On Monday, 15 May 2017 a group of 3 birders visited the U.S. Marine Corps Support Facility – Blount Island, Dayson Basin, where we drove the length of the 2.5 mile elevated berm around the property. We made four stops for stationary observations. The basin was very dry and the western side of the property was devoid of any standing water. The eastern side of the basin still had a large shallow pond of water but still had very low numbers of shorebirds and waders; this may be in part due to low tide in the surrounding marshes, as many shorebirds likely spend time foraging on the exposed mudflats during low tide.
This past weekend visits to Big Talbot Island State Park’s “Spoonbill Pond” yielded similar low numbers, as did Huguenot Memorial Park. The new Army Corps of Engineers mitigation area off Heritage River Road about 1.5 miles from Dayson Basin had larger numbers and greater diversity in shorebird species during a morning visit on 14 May; that visit coincided with high tide thus numbers of birds were driven there.
This morning’s visit only lasted about 1.5 hours since the birds were concentrated in essentially one location. Forty-five (45) species were recorded, including 10 species of shorebird. Species observed that are known to breed locally and appear to be in suitable habitat on the property include Mottled Duck, Green Heron, Osprey, Clapper Rail, Black-necked Stilt, Wilson’s Plover, Killdeer, Least Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Common Ground-Dove, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher, White-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, Fish Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Parula, Northern Cardinal, and Painted Bunting. The group confirmed an occupied Osprey nest, a probable nest site for Wilson’s Plover, and several singing songbirds (including Painted Bunting) that would suggest nesting.
We observed just one waterfowl species: Mottled Duck.
Notable shorebird species included 4 Stilt Sandpipers, 2 Wilson’s Plovers, 4 Black-necked Stilts, and 6 White-rumped Sandpipers.
As noted during our last visit, Stilt Sandpipers winter in central South America and breed in the low arctic tundra; they are very uncommon in NE FL where small groups are usually found at Big Talbot Island State Park’s Spoonbill Pond in migration. This spring, there has been only one report of a single Stilt Sandpiper from Spoonbill Pond; all other reports have come on the two visits to the Basin. White-rumped Sandpiper is another long distance migrant and they usually pass through beginning around May 1st in very low numbers.
The group recorded three Gull-billed Terns in the middle of the eastern end. Gull-billed Terns breed locally and have been in a steep decline the last ten years due to habitat loss. To see three together in Jacksonville in recent years is a true rarity.