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!
A white gull was reported from Mayport Boat Ramp a day or two ago, and was not accompanied by a photo. A resident “bird guide” (that actually charges people money to see/find birds) chased it and photographed it yesterday morning…and also reported it as an Iceland Gull. That caused a flurry of others to chase it as well, including a couple of self-professed “experienced birders” (the same people that love to argue with me on reports and identification challenges, and never admit a mistake). Well, they reported it also as an Iceland and actually paraphrased field guides as to why this was an Iceland Gull and not a Glaucous Gull (which it is also not; this is a Laughing Gull). Was anyone actually looking at this bird, or just in a hurry to check it off their year or life list? The closest it comes to an Iceland Gull is that it’s white. It resembles an Iceland in almost no other way, most notably the diminutive size and the shape of the bill.
I have to admit that I took a little pleasure in pointing out a mistake like this to a couple of people that are so rude, belligerent, and insistent on their reported birds. Just goes to show you that we all make mistakes, fall into “group think”, rely on others to ID a bird, and blow a call even when the bird is right in front of you and is well photographed. I’ll still give the benefit of the doubt I suppose, as it might be difficult when you’re looking at a life bird and you have no experience with a species. I’ve seen enough Icelands over the years (12 in Duval County alone) to know the size immediately discards this particular bird from the deck. Yes..it’s a cool bird nonetheless, and I took the ferry over today to see it.
Other than that, I haven’t been out in the woods this fall migration for the first time in forever. Work and school are kicking my tail, but I’m in the midst of finishing my Master’s thesis. Two more months and I’ll be done with school forever and can get back to birding. I’ll leave you with this Yellow Warbler from my backyard this morning.