Date: 7/31/20 11:14 am
From: Drew Haffenden <andrew...>
Subject: Re: [ALbirds] An agonizing mega tic of a South Polar Skua
Just had it 150yds W of pavilion, just 50ft from last beachgoer. It then flew W along beach.



From: <ALbirds...> <ALbirds...> on behalf of Lawrence Gardella via <lfgardella=<>
Sent: Friday, July 31, 2020 7:44:30 AM
To: <ALbirds...> <ALbirds...>
Subject: Re: [ALbirds] An agonizing mega tic of a South Polar Skua

It has been seen again ready this morning. Same locale, between the (closed) fishing pier and the pavilion.

Larry Gardella

On Fri, Jul 31, 2020, 6:17 AM Emma Rhodes <emmarhodes09...><mailto:<emmarhodes09...>> wrote:

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...><mailto:<lfgardella...>> wrote:
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

On Thu, Jul 30, 2020, 9:06 PM Lucy & Bob Email <RobertADuncan...><mailto:<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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