26 Jul 2015 – July Duval County Twelve Day Big Year (12DBY):

Key July 12DBY target species: Louisiana Waterthrush, Common Tern, Black Tern, Stilt Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper

Final July 12DBY results: 82 ABA countable species, 8 eBird checklists, 4,467 individual birds observed.

Best targets achieved: Common Tern, Black Tern, Stilt Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper

My strategy for July was to wait until late in the month to try to land some of the early migrant shorebirds and Black Tern. On the 25th, Roger Clark (who spent a couple weeks in town) and I found 2 Louisiana Waterthrushes on Fort George Island and a few shorebirds at Spoonbill Pond that I could use for the 12DBY, so I declared the following day to try for those species.

My 12DBY for July started at Shell Bay where I met Roger to begin our morning. I didn’t add anything new for the challenge, but we picked up things like Roseate Spoonbill and Little Blue Heron. Our first official stop was Fort George Island, where a quick drive through of the 4.4 mile loop did not produce any Louisianas.

We headed across the street to Huguenot Memorial Park, where we had a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron on the edge of the lagoon – an uncommon species for Huguenot and a new 12DBY species. I managed two other new species here – Lesser Black-backed Gull (a pristine adult) and a single Common Tern. We had a nice variety of other species including several Reddish Egrets, but did not see one of Roger’s targets, the Gull-billed Tern.

After leaving Huguenot, we headed north on A1A to Big Talbot Island’s Spoonbill Pond, where we had 17 species of shorebirds but encountered no other birders – on a weekend day! Overall, Spoonbill Pond produced 46 species including Glossy Ibis, summering Lesser Scaup, 5 juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, a single Marbled Godwit, 4 Stilt Sandpipers, and 8 Pectoral Sandpipers (the latter two species also new for the 12DBY).

I had a brunch date with my Mother in 5 Points (Riverside area of Jacksonville), so our last stop was along Houston Avenue on Big Talbot Island. Houston Ave is a heavily canopied coastal hammock with large oak trees, and we’ve always thought the birding should be great, yet rarely is ; we managed a few woodland birds, the best of which was Summer Tanager and Yellow-throated Warbler.

After lunch in 5 Points at the Mossfire Grill, I swung by Eastport Wastelands to add the Black Terns Roger and I found there a day or two previously. The terns were foraging just above the surface of the “recharge ponds”, and I counted about 40 of them! Two Mississippi Kites were also nice to watch in Eastport on my way out.

Figuring I couldn’t do much more damage in July, I called it quits and headed home. It was a successful 12DBY – 6 new species, bringing my 12DBY total for Duval County to 202 species.

August is upon us, and my strategy is to either pull the trigger around the 16th if I am able to find Bank and Cliff Swallows there, or wait until the last few days of the month to try for more shorebirds like Upland or Buff-breasted Sandpiper.

New 12DBY species: Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Stilt Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black Tern, Common Tern

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