Two experienced birders went to Startops Reservoir, one of the four Tring reservoirs complex, and spotted a Little Gull. They submitted the record along with some good quality photographs, and it was not until the photos were opened and inspected that it was realised that the putative Little Gull was in fact a rare Sabine's Gull.
Sabine's Gull was named after Sir Edward Sabine when he discovered it in 1818. They breed in Alaska, Greenland, Arctic Canada, Spitsbergen and Northern Russia and generally migrate down the Atlantic. They are fairly rare in the UK and their appearance tends to coincide with storms that push them onto the coast and, during violent storms, inland. This individual, a 1st summer male, is the 12th record for Hertfordshire, although nine of the previous records occurred during the great storm of October 1987.
I received the news on the afternoon of Monday the 2nd July 2012 when we were travelling back from holiday. I didn't venture out as the weather was fairly inclement. Luckily, the bird was still present the next morning so I hurried over with my trusted camera.
The bird was certainly showing well, generally hugging the walls of the reservoir and was feeding constantly. From a photographer's point of view the bird was very often too close for a shot, down to 6 feet at times. You soon realise that photographers and farmers have a lot in common. There is always something wrong.
In the event the light was pretty poor, coupled with spasms of light drizzle, however, after three hours I did manage to take 660 shots, of which the best are reproduced below.