Avid ornithologist Angela MacDonald saw what she believes to be a taimyr gull, otherwise known as the Siberian gull, in a New Glasgow parking lot last Monday. MacDonald said she didn’t know what a Taimyr gull was back then, but didn’t look like any gull she had seen before. Surprised by the potential find, she took some photos.
“This has yet to be fully confirmed, but according to the records it appears to be the first Taimyr gull for all of Canada and a second record for all of this continent,” said MacDonald, who watches the birds. for three years. .
“I think you probably have a better chance of seeing a flamingo on your lawn than seeing a Taimyr gull. ”
MacDonald said she noticed some things that were different about this seagull.
Her long legs were a bright orange-red, which she had never seen before, and the coat – the top of the wings – was a dark gray that didn’t match the herring gulls or black gulls that the typically found in Nova Scotia.
“I knew something was wrong. So I thought this seagull needed a closer look, ”she said.
She contacted her friend, Steven McGrath, who agreed that the gull should be examined by experts. He suggested that she post the photos on a Facebook group called North American Gulls.
There, the expert group of gulls weighed in on what they thought the seagull might be.
“As soon as I saw it, I knew it was something completely different from the kind of gulls we normally have in Nova Scotia,” said Mark Dennis, naturalist and gull specialist since 1966.
When he saw MacDonald’s photo, he turned to his wife and said, “Start the car.”
The next day, they traveled four hours from their home on Cape Sable Island to the New Glasgow parking lot in hopes of seeing the gull in person.
Armed with cat food to attract gulls, Dennis was able to see the bird seconds after arriving.
Dennis thinks he has seen this type of seagull before – during a trip to India in 1997.
Now he believes the same type of gull has traveled about 6,000 kilometers from its breeding destination.
“They’re going to be wandering around and spending time in an area and instead of turning around and going home they are wandering around with another group of gulls… and suddenly they find themselves in Nova Scotia eating KFC fries in New Glasgow parking lot, ”he said. .
He said he was convinced the bird was a Taimyr gull.
“I approach that if it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it’s a duck,” he says.
MacDonald, who is part of the Nova Scotia Bird Society, said she was able to obtain a fecal sample from the gull which was sent for DNA analysis to confirm its identity in the coming weeks.
The watcher said she was still in shock at what she saw and that she hopes the potentially rare sighting will encourage people to treat gulls with respect.
She returned to the parking lot to see the gull several times and each time she saw vehicles passing through the resting gulls.
“It’s very unnecessary. They are individuals. They are struggling to survive. Leave them alone. If you don’t like them, whatever, don’t hurt them, ”she said.
“If I make one person look at gulls differently – for me, finding the Taimyr gull will have served its purpose. ”