It is not particularly a comment one wants to hear from a twitcher who is actually leaving a scene where a mega bird have been seen for days. I secretly hoped it was just a very bad English joke by an old chap so we continued our 1 mile long walk to the place where possibly hundreds of birdwatchers have already ticked a first winter Ivory Gull.
We joined my only British birding friend, Rick and his lovely wife, Elis (in a word, the Wader Quest couple) for a long desired birding day. Not an average birding day though! We wanted to give it a chance to see the long staying Ivory Gull reported from Patrington Haven, East Yorkshire several of days ago. Being a Hungarian the Ivory Gull always seemed to be impossible to see in Hungary and for me it soon became a sought after species. As the bird had been seen daily since 15 December there was some hope in the middle of the current week that it still would be there on Sunday. I have a comfort preference while birding but despite the awful weather forecast, I desperately wanted to go there and see this mega bird.
And then this comment at our arrival. It wasn’t nice to hear while others happily showed their thumb up from their car. Anyway we carried on.
From the car park we had to walk a bit but from a distance we already saw two groups of birders. One group looked to one direction while the other one to the opposite side. It didn’t seem promising at all. Then we read everything from the face of a welcome birder who pointed to a distant rock where the bird landed.
So it proved to be a joke… Partly true but not completely. The bird had flown off but just to the other side of the viewing spot.
Honestly, the view through the binoculars wasn’t even enough to say, it was an Ivory Gull. It was definitely whitish and gullish but wouldn’t have been enough if I was alone there. Luckily there were some very nice birders who offered viewing through their scope. Thanks to them. One of the happy Swarovski owners let me watch the bird for minutes without kicking off his scope.
The view was splendid. Even the juvenile Ivory Gull is such a beautiful bird. While it was preening I could watch nice feather details. I think its moulting was quite advanced and close to its first complete summer plumage. Based on Rick it was the whitish of all the first winter Ivory Gulls he had seen before. The preening lasted for about one and half an hour and after a few wing stretchings it started flying short distances over the rocks. We had not waited too long until it flew towards us providing a spectacular view in gorgeous lights. I tried to follow it with my iPhone and managed to take some HD video slow motion clips.
The bird then landed on the site where the other group was waiting. Those were the photographers who had been waiting patiently in the chilling wind. It was there just a few meters away from everybody. An amazingly confident Arctic mega soon started feeding on the previously thrown off mackerel (possibly from the local market) ignoring anyone sitting or walking around. I could manage to take some images of the bird by a Canon PowerShot SX50 megazoom what Rick lent me.
This stunner became the 2,175th lifer in my IOC life list under revision. Interestingly the last lifer, a Buff-bellied Pipit was seen almost completely a year ago at The Queen Mother Reservoir. Since then I have deleted some species from my lists but got some armchair ticks as well.
Not forgetting the waders present on the site, here is a list of birds I could identify:
European Golden Plover 500+
Northern Curlew 10
Bar-tailed Godwit 2
Red Knot 10+
Birds were quite distant as it was a low tide.
Thanks to Rick and Elis for the excellent company, the chocolate and nice tea. We all enjoyed the day.