Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Kittiwakes: A long, cold journey, including Cleveland

They've been finding great birds galore of late along Cleveland's Lake Erie coast, many of them practically in the shadow of the Cleveland Browns stadium. Chuck Slusarczyk, ace photographer who has shared his work with us many times, sent along some images of the latest batch of rarities. Viewing Chuck's work made me pine for a trip to the lake, but at least his images allowed me - and you - to live vicariously through his camera's lens.

Above, a first-cycle Black-legged Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla, showing its distinctive sooty collar. Kittiwakes are mostly pelagic (ocean-going) and we get precious few of them in Ohio. In fact, this bird was Chuck's first kittiwake, along with many others, no doubt. We probably get far more kittiwakes than are seen, but most probably blow right down the middle of Lake Erie on the way to the Atlantic, and are never seen. Once in a while, one has the good matters to come to shore and hang loose for a bit, as this one did.

Other than a small percentage of the population taking a brief Great Lakes hiatus while in transit, Black-legged Kittiwakes are seldom out of sight of the sea. They nest on cliffs overlooking the sea, and winter at sea. This towering rock face is on St. Paul Island, Alaska, which is one of four islands that form the Pribilofs. I made this photo during a June 2010 trip, and I can tell you that this is a cold place. Kittiwakes thrive in cold environments, and spend that vast majority of their lives in wet frosty conditions that would kill you or I in short order.

The ledges of this cliff are festooned with nesting Black-legged Kittiwakes. Being that this is St. Paul Island, there are much rarer Red-legged Kittiwakes mixed in, but most are the former. There aren't many safer nesting spots. Would-be predators will have a tough time accessing kittiwake nests.

This was one of my more surreal experiences on St. Paul. Kittiwakes, gathering moss from the tundra in pea soup thick fog. This is one of few times that kittiwakes purposely alight on flat ground away from the water. As we stood there, taking in the scene, ghostly kittiwakes would materialize from the fog, bills full of moss, flying to the distant coast and their nesting colony.

Kittiwake-harvested moss goes to good use - it provides the birds with fodder to build these bulky cups. Few gull chicks have it as good as the kittiwake chicks. The specific epithet of the Black-legged Kittiwake - Rissa tridactyla - means "three toed". They actually have four toes, but the hind digit is greatly reduced, apparently an adaptation to better improve the birds' ability to stand on narrow cliff ledges such as this.

This is an adult Black-legged Kittiwake, and we never see this plumage in Ohio. All of them are young birds, such as in Chuck's shots. Supposedly there are four records of adults from Lake Erie, but I don't know any details...

The adults are gorgeous black, gray, and white gulls. Very neat and long-winged, the wingtips appearing as if dipped cleanly in a vat of ink. They are wonderful flyers, too - far more at home in the air than anywhere else. I made this image from atop a tall sea cliff, while kittiwake after kittiwake streamed by below, effortlessly riding the turbulent air currents blasting off the sea and smashing into the cliff. If Jonathan Livingston Seagull were real, he'd be a kittiwake.

If all goes well in the kittiwake nest high on a cliff ledge, this is the result. A strikingly marked juvenile, as in this beautiful image by Slusarczyk. The bold black bands on the wing form a rough W, and the inky-tipped tail band and charcoal neck collar provide punctuation. I've seen four or five of these in Ohio, and they've all jumped out visually from the pack of associated gulls. The best kittiwake find I made was a bird on the Scioto River in downtown Columbus, years ago. Ohio kittiwake records are few and far between away from our Great Lake.

Map courtesy Birds of North America Online/Cornell Lab of Ornithology

It would be most interesting to know the origins of Lake Erie kittiwakes. This species has a split breeding distribution in North America. There are the birds that breed along the Alaskan coastline and island chains, and there are populations centered around the Gulf of St. Lawrence and adjacent Newfoundland on the other side of the continent. There are also disjunct scattered populations breeding in the high arctic of Canada, due north of Hudson Bay. The St. Lawrence populations have expanded greatly in the past 40 years; I'm not sure if the high arctic colonies have also increased.

So, Chuck's immature Black-legged Kittiwake may have wandered into the Great Lakes from the east, by following the St. Lawrence River, forging through Lake Ontario, passing over the falls at Niagara, and eventually finding itself on Lake Erie in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's backyard.

Better yet, and a far wilder journey but not an implausible one, is that the kittiwake originated in one of the high arctic colonies. If so, it likely made its way south through Hudson Bay and into James Bay, aerially portaged across the landmass between there and the Great Lakes, and entered our waters. If so, what a trip! That young kittiwake would have traveled nearly 2,500 miles to reach Cleveland! I think that other species of seabirds that are rare on Lake Erie, such as jaegers, travel a path similar to the one outlined above.

Presumably, the Alaska breeders winter in the Pacific off the west coast and it's unlikely those birds would appear here. But, there is another possible point of origin. Many kittiwakes that breed in northern Europe make their way across the Atlantic to our offshore waters, especially young birds. Some of these juveniles stay on this side of the Atlantic for their first year, before heading back to breed when mature. I suppose it's possible that one of these European kittiwakes could make its way to Lake Erie. My money is on the high arctic birds, though.

However this kittiwake came to be in Ohio, it has thrilled many a birder and we're glad to have it. Thanks as always to Chuck for sharing his work, and check out more of his images HERE.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Spanish Moss is not a moss

A beautiful early spring landscape, indeed, and it ain't Ohio. A project had me dipping back into the photo files, and I ran across this image from my trip to South Carolina last April. While down south, I made a point of photographing Spanish Moss, Tillandsia usneoides, one of the classic botanical symbols of the south.

I nearly sped by a gorgeous old cemetery on my way to Congaree National Park, but a stand of behemoth oaks and other trees festooned with Spanish Moss made me hit the brakes. Early morning sunshine and the clear blue ether made the photo ops that much better.

You just can't miss the hanging draperies of this plant; it's as if the trees wear grizzled beards. The name is a misnomer, though. Spanish Moss is not a moss at all - it is a monocotyledonous flowering plant. A bromeliad, to be specific. It actually looks more like a lichen than a moss, as suggested by the specific epithet of its scientific name: usneoides. When you see a scientific name with the epithet appended with an "oides" ending, it means "resembles". So, in the case of Spanish Moss, usneoides means "resembles Usnea", and Usnea is a genus of beard lichens.

But the pendant growths of Spanish Moss are air plants, and derive their nutrients from rain and air, and perhaps minerals leached from the host plant. As might be expected from such an obvious plant, it has garnered a fair share of attention. Balladeer Gordon Lightfoot - of Edmund Fitzgerald fame - wrote a tune entitled "Spanish Moss". So did the punk band Against Me!, and you can hear their song Spanish Moss, HERE. As an interesting automotive footnote, Spanish Moss was used widely in the early 1900's to stuff the seats of automobiles.

As might be expected of a plant that produces copious biomass, certain critters are strongly associated with Spanish Moss. A species of jumping spider, Pelegrina tillandsiae, is said to only inhabit this plant, and bats, snakes, insects and who knows what all lurks in its tangled masses. The gorgeous songbird above, the Northern Parula, is strongly associated with Spanish Moss and this warbler typically makes its nest in the plant, at least where the two species overlap.

Later on the same day that I made the first three photos, I came across this Northern Parula foraging in close proximity to Spanish Moss and couldn't resist trying to get both species in the same capture.

For me, one of the highlights of heading into the Deep South is the trees tangled in this interesting member of the Bromeliad family.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Mammalian hummingbats swarm feeder!

Video by David and Laura Hughes

It isn't just hummingbirds that visit hummingbird feeders! If you live in the southwestern U.S. or points south, you might have some mighty strange after-hours visitors. These are Mexican Long-tongued Bats, Choeronycteris mexicana, which feed primarily on nectar and pollen. Obviously, they have learned about the sweet stuff dispensed by hummingbird feeders, too.

This animal has an amazingly long tongue - up to a third of the bat's total length. It's well named. Mexican Long-tongued Bats range from northern Central America north through Mexico, reaching their northern limits in southern California, Arizona, and New Mexico.

Laura and David Hughes made this video back in August, when in Arizona. It's certainly worth sharing, and as always, I appreciate their outstanding videography and that they let me share their work here.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Lesser Black-backed Gull

A pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Larus fuscus, rests on the beach at Cape May, New Jersey. Horning in, lower right, is a first-cycle Ring-billed Gull, Larus delawarensis. I was pleased to see the Lesser Black-backed Gulls on my NJ trip of a few weeks back, and took the time to stalk up fairly close to make some images. The story of this gull in North America is an interesting tale.

The Ring-billed Gull is abundant throughout much of North America. This is the common gull in the interior, away from large water bodies, and is the gull that often flocks in mall parking lots. I noted that it is a first-cycle bird. "Cycle" refers to its molt cycle. This is a bird in its first year; a juvenile. It takes the Ring-billed Gull three years to attain (mostly) adult plumage. The larger gulls in the genus Larus take at least four years to develop adult plumage.

I made this image in December 2006, on a pelagic boat trip into the Atlantic Ocean off Belmar, New Jersey. We encountered this Lesser Black-backed Gull about 90 miles from land, working the waters around some fishing trawlers.

Lesser Black-backed Gulls are native to northwest Europe, where they frequent Atlantic coastal areas. The first record in North America was in 1934, from New Jersey. As the photo above illustrates, gulls are quite at home at sea and far from land. The distance from the gull's native haunts to the shores of America is something like 3,300 miles, but such travels are probably no great shakes for such an animal. This species has been on a westward expansion for some time. Lesser Black-backed Gulls occupied Greenland and began breeding there by 1990, and were nesting in Iceland by the 1920's.

A gorgeous adult Lesser Black-backed Gull, in nonbreeding plumage. Winter adults develop dusky flecking around the head and breast. When the bird attains breeding plumage in early spring, its head and neck will be gleaming white, and the legs and bill will be a brighter shade of yellow.

Even though the first documented North American record dates back to 1934, these gulls remained quite the rarity on this side of the pond for about four more decades. In the 1970's, the dam burst and records began to accumulate rapidly. Ohio's first Lesser Black-backed Gull dates to 1977. We've had scores of the animals since, and it is now an expected species in fall, winter and spring along Lake Erie. Hit a good day, and you might find a dozen. There is an ever-increasing number of interior records, too. We're not unique - Lesser Black-backed Gull has now been recorded in every eastern state, and eastern seaboard hotspots can host hundreds of the birds.

A sharp-looking adult Herring Gull, Larus argentatus, photographed at Barnegat Light, New Jersey. This species is closely related to the Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Given the rather recent and abrupt boom in North American records of Lesser Black-backed Gull, it is somewhat surprising that they aren't yet breeding here. Well, they have, sort of (unless there are other very recent records that I'm unaware of). The first documented nesting was of a Lesser Black-backed that was mated with a Herring Gull in Juneau, Alaska of all places, in 1993. That was unexpected. Then, in 2007 another bird was found nesting on Appledore Island off the coast of Maine, and it too was paired with a Herring Gull. The Appledore Island bird nested  - with its Herring Gull mate - for at least four consecutive years. It's probably only a matter of time before Lesser Black-backed Gulls begin pairing with their own, and nesting records increase.

Many species of big gulls, like the Lesser Black-backed and Herring gulls, are incredibly adaptable. They have fared well in association with man. Our garbage pleases them, and much of the flotsam and jetsam of human society makes for good gull food.

In 1934, when that first New Jersey/North American Lesser Black-backed Gull caused an ornithological stir, the population of the United States was about 126,374,000 people. Today, it's about 314 million people. Gulls that prosper from our waste and cast-offs are one group of animals that benefit from unchecked runaway population growth.

Unfortunately, most animals aren't nearly so adaptable.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Butterflies, on temporary hiatus

A recent project had me dipping into the archives for butterfly photos. I found this exercise brought back memories of warmer times and places. The weather here has dipped into the 20's at night, and hasn't been warming much beyond that during the day.
Butterflies are but a memory, until next spring (with rare exceptions). Most are overwintering in their chrysalis phase, or in a few cases as adults. We've got to go through the necessary winter dormancy, but this lull makes the appearance of next year's crop of butterflies all the better.
Following are a few images of butterflies from last season, or in an instance or two, a season beyond that. As a related aside, I'll be presenting a program on butterflies on January 18, 2014 at the Master Gardeners of Summit County's Design & Beyond Conference. I don't have the program together yet, but it'll be a look at how butterflies interact with our native flora, and will feature plenty of images such as follow.
A Great Spangled Fritillary, Speyeria cybele, nectars on Butterfly-weed, Asclepias tuberosa. The butterfly matches the orange milkweed nicely, and was one of a dozen or so working the blossoms when I made this shot at an Adams County prairie.

A Monarch, Danaus plexippus, works the showy flowers of Shale-barren Aster, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium. Monarchs had one of the worst years on record in 2013, and need our help. There are things that the urban and suburban gardener can do to help, such as plant milkweed.

An immigrant from the south, Common Checkered Skippers, Pyrgus communis, invaded the Columbus area in decent numbers. This one was photographed in a recently planted urban prairie, and was one of many that were present.

A different view of a Common Checkered Skipper. It is nearly outshined by the brilliant flower of an Indian-blanket, Gaillardia pulchella. This plant isn't native to Columbus, where this image was made, but it provides fast color in newly planted prairies. It doesn't jump the garden fence and take off in the wild, either.

A plain jane Cabbage White, Pieris rapae. Our only widespread and abundant nonnative butterfly. Its caterpillars snack avidly on plants in the mustard family, including garden fare, much to the consternation of gardeners.

This Orange Sulphur, Colias eurytheme, shows a bit of the orange upperwing that gives it its name. This sulphur and the previous one use various clovers, including some of the abundant nonnative weedy species, as host plants. Such adaptability makes these butterflies perhaps our most common species. The individual in this photo has impeccable taste. It is taking nectar from Riddell's Goldenrod, Oligoneuron riddellii, a rare (in Ohio) prairie plant.

Peck's Skipper, Polites peckius, showing its diagnostic extended "tooth" on the pattern of bars on the wing. This is one of our more common and easily recognized skippers. This one has chosen Tall Boneset, Eupatorium altissimum, as a nectar source.

Sporting an intricate underwing pattern is this Silvery Checkerspot, Chlosyne nycteis. These resemble robust Pearl Crescents, and can be easy to overlook, at least for me. This animal is feeding on the flowers of Narrow-leaved Mountain Mint, Pycnanthemum tenuifolium, one of myriad showy native mints.

Here's a top (dorsal) view of a Silvery Checkerspot, this time on a Mistflower, Conoclinium coelistinum. The scientific name of the plant is one of those seemingly unpronounceable names, but goes as follows: Ko-no-klin-ee-um/see-lih-steen-um.

Displaying frosted wing edges and an artfully coiled proboscis is this female Zabulon Skipper, Poanes zabulon. It is taking nectar from Rough Blazing-star, Liatris aspera. The Athens County meadow where I made this image was full of blazing-star, and butterflies. It'll probably be one of the field trip sites at next year's Mothapalooza II.

Finally, a stunning Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui, will usher out this post. It, along with many of its brethren, were nectaring at one of our most common and weedy native plants, the White Heath Aster, Symphyotrichum pilosum. A plant need not be rare to attract lots of good stuff. But, it does generally have to be native.

To learn more about native plants and their inestimable value, be sure and attend next year's Midwest Native Plant Conference in Dayton, Ohio - CLICK HERE for the scoop.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

An awesome, must-watch feeder cam!

Your narrator's admittedly somewhat cluttered desk. Exhibit A - the monitor on the left, in front of the window. It is running the coolest live feeder cam I've ever seen. Not that I've seen lots of feeder cams, or make a habit of watching them, but this one was so interesting that last Friday I just let it run on the secondary monitor while I (tried) to go about my work.

Someone tipped me to a new cam administered by the mighty Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and I'm glad that I clicked my way through to check it out. You can too, RIGHT HERE. This cam transports us - at least those of us down below the Great Lakes - to the Great White North and an ever-changing assemblage of northern birds that inflame Ohio birders with the twitching jitters. Of course, you'll have to wait until daylight to see much, but your patience will be rewarded.

The Cornell-sponsored feeder cam takes us far into the boreal, to a land of truly tough birds. I'm at location "A" on this handy Google map, in Columbus. The feed instantly transports me about 750 miles nearly due north, to Manitouwadge, Ontario on the far side of Lake Superior. Were I to make the drive, it'd take the better part of 13 hours. The Internet is faster. Once we've cabled through to Manitouwadge, we're plunked down in the beautiful backyard of Tammie and Ben Hache, the cam hosts. I and I'm sure blizzards of other virtual birders are grateful for their efforts. I mentioned that their birds are tough. The record low temperature at Manitouwadge is -49 F, and the average January daily low temperature is -9 F.

So, the second I tuned in to the Hache's feeder cam, I was greeted by a flurry of beautiful Evening Grosbeaks. The audio is great, and so you'll not only see the birds, you'll clearly hear their raucous House Sparrowlike calls, and even the crunching of seeds as these robust seed-crushers dig in. The Hache's apparently have a line item in their budget for sunflower seeds. In 2012, they bought and fed over 750 lbs. of seed to their avian visitors!

At one point, I heard a bit of a fluffling sound followed by a mild thump, and glanced at the monitor to see, of all things, a Ruffed Grouse! Bet not many of you can boast one of these partridges as a feeder bird! He must be a regular, as I saw the grouse on another occasion. He's fond of the suet.

Another great bird to see were Gray Jays, a true species of the boreal forest and the western mountains. Lots of other cool animals visit: several species of woodpeckers, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Black-capped Chickadees, etc. I've not had a chance to watch the Hache cam much, but they've had as many as 200+ Evening Grosbeaks, over 20 Hoary Redpolls, scads of Common Redpolls, and Pine Grosbeaks. A wayward White-winged Dove even once appeared!

Be sure and tune in for some great Bird TV, RIGHT HERE.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


On my recent New Jersey trip, I saw lots of tough late season shorebirds. I spent some time admiring these hardy little birds, and capturing their images. A few photos follow...
A flock of sandpipers rest on a cold, wave-battered jetty. The Atlantic Ocean provides the backdrop. Two Dunlin take a fleeting catnap in the foreground, while a Purple Sandpiper stands dead center. Another purple is far right, rear. The rest of the birds are Ruddy Turnstones.

A Purple Sandpiper peeks from behind an algae-encrusted rock. Were you there, you'd be serenaded by the never-ending crash of surf. The sandpiper's scientific name is Calidris maritima - the epithet maritima means "of the sea". These birds are well named. So tightly wedded to the sea are they, that a Purple Sandpiper is almost never out of earshot of the low roar of the waves.

Bunched up tight, a pack of Ruddy Turnstones scurries over the rocks, mouselike. These opportunistic sandpipers can find food nearly anywhere, and are second only to the Purple Sandpiper in winter hardiness, at least on the east coast.

Turnstones are clad in disruptive coloration. When at rest on lichen-dappled rocks, their parti-colored plumage blends nicely with the surroundings. Only the bright orange legs jump out.

This rotund little ball of feathers seems to stare pensively at the sea. I made this photo on the jetty at Barnegat Light, and these turnstones have traveled some 1,500 miles south from their high arctic breeding grounds to get there.

A Sanderling takes advantageous of the sucking vacuum of retreating waves. The water pulls back, ever so temporarily, the sandy substrate which exposes lots of tiny animals. Sanderlings charge into this void and grab up the critters in the narrow window between exposed beach and inundation.

Like kids playing a game of dare, the Sanderlings wait until the last second, when the wave is nearly upon them, before dashing up the beach and to safety. Seconds later, they'll charge back, following the water's retreat. Sanderlings are wave-runners supreme, and occur on most of the world's beaches. To most people, this is the quintessential sandpiper.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Boobies at Avalon Beach

A breakwall at Avalon Beach, on the New Jersey shore. No, I didn't see Snooki, Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, or any other oddities from the cast of Jersey Shore. But I did see birder and longtime Cape May resident Amy Gaberlein, who graciously toured me around some of the southern New Jersey hotspots. I was over in the general vicinity of Philadelphia to give a talk, and what's a couple more hours to get to the shore, and some of the best birding on the East Coast?

Birds galore were floating, flying, and diving in the cold Atlantic waters at the end of that breakwall, and I had some fun attempting to commit some of them to pixels.

Just about everything with feathers that frequents the ocean likes sushi, including this Royal Tern, who has just caught a fish. The bigger Herring Gull also likes fish, and is engaging in a bit of attempted kleptoparasitism. It's gone all jaeger on the tern, trying to get it to drop its hard-earned meal.

The big tern eventually shook its pursuer, and soon wolfed down its scaly treat.

The terns, scoters, and other avian seafarers were fun, but it was these behemoths that drew me to stand at the edge of the ocean, camera at the ready. Northern Gannets! We saw hundreds of them in this area, and occasionally one would venture near enough that I could get (so-so) images with my 500 mm lens. This are the boobies of the North Seas, shunning the tropical waters of their brethren and flourishing in frigid North Atlantic waters.

As I write this, a juvenile gannet is present off Cleveland in Lake Erie. It showed a few days ago, and has been thrilling scores of Ohio birders. They're major rarities in these parts; Ohio gets one every few years. The young birds are mostly brown - the bird in these images is an adult, with mostly white plumage punctuated with black wingtips.

Northern Gannets are BIG. That cylindric torpedo-shaped body is a touch over three feet in length, and its wingspan is six feet. The whole thing weighs nearly seven pounds. That's a heckuva air-to-surface missile, which is just what gannets are. This bird has spotted a fish, far below, and is in the initial stages of squaring off to launch into a spectacular dive. Gannets will bomb the water from heights of up to 150 feet.

The gannet prepares for impact. It's probably going nearly 60 mph at this point, and hit the drink a split second after this photo was taken. Its momentum will carry it up to 15 feet under the water and into the unsuspecting school of fish. I imagine the high speed entry of a giant gannet into the tranquil underwater world of the scaly crowd causes quite a stir. The victim probably scarcely knew what hit it.

Like a perfect 10 from Greg Louganis, the gannet's dive just leaves a slight flume of water.

Before long, the gannet bobs to the surface, digesting its meal. A truly spectacular way to earn your bread, to be sure.

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!