Date: 7/31/20 4:17 am
From: Emma Rhodes <emmarhodes09...>
Subject: Re: [ALbirds] An agonizing mega tic of a South Polar Skua

I observed the bird shortly after you and Lucy had left. I initially saw it
flying over the dunes and shortly after that observed it sitting on the
beach about 1/4 mile from the fishing pier.

I was beyond ecstatic to see my lifer Skua! I watched it for some time
before it flew south over the gulf. I observed it sitting on top of the
water for some time before it eventually disappeared. Congratulations!
What an awesome bird!


On Thu, Jul 30, 2020, 9:16 PM Lawrence Gardella <lfgardella...>

> On the basis of the great photos from this morning, and despite the extent
> of white i am now confident the skua is South Polar, as called this
> morning. Folks on the Skuas and Jaegers Facebook page agree.
> What a bird!
> Larry Gardella
> Daphne
> On Thu, Jul 30, 2020, 9:06 PM Lucy & Bob Email <
> <RobertADuncan...> wrote:
>> Hi all,
>> Right after lunch today I (Bob) checked our email and found a rare bird
>> alert for Baldwin Co. AL and to his surprise and with great reservations
>> found that a South Polar Skua was reported at Gulf Shores State Park that
>> morning. WHAT? No way. But photos from the two intrepid birders who found
>> it showed a definite Skua! Lucy immediately called several south Alabama
>> birders while throwing camera and sunscreen, water bottles and sunhats in
>> our tote bag. A nap was postponed and Lucy and I hit the road right away.
>> Gulf Shores is about 45 – 60 mins west of Pensacola. It had been found
>> between the park pavilion and the Fishing Pier (closed for repairs now).
>> We walked the board walk from the pavilion to the beach in beastly glare
>> from midday sun, oppressive heat and humidity, only to find the beach was
>> so crowded with sunbathers, swimmers and beach umbrellas that it was hard
>> to even see terns and Laughing Gulls loafing. No bird could be found. So we
>> drove to the Convention Center & Hotel just west down the beach and tried
>> there. Once again, no bird but crowds of sun gazers and bathers. Larry
>> Gardella was in the area searching as well, with no luck either.
>> OK. We can’t expect to score every time we chase a bird. So we drove west
>> through Gulf Shores to Little Lagoon Pass hoping for a longshot. No luck.
>> So we started back toward Gulf Shores and just before we got to the center
>> of town Larry called and was ecstatic, he had the bird between the pavilion
>> and the convention center, only a couple of miles away! We managed to get
>> every agonizing red light in Gulf Shores before we got to the center and
>> walked out its long boardwalk to the beach. Once again, no bird in sight,
>> but tons of people. Lucy decided to walk east down the beach and try but I
>> opted to stay on the boardwalk where I had a better overall view of the
>> area. I watched her closely and every now and then she would turn around
>> and wave and I would wave back.
>> I was about to go back to the Center and find shade when out of nowhere
>> this very large dark bird with prominent white in the wings passed right
>> in front of me over the edge of the beach. The SKUA! I followed it in my
>> glasses as it flew toward Lucy, by now hundreds of yards away and out of
>> earshot. It was going to pass BEHIND her and she was looking offshore!
>> PLEASE TURN AROUND! PLEASE TURN AROUND I thought and began shouting out
>> loud, pointlessly. But she continued to look offshore, much to my dismay!!
>> The bird seemed to disappear behind the dunes from my vantage point. I
>> wildly gesticulated to no avail and to the perplexity of people around me
>> who must have thought that this guy was crazy.
>> Lucy now: Meanwhile I had seen a bird feeding with terns just outside of
>> the breakers, but couldn’t get a decent look, nor a size comparison, only
>> seeing a dark bird and some white flashing. The only reasonable bird I
>> could think of that it might be if not the skua was a molting Black Tern
>> which can look rather ratty and splotchy at this time. I turned to point
>> toward the feeding flock to have Bob focus on that area, and when I looked
>> back, I couldn’t find it. I then decided to continue my trek east down the
>> beach, and suddenly, there was this huge, very dark bird halfway between
>> the high tide and dunes, and it was only about 80 feet in front of me. And,
>> it was knocking the heck out of a small fish! I managed a few shots, turned
>> and waved a thumbs up at Bob, but didn’t know if he’d seen it or not.
>> Deciding to shoot more and wave less, I eased up on the bird which had
>> eaten the fish and was sitting down. I stopped, not wanting to spook it,
>> but the bird got up and flew……..straight toward me, alighting about 10 feet
>> away. We stared at each other briefly, then it got up and flew out over the
>> Gulf.
>> Bob: But then I could see in binos that she was intently looking at
>> something on the beach and taking photos! Yes, she got the bird and our
>> marriage was salvaged!!
>> A word of caution for anyone going for it this weekend. Parking could be
>> a problem and the beaches even more crowded than today, if that’s possible.
>> If you plan to go for it, go early before the beach-goers get out there.
>> We should add that we have not yet examined Lucy’s photos, so we’re not
>> certain if the bird is a South Polar Skua or a Great Skua. It was reported
>> this morning as a South Polar Skua by the two gals who found it while doing
>> a “turtle patrol.”
>> Bob and Lucy Duncan
>> Gulf Breeze

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