This morning I met Dave Foster at Perdue Pond Wildlife Area for a quick check for the Canvasback (wasn’t there), and we decided to spend the first wintery day this season birding the western part of the county to pick up the specialty species found there. We made it to Westside Industrial Park by 8:40AM and quickly found 3 Limpkins in various areas, this one (below) in an odd location near a cattle grate.
It was really pretty frigid out there with wind chills in the low 40’s or high 30’s, and the birding was pretty tough. As we observed the Limpkin (above), a Merlin came swooping in and stirred up a couple hundred European Starlings and Rock Pigeons. Dave then took me over on Forshee to look for the Rusty Blackbirds that have been reported there a couple times the last few weeks. We found them in the flooded hardwood swamp with a large mixed flock of American Robin, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Common Grackles.
After leaving Westside Industrial, we headed to New World Avenue where we were devastated and completely shocked to see the “Waterworks Pool” turned seemingly overnight into a future FedEx warehouse. I can not believe we continue to allow urban sprawl to literally fill in natural freshwater wetlands like this. This large corner parcel was the first and only documented breeding location – ever – for Sandhill Crane in Duval County, and in just the last couple years was host to 85 species of birds, including 12 species of migrant shorebirds. As I sit here writing this, I’m still a bit in shock over the continued destruction of important habitat like this in favor of more and more warehouses.
Discouraged but not defeated, Dave and I went about .5 mile down the road to the “Sora Spot” and quickly recorded three Sora calling from the vegetation. In case you’re wondering what prime Sora habitat looks like, it’s this:
We also observed a handful of Wilson’s Snipe, a Northern Flicker, and a few other species before finding a pair of Sandhill Cranes along the powerline cut in the back of the field. The photo in the eBird checklist linked above looks a little like the Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film, but that’s because Dave and I both left our cameras in the car and only had our cellphones with us. As I mentioned on the site before, this is the premier spot in Duval County to find the cranes (along New World Avenue), and it’s also the very best spot to reliably find Sora in winter.
On the way home, I stopped off along Heckscher Drive where I recorded the continuing Common Goldeneye; another magnificent species that continues to delight here this winter.