[TN-Bird] GA: SP Skua, Franklin's Gull

  • From: K Dean EDWARDS <kde@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Tennessee Birds <tn-bird@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 17 Jun 2007 01:44:14 -0400 (EDT)

The SOUTH POLAR SKUA at Carters Lake in northern Georgia was seen
several times throughout Saturday (16 June 2007) by at least 5 TN
birders.  Also present was a FRANKLIN'S GULL... not sure if this is
the same or different bird that has been reported as a Laughing.

This bird hit at the perfect time for me as Amber and I had already
been talking about going to Chattanooga and I had one day between
work trips.

I arrived at 1:30 PM and left around 7PM having seen the bird
several times and photographed it from about 50 ft! as it sat
on the water.  Probably saw the bird for a total of 1 hr.

Skuas can be hard but, in my opinion, this one is even more
clear cut for South Polar than the TN bird from Katrina... which,
by the way, was recently accepted to the Official TN Checklist
by the TBRC (which makes this whole post even more on-topic).
The GA bird shows a very pale head and neck contrasting with
the darker wings and mantle.  Even lighter markings around the
bill and up the forehead.  Dark smudge around the eyes.  Very
short tail with no sign of longer central tail feathers.

Some advice if you're thinking of going for this bird (and
you should)...  See the directions posted on the GA listserv.
There are 3 or 4 good viewing areas off of Carters Dam Road
(gotta love that name).  The Marina is apparently good in the
early morning but, especially today, there were LOTS of boats
and jetskis out which kept the bird moving around.  I had
better luck this afternoon at a clearing across from the
boat ramp in the day-use area on Cove Road and from the end
of the point on Cove Rd.  If you go all the way to the end
of Cove Rd there is a turn-around with 4 parking spots.  A
small trail leads through the woods from the end of the
turn-around.  Walk out this trail to the end of the point.
This is where I had the bird within 50 ft for 20 minutes
and then again later in the day with Dan Jacobson and David
Chaffin.  A good part of the lake can also be seen from the
dam itself.  The bird flew here after leaving the point but
I couldn't find it by the time I got there and found a
viewing spot.  There are maps of the area available at the

THE KEY IS PATIENCE.  I recommend staying in one spot where
you can see lots of water and waiting.  With all the boat
traffic, the bird moves around a lot and likes to seek
shelter in the many coves.  Sooner or later, it always
came back to the main channel.  It is a BIG bird and can
actually be seen with the naked eye from across the lake.

Incidently, I saw the bird, ahem, poop mass quantities twice,
so it is finding something to eat... including, apparently,
crickets.  A sheriff's deputy stopped by to ask us if we
had found the bird yet, I started to show her a photo from
my camera but she said, oh I've got photos from our boat,
it came up to us and we feed it crickets from our bait bucket,
it loved them!

One of the folks at the marina said when she first saw it,
it was walking along the shore stalking some baby Canada
Geese... wonder if they taste like baby penguins?

Ok, it's getting late.

Everyone at the lake and marina were super nice.  I probably
had 15 or more people asking about the bird.  They are very
proud of it.  I probably shouldn't have told so many of them
that they eat baby penguins.

I was able to show the fee-booth ($4 by the way) attendent and
his wife a photo of the bird as well as several others (many
said, yeah that's nice but I've got photos from even closer).
Apparently this bird has been here for over a week now.

A note on the Franklin's Gull... I had the bird from the
marina way out on the water.  Took some distant photos.  My
scope is off being repaired (what timing) and I couldn't
make out much detail but noticed a lot of white on the bird
in the photos but it was too small in the camera viewer and
I didn't think much more knowing a Laughing Gull had been

When I ran into Dan and David they said they had seen a
Franklin's.  When I got home and looked at the photos on
the PC screen at full scale, sure enough... looks more like
a Franklin's Gull.  The extensive white in the wings and
hood shape point toward Franklin's.  Head size is small and
one photo I have clearly shows extensive white on the nape
and hindneck.  Dan and David had much better looks (and
a scope) and saw the bird in flight and reported light
underwings (not dark like Laughing).

Other birds I had in the area (didn't try that hard):

Wood Duck (along Hwy 136 on the way back)
Turkey Vulture

an adult Bald Eagle was seen taking a fish by an Atlanta
birder that I spent a good bit of time with but his name
has escaped me... sorry, I'm horrible with names

Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Kingbird
Red-eyed Vireo
American Crow
FISH CROW, several
N Rough-winged Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow, several nests at the marina
Carolina Wren
E Bluebird
N Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler, feeding fledged young
Pine Warbler, feeding fledged young
Chipping Sparrow, feeding fledged young
Indigo Bunting

I'll post pictures as soon as I can get a chance but there
are plenty good ones already out there.

Great bird, great day!

Dean Edwards
Knoxville, TN

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