Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Everybody To Get From Street

Slaty-backed gull: The Superior Waters Project

The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming!

Boston Globe: Flock's foray from Siberia inspires local delight

A group of Russians landed unnoticed on the Massachusetts coast recently, saying little as they scouted the area for a possible occupation. But with their bright pink legs and distinctive wing markings, the slaty-backed gulls could not maintain their cover.

The local bird-watching community is atwitter over the first known Massachusetts sightings of the species, which usually nests on Russia's frigid eastern coast and winters in northeast Asia.

David Sibley of Concord was the first to spot the gull, at Jodrey State Fish Pier in Gloucester on Dec. 23.

"It's always a thrill to find a bird that rare," said Sibley, an artist who has written several authoritative bird books. "There's something really special about that feeling of discovery."

Wayne Petersen of the Massachusetts Audubon Society sighted a second gull on Coast Guard Beach in Eastham an hour later. Later, others sighted a third slaty-backed gull in Gloucester.

Sibley said the gull stands out from local species because of its leg color, an extra bit of white on its wing tips, its slate-gray back, and brown streaking on its head. Petersen said the bird has been sighted in the last two decades across the United States, as far southeast as Florida. The gulls may be looking for property; gull populations, in general, have been on the rise.

Sibley said more slaty-backed gulls could visit in the future. "This could be the beginning of the invasion," he said.

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