immature bird had been spotted in Rockport.

Russell Graham of Dallas is flying in Friday for a three-day visit. He's hoping the gull will still be in town when he arrives. “The ivory gull is one of a handful of birds that every birder dreams of seeing but almost no one has” he said. “This isn't a dream that’s confined to North America. There is also an immature bird in France that is causing the same reaction there. There are a couple of places where you can go in the summer and expect to see one but they are distant and expensive - Svalbard on Spitsbergen, Norway and Pond Inlet on Baffin Island, Canada. “I never thought I would have the chance to see one and I can’t pass up this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

If the gull is gone, Graham will consider a side trip to Nova Scotia, where two adult ivory gulls have been seen recently. “I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed,” he said. John Fox of Arlington, Va., and his friend Adam D’Onofrio of Petersburg drove more than eight hours on Sunday to see the gull.
“No bird this morning,” Fox said a day later, shaking his head. “We left Virginia at three in the morning yesterday and arrived here 20 minutes too late.”

On Sunday morning, hundreds of people got to observe and photograph the gull as it fed on a chicken carcass someone put out on one of the docks in the parking lot. The bird stayed until 11 a.m., then flew across the harbor. It was not seen again for the rest of the day. (Read more at icecap.us)

(Icecap note: Heavy snow has been common since 1992/93 in the northeast up to southeast Canada. Boston had more snow in the period from 1992/93 to 2004/05 than any other dozen years in history (since the 1880s). Last Boston had 52 inches last year, already 49 inches this year with a January nearly 5 degrees colder than normal. )

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