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I spent this morning at Ft. DeSoto to round out my central Florida expedition (trip report coming tomorrow).  At about 9:15 this morning a LARGE brown bird caught my attention over the gulf at North Beach.  Right away I could tell I had a Northern Gannet or a sulid, the body shape was unmistakable.  I was taken aback because of the time of year, but then I started studying the bird.  It was only about 100 feet away, so I could pick out details pretty well with my bins.  First clue: obvious feathers in front of the eye. Second, overall brown mottled with white, no obvious white "collar", but I could clearly see the white uppertail coverts; I would put this bird as a very early second year.  Third, very large size, even though this is a spotty clue, there were Laughing Gulls present for comparison.  Fourth, darker, grayer bill color no hint of yellow.  Fifth, which may explain its appearance during this very odd time, the bird seemed to be laboring in flight.  It's progress seemed awfully slow.  From the time I noticed it, it traveled parallel to the shore for about 200 yards and then slowly veered out toward the Gulf.  The only major field mark that I didn't observe was the gape line on the mouth, and that's just because I didn't know to look for it.   

I welcome any questions/suggestions/flames from those who are more experienced than me.  

What a great trip!

Rob Lengacher
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Tallahassee, FL

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