I’ve spent a lot of time searching for the Glaucous Gull. This Arctic visitor shows up on the west coast semi-regularly, but I just could never seem to, as Owen Wilson says in The Big Year “nail that sucker.” And I’ve really tried, really tried. I’ve gone to windswept Oregon beaches in January, landfills in March, Goldstream River with its spawned-out salmon lots of times. I followed up every report, within reason. I even spent the better part of a day at a sewage lagoon in Duncan, afraid to leave, but punished for staying, if you know what I mean. My reference picture might have been part of the problem–it’s possible.

Glaucous Gull (reference)

In any case, I finally caught up with the culprit at Goldstream, the place where I had tried so many times before. indeed, the first bird I saw when I pulled up to park was the Glaucous Gull! The river was very high, drowning the more recent remains of spent Chum and Coho, and keeping all gulls close to the picnic area. My young bird was tugging hopefully at an almost bare fish skull, and getting very little sustenance from it, or so it appeared.

I must say that the bird didn’t closely resemble my reference pic except, maybe, for the beak, so I couldn’t really be faulted. That’s what I’m telling myself, anyway!

Finding my bird, after so many failed attempts, had a curious effect. The marvellous sense of birding adventure that consumed me when, six of seven years ago, I rejoined the hobby had suddenly returned. I even posted a picture of the subject on my bulletin board! So, although it took awhile – “thanks Pal!”

Glaucous Gull (the real thing)



exhales dolomite,

the dusk-deepening, stone breaths

of this steel-hard species of limestone,


Hart’s Tongue and rare orchids

survive in the cracks and crevices

of coral reefs marooned,

ages and ages past.

Of pre-things left behind


dampened under northern light,

and broken by northern ice.

I’ve seen limestone in other places,

hotter places,

where the rock

blazes white beneath the sun.

Pharaohs used to plate their tombs with limestone

pyramids made white-bright with limestone

you could go blind from that limestone;

no one ever went blind from dolomite.

The Garafraxa Road loops over the old reefs,

a ragged ridge of tomb-grey skeletons,

once swarming stuff

that hated winter and hated ice

waiting, without patience, until the poles move

little by little,


perhaps, that

when all of us are gone,

the warm oceans will return

to drown these fields

where, for a hundred years,

farmers’ children stooped a thousand, million times

to fill stone boats,

to build stone fences,

around their Garafraxa farms.

I had a friend once, killed by dolomite.

He fell, and a great squared tower stone

fell after him, and crushed him.

In those casual days

such things happened more often,

Towers built by forgotten men

to burn rock

into lime,


square towers made of blocks

of dolomite,

all loosened through age,

standing like castles.

Richard, climbing there in the evening, alone.

His father tied him to a wide plank, I heard,

and, harnessed to it, dragged his son home

desperate against death, long ago.


stonemasons took those towers down

to save other boys from falling

the fatal blocks cut up and used,

no doubt,

for tombstones,

in the cemeteries,

along the Garafraxa Road.

MC 2021