Visit to coast doesn't end well for Ross's gull
By Carina Woudenberg
Jan 18, 2017
Bird enthusiasts near and far were treated to a visit last week from an elusive gull that appeared Thursday in a Pillar Point Harbor parking lot — far from its breeding grounds in the high Arctic.
Known as the Ross’s gull, this special bird is often at the top of the “must see” list for many in the know. Sightings are infrequent and that rarity adds to its allure.
Typically, Ross’s gulls don’t venture too far from their icy tundra of a habitat in the most unpopulated northern reaches of the high latitudes, experts say. Sometimes the bird will venture as far south as Alaska for the winter and while sightings have been reported in Canada and sometimes on the East Coast of the United States, it’s really unusual to see one come as far south as California.
In fact, last week’s sighting was only the second ever reported in the state. The gull was also spotted at Salton Sea in 2006.
The bird is smaller than many other gulls — lending it a sort of delicate presence that is only enhanced by its blush pink chest and necklace-like markings around its neck. To the untrained eye, the bird could be mistaken as a pigeon, save for its webbed feet, perhaps.
The bird has enjoyed celebratory status since the mid-1970s. It was considered one of the first rare birds discovered when it was found in Massachusetts in 1975, said local birding expert Alvaro Jaramillo.
“At that time they considered it the bird of the century,” he said.
In the Coastside’s first appearance, discoverer Don Pendleton spotted it just before 2 p.m. on Thursday near the RV lot by Pillar Point Harbor. Pendleton had a hunch that he had landed on something special. He called up fellow bird enthusiast and El Granada resident Donna Pomeroy and she rushed over.
Together, the pair identified the bird as the elusive gull. Pomeroy took photos to make sure the sighting would be documented and they each called and sent out messages to more of their bird-loving friends.