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Today, 12/16,  I headed to Ponce de Leon Inlet, Volusia County, at lunch to take advantage of the strong NNE winds that were developing. When I got to the jetty, the winds were topping 20 knots. Waves were crashing over the top of the jetty, even though it was almost low tide. These conditions create calm water on the inside of the Inlet, with raging waves along the ocean side of the jetty. I went out to the end of the jetty and set up my post to scan the Inlet for whatever the winds might bring. A shrimp boat began to approach the Inlet from offshore with his rigging swung out fresh from trawling. She was followed by a cloud of hundred of birds - gulls, pelicans, terns and gannets - probably a thousand birds.  She came into the calm waters of the Inlet and began to toss by-catch overboard. This created a wild feeding frenzy with hundreds of birds frantically diving into the melee.

I searched and searched through the blizzard of birds to check what might be in with them. Finally, I saw a different bird bobbing in the waves. I kept losing it and then, finally, refound the bird long enough to get the scope on it. It was definitely a shearwater floating in the hordes. Shortly later it took off, but I had it in the scope. It flew toward the jetty and began to circle around and headed out to sea. It then swung back around and headed back into the Inlet. I got some excellent views as it banked back around and it was a Manx Shearwater. It came back into the Inlet and then settled on the water. I kept it in the scope and realized that it was actually coming closer to me as it floated out of the Inlet on the retreating tide. When it was closest to me, I switched to the camera to try to get some photos. The bird was still a long way out, but I was able to get some photos.

The bird showed all of the critical field marks, and these are visible in the photographs: 
*White undertail coverts
*White crescent behind the eye
*White flank patches
*Clean white underwings ( Audubon's shows broader dark margins to the underwing)
* Long, pointed wing tips (Audubon's has more rounded wing tips)

Michael

Michael Brothers
Marine Science Center
Ponce Inlet

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