Feb 24 2012
Every afternoon the gulls wintering in Volusia County, Florida congregate on the beach at Daytona Beach Shores. Before sunset thousands of them mill about or stand shoulder to shoulder facing the wind, unconcerned as people walk or drive by.
The beach is a hotspot for birders, too, because the gulls are so approachable. It’s easy to see their plumage details from only 20 feet away though it takes patience to pick through thousands of individuals. Everyone hopes for a rarity.
On February 9 during my Florida vacation, Chuck Tague took me to see this spectacle and I met Michael Brothers of the Marine Science Center who monitors and photographs the gulls every day. While there we also saw my favorite raptor, a peregrine falcon looking for a meal.
The peregrine is still there. This week Michael witnessed a rare event which he reported on the BRDBRAIN listserve:
Today, 2/21, I stopped by to see the gulls at Daytona Beach Shores and witnessed an amazing sight. I saw a large group of gulls take off from along the beach and assumed that some people had chased the birds off.
When I got closer I found an adult Peregrine had killed a Laughing Gull and it was calmly eating it right on the beach. The bird was amazingly tame and allowed me to sit only 20 feet away and photograph it for 15 minutes or more. It did not seem bothered by beach walkers going by only a few feet away from it.
A few other birders came up and were also able to sit and watch the spectacle. Meanwhile, folks were driving by just behind us, either staring at the bird or oblivious to the rare event right beside them.
Marine Science Center
Ponce Inlet, FL.
When I saw Michael’s photos I was immediately intrigued. This peregrine is unbanded and unafraid of people. Was it born in a remote place where it never learned to fear humans? Or was it just exceptionally hungry?
Click on the image above to see a slideshow of Michael Brothers’ beautiful peregrine photos. At the end you’ll see how one passerby reacted to this event. She obviously doesn’t know this is (OMG!!) a peregrine falcon.
(all photos by Michael Brothers)