One Bird. One Year. One Landing.

One year ago today, we saw the Ivory Gull for the first time. A lot has happened to our family over the course of the past year, both good and bad.

We had the opportunity to view hundreds of birds in their own habitat, not just our own backyard, and we were fortunate enough to meet many great people in the birding community along the way. We lost our house due to the mishap with the mortgage company, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying all of the beauty and mystery in the world around us.

Our family views the day we first saw the Ivory Gull as a milestone in our lives. Just as that wayward gull drifted on the winds from the Arctic Circle, we, as a family, were just drifting through life ready to land wherever the wind dropped us.

Ivory Gull (13)


Since that day we’ve landed in a much better spot and although our visiting angel from way up north has long since passed, we think about that bird on a daily basis. We will be forever thankful that the Ivory Gull, and the blessings we have received since the day we first saw it.

I have no doubt that everything happens for a reason, our experiences today are no exception.

This afternoon we ventured down to West Point Lake to try and locate a Black-Legged Kittiwake that was reported two days ago. It’s funny, because we ventured down to see the Ivory Gull two days after it was first reported as well.

When we arrived at the dam, I realized we had arrived at nearly the same time we first arrived to see the Ivory Gull. Talk about a flood of memories. I never thought we would be there, in that same place, exactly one year to the minute looking for another rare / accidental bird from the gull family!

As we pulled up, we saw Lorna West from Alabama, who was gracious in pointing out two White Winged Scoters that were quite close to the shoreline.

White Winged Scoters 1


We ventured onto the dam (which is closed for renovation or some other kind of work) on foot to see if we could locate the Black-Legged Kittiwake.

I thought I had spotted it near the boom a couple times, but I couldn’t get a clear view of the bird in question and it took flight with a bunch of Ring Billed Gulls before I could confirm it. When the gulls took flight, I lost it in the crowd. We kept watching for a few minutes, then decided to check out the area below the dam to see if it had landed on the back side of the dam.

We came up empty with our search so we decided to check the boom area again, this time from the parking lot on the east side of the dam.

I started setting up my scope and before I could pull the lens cap off, our oldest son Josh spotted the bird. It was flying directly overhead and was gone again before I could grab my camera.

Black-Legged Kittiwake 5


We kept watch for a while, keeping an eye on the birds in the air rather than those in the water. It turns out, we did the right thing, because just moments later the Black-Legged Kittiwake flew directly towards us, coming from the west side of the dam.

Black-Legged Kittiwake 1


It flew in, circled a few times, made a quick dive to the water, and then flew off down river.

Black-Legged Kittiwake 3


We saw it again one more time as the sun was getting lower in the sky, and after a few more looks we decided to head home.

As we made the trek home, I couldn’t help but remember the events from a year ago, all of the birds we’ve seen since then, and most of all, the many wonderful people we’ve met since that cold January day when we decided to look for a visiting angel from way up north.

What a year it has been!