When Julie Hart went down to the Charlotte beach last Tuesday she was in search of a strong cell phone signal, not birds. But while scanning the water for loons, geese and other migrating water birds, Hart noticed a darker gull among the typical ring-billed gulls on Lake Champlain.
MONTPELIER, Vt. When Julie Hart went down to the Charlotte beach last Tuesday she was in search of a strong cell phone signal, not birds. But while scanning the water for loons, geese and other migrating water birds, Hart noticed a darker gull among the typical ring-billed gulls on Lake Champlain.
Through binoculars, she noticed an unusual marking: red on the gull's bill.
Hart, 26, of Chester, called a friend who she describes as an amateur ornithologist, and they speculated about what the bird could be. Then they called Ted Murin, a local birdwatching expert, and the three collectively checked their guidebooks.
"Eventually we figured out that it was a miracle," she said.
It was a black-tailed gull from Asia.
"This bird has never been seen in Vermont, and it's extraordinarily rare in the U.S.," said Plainfield naturalist Bryan Pfeiffer, a bird watching expert. It now should be flying around the seas of Japan or the northeast China coast, he said.
Murin said there are 20 to 25 records of the bird being spotted in North America, most of them in Alaska.
Pfeiffer speculates the bird was thrown off course by a storm, migrated in the wrong direction or could have gotten a ride on a ship.
"Who knows what causes these birds to stray off course," he said.
However the bird arrived here, it's drawing bird watchers from as far away as Delaware, Massachusetts, Ohio, Ontario and Pennsylvania, said Hart, who said she goes down to the beach every day to see if the bird is still around.
"There are many gull species in the world," Pfeiffer said. "This one is noticeably different from any gull we have in Vermont."
The adult black-tailed gull has a darker back and wing tips and a black band across its tail, Pfeiffer said. It also has an odd looking bill with a red tip, he said.
"If you're not a bird watcher you won't be very excited, though gulls are graceful in flight and striking in appearance," Pfeiffer said. "If you're a bird watcher this makes you weak in the knees."
Source: Associated Press