Hi all,

In all the times I had been to Gamble Rogers State Park, I had never  
been to the beach side.  Maybe that's why I never got Common eider.   
I have seen four eiders in Brevard County over the years, but never  
got one elsewhere.  As an avid county lister, this is unacceptable.   
White-faced ibis was once in this boat.  I kept piling on the  
sightings at St. Mark's NWR in Wakulla.  Meanwhile, I could find one  
anywhere else, even in my home county of Brevard.  Eventually I  
turned up a young White-faced at Blackpoint and the flood gates  
opened.  I have now seen Columbia, Hernando (first county record) and  
Alachua.  Could the eider be next?

I didn't really think the bird would actually be sitting on the beach  
where it was before.  When I topped the dune and set up to scope the  
seas, I was pleasantly surprised to see a congregation of gulls and  
terns to the north.  Sitting in front of the gulls was a female  
Common eider!  A few shell searchers were coming dangerously close to  
the gull pile so I made a quick scan and counted numbers for my eBird  
checklist.  There were only about 250 birds, but species were well  
represented.  About five immature Lesser black-backed and two  
immature Great black-backed gulls were present among the hordes of  
Laughing and Herring gulls.  Interestingly, there were only about 10  
Ring-billed gulls.  Royal and Sandwich terns represented the Sturninae.

The shell seekers turned back south without scaring too many gulls  
away.  The gulls were remarkably tolerant of human approach, although  
the eider seemed to have disappeared.  I hoped that she had simply  
waked over the hump into the dip and out of sight.  I got my camera  
and and took a short walk to document my Flagler county eider.  The  
gulls offered up several nice photos, but no eider.  I kept looking  
to the ocean to see the eider bobbing in the waves.   I did not see  
any.  Then I saw a brown football with a sloping forehead flying it's  
way south just past the breakers.  Good thing I got here when I did!   
I briefly entertained thoughts of heading south a few miles to North  
Peninsula State Park in Volusia to try for eider in a third county.   
That would be a bit stupid even by my standards.  I lost track of the  
eider and went back to photographing gulls.  A few minutes later, I  
turned back toward the parking lot.  I noticed the same brown  
football bobbing in the waves making a determined trek toward the  
gull pile.  I stepped away in the gulls to give the eider room.  The  
waves kept overtopping her, but she made her way ashore and waddled  
up to her friends again.  I got several shots as she preened and  
stretched on the beach.  It seems she likes this place.

Not a bad trip.  I got eight more species for Flagler County on the  
day and found some new habitats to visit on future Flagler County runs.

David Simpson

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