Luc David

First ever Ross’s gull spotted in Belgium

Photographers have been flocking to the seaside resort of Nieuwpoort (West Flanders) in recent days to snap a picture of Ross’s gull, the seagull that is indigenous to Siberia in the Russian Federation has been spotted on the Flemish coast for the first time.

The pier and the promenade along the River IJzer are thronged with photographers equipped with telescopic lenses and tripods.  A first picture was taken on 1 December by a photographer specialised in taking snaps of seagull rings.

Nature guide Luc David says the bird then disappeared for a while before re-emerging on the French coast and later in the Flemish resorts of Oostduinkerke and Koksijde. In recent days the gull has been spotted daily between the two piers in the city on the IJzer.  “Nieuwpoort is a hotspot for twitchers.  It’s the first time Ross’s gull is spotted in Belgium.  The photographers are all waiting for that one shot that would otherwise require a trip to Siberia”.

“It’s a magnificent bird, small like a black-headed gull that in summer boasts a black chocolaty head and a beak like that of a canary.”

Once in a while the gull lands on the pier to take a bite.  It isn’t scared of humans.  There are no humans in its natural habitat, so it hasn’t yet learned to fear their presence.

It’s unclear how the bird ended up in our climes.  “I don’t believe it’s climate-related” says Luc David. “These are strays.  Usually, they venture no further south than the barrier ice.  If everybody stays quiet, they will all get a shot.  The gull may have joined other gulls on their migration”.

The Ross’s gull seems quite happy here.  “It’s very active” says Luc. “It’s domineering the black-headed gulls that try to steal its fish.  Enjoy its presence because it could be gone by tomorrow”.  

Luc David

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