There are only a few hours of daylight left in 2016, which means the birding for this year is about to come to an end. It’s been a great year, and while I spent a lot more time outside the county I still got to capture some great memories here in Jacksonville. As I reflect back, I thought I’d summarize a “top five” list of Duval County moments from 2016:
5. Coming in at Number 5 on the list is actually a day that dealt with another number – 7. I previously wrote about seeing seven species of woodpecker on 22 February 2016, which is a feat I believe has never been done previously in county history. Besides just being unexpected and virtually impossible to do, it was a great day spent birding with one of my birding mentors and best friends, Roger Clark. The image here was just the second verifiable record of the species here in the last thirty years! What’s even better than seeing one Hairy ‘pecker? Seeing two!
4. Finding and recording the third county record of a Ruff on 3 May 2016 is Number 4 on the list. Even though I blew the call on the 3rd (despite photographing it and really questioning it at the time), Dave, Graham, and I were able to relocate it on Cinco de Mayo and verify the bird. Lesson learned? There’s nothing wrong with “thinking big” and trusting your gut in the field. If you’ve looked at a million Pectoral Sandpipers in your life and something doesn’t quite look right about one to you, it probably isn’t. The best part of this story is that this was the first “chaseable” Ruff in Duval and was enjoyed by many others before departing.
3. Swainson’s Warblers. Nesting Swainson’s Warblers. In Duval County, Florida. I figured that’d get your attention, and you’re probably now wondering “How is this not Number One?”. On 1 May 2016, Dave Foster and I were birding an area in north Jacksonville looking for breeding species, to include Hooded and Prothonotary Warblers, Wood Thrush, and yes – Swainson’s Warblers. We have been on a quest for many years to track down Swainson’s along the Thomas Creek corridor, which is where we believe Sam Grimes recorded them back in the 1920’s and ’30’s. Well, this location wasn’t quite in that area but we found success regardless. It may be upsetting to many that we won’t share the location of these breeding pairs of warblers, but we just hope folks understand the reasoning behind it.
2. First county record of Green-tailed Towhee. I include this here even though I didn’t get to see this bird. On 3 March 2016, Sam Ewing from Gainesville found this remarkable Towhee as he was hiking Little Talbot Island State Park. Despite the efforts of many the following days, the bird was not verfiably recorded again.
1. My favorite birding moment of 2016 was 15 May, when I spent the morning with one of my dearest friends, Diane Reed, at Big Talbot Island SP – Spoonbill Pond. Anyone that knows me knows how I feel about Spoonbill Pond and they also know how I feel about Diane. She’s been a great friend of mine for over a dozen years and we’ve certainly seen some great birds together. The 15th of May was just one of those magical birding days where everything seemed to be clicking and we ended up seeing an astounding 84 species at a single location. Really unbelievable. I’m looking forward to trying to break that record with her again this Spring at Spoonbill!
So that’s it – I’d add a couple of honorable mentions, but then that would really be cheating and wouldn’t be a Top 5 anymore! I’m looking forward to a great 2017. Cheers and Happy New Year!