About the 25th June (after the first of our spells of turbulent weather) I saw a large dark-coloured bird flying with silver gulls off-shore from Queens Beach North in Scarborough (UBD 82 B16). They were harassing a group of fishermen on the rocks to the north of the beach. I saw it closer up on the beach at dusk a few days later. On the evening of the 2nd July we saw it again and we had the impression of a bird at least double the “size” of a silver gull with a very heavy beak. I tried to make it into a shearwater but it wouldn’t fit.
On Saturday the 9th July we were having a morning walk and there were two of them on the beach and Robin got the photos shown, in good light and with a tripod. Libby Scott, who was with us, had just got to the immature Pacific Gull Larus pacificus when Greg Anderson of Birds Queensland rode up, saw them, and confirmed our ID. Greg entered it on the Rare, interesting, or otherwise notable sightings page of the Birds Queensland website http://birdsqueensland.org.au/. Greg e-mailed later that these were the 3rd and 4th sightings ever made in Queensland. Bob Inglis of Clontarf saw them on the 10th and his marvellous photos are at http://users.tpg.com.au/inglisrc/pacgulls.htm .
A note on Field Guides
From what Greg Anderson said, I think my slowness in identification was partly the result of never having looked at gulls in the south. From a North Queensland childhood, gulls are silver gulls, and that size of beak belonged to a different group of birds. Distance and poor light made detail of the beak difficult to see too. An elderly birdwatcher who John Holt and I met found it hard to recognise because Caley only showed the mature white bird. In Bob Inglis’s photos it is clear that one bird is older than the other with the beak further on towards the adult colour.
Robyn Black July 2005