11 Oct 2015 – October Duval County Twelve Day Big Year (12DBY):

Key October 12DBY target species: Migrant warblers, tanagers, grosbeaks, thrushes, and Franklin’s Gull
Final October 12DBY results: 5 eBird checklists, 5 new 12DBY species
Best targets achieved: Franklin’s Gull, Veery, Swainson’s Thrush
Most unexpected species: Roseate Spoonbill at Westside Industrial Park
New 12DBY species: Franklin’s Gull, Veery, Swainson’s Thrush, Tennessee Warbler, Scarlet Tanager

October’s 12 DBY was targeted around balancing the drive for the possibility of Franklin’s Gull at Huguenot Memorial Park and the desire to scour places like Reddie Point for any needed migrant landbirds.

Marie and I started the day at Huguenot at dawn to look for Franklin’s Gull, which is annual in recent years during the month of October and early November, but is certainly not a “gimme”, and wasn’t a species recorded here yet this year. In my experience, dawn or late afternoon is best to look for them, and always around the south side of the jetties. We got out of the truck and set up our scopes, and within five minutes we located one Franklin’s in the crowd of several hundred gulls and terns. Since the tide was roaring in, I couldn’t make the ocean side drive to the north end of the park to look for a needed 12DBY Piping Plover, so we left and headed to Reddie Point.

We spent almost three hours at Reddie Point where we ran into Jan, Martha, Wade, and Dave and covered the park pretty darn well. Migration has been very slow this fall so I missed several of the more common warblers this year, but we did manage around 40 species. At the beginning of the paved trail, I heard a Veery and the group was able to get on the bird and observe it shortly thereafter. About 100 yards further down the road, Marie picked out a Swainson’s Thrush in a tree above her and I was able to see it briefly before it took off. Scarlet Tanager is a species I don’t see every year in Duval County (they can be quite uncommon), but on this day we saw three different birds; one along the back trail and two hanging out in the main parking lot area. We also had one Empidonax flycatcher that I felt was most likely a Least Flycatcher but could not confirm it 100%. Alas, a species I can’t count on the 12DBY.

The group decided to drive over to Westside Industrial Park to get several pairs of eyes looking for the recently recorded Purple Gallinule. We didn’t find it, but did record 42 species there including a nice mix of migrants like Tennessee Warbler (new 12DBY bird), Yellow Warbler, and many American Redstarts. The most surprising bird there was a lone Roseate Spoonbill, which was unusually far inland for a Duval County observation.

After leaving Westside, I decided to try one more time at Huguenot for the Piping Plover but missed them again. The plover will become a target for next month’s iteration of the competition.

After ten days of the challenge I’m now at 211 species for Duval County, which is more species than I had in several full years here when I didn’t know as much about how to bird the county. It’s been fun so far, but I’m beginning to think my goal of 220 is slipping out of reach with just 2 more days to go.

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