Great Cormorant & Franklin’s Gull at Huguenot

I have been looking forward to October here, because it is “the time” to look for Franklin’s Gulls at Huguenot. I’ve written before here several times about it, but in case you missed it – October is about the only month you can expect to go see a Franklin’s here….you might see one in November, but it’s very unlikely and once you get into December, well, then forget about it.

On Saturday, October 12th, I arrived at sunrise and was treated to a spectacular pink and purple greeting to the day.

Sunrise at Huguenot Memorial Park, Jacksonville, Florida

After photographing the sunrise, I noticed there was a group of 6-8 American Avocets lingering around the edge of the jetties along the bank of the St. Johns River.

American Avocet. Huguenot Memorial Park. October 12, 2019

Avocets are extremely uncommon at Huguenot; I think I’ve only seen them there a couple times previously in over 18 years. I normally see them in Jacksonville out in the creeks at low tide or in the spoil areas, so to see them so close-up was a real treat.

American Avocets at Huguenot Memorial Park. October 12, 2019

There were several hundred gulls and terns out there as well, and it was an incoming high tide so I was able to scan the flocks from pretty close up. It took me about 10 minutes, but I saw the familiar signs of a slightly smaller gull with a smaller, slimmer bill, white forehead, and prominent eye arcs….boom, Franklin’s Gull!

Franklin’s Gull. Huguenot Memorial Park. Jacksonville, Florida.

There were a couple other birder/photographers out there, so I pointed the bird out to three of them. Two seemed rather interested (one was from Michigan, another a lady with a huge camera lens); the third gentleman seemed to poo-poo it and only casually scan it from a distance…I don’t think he could see it really… To each his own, but I know I’m always excited to see one anywhere in Florida.

Franklin’s Gull, Huguenot Memorial Park. October 12, 2019

As I was looking at the gull, I received a text message asking if the Great Cormorant reported the previous day was legit. I didn’t know anything about it (I don’t follow eBird alerts very well these days), but I figured I’d go take a peek. I headed over the family beach area where a few birders were looking at the cormorants sitting on the poles. Sure enough, one of them was considerably larger than the other two, and had the white throat!

Great Cormorant (right). Huguenot Memorial Park. Jacksonville, Florida. October 12, 2019

This is roughly the seventh report of Great Cormorant in the county, and the first I’ve seen here. I was beginning to wonder how many more “county lifers” I might get before moving west, so this will continue to pad the list. I can still only reasonably assume to get one or two more, perhaps a Surf Scoter (finally!) or Frigatebird.

As for the Cormorant, I viewed it for awhile and called Marie up to see it (which she did). After we looked at it together for a few minutes, it flew off and headed south across the parking lot and towards Mayport. To my knowledge, it has not been reliably seen or reported since!

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