[TN-Bird] Recent Sabine's Gull - Team East and Beyond Play by Play (Long!)

  • From: Whoopinwiller@xxxxxxx
  • To: bristol-birds@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, tn-bird@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 14 Sep 2003 10:13:51 EDT

14 SEP 03
Sabine's Gull Report Revisited
Rack Cross
Blountville, TN
Having worked on the documentation for the Sabine's Gull record, 7 SEP 03, in 
East TN I recognized a series events that drew a number birders both local 
and regional. I thought it so interesting I would share with the lists. The 
following is a list of names and their contributions, and these are just the 
I am aware of, as it also occurred to me during this process that unknown 
contributors could have been essential yet invisible links in this fortuitous 
chain of events.
Kenn Kaufman, Larry McDaniel, Janet Brown, Don Holt and Chris O'Bryan: Wish 
Ed Talbott, Sam Cross and I "Good luck finding the Black Terns (our initial 
target) at Musick's Lakeside Campground [S. Holston Lake, Sullivan Co., TN]." 
Knowing our good birding friends were behind us as we departed the Fall Roan 
Mountain Naturalist Rally we felt well blessed and confident - necessary 
for good bird finding in E. TN  : )

Upon arrival at Musick's I immediately noticed a distant Gull soaring and got 
the scope on it . Ed scoped a Grebe of non-Pied-billed proportions 
(identified later as Eared Grebe). Sammy scanned with binos. I began to call 
out field 
marks of the Gull in relation to upper wing markings and stated, "We may have 
another Kittiwake out here," as the Black-legged Kittiwake found by Larry 
McDaniel et al on the Elizabethton Bird Club Spring Count had been discussed at 
lunch with Kaufman. I knew there was some black plumage missing on the back for 
juv. Black-legged Kittiwake and Sam had already began leafing through the 
gulls in our Sibley's Guide searching for the field marks called. Then I heard 
him say, "Dad! It's a Sabine's Gull!" "Let me see that!", said I, knowing big 
trouble could lie ahead. I searched feverously for a more common gull to fit 
observed bird and after several passes through the gull section of Sibley's 
it was not to be. The Gull landed on the water and Ed stated he saw a darker 
cap and nape clearly. I confirmed his sighting and stated, "I used to be a 
pretty good birder before I saw this bird. Ed, I have too many marks and too 
good looks not to call this bird, it's a Sabine's." To which Ed jokingly 
replied, "I am not even here!" He continued, "We need someone [of established 
reputation] to confirm this Gull identification with us."
I made the following cellular calls: 
Wallace Coffey - answering machine (no message left)
Larry McDaniel - rings then my phone dies
*plug in touchy car charger*
Rick Knight - no answer, phone dies
Don Holt - no cell service message
Larry McDaniel - unfamiliar answering machine (wrong #?)
Wallace Coffey - "Hello!!"
I was pretty worked up by now knowing time was of the essence. I skipped my 
usual good bird in the field tag, 'Rack Cross reporting from the field', hoping 
my cell connection would hold through the next few breaths and stated " It's 
Rack and I need you at Musick's as soon as possible." "What have you got?"
he asked. "Sabine's Gull still present," which based upon Coffey's response 
time was a real attention getter!
Coffey arrives with several gull/seabird titles in tow. He views the bird 
briefly before it zooms into Washington Co., VA and out of sight. We 
his books. This guy has some good and timely books on hand.
Bert and Loraine Hale arrive and Bert gives me a printout of the post he has 
just made to Bristol Birds list (another Coffey contribution) regarding the 
Sabine's Gull sighting as requested by Coffey. Unfortunately we tell them of 
Gull's disappearance and our plan to pursue. They agree to join.
Our group arrives at Washington Co. Park and do not find the Gull. A dog 
fight between Osprey with fish and Bald Eagle at close range, although 
do little to ease a sinking feeling of 'gull loss' that I begin to feel.
Janice Martin, known to have camcorder (identical to Talbott's- he just knew 
he should have packed his that day) was phoned from here and asked to bring 
her camera. Mere moments later, she called from Musick's and we regathered 
there. Gull refound by Talbott who made haste to record it. Camera difficulty 
video unusable and the Gull was lost sight of again. Then Coffey regained 
sight of it and Talbott began filming successfully!
Coffey sponsored a celebratory pizza party with Sam, Ed and I. There we made 
plans to document the record. Ed said he would have e-photos up from the video 
by midnight and I would post the find afterwards. 
That evening from home Coffey contacted Teta Cain, VSO, with the exciting 
news and she mentioned Atlantic Ocean storm activity my have influenced the 
Gull's appearance.
Ed posted photos and Wallace attached them to my post and forwarded them to 
appropriate lists.
The next day, Ed forwarded correspondence from Ned Brinkley, North American 
Birds, confirming from photos the Sabine's Gull identification and mentioned 9 
previous VA records and added a congratulatory note.
Jeff Wilson posted to TN Birds congratulations as well and supplied western 
state records and encouraged every to be on the lookout for more Sabine's Gull 
this time of year. The entire list was now feeling "blessed and confident" and 
doggone if that doesn't work in W TN also! More Sabine's Gulls found.
In closing (you're welcome!), thanks to all you for your support this far and 
to those that will contribute to this matter in the near future. This single 
bird married birders from the 'coasts' and in between of two states very 
quickly allowing me to experience an exercise of a finely tuned network of 
contributing various skills abilities. 
And, oh yea, it was a life bird for all who saw it!
'Til we bird again
Rack Cross
Blountville, TN

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