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Ernie, the SLATY-BACKED GULL flew into Higgs Memorial Beach about 2:15pm, Oct. 18, 2002.
 
After my 410 mile, 8+hour drive from south St. Pete, I was very  happy to see his arrival, after searching the beach for an hour, admiring the LAUGHING GULLS, ROYAL and SANDWICH TERN, and ROCK DOVES, which were the common avian beach residents.
 
He is big, and dark gray manteled. When he first flew in, he was "skitish", and flew to one of the light pole on the White Street Fishing Pier, but as I walked closer to it,he flew back to the middle of the beach, to the right of the restrooms, as one faces the water.
 
My best views, of his white head, wearing a silvery-gray, fine- lined "stole" on his neck; dirty-orange legs; a long light-colored beak that has an irregular black ring sub terminal to the ivory colored tip--was from the raised (about 8 steps) pavilion, to the right of the public bath rooms.
 
The locals, who live in the area, who have some things in common with Doc and the boys, of John Steinback fame, inform me of the following:
 
He must have come here on a boat, as he could not have flown all the way from Asia.
 
When he was first observed, about mid September, he was very different than the other gulls, and Ray-Ray, the spokesman  for the locals, knew something was up.
 
He is very aggressive.  When they sometimes feed the gulls, if he does not get some of the food, he will grab another gull that did, forcing him to give up his catch.
 
So Earnie is still part of the crowd on Clarence S. Higgs Memorial Beach, Key West, FL., as of 2:15 pm, 2002.
 
DIRECTIONS:
 
Upon  crossing the channel from Stock Island, onto Key West (the last one), , you are at a "T", which is Roosevelt Avenue.  Turn Left (south). and drive about 1/2 mile to the first light, and turn Right onto Flagler Av.
Go about 2 1/4 miles to White Steet, and turn Left (south), and drive to the end, about four blocks, to the base of the White Steet Fishing Pier, which has an Aid Victims Memorial.  This is the east end of the beach.  Turn right, and yesterday there was very ample free parking in the lot by the park, past Historic West Martello Tower (an old brick, fort like structure), and the restaurant.
 
Happy Birding!    Jim Swarr,   St. Petersburg Audubon


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