28 March 2015 – Duval County 12 Day Big Year (12DBY)

Key March 12DBY target species: Yellow-throated Vireo, Purple Martin, Northern Parula, Bachman’s Sparrow.

Final March 12DBY results: 102 ABA countable species (1 non-countable), 10 eBird checklists, and 2,117 individual birds observed.

Best targets achieved: Bachman’s Sparrow
Targets missed: Cattle Egret
Most unexpected species: Vesper Sparrow

The plan for the March 12DBY was to start with Bachman’s Sparrow, which is a rare-in-county and well-documented declining species in Florida. There is only one known reliable location in Duval County for the species – Julington Durbin Creek Preserve. Marie and I met Chris and Ellen there at dawn among a throng of teenage cross country runners, and were immediately greeted by calling Brown-headed Nuthatches and Pine Warblers in the parking lot. We took the short hike in to the Bachman’s spot (go left at the trail kiosk), and recorded at least 4 singing Bachman’s. They are often very easy to see singing from an exposed perch there, but were not very cooperative for us in that regard. From there we headed on down the trail towards the deciduous forest leading to Durbin Creek; along the way we got fantastic looks at Brown-headed Nuthatch, Eastern Bluebird, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. An inquisitive Ruby-crowned Kinglet displayed its signature crimson crown at eye level. At the edge of the creek, we happened upon a flock feeding rather high in the canopy, making visual ID difficult, but we did manage Black-and-white Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, and Yellow-throated Vireo. Wild Turkeys added to the commotion by calling in the distance. Our haul from Julington-Durbin Preserve: 31 species in 1.5 hours.

After a brief stop at Starbucks, we headed to Westside Industrial Park by way of Commonwealth Avenue and Imeson Road, where we made a brief roadside stop for Northern Flicker and both Yellowlegs. There’s a muddy pond on Imeson directly across from the Baldwin Rails Trail parking lot that can be good for waders and shorebirds.

At Westside Industrial Park we dipped on the resident Limpkins, but we admittedly didn’t try to hard for them this time…their time will come in June. We tallied 43 species at this eBird hotspot, including a first-ever Yellow-throated Vireo, calling Barred Owl (another new 12DBY bird), and roaming group of Wild Turkey including two displaying Toms. The highlight was undoubtedly seeing a swarm of swallows (Barn, Tree, and Northern Rough-winged) all flying low over a small pond in bright sunlight. Since we were positioned higher on the edge of the pond, we were able to really study and appreciate the fields marks – and sheer magnificence – of this group of swallows from above. Quite a treat.

A brief stop at Liberty Park produced distant Eastern Meadowlarks and some Killdeer, and when we decided to “just check” the cattle gate area off Moncrief Road, we were treated with point-blank, in-the-scope views of two Vesper Sparrows. Lunch at Subway in the Pritchard Road truck stop was followed by a journey to the Lem Turner Spray Fields where Chris got us on a single Purple Martin (year bird!), and Ellen pointed out a group of birds foraging around the garage. That group ended up consisting of several “eastern/yellow” Palm Warblers and a few Chipping Sparrows.

It was now around 1:30PM and we headed up Lannie Road to the model airplane fields where we managed a few species, but the highlight was a large Cottonmouth sunning in the middle of the dirt driveway. Chris and Ellen departed from there, and it was a great 6 hours or so of comradery and birding with them!

A quick check indicated we were around 70 species on the day, and Marie and I thought a “Century Run” was certainly doable without much more effort – especially since we hadn’t yet hit the coast. We made our way to Spoonbill Pond where we recorded 36 species, including many “late” duck species like American Wigeon. New to our 12DBY? Black-necked Stilt. We also took a minute to enjoy the ocean views provided by the park bench some locals constructed. SDC17230

Our last stop was a quick run through at Huguenot Memorial Park, hoping for the Marbled Godwit I recorded there the previous evening. We didn’t find the Godwit, but did add enough new birds to put us over 100 species for the day before 5PM – not too shabby considering we did virtually no woodland birding.

Overall I added 11 new species to the 12DBY effort, bringing the total for 3 carefully selected days to 149 species. Considering I still don’t have species like Cattle Egret or House Sparrow on the list, I still think 200 species in 12 days is very possible.

The List: 

Species Name Species Count Sample Size
Canada Goose – Branta canadensis 36 5
Swan Goose (Domestic type) x Canada Goose (hybrid) – Anser cygnoides (Domestic type) x Branta canadensis 1 1
American Wigeon – Anas americana 6 1
Mallard (Domestic type) – Anas platyrhynchos (Domestic type) 6 3
Mottled Duck – Anas fulvigula 2 1
Blue-winged Teal – Anas discors 35 1
Northern Shoveler – Anas clypeata 40 1
Green-winged Teal – Anas crecca 12 1
Lesser Scaup – Aythya affinis 125 1
Hooded Merganser – Lophodytes cucullatus 1 1
Red-breasted Merganser – Mergus serrator 18 1
Ruddy Duck – Oxyura jamaicensis 1 1
Wild Turkey – Meleagris gallopavo 7 2
Pied-billed Grebe – Podilymbus podiceps 2 2
Wood Stork – Mycteria americana 1 1
Double-crested Cormorant – Phalacrocorax auritus 21 4
Anhinga – Anhinga anhinga 5 2
Brown Pelican – Pelecanus occidentalis 1 1
Great Blue Heron – Ardea herodias 2 2
Great Egret – Ardea alba 8 3
Snowy Egret – Egretta thula 5 1
Little Blue Heron – Egretta caerulea 1 1
Tricolored Heron – Egretta tricolor 1 1
Cattle Egret – Bubulcus ibis 6 2
Black-crowned Night-Heron – Nycticorax nycticorax 1 1
White Ibis – Eudocimus albus 20 1
Black Vulture – Coragyps atratus 23 5
Turkey Vulture – Cathartes aura 54 8
Osprey – Pandion haliaetus 5 3
Northern Harrier – Circus cyaneus 1 1
Bald Eagle – Haliaeetus leucocephalus 5 2
Red-shouldered Hawk – Buteo lineatus 3 2
Red-tailed Hawk – Buteo jamaicensis 3 3
Common Gallinule – Gallinula galeata 2 1
American Coot – Fulica americana 1 1
Black-necked Stilt – Himantopus mexicanus 2 1
American Oystercatcher – Haematopus palliatus 4 1
Black-bellied Plover – Pluvialis squatarola 6 1
Semipalmated Plover – Charadrius semipalmatus 1 1
Killdeer – Charadrius vociferus 17 5
Spotted Sandpiper – Actitis macularius 1 1
Greater Yellowlegs – Tringa melanoleuca 4 1
Willet – Tringa semipalmata 2 1
Lesser Yellowlegs – Tringa flavipes 4 1
Sanderling – Calidris alba 43 2
Dunlin – Calidris alpina 7 2
Western Sandpiper – Calidris mauri 25 1
Laughing Gull – Leucophaeus atricilla 820 2
Ring-billed Gull – Larus delawarensis 31 4
Herring Gull – Larus argentatus 2 1
Great Black-backed Gull – Larus marinus 1 1
Forster’s Tern – Sterna forsteri 40 2
Royal Tern – Thalasseus maximus 100 1
Black Skimmer – Rynchops niger 50 1
Rock Pigeon – Columba livia 6 2
Eurasian Collared-Dove – Streptopelia decaocto 1 1
Mourning Dove – Zenaida macroura 10 3
Barred Owl – Strix varia 1 1
Belted Kingfisher – Megaceryle alcyon 1 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker – Melanerpes carolinus 5 3
Downy Woodpecker – Picoides pubescens 4 2
Northern Flicker – Colaptes auratus 2 2
Pileated Woodpecker – Dryocopus pileatus 2 1
American Kestrel – Falco sparverius 7 4
Eastern Phoebe – Sayornis phoebe 1 1
White-eyed Vireo – Vireo griseus 7 4
Yellow-throated Vireo – Vireo flavifrons 4 2
Red-eyed Vireo – Vireo olivaceus 2 2
Blue Jay – Cyanocitta cristata 7 4
American Crow – Corvus brachyrhynchos 5 2
Fish Crow – Corvus ossifragus 10 3
Northern Rough-winged Swallow – Stelgidopteryx serripennis 6 1
Purple Martin – Progne subis 2 2
Tree Swallow – Tachycineta bicolor 100 2
Barn Swallow – Hirundo rustica 56 2
Carolina Chickadee – Poecile carolinensis 3 1
Tufted Titmouse – Baeolophus bicolor 3 2
Brown-headed Nuthatch – Sitta pusilla 5 1
House Wren – Troglodytes aedon 1 1
Carolina Wren – Thryothorus ludovicianus 3 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Polioptila caerulea 8 4
Ruby-crowned Kinglet – Regulus calendula 3 1
Eastern Bluebird – Sialia sialis 6 3
Gray Catbird – Dumetella carolinensis 2 1
Brown Thrasher – Toxostoma rufum 1 1
Northern Mockingbird – Mimus polyglottos 7 5
European Starling – Sturnus vulgaris 6 2
Cedar Waxwing – Bombycilla cedrorum 101 2
Black-and-white Warbler – Mniotilta varia 1 1
Northern Parula – Setophaga americana 2 2
Palm Warbler – Setophaga palmarum 6 1
Pine Warbler – Setophaga pinus 4 3
Yellow-rumped Warbler – Setophaga coronata 20 2
Eastern Towhee – Pipilo erythrophthalmus 4 3
Bachman’s Sparrow – Peucaea aestivalis 4 1
Chipping Sparrow – Spizella passerina 4 1
Vesper Sparrow – Pooecetes gramineus 2 1
Savannah Sparrow – Passerculus sandwichensis 18 1
White-crowned Sparrow – Zonotrichia leucophrys 1 1
Northern Cardinal – Cardinalis cardinalis 7 3
Red-winged Blackbird – Agelaius phoeniceus 16 4
Eastern Meadowlark – Sturnella magna 8 1
Boat-tailed Grackle – Quiscalus major 11 4

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