The Duval County Christmas Bird Count occurred yesterday, Monday, December 26, 2016. The Monday date created a few attendance/participation problems and my team’s availability was certainly impacted. I’ve been doing this team/territory for eleven years and this year I was joined by Martha for the fifth year in a row. As you can imagine, I’ve seen a lot of development and habitat changes in those 11 years but fortunately some of the hotspots (like the end of Shark Road) have remained relatively unblemished. I can’t say the same for what is now the Tidewater subdivision or even how they’ve (mis)managed Pumpkin Hill State Park. Regardless, Martha and I spent a great day covering the territory together under an overcast sky that was interspersed with light rain throughout. Our team tallied 108 species, and the total CBC count is a tentative 161. Martha and I contributed a number of species that no other team reported, including Greater Scaup, Virginia Rail, Field Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, and Mottled Duck.
Our day began at Betz Tiger Point where we notched two Virginia Rails before dawn before hurriedly making our way to the American Woodcock spot. The Woodcock is about a 50/50 proposition there anymore, and we dipped yesterday at both dawn and dusk. We also tried two places for owls and tallied a big fat zero. At dawn, we scoped Pumpkin Hill Creek from the kayak launch area before heading up to Shark Road on Black Hammock Island, where we got all three marsh sparrows, a flyover Common Loon, and about 40 other species. We made a brief pit stop at the Cedar Point Preserve boat ramp before heading over to Eastport Wastelands to cover that territory and ensure the count got some of the specialty sparrows (White-Crowned, White-throated, Field, and Vesper) that are often missed at Talbot Islands for some reason. Grasshopper Sparrows also occur there, but can be very difficult. We managed to get all the expected species and by the “Power of Eastport”, we recorded 63 species in under two hours there, in the rain!
After Eastport, Martha and I drove through Tidewater subdivision, which is almost now completely built out. When I first started doing this count with Roger, there were just a handful of “spec homes” and it was still a great place for Woodcock, loads of ducks, coots, and moorhens, and was also the go-to spot in our area for Eastern Meadowlark. Yesterday, Martha and I saw a couple of crows and loads of Yellow-rumped Warblers, but not a single other species. Remarkable and depressing, in equal measure. We spent the remainder of the afternoon covering Black Hammock Island, trying for Brown-headed Nuthatches around Pumpkin Hill, and poking around Cedar Point Preserve prior to finishing the day back at Tiger Point.
All said, 108 species in just a sliver of the county by a team of two wasn’t too shabby!