I took a break from writing my thesis yesterday to try again for a Franklin’s Gull at Huguenot. I’ve written before about how these gulls are best found in October and slightly into early November here but between work, school, and traveling to Minnesota and Arizona this month I’ve had little time to look for one.
Last night I arrived around 5:30PM and scanned the first flock of gulls and terns I came across, which were about 150 yards north of the jetties. Within about a minute I was able to pick out a Franklin’s from behind the bird. The photo below shows how you might do this; look at the stark contrast between the dark hood and nape leading into the mantle of the bird. Few if any Laughing Gulls this time of year will have that dark a hood. Another good initial field mark here is the brownish coloring in the folded wings.
I pulled around the other side of the flock and got out to take some more photos. In the next picture below, look at the size difference in direct comparison to the Laughing Gulls. The Franklin’s is more diminutive in overall size, but also look at the difference in the bills. Franklin’s has a much smaller and slimmer black bill. Additional field marks evident in this photo are the bold white eye arcs, the whitish forehead, and again – that brownish coloring in the wings. You can also see the head is more rounded than the Laughing and the angle of the forehead above the base of the bill is steeper.
When the bird is alone you can still see the key field marks and with a practiced eye you won’t need a Laughing Gull around to compare size.
These birds are rare anywhere in the state, in any season of the year. Outside of Daytona Beach Shores, I’d say Huguenot is the most reliable place in peninsular Florida to see one each year so get out there and look!