Friday, 9 December 2016

Perfection Blemished - An Injured adult Ivory Gull

At 11:25 a phone call into the office was directed to me.  It was Ken Knowles.  Why was he phoning this number? He usually texts or calls my cell phone? And why was he screaming IVORY GULL at Quidi Vidi Lake. Was I asleep at my desk.?  Not likely since it was before noon. No this must be for real. WHAT!? Adult Ivory Gull at west end of Quidi Vidi Lake right now.  It finally registered.  Ken told me to alert the crowd. My fingers were all over the keyboard. I couldn't for the life of me remember how to post a sighting on nf.birds something I'd done hundreds of times over the years.  I couldn't remember who I should text, who I should phone. All I wanted to do was get down the stairs to my car and get to QV Lake.

It was torturous 15 minute ordeal in traffic to get to the lake. Ken was at the east end of the lake because he said it had flown that way but I decided to the check the west end beach where it was first seen and sure enough there was a white duck-like bird with a blue, orange tipped, bill standing on the beach preening among the pigeons and domestic and wild ducks. I jumped out of the car with camera and binos. Alison Mews was already standing there taking pictures of her lifer. Catherine Barrett and Lancy Cheng drove up. Lifer for them too. OMGs all around  Pictures etc.  Meanwhile I was getting a sick feeling.  Ken has said the bird had some oil on the neck but we could see this was not oil but an injury. Not fresh, no fresh blood but there was skin showing and photos showed there was an actual round hole in the bare skin. Did it go through the skin into the muscle?  Don't know.  Pictures showed a swelling ringing the circular hole. It looked like something healing. Maybe an old infection.  It was also a bit messy below the hole where perhaps it had been scratching.  Ivory Gulls unlike gulls have needle sharp hooked toe nails for holding on to ice.  They could hurt themselves scratching too much with those weapons.  

The bird had a good side but even here the somewhat disheveled look of the bird was apparent. I was not enjoying this experience. I was glad to see an adult Ivory Gull but was unhappy to see the most beautiful bird in the world in this condition. After 15 minutes it flew west up over the trees and the city and was not seen again this day. Tomorrow is another day.

I can brag like rock star listing off the number of his sexual conquests and say with some accuracy that my life total of Ivory Gulls is about 3,500 individuals. Yes three thousand five hundred. I kept track since the first one in late December 1975 at L'Anse-aux-Meadows, NF.  Most of my Ivory Gulls were at three locations 1) L'Anse-aux-Meadows, NF 2 ) Avalon & Bonavista Peninsula NF and 3) Northeast Greenland. Ivory Gull is not a bird where seeing one is enough. It is quite the opposite. The more you see, the more you need to see them.  For those who have never seen an Ivory Gull you might consider avoiding the chance because once you get a taste, the need to see another is worse than before.  You are addicted.

When I got home this evening I couldn't look at the photos of today's bird but but did take a trip down memory life and indulged in some of the multitudes of Ivory Gull photos in my collection.  I stayed in Newfoundland. Below are some beautiful examples of the worlds greatest bird (after white Gyrs and maybe Ross's Gull).

Ivory Gull (injured) 9 Dec 2016, Quidi Vidi Lake, St. John's, NF

Ivory Gull 1 Feb 2007, Quidi Vidi Lake, St. John's, NF.  This bird was present for about two weeks and became everyone's pet and walked up to birders for hand outs of bottled moose, chicken hearts and chopped liver. 

Ivory Gull 3 Feb 2007, Quidi Vidi Lake, St. John's, NF

Ivory Gull 1 Feb 2007, Quidi Vidi Lake, St. John's, NF.  At sunrise waiting for its breakfast after a frosty night.

Ivory Gull 21 Feb 2010, Goose Cove, Northern Peninsula, NF.  Does it get better? Seal hunters on the  Northern Peninsula don't consider them gulls. I also think they are something as distinct from gulls as are jaegers and terns.

A 'speckity' immature Ivory Gull 20 Feb 2010, Goose Cove, Northern Peninsula, NF.

Ivory Gull 21 Feb 2010, Goose Cove, Northern Peninsula, NF.

Ivory Gull is not afraid of Glaucous Gulls which it commonly occurs with.

Ivory Gull 20 Feb 2010, Bear Cove, Northern Peninsula. NF


Ivory Gulls 20 Feb 2010, Bear Cove, Northern Peninsula. NF

Ivory Gulls 20 Feb 2010, Bear Cove, Northern Peninsula. NF


1 comment:

  1. What a stunning bird sorry to hear it was injured hope its full recovered. Soon we won't have any ivory gulls left unfortunately with the destruction of the arctic

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