Hey everyone, this is the first post of many that are 'catching up' to the current time. I figured I would start with last November, as that was a good month for some excellent birds.
As the title of the post notes, in mid-November I traveled to Quebec to chase a continuing rarity at the time, a Ross's Gull. This species can be found in certain parts of the north, such as Manitoba area, during the summer months with a handful of pairs breeding on the continent. But seeing a Ross's Gull in the winter is a much more rare event. And if a Ross's does show up in the winter, it is usually in random areas such as in the Northeast or midwest. So needless to say, a Ross's Gull in Quebec in November was causing quite a stir among the birding community. In fact, at the time this was the only known individual of the species on the ENTIRE continent!! It was found at a wastewater treatment plant at Chambly--bassins d'épuration, Quebec and periodically moved from here to the large lake north of the treatment plant and back to forage. I believe that this gull remained in Quebec for around three weeks.
With such a rare bird only a few hours away from my school in Hanover, NH, I woke up early one morning on a day with no classes and drove north, crossing into Canada, until I reached the wastewater treatment plant. I arrived around 8:30 a.m.; there were already several birders on site so I soon joined them, braving the extreme cold and high winds. The wastewater treatment plant was divided into four 'treatment cells', with many Bonaparte's Gulls sitting on the water and flying around.
I did not have to wait long before we had success. Around 9:15 am one of the other birders said outloud that he thought he had the gull sitting on the back mound of the second treatment cell; he noted that he could see some pink on the bird (a key characteristic of winter adults). I quickly found the bird he was talking about with my scope and sure enough, it was the Ross's Gull!! While it was sitting with its back to us, you could clearly see the pinkish underside of the bird. The bird then started flying when the other gulls it was sitting with became airborne, and I saw the pinkish underside of the bird as well as its smaller shape. The gull flew to the third cell and disappeared behind the front mound; however it did not take long before the Ross's and some Bonaparte's flew above the mounds, allowing everyone to observe the bird in flight and see the the pinkish breast and dark gray underwings. Over the next hour we observed the bird frequenting different portions of the treatment area; it reappeared in the back of the first cell (the cell closest to the observation area) before flying to the second and then third cells. On the water the Ross's was easy to distinguish from the other gulls, due to its smaller size, grayish/pinkish breast (depending on light), lack of prominent earspot, unmarked wings, and different posture and shape, with its head appearing more dove-like compared to the Bonaparte's.
It was a spectacular, frigid morning at the treatment plant with us getting multiple and sometimes fairly close views of the Ross's Gull. A lifer experience that I certainly will not forget! Below are a couple pics of the gull. For more pics and some videos, see my flickr set: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hawk-eagle/sets/72157637862180776/#. Enjoy!
Bonaparte's Gull (left) and Ross's Gull
Ross's Gull (you can sort of make out some of the pinkish breast)
Next post will be of another Arctic wanderer, but that one appeared in my home state North Carolina.