Many serious birders occasionally will take an offshore birding trip in hopes of seeing some open-sea birds that are rarely seen from land. Ive been on about a dozen such trips over the years out of Hatteras, Virginia Beach and Morehead City. The trips are not cheap, the drive is long and weather is always a concern. Recently, I have preferred boat trips on Lake Norman, the inland sea. During the right times of year some interesting birds can be found, some of them real rarities.
Last Sunday, I was able to grab a seat with 10 other area birders on a boat headed out onto the lake. A rare Sabines gull had been found earlier in the day and the large group was eager to try to relocate it.
The trip had a promising start when some white diving birds were spied off in the distance. We motored over to the area along Davidson Creek and soon were surrounded with a mixed flock of about 40 common, Forsters and black terns species you often see along the coast, but ones that also show up on large lakes in the fall. A particularly cooperative group sat tight on the water while we approached.
Satisfied we had seen everything in this group, we headed for the large open water behind the McGuire Dam. As we approached, a gull-looking bird rose off the water and fluttered back down. A slow approach soon showed the bird to be a juvenile Sabines gull heading for the southern hemisphere from above the Arctic Circle. The bird rose off the water exposing its bold, characteristic wing pattern.
It soon became evident that half the group was watching in one direction while the other half was focused on something in the other direction. Suddenly there were two Sabines gulls in sight, a truly remarkable occurrence and unprecedented on inland waters in the state.
Seven Sabines gulls have been sighted at Lake Norman over the years, a remarkable number. All of the records are from September, solidifying that months reputation for producing Lake Norman rarities.