Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Adult Sabine's Gull in Ohio!

November 3rd was a memorable day for Chuck Slusarczyk and Mike Egar. While birding Wendy Park on the Cleveland Lakefront, they spotted a mega for Ohio - Sabine's Gull! That's Sah-been's, or if you prefer the proper German pronunciation, Sah-been-ah's. The latter has the best ring to it, in my opinion, as in "I just found a beautiful Sah-been-ah's Gull! Not just any old run of the mill Xema sabini, either, if such a phrase can be applied to a species that only shows a few times a year in Ohio. This was a full adult, and not only that, it is in some sort of delayed molt and still retaining its grayish-black hood, trimmed with an ebony collar!
As of today, the bird is still hanging out along the Cleveland Lakefront, delighting scores of observers. Chuck and Mike got the word out pronto and people were on the scene in a blink. Shortly after spotting the bird, it headed east and out of sight, but was refound a few miles away at East 55th Street marina. The Sabine's Gull then appeared at Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve and its been hanging around there ever since.
Congratulations to Chuck and Mike on an outstanding find. And kudos to Chuck for nabbing the stunning images that follow, and for graciously sharing them with us.
A stunner indeed, and unmistakable with that bold pattern of triangles, forked tail, smoky head and yellow-tipped bill. We see a few Sabine's Gulls each fall, and September thru mid-November is prime time. But there have been only a few documented occurrences of adults - virtually all of our records are of juveniles, such as THIS BIRD.

You won't see many shots of Sabine's Gull that best this one. We can even see the bird's flashy crimson mouth lining!

Sabine's Gulls breed in the high arctic, and one segment of the population winters along the Humboldt Current in the southern Pacific Ocean off South America. Birds that nest in eastern Canada and Greenland - which I presume includes this bird? - travel to southwest Africa where they winter around the cold waters of the Benguela Current in the South Atlantic. These birds are truly globe-trotters, and spend most of their lives at sea.

Sabine's Gull is small and diminutive, and not prone to scavenging garbage as is this curious Ring-billed Gull. This is a great comparison shot of two larids who don't often mingle. The Ring-billed outweighs the comparatively dainty Sabine's Gull by about three times!

One can only imagine the thrill that coursed through the English astronomer Edward Sabine when he first spotted this animal in 1818, on an expedition to the high arctic. Sabine was accompanying Captain John Ross, who was attempting to discover the as yet to be found Northwest Passage. They failed in the primary mission, but this beautiful gull was some compensation. Upon his return, Sabine sent his specimen to his brother, Joseph Sabine, who then described the bird to science and named it in his brother's honor.

A superb animal, and a real treat for Ohio birders. Hopefully this Sabine's Gull will stick for a few more days, and allow the fawning masses of binocular-toters to bask in its presence.

Congratulations again to Chuck and Mike for a totally excellent discovery!


Josh Wallestad said...

This is Ian incredible find! How lucky for Ohio birders. Amazing photos too.

Lilac Haven said...

Very nice photos. Thanks for sharing.