Around the end of December a pair of Ivory Gulls were spotted in Duluth, Minnesota creating a major stir among bird watchers. According to the Cornell Lab they only rarely come south of the Bering Sea or the Maritime Provinces. The Ivory Gull is native to the High Arctic and has only been reported in Minnesota about a dozen times in the last 70 years.
One of the Gulls died shortly after arriving in Duluth but the other bird has been spending time in Canal Park. When my wife and I arrived in Duluth we drove down to Canal Park to see if it was still around. I walked around and didn’t see it. When we arrived I noticed a photographer with a big lens walking back to his car. I went over and asked him if the Ivory Gull was around. Turns out I it was around I just didn’t know what I was looking for. It was sitting out on the North Breakwater all by itself. It looks to be the size of a pigeon but with a longer wing span. Birders said this one was probably about a year old. It still had black on its wings and around the face. The adult bird is totally white. Of course I didn’t have my camera along so I assumed I would never get a shot of it.
We came back the next day and there were quite a few bird watchers around. The Gull was still sitting on the North Breakwater. I managed to get a few shots of it. Apparently people have been feeding it salmon fillets and tuna. It was cold enough for ice to form on the lake so photographers were baiting the bird by tossing food onto the ice so they could get a good shot. Everyone was a little concerned that it would eat so much it wouldn’t be able to fly.
We returned on the next morning looking for the Gull. It was the weekend and there was a large crowd on hand with their big lenses and scopes. The bird was perched on the South Breakwater and was out of range of my large lens. We watched for a while then headed over to Amnicon Falls to take some photos.
On our return we were photographing ships at Rice’s Point when we encountered another bird photographer looking for Snowy Owls. He said the Gull had flown right up to him earlier in the morning. We decided to go back to Canal Park and try for some more photos.
When we arrived there was still a large crowd around. I was trying to find the Gull when if flew right up to us. It flew around for a while before landing right in the middle of a group of photographers. One photographer was about four feet from it. I don’t know what kind of shot he got because he has a 600mm lens on .
The bird sat on the North Breakwater among all of the photographers and bird watchers for quite a while. When it went to take off it seemed to be having some problems. I gather they are not very graceful on land with a big body and short legs. At any rate it flew around some more and landed briefly in the water before flying away.
Quite the experience. As one birdwatcher put it this is the rarest bird you will ever see.