316! Surf Scoters, Purple Sandpiper, Monk Parakeets

I just finished a rough stretch of travel that had me in four time zones in four weeks with about 24-36 hours at home in between each trip. Good news is I saw a few good birds in Arizona, including loads of Phainopepla in North Scottsdale, and ended up adding 5 new ticks to my Maricopa County list. I did make it back to Jacksonville and will be able to bird locally for a few weeks, so I started this morning at Huguenot Memorial Park where I renewed my annual pass before heading out to the jetties. The surf was a little rough and the light was poor, but after a few minutes I was able to locate a Purple Sandpiper among the Ruddy Turnstones.
Purple Sandpiper (foreground). Huguenot Memorial Park. Jacksonville, Florida. 21 Dec 2019.
Purples are considered rare anywhere in Florida, but they can be found near annually at Huguenot in Duval County, Fort Clinch in northern Nassau County, and fairly reliably in Volusia around Ponce Inlet. In the photo above, you can see how the bird would stand out rather quickly when scanning a group of Turnstones. Be careful you’re not looking at a Dunlin, but otherwise it’d be difficult to mix it up with anything else out there. This morning, the tide was out so it required walking all the way out to the end of the sandbar on the south side of the jetties to see this bird; there’s no way you would see it (even with a scope) from the “parking area” at the jetties several hundred yards away. Shortly after seeing the Purple, Marie pointed out a Scoter flying by – I raised the bins, and sure enough it was a Surf Scoter! I’ve been birding at Huguenot routinely for almost 20 years and have never seen this species in Duval County…this makes number 316 on my county list, and takes a huge nemesis bird off the board. I’ve lost count, but I’m talking about roughly 2,500 visits to the park (yes, I go there several times a week on average since it’s so close to home). My next biggest Public Nemesis Number One in the county is either Broad-winged Hawk, Magnificent Frigatebird, or American Golden-Plover, all three of which I “should’ve seen” by now.
Surf Scoter. Huguenot Memorial Park. 21 Dec 2019. ID shot – no white in the wings.
Above and below are a couple images of the Surf Scoter. I didn’t have time to adjust my settings from shooting the Purple Sandpiper to capture this duck in a better fashion, but I am happy with the ID shots…and it’s much easier to see than a bobbing head in rough seas, backlit from the rising sun!
Surf Scoter. Huguenot Memorial Park. Jacksonville, Florida, 21 Dec 2019.
We headed up to the north end of Huguenot and didn’t see much more in terms of birds, but I did notice they have some new signs up around the perimeter of the park.
After leaving Huguenot, I decided to drop by nearby Alimacani Boat Ramp to see the Monk Parakeets everyone’s been chasing. They’re obviously not “countable” birds, but I don’t think I’ve seen any in the county since January 2008 when the colony on Black Hammock Island was extirpated.
Monk Parakeet. Jacksonville, Florida. 21 December 2019.
I took a number of shots and don’t see any indication these two birds are banded, although they’re undoubtedly escapees and not part of an established population.
Monk Parakeet. Jacksonville, Florida. 21 December 2019.
Nonetheless, I will add these birds to the corrupt eBird repository, and am considering hitting PetsMart and the Pecan Park Flea Market later today to submit some more pet birds! 🙂

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