t was one of those sightings that birders live for.
Jim Edsall of Dartmouth was doing a routine scan of the gull population at McCormacks Beach in Eastern Passage on Sunday afternoon when a particular bird caught his attention.
“This bird almost looks exactly like a black-backed gull but it’s much, much smaller and bulkwise it’s about half the weight,” Edsall said in an interview Wednesday. “When I saw it, I knew it was something good so I got some pictures. I could tell the legs were kind of greenish. A black-backed gull’s legs are quite pink.”
The gull was resting beside a black-backed gull so Edsall was able to immediately gauge the specimen’s unusually small size.
He took some photos of the gull on the ground and in flight and sent them to a birder friend who specializes in gulls, who confirmed Edsall’s suspicions.
It was the first confirmed sighting in Nova Scotia of a kelp gull and only the fourth sighting in Canada. The gull was spotted again at McCormacks Beach as recently as Wednesday morning.
“It’s mainly a bird of the southern hemisphere. It’s found in Africa, South America, even the Falkland Islands and probably Australia,” Edsall said. “I knew . . . kelp gull was a possibility because one had been seen inNewfoundland a year ago last Christmas. You don’t like to jump the gun on things like this.”
A serious birder since 1985, it’s the first time Edsall has seen a species previously not confirmed in Nova Scotia. His list also includesrarities such as the prothonotary warbler, Louisiana waterthrush and seaside sparrow.
“Part of birding is studying what could show up and I guess that’s how I was aware of the species,” Edsall said. “It’s the sort of thing birders all live for, really, finding that one real rare species.”
News of his find soon spread throughout the birding community. Edsall posted his discovery on a North American gulls Facebook page “and it immediately got all kinds of responses saying yes, it’s a kelp gull,” he said.
The Nova Scotia Bird Society, of which Edsall is a member, also tweeted news of his discovery.
Edsall’s passion for birding extends into thecreative and professional world. He makes his living selling wood sculptures of wild birds at www.jimedsall.comand at art galleries including the Designer Craft Shop on the Halifax waterfront.
He’s the reigning Atlantic champion in wood bird sculpting and has placed first in the advanced class at the Wildfowl Carving Competition and Art Festival world championships held annually in Maryland.
“It’s a love of birds, a love of working with wood and painting,” said Edsall, “I’ve been a competitive bird carver for a long time.”