Sunday, 5 April 2009

Ross's Gull.

The recent report of a Ross's Gull at Lytham St Annes on Sunday 22 March prompted me to recall the bird in 2008 which first presented itself at Marton Mere on 31 March and was found at Lytham St Annes on 18 April and continued to make many a birder happy until it was found dead on Friday 16 May. I have recently made enquiries about this birds demise but really don't feel qualified to make too many comments on the results other than to say it was noted by one expert to be regarded as unwell mainly because it had failed to show any sign of advancing summer plumage and also that a close approach was allowed by the bird. I myself enjoyed excellent views of this beautiful and enigmatic creature including some good photo opportunities which my second rate photographic equipment failed to deal with very well resulting in the images shown above having a 'bleached' effect resulting in the lack of plumage detail and falsely showing the bird to be a 'white' individual....Ahhhh well, can't win them all.

In the 70's when my photographic interests were at their peak and my birding was in its early days I joined a group called Postal Portfolios and the chance of a lifetime presented itself to me in the form of a direct descendant of James Clark Ross who I eventually met at a rally in Kent the date of which escapes me. I don't think it right and proper to name names on a blog without permission apart from the fact I sadly lost contact with this person along with the winding up of my photo interests but am currently trying to re-establish the friendship.

I'm quite convinced this blog is not the place for a history lesson but briefly....The bird was one of the great ornithological mysteries until 1905 when the Russian explorer Alexandrovitch Buterlin discovered the main breeding area only just within the Arctic Circle on the Kolyma River delta of Eastern Siberia. If JCR had still been alive it is unlikely that anyone would have been more surprised than he who undoubtedly associated the bird only with ice and snow.

One of the most intriguing facts I learned about JCR is....Around 1830 during the 4 year Arctic voyage he obtained three specimens of the - then unknown - White - billed Diver. Unfortunately Edward Sabine - who was with him on the voyage - persuaded JCR that these birds were only very old males of the Great Northern Diver. The species wasn't rediscovered until 20 years later when Adams found it in Alaska, hence its latin name Gavia adamsii....but really should have been Ross's Diver....never mind there is a Ross's Seal.


Brian Rafferty said...

Peter. Thanks for a very interesting and fascinating account of the Ross's Gull. I too enjoyed many happy hours photographing this enigmatic bird and spent time with it just before it's sad demise. I felt at that time that the bird looked very sad and lonely as the weather was quite warm. I was very upset when I learnt later that it had sadly died. However it had given much pleasure to many hundreds of birdwatchers. Fairhaven seems to attract Arctic Gulls and I have never forgiven myself for not going to see the Ivory Gull that appeared there also. Cheers. Brian Rafferty.

Pete Woodruff said...

All to often the price to be paid with true vagrancy as opposed to routine migration.

I'm keeping my eye on your interesting blog too, accompanied by some superb photography.

Thanks for comments on here Brian.