13 June 2015 – Duval County 12 Day Big Year (12DBY):

Key June 12DBY target species: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Least Bittern, Limpkin, Sandhill Crane, Common Nighthawk

Final June 12DBY results: 61 ABA countable species, 8 eBird checklists, 580 individual birds observed.

Best targets achieved: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Least Bittern, Limpkin, Sandhill Crane

June is probably obviously my least favorite time of year to go birding in Jacksonville for obvious reasons – it’s incredibly hot and birds aren’t that active. I participated in the June Challenge once or twice, but even that isn’t enough to motivate me to go nuts in the most miserable month of the year. I mean, I killed myself one June for 120 species and on a day like today I casually drove around for 4 hours and managed 61 species – good enough for me!

So, knowing it’s a miserable month to bird, I had planned this month’s 12DBY species to include such “drive-by” targets as Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Limpkin and Sandhill Crane – all species that I knew would be around in their breeding areas this time of year. Having recently found the Least Bitterns at Imeson, I added them to the target list too.

Marie and I got up around 6:30AM, which is really too late to try for the Common Nighthawk, but we drove through Eastport Wastelands anyway just in case. It was a quick run-through and we didn’t manage any new 12DBY species. It wasn’t really a waste of time since it was on the way to Imeson anyway, and we arrived there by 7:15AM. It’s a short walk from the median where we parked the truck to the pond holding the Least Bittern, and we got it within 5 minutes of arriving. Other interesting finds there included a Red-winged Blackbird feeding a fledgling, a breeding plumaged Pied-billed Grebe, and a pair of Green Herons.

From Imeson, we headed up Main Street to Dunn Ave, then to I-95 North, eventually winding our way towards the Lem Turner spray fields. We arrived at Lem Turner and Lannie Road around 7:45AM and waited a whopping 2 minutes before four Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks flew in and landed on the large sprinkler system. I dallied for about 4 more minutes trying to make some Boat-tailed Grackles into Brewer’s, but quickly abandoned that idea. Our next stop was Westside Industrial Park, where Dave Foster had already observed Limpkins that morning. When we arrived at 8:11AM, we turned down the street and a Limpkin was literally walking across the road in front of us – couldn’t ask for much more than that! Roughly one hour of birding and we already had 3 target species in the bag.

We continued the westside loop and headed out to the “Waterworks Pool” off New World Avenue, where we promptly found the resident pair of Sandhill Cranes (this is the only / most reliable place in the county to find them year-round) at 8:46AM. A fledgling Loggerhead Shrike and Eastern Kingbird were other notable species present there. I made a half-assed attempt for Red-headed Woodpecker and Northern Bobwhite at the old Cecil Field area, but didn’t try very hard and decided to swing by the wading bird rookery off San Jose Boulevard instead.

Recently, Debi Hill had encouraged me to visit this rookery and today was the first real opportunity to do so. The rookery is in a pond off Cornell and San Jose, and it is certainly worth a visit (bring a scope). We were treated to nesting Cattle Egret, Little Blue Heron, Great Egret, Tricolored Heron, and Anhinga. The rookery had young from recently hatched, downy young to “branching” fledglings of all the aforementioned species.

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White-rumped Sandpiper

Our last stop was to check Spoonbill Pond for remaining shorebirds, and I was hoping that the White-rumped Sandpipers were still around. We arrived there at 11:05AM and scoped from the “Birdwatching Platform”, where we were treated to dozens of Black-necked Stilts, 3 stunning alternate-plumaged White-Rumped Sandpipers, lingering Lesser Scaup and Blue-winged Teal, and several other species of shorebirds.

After dinner, we headed back to Eastport Wastelands around 9PM and scored the Nighthawk, 4 Chuck-will’s-widows and a single Great Horned Owl.

Overall, June was a very successful 12DBY – 6 new species, bringing my 12DBY total for Duval County to 196 species (which would be good for 7th on the eBird Top 100 for this year).

New 12DBY species: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Least Bittern, Limpkin, Sandhill Crane, White-rumped Sandpiper, Common Nighthawk

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