Friday, 12 August 2011

No Go....

....and the Ross's Gull.

For one reason or another the traditional Friday JB/BT/PW jaunt was called off today. I'm housebound and taking antidepressants by the dozen, whilst KT continues to insist its not the end of the world, well....we're all entitled to our opinions.

Ross's Gull. Pete Woodruff. 

So I've been sifting through my photographs and came across a reminder about a gem of a gull which I went to see at Lytham St Annes in April 2008. My resulting photograph may well look initially good, but the camera didn't handle the bright light and the bird appears to be a pure white individual with its plumage detail bleached, in fact the birds upperparts are essentially a soft grey. This unfortunate individual was found dead in the area in May.

For nearly a hundred years one of the great ornithological mysteries of the Arctic was the location of the breeding grounds of the Ross's Gull (RG). The bird had been seen only amongst the pack-ice of the far north and seemed likely to breed only in the high Arctic. In 1905 the Russian explorer Alexandrovitch Buturlin discovered the main breeding area only just within the Arctic Circle, on the Kolyma River delta of eastern Siberia. Subsequent records showed that the RG bred further south often in association with Arctic Tern, Spotted Redshank, Snipe, and Ruff in well-vegetated marshy areas. Had he been alive, it is unlikely that anyone would have been more surprised than James Clark Ross, the man who collected the first specimen of the gull and who undoubtedly associated the bird only with ice and snow. Today it is well established that the RG breeds in north-eastern Siberia, western Greenland, and in northern Canada, the most famous site being at Churchill, Manitoba.  

Although formerly a great rarity in Britain, the RG has been much more regular since 1974 and the first record for Lancashire was that of an adult found on Birkdale shore in January 1983. There was a RG which created an excellent record in 1995 in that it was seen briefly at Fleetwood in January, relocated six days later at Seaforth, and then became the longest staying RG in the country being seen at Seaforth until the last sighting in March almost two months after first being seen in Fleetwood. I myself remember this bird well, it was reported as being seen on the reserve fairly regularly during the day usually only for short periods before flying off inland to feed. The bird would then reappear at dusk to roost, in itself an unusual behaviour in that Seaforth was at the time - and presumably still so today - rarely used as an overnight gull roost, therefore, in relation to all other gulls, this bird had the entire reserve to itself for its overnight stay. I clearly remember a friendly 'Mersey Birder' telling John Leedal and myself all this interesting detail as we waited in anticipation for this gem of a gull to return for one of its predictable 'short periods' during its long record breaking stay did eventually return to our great pleasure and delight.

Birds....they fascinate me in a thousand ways!    


Brian Rafferty said...

Pete. I too have had a week of no go and have no wildlife images to show. Enjoyed very much your account of the Ross's Gull. I enjoyed wonderful views of this lovely bird just before it passed away during a spell of warm weather in May. I always felt it looked so sad and lonely and very much out of place at Lytham St Annes. Thanks for the memories.

John said...

Hi Pete,
Great photo, despite what you say! Loved the tale of the Ross`s Gull, a lovely little bird with a fascinating tale!

Pete Woodruff said...

Must say I think the pic is pretty acceptable, just a pity about the bleached effect.

Thanks to both for comments.

Tony said...

I recall seeing a pink Ross's Gull at Cley in the early '80s. It was a real stunner! Anyway, terrific blog! All the best with everything.

Pete Woodruff said...

Thanks for looking in and comments Tony.

All the best with everything for you too.