Saturday, October 14, 2006

Sabine's Gull

On this day in 1979, a Sabine's Gull was found on a pelagic trip 24 miles off Cape May by Stuart Keith, Bill Boyle and the proverbial "m.obs."

Gulls have a bad reputation among birders. The complexity of identification issues, particularly in the "large white-headed gull" complex, is enough to drive one to drink. Against this background, the Sabine's Gull is refreshing. It has big white triangles in the wings in all plumages, a mark that should make any birder take notice if he or she is fortunate enough to encounter this gull. It is most commonly found in the fall. Ironically,I saw my lifer Sabine's Gull on this day in 2000; that was a bird that hung around Merrill Creek Reservoir in Warren County 8-15 October 2000.

Massachusetts is the center of Sabine's Gull records in the Northeast; due in large part to over 75 fall records in the state, Sabine's Gull is not a Review List species in Massachusetts. Fall records are regular enough in New York State that they are not subject to review, either. However, New Jersey has only 15 state records in total. Four of the NJ records are of spring birds. The vast majority of NJ Sabine's Gull records come from coastal regions, but the Merrill Creek bird shows that inland records are not impossible.

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