Saturday, January 7, 2012

Black-tailed Gull in Ohio

Back on November 16th last year, while backpacking somewhere in Tanzania, I remember checking my phone and learning that a Black-tailed Gull was discovered in Ashtabula, Ohio – a first state record and 20th species of gull for Ohio (if accepted). Being 8,000 miles away, I had to accept that fact that I’m just not going to get that bird. OK, not just ‘that bird’, but an ABA Code-4 vagrant from East Asia! Fast-forward to today, the gull remains after nearly two months! Incredible and probably one of, if not the longest, staying Black-tailed Gull in North American history. It will be interesting to see just how long it decides to stick around.

Obviously this is a state bird, well ABA bird, ok a lifer to be exact so I was pleased to return to Ohio a few days ago and see that the gull was still being regularly reported. This morning, Ryan Steiner and I ventured up there and after two hours, the gull was found. What a great bird to return to Ohio for!

Showing obvious black sub-terminal tail band (c) Chris West
BTGU resting (c) Chris West
 Jen Brumfield has been tracking its sightings, movements, habits etc on her website at ( so be sure to check it out for up to date information and maps if you’re heading that way.

What will be next?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Final report from Africa

Peering out the window there’s a thin coating of snow and a wind chill of 21˚F – as you have probably guessed, I’m no longer in Africa. After my previous blog post two and a half weeks ago, fellow Ohio birding friend Brad Wilkinson joined me on a quick Cape to Kruger spree concluding in Johannesburg, where I boarded a flight back to the states…indefinitely. After an incredible two years living in Cape Town, South Africa, I’m now back in Ohio where I will be busy as the new Education and Outreach Specialist for Black Swamp Bird Observatory along with several other projects.

I’ve learned that traveling and maintaining a blog concurrently is a difficult task. Preferring to blog about present day topics, I will regretfully delay concluding my write-ups on my four month backpacking trip until a further date and instead wrap up 2011 with some photos from my recent Cape to Kruger trip.

This shy African Penguin is part of a much larger
colony at Boulder's Beach, Cape Town - one of
only two populations on the mainland
While looking for endemic larks in the Agulhas Plains,
this African Pipit hopped into view with some nesting material
The national bird of South Africa, these Blue Cranes
are common in the Agulhas Plains
Many great birds were found at Mkuze Game Reserve
but the more widespread Lesser Masked-Weaver
allowed the best photography
Countless mammals were recorded on the trip including
Leopard, Spotted Hyenas, Sable Antelope and this White Rhino
Wakkerstroom is a must if you bird South Africa
offering a lot of range-restricted species including
Botha's and Rudd's Larks. However, the more
common Long-tailed Widowbird is always a sight.
Eastern Long-billed Lark is also found around
Wakkerstroom on rock-covered slopes
Kruger National Park is the size of Switzerland
yet traffic jams still occur
The vulnerable Southern Ground Hornbill is
the largest species of hornbill in the
world weighing between 5-10lbs