Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Housebound....With A Gull!

Off the birding road since last Friday, I was looking through some old posts on Birds2blog and copied this one which I posted on 5 April 2009 and thought it would help the blog overcome the gap with a little interest until my birding takes off again tomorrow....hopefully.

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, it had been 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 'wholly white' individual.

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 (JCR) - Dr Shelagh Ross - who I eventually met and had a meal with at a rally in Kent the date of which escapes me. Sadly I lost contact with this person along with the winding up of my photo interests but am currently trying to re-establish the friendship.

The Ross's Gull 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.

Another intriguing piece of history related to James Clark Ross, was when he claimed to have found a new species of diver....

Around 1830 during his 4 year Arctic voyage he obtained three specimens of the then unknown White-billed Diver. Unfortunately Edward Sabine - of Sabine's Gull fame - who was with him on the voyage, persuaded JCR that these birds were very old males of the Great Northern Diver. The species wasn't rediscovered until 20 years later when Edward Adams found it in Alaska, the bird was first described by English Zoologist George Robert Gray who commemorated it to his friend Adams, hence its Latin name Gavia adamsii. The bird really should have been the Ross's Diver....never mind there is a Ross's Seal, the range of which is confined entirely to the pack ice of Antarctica.


Chris Rohrer said...

This is a lovely Gull. Good information on the background. Thank you!

Pete Woodruff said...

Good to see you here again Chris.

As far as I know, the Ross's Gull was unknown in the United States until an individual appeared in Newburyport, Massachusetts in 1975, but sightings now occur nearly every year.

Thanks again for looking in on Birds2blog Chris.