One of the largest concentrations of gulls found anywhere in the United States occurs on winter afternoons right here in Volusia County, Florida. A stretch of beach in Daytona Beach Shores hosts from 30,000 up to 50,000 loafing gulls as they gather before nightfall. The gulls group together on the beach in the late afternoon before heading just offshore to spend the night. This short video clip featuring Michael Brothers of the Marine Science Center explains this unique phenomenon.
While I find this huge concentration of birds amazing, I have to admit I still haven’t fully embraced the joy of identifying and ageing gulls. Luckily for me, there are birders that are more than up for the challenge. Even luckier, they are happy to share their knowledge with larophobes like me.
During the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival, a team of larophiles, including Michael Brothers and Alvaro Jaramillo, headed the Gull Fly-in based at Frank Rendon Park. Here Arthur and I joined several other birders in happily watching the gulls flying in in huge, unbelievable, remarkable numbers. We watched them gather into gigantic flocks on the beach that must have stretched for several miles.
Before the field trip began, Arthur took this video as we drove along a stretch of beach, heading to the park. This was taken at about 2:45PM, hours before the gull numbers reached their peak.
We birders gathered at the park to watch the gulls fly in before we headed down onto the beach.
The most common gulls in the flocks were Ring-billed, Laughing, Herring, Lesser Black-backed, and Great Black-backed. Among these species, keen eyes can pick out the birds that are different. Shortly after we stepped onto the beach, Alvaro found a California Gull. There was also a Glaucous Gull and a hybrid gull that I didn’t get a chance to see. Another highlight was watching a Pomarine Jaeger harassing gulls out on the water. But the biggest highlight was simply seeing huge numbers of beautiful birds hanging out and doing their thing.