Birders flock to the Peninsula for a glimpse of rare gull

Laughing Gull normally seen on U.S. east coast and Gulf Coast to South America.

  • Jul. 14, 2016 7:00 p.m.

Laughing Gull

SIDNEY — It’s no laughing matter.

Another rare species was recently spotted in the Shoal Harbour Bird Sanctuary near Sidney, quickly attracting the attention of elite, world birders from the mainland and across Vancouver Island.

It was identified as a Laughing Gull, a small noisy gull from the east coast of the United States.

It resides there in summer and on the U.S. Gulf Coast  and northern South America year ‘round.

According to the Friends of Shoal Harbour (FOSH) and resident bird expert Kerry Findley, the gulls very rarely venture north of southern California.

At around 12:30 p.m. on July 7, Findley spotted a Laughing Gull on the tidal mud flats at Roberts Bay at The Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Sidney.

According to FOSH, this was the first photo-documented record for the west coast of Canada.

The rare and wary bird spent two days on the mud flats providing many birders the chance to see their species of a lifetime.

This the second time that a rare species has been documented in Shoal Harbour Sanctuary.

The last was a Black Phoebe, another species that is extremely rare outside its southern range. It was observed under similar weather and climatic conditions in late June, 2011, as La Nina weather took shape.

As of 3 p.m. on July 7, the gull was still present in a large flock of Glaucous-winged gulls and a few Mew gulls.

“The bird is actively feeding but is flighty and is frequently being flushed by a Bald Eagle,” Findley reported.

“The bird was last seen in the southwest area of Roberts Bay near the Mermaid Creek Delta off the end of Fifth Street in Sidney.”

— Submitted by Friends of Shoal Harbour

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