Migration is not an easy task for birds. A first-year Mew Gull recently affirmed this as it landed at Greenlawn Dam in Columbus, Ohio. The closest nest from which this bird may have fledged is in northern Saskatchewan, but the breeding range extends all the way into Alaska. Mew Gulls spend the winter in the coastal waters of Washington, Oregon and California, i.e. out west. Our bird clearly headed the wrong direction to end up even farther inland away from the coast and its fellow mew gulls. Migrating all by itself a first-year bird relies on inherited features, such as an intrinsic compass. But things can go wrong and often do for inexperienced birds. These lost birds then draw large crowds of birdwatchers and admirers, like this Mew Gull certainly did. Both times I stopped at the dam where it seemed to hang out consistently a crowd of fellow birdwatchers greeted me, told me that the bird had just flown off, but assured me that it will be back. Well the first time it did not return within an hour, which seemed an endlessly long time in the frigid cold, and lead me to give up. The second time on January 1st I got lucky and the bird did indeed show up again. Alex Eberts graciously shared the photos he took that morning. Overall, by January 3rd the bird had more than 100 entries on ebird, an online database of bird sightings. Many people had visited the bird two or three times, in particular on the first day of 2018 many (re)visited the bird. What a bird to have on your list of bird sightings in the New Year. Thank you to Leslie Sours and Carl Winstead who found and IDed the bird on December 29th, and got the word out. Even though this may not have a lucky ending for the bird – such are the dangers of dispersal and migration – it showed what a great birding community we have in Ohio and I hope it sparked the interest of some not-so avid bird watchers.
Read more about the life history of the Mew Gull at http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/mew-gull
Angelika Nelson; Photos by Alex Eberts