Feb 24 2012

On The Beach

Published by at 7:20 am under Peregrines

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.

Michael Brothers
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)

10 responses so far

10 Responses to “On The Beach”

  1. Peteron 24 Feb 2012 at 7:48 am

    Unbelievable! Seriously. Without the pictures I don’t know if I could have believed it. I’d be sad if this happened to me, because it’d all be downhill from there! Glad you met Michael and that he shared.

  2. sharon leadbitteron 24 Feb 2012 at 9:15 am

    I think it needs a toothpick or maybe some floss :-)

    Seriously … people are so unobservant or just blase’ … look around you people and see what you’ve been missing!!

  3. kcon 24 Feb 2012 at 10:42 am

    It’s funny. As a birder I always try to respect birds and other animals by not getting too close. In some instances, as displayed here, a non-birder will get much closer than I would ever dare to and I envy their experience even though they are not aware of their enviable experience!

    Great photos. Thanks.

  4. Hermon 24 Feb 2012 at 10:57 am

    That’s awesome and thanks for the photo series !!

  5. Stephenon 24 Feb 2012 at 11:56 am

    Kate, is it unusual for a peregrine to eat its kill on the ground?

  6. Kate St. Johnon 24 Feb 2012 at 12:06 pm

    For Pittsburgh peregrines, yes. City peregrines probably distrust all the activity on the ground. This bird lives by different rules.

  7. Steve Gosseron 24 Feb 2012 at 12:55 pm

    Absolutely amazing pictures…..WOW!!!

  8. Kathyon 24 Feb 2012 at 1:40 pm

    WOW!! AND WOW!!! Thanks so much for this report and photos.

  9. Gintarason 25 Feb 2012 at 4:14 am

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WHwtJsOaEc

    (note from Kate: The link Gintaras posted above is a video of a red-tailed hawk eating a pigeon in Downtown Pittsburgh some time before Dec 29, 2010. It reminds me of the time a red-tailed hawk ate a hawk, perhaps on the same Downtown sidewalk, in 2008: http://www.wqed.org/birdblog/2008/02/05/hawk-eats-hawk/)

  10. sarahon 25 Feb 2012 at 12:12 pm

    I feel sorry for the bird that is being eaten.

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