As a recently arrived Brit many of the local birders recommended that I read Donald Knowler's book 'The Falconer of Central Park' the story of, you guessed it, a British Birder spending a year birding Central Park. The author spent a whole year visiting the Park regularly and chronicling the birds and the characters he met there, including his year-long search for his own nemesis bird, an Iceland Gull in the Park. It was of course a great recommendation for me and I read it several times that first year in the US, although I, unlike the author, never did catch up with the Iceland Gull.
|(Photo from Amazon.com where there are still many copies available)|
This particular gull seemed to be on my mind though and so twice in January I circled the reservoir and scanned all the gulls hoping to re-find it. I just had bins with me so it would have been a tough pick given the distances but a first-cycle Iceland Gull stands out even among several thousand distant gulls so I had some hope that I might bump into it. I had no luck on either visit, but then a few days ago Nadir Sourigi reported the gull again and yesterday, as I was heading out to a dental appointment, others reported seeing it too. So I threw my bins in my coat pocket, ignored the strange looks I got from the staff at the dentist's office (doesn't everyone have binoculars sticking out of their pocket?), and when I was done there took a cab up to 89th Street and 5th Avenue and walked into the Reservoir.
Of course I squelched in on the East Side, where recent snow melt had turned the trails into mud, and all the gulls seemed to be on the West Side. So as I worked my way round the North end of the reservoir I kept scanning each group while making my way towards the main gull concentration. Before I'd gone very far though I picked up what looked like a good prospect out on the ice but it was distant and I needed to get closer to be sure. Hoping the bird would stick I kept pushing around, really wishing I was wearing boots and not street shoes, but at each stop the bird looked better until I got close enough to see the bill and I was quite sure I had a first cycle Iceland Gull.
|A very distant view of the Iceland Gull on Central Park Reservoir|
(Photo - Deborah Allen, used with permission).
Update: the next day someone found a Black-headed Gull on the Reservoir. So now I have a new gull to look for and I hope this one doesn't take 23 years to track down.