Laughing in Cairns

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: Laughing in Cairns
From: "Crispin Marsh" <>
Date: Sun, 18 Feb 2007 22:05:24 +1100
Dear Birders,
On a whim I took myself from my home in Sydney to Cairns for the weekend in the 
hope of catching up with he Laughing Gull reported from Cairns.

The cheap flight I took got me to Cairns at dead low tide on Saturday so I 
drove up to Newell Beach before looking for the LG in the hope of seeing a 
red-rumped swallow. In fact swallows were in fairly short supply in Newell 
Beach. A few welcomes but not even any Barns let alone a red-rumped!

I stopped at the lane between the go-cart track and the golf driving range just 
north of Cairns to see if I could find a male crimson finch (having previously 
seen a female). This time I was in luck with a small flock. They were in the 
palm trees along the driving range and they flew out onto the power lines. A 
wonderful bird.

I then drove into Cairns and took a walk along the esplanade in the hope go 
finding the LG. On arriving a the southern end of the bay I immediately saw a 
strange gull among the silver gulls but it surely wasn't the LG as it was far 
too big! It was white on the head, neck and back with brown on the wings and 
tail. The massive black beak and pink legs gave it away as a young kelp gull 
but the plumage seemed to be strange with the white head and neck preceding any 
colouring up on the wings.

There were quite a number of birders (~ 20 in all) looking for the LG. Brian 
Venables reported seeing the bird that morning flying by. It was not to be 
found along the esplanade despite concerted searching by all these eager eyes.

Sunday morning I was down at the esplanade at 6:30 and upon arriving again at 
the southern end noticed a group of silver gulls. Upon getting my binoculars up 
there in the middle of them was the Laughing Gull! It has a white face and top 
of the head but is otherwise greyish with brown notes on the wings. I had a 
chance to photograph the bird using a simple digital camera - my scope had not 
yet equilibrated from being in my a/c room overnight and I was unable to get it 
through the scope. After a couple of minutes it gave a couple of short Ca-Ca 
type sounds (not particularly reminiscent I would have to say of the long 
"laughing" call that I have heard on tapes) before flying towards the boat 
harbour . It landed on the last bit of beach before the rocks start and seemed 
to be contesting some thing edible with a couple of feral pigeons. As I got 
close I stopped to clear the fog off the scope and it flew but I did not see in 
which direction. I was not to see it again during the day despite a reasonable 
amount of time spent at the esplanade.

I was obviously very lucky with my timing but the bird does still seem to be 
about and can be seen with luck and patience. One question for those nice 
people (to whom many thanks) who first found the bird and then publicised it on 
Birding-Aus -  has anyone taken (or intend to take) any steps to file a report 
with BARC?

There were obviously lots of other wonderful birds seen on this quick flit to 
Cairns. I laughed in Cairns and all the way back to the big smoke!
Peter Marsh

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