Common Eider and Heermann’s Gull at Huguenot!

Just yesterday I wrote about all the great birds found and seen in June in Duval County, and expressed some determination in getting out there to find something this year. I think the best places to see a rarity in June in Duval County include Huguenot Memorial Park, Imeson Center, M&M Dairy, and Westside Industrial Park. Huguenot because of it’s general awesomeness and coastal location, where you’d have a remote chance at something like a shearwater or vagrant flycatcher, and the other, more inland locations because of the possibility of flycatchers or Purple Gallinules.

This morning I decided to head to Huguenot early, hoping to beat the certain madness of a father’s day crowd. I arrived at 06:45 and by the time I left at 10-ish, there were more people there than at Trump’s rally in Oklahoma last night.

Sunrise at Huguenot. 21 June 2020.

I parked at the nature center and walked up the river side to the jetties, where I immediately found “the” Heermann’s Gull. This is undoubtedly the same bird seen around the area for some weeks now, more often that not at Kathryn Abby Hanna Park just across the river. It was great to see the bird up close in the scope, and it really seems to be in good health and shape, with all its flight feathers intact. Incidentally, this bird was my 192nd species observed at Huguenot (lifetime). Of course, I didn’t carry my camera with me today, as I didn’t want to lug the 8 pound rig with the 500mm lens for 4 miles…so all these pictures are courtesy of the Samsung phone, handheld digiscope through the Swarovoski scope. (I didn’t even have my PhoneSkope attachment, cardinal sin).

Heermann’s Gull. Huguenot Memorial Park. Jacksonville, Florida. 21 June 2020.

I walked a little further out east along the sandbar to scope the jetties for boobies (of course of the Sulidae variety, get your mind out of the gutter), when I found a rough looking Common Eider swimming in from the east. It shortly walked up onto the beach, and I managed the photo below. It is certainly the first ever record of a Common Eider and Heermann’s Gull in the same picture in Florida. If I’m assuming that incorrectly, I’d love to see the prior art on that.

Common Eider and Heermann’s Gull in Florida. In June. 2020.

My exuberance at finding the Eider was quickly tempered as I realized the distress this bird must be in, and the likelihood that it won’t make it much longer. You might recall I recently had a paper published in the Florida Field Naturalist on Common Eider occurrence in Northeast Florida, and I’m particularly fond of the species. Believe it or not, this isn’t the first June record of the species in Jacksonville, one lingered from May through July as recently as 2017.

My account here has a “gallery option” I haven’t yet tried, so I’m giving it a shot below. We’ll see how it turns out.

I finished my walk and noted a few things; first, there are tons of dead gulls on the north end. The first I encountered had just been run over by a parked truck, the owner of which was out photographing the gull colony with a huge 500 or 600mm lens. I think they were oblivious to the fact they’d just crushed a recently born Laughing Gull to death. Many other gulls (mostly hatchlings) were scattered around the north end in various states of carnage. Predation from other birds is most likely based on what I saw.

Second, there are a good number of Oystercatchers this year (at least seven, with one newly-minted-yet-already-banded bird). Third, Wilson’s Plovers are good parents.

Checklist from today is here.

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