Friday, February 29, 2008

In search of the Ivory-colored Frost-lover

                So what is an Ivory-colored Frost-lover?  
 "Pagophila Eburnea".   The infamous Ivory Gull.  A fantastic life and year bird, if you can find one.   However, there's been some rumors going around that Ivory gulls don't really exist. They are just figments of the imagination.  On Tues, Nick Block from Chicago emailed me to say he and Tropical Birding tour leader Michael Retter were going after the bird. what could I say? Naturally I had to test the rumors that were going around.  We left Madison at 12:30am and drove straight through. After picking up Caity in Sioux Falls SD, we arrived at the Oahe Dam north of Pierre SD just after 10:00am. 

As you can see, there's no snow there. Just ice on the lake.  Upon arrival, we commenced searching for the Ivory Gull. 

No Gull yet but there were several Bald Eagles hanging around. 

The above picture was taken from the top of the hill above the lake.  Over the two days we were there, we hiked up and down that hill about 4 times.  This is also where we were scoping from when we had a false alarm. 

Climbing back up the hill the first time, we saw a flock of Townsend's Solitaires.  I managed to digiscope one of them.

                     I thought this tree was interesting.

Finally, a Northern Shrike!  One of three we saw. 

In the very middle of this picture, waaaay out on the ice, is a flock of Canada Geese. There were several thousand of them on the lake while we were there. in the middle of the flock, Nick managed to pick out my lifer Glaucous Gull! 

We then changed our angle on the flock and  the Glaucous Gull disappeared only to be replaced by my lifer SNOWY OWL!!  The bird was about 300yds out on the ice so this is the best pic I could get. 

Here's a beautiful Dark morph Rough-legged Hawk we saw. 

                     It's the sunset over the lake.

                   The RL Hawk again

And a sunset to end Wed. All day searching without seeing the bird. 

8:00 Thurs morning. We were back out at the lake searching for the Gull.  I added more year birds on Thurs and one more lifer.   We did have one false alarm. We were scoping from the top of the hill I mentioned earlier when Nick suddenly saw a white bird fly quickly across his field of view and disappear in a rift of jagged ice. We ran down the hill and around the point but could not refind the bird. It could very well have been the IVGU but we don't know for sure.  After that, we stopped at the dam once more before heading home.  Still no sign of the bird.  
With this trip, we successfully proved that Ivory Gulls are impossible to see and are indeed only figments of the searcher's imagination.  Only someone sane and not looking (like Ricky Olson) would find one.  
We headed back home completely dejected after searching the lake more thoroughly than almost anyone else. 
At least the trip was not a total loss for me. I gained 5 lifers and 17 year birds. That brought my life list up to 396 and my year list to 61.
My lifers were:
Glaucous Gull
Ross's Goose
Sharp-tailed Grouse
Gr Prairie Chicken

I was really glad to see that Snowy Owl!!!  Thanks Michael!! 
The Glaucous Gull was great too! Thanks Nick!! 

Anyway, it was a fun 2 1/2 days.  No mythical Gull but some fun birds anyway! 


thepowerguides said...

Great Photos I love the Bald Eagle and the sunsets look like they were worth the trip

Steve From
The Power Bird Watchers Guide

Andrea said...

Wow, what a trip! Too bad you didn't get to see the alleged Ivory Gull -- You know they were right in front of you, though, they're just invisible like the "Rowlett's Owlett" from Kingbird Highway! ;-)

Happy birding!


Parus said...

lol, yea, "Rowlett's Owlett". That was a good one.
that's my fav bird-related book BTW.
Kenn Kaufman is one of the few people I haven't met yet... I'll run into him sometime somwhere....

Andrea said...

Kingbird Highway is my favorite bird-related book, too. I actually met Kenn Kaufman last year, at a birding camp. He had a great sense of humor, and was so inspiring.

If you ever get a chance to meet him, DO IT! I wish I'd been a little more bird-savvy last summer, or I probably could have learned even more from him. :-)

Happy birding!


Parus said...

Really? what camp?

yea, he's one of the few well known birders I haven't met yet. I did the World Series of birding twice with the ABA's youth birding team so I got to meet a lot of people. Pete Dunne, John "Fitz" Fitzpatrick, Stephen Ingrahm and Michael O'brien just to mention a few.

btw, email me back will you?

Happy Birding! --Chris

Neil Gilbert said...

Too bad about the IVGU... I really like the sunset shots though...