Summary of the Spring Season – 2013

Summary of the Spring Season
1 Mar – 31 May, 2013
Nassau, Duval, St. Johns, Baker, Clay, Putnam, & Flagler Counties

Sight-only observations are considered “reports”. Those supported by verifiable evidence (photographs, video or audio recordings, or specimens) are called “records.” A county designation (in italics) accompanies the first-time listing of each site in this report.

Heavy rains in March and May contributed to flooded fields at the M&M Dairy in north Jacksonville (Duval), producing a great variety of birds throughout the spring season. Ultimately, there were more species recorded at this location than more popular local hotspots such as Huguenot Memorial Park (Duval) or Ft. George Island (Duval).

Beginning 2 May 2013, a severe weather system moved through the area and by 3 May there were several reports of pelagic species such as Sooty Tern and Red-necked Phalarope being seen well from land.

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks can be considered rare in NE Florida, and most reports the last 5+ years are in the second week of May. This year they were right on schedule, with 3 photographed at M&M Dairy on 5 May, and as many as 23 over the next few days at the pond off Purdue Road on Jacksonville’s northside. Two lingered as late as 22 May at that location. Reports of juveniles of this species at “Gander pond” (River City Marketplace in northern Duval) and M&M Dairy in the late summer the last few years indicate they may be breeding in Duval County now, but that has yet to be confirmed. Other reports from the region this season included 4 individuals at the Outlet Mall in St. Johns County (14 May) and 4 at the GTM NERR (St. Johns) on 22 May.

A pair of Greater White-fronted Goose was recorded at Mayo Clinic (Duval) on 8 May, providing the first county record since 6 March 2010 (M&M Dairy).

Redhead, Greater and Lesser Scaup, and Northern Shovelers all persisted through the end of March, and only Lesser Scaup from that group into April.

A group of approximately 22 Black Scoters was present at Huguenot Memorial Park from mid-April through the end of the season, with a single male White-winged Scoter discovered with the group beginning 12 May. While certainly not a first county record, this White-winged Scoter is the first Duval County entry ever submitted to eBird, which is indicative of how uncommon the species is here. An additional report of Surf Scoter from Huguenot in early May rounds out the family with all three Scoters reported from a single location this season.

Magnificent Frigatebirds made appearances three times along the St. Johns County coastline; one in April from Ponte Vedra, 2 photographed from Anastasia SP on 3 May, and another on the final day of the season along the GTM NERR coastline; a Brown Booby was also photographed there the same day (31 May).

Least Bittern arrived again in Jacksonville at the reliable locations of Hanna Park (Duval) (near the kayak rental area) and in Mayport behind the Safe Harbor warehouse. Roseate Spoonbills fledged young again this year at the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine (St. Johns) as they have expanded their known breeding range north to this location over the last few years.

Locally rare Glossy Ibis were recorded on two occasions at M&M Dairy, with 5 individuals on 24 March and a single bird the first week of May. Sandhill Cranes were reported in St. Johns County on 8 May; two adults and one colt, suggesting a rare breeding pair in the area.

There were no reports of Broad-winged Hawk in migration this season and just two for Short-tailed Hawk; one in Hastings (St. Johns) on 13 March and another in Arlington (Duval) on 8 May.

Mississippi Kites arrived the last week of April and were most often seen at M&M Dairy in Jacksonville, with other reports coming from Jennings State Forest (Clay), and as far north as Amelia Bluff (Nassau). Oddly there were no reports from St. Johns County. On 26 May, over 35 Mississippi and 20 Swallow-tailed Kites were seen foraging low over the spray fields at Lem Turner and Lannie Road in Jacksonville.

After many years of being absent from Huguenot Memorial Park, two pair of American Oystercatchers are regular along the lagoon and are attempting to nest at the location. Their presence should be considered an indicator of the excellent job the park is now doing with managing the park and restricting vehicular, canine, and pedestrian access from key areas.

Pectoral Sandpipers arrived at M&M Dairy on 10 March, and on 24-26 March, a pair of Upland Sandpipers was recorded at M&M Diary, providing the first county record since April 2010. White-rumped Sandpipers were recorded there beginning 3 May.

Overall, 31 species of shorebirds were reported in Duval County this season, including a single collected specimen Red Phalarope at Huguenot Memorial Park on 28 March. Red-necked Phalaropes were recorded in St. Johns County beginning 3 May, bringing the region’s shorebird count to 32 species.

Notable Laridae included a 2nd cycle Glaucous x Herring Gull hybrid recorded at Huguenot Memorial Park on 9 March, and single Sooty Terns in Duval and St. Johns (both 3 May). There were also single reports of Black Tern in Jacksonville and Vilano Beach (St. Johns) the first week of May.

The waning Razorbill invasion included just single reports in Duval (29 Mar; Little Talbot Island SP) and St. Johns (18 Mar; St. Augustine pier).

White-winged Doves are very localized in Northeast Florida but were reported 13 April and 18 April in Atlantic Beach and Mayport (Duval).

Noteworthy woodpecker sightings are rare, but this season produced two: a single Hairy Woodpecker at the Jacksonville Arboretum (Duval) on 12 April, and a Red-cockaded Woodpecker at Bayard Conservation Area (Clay) on 21 May.

Although no Western Kingbirds were reported in the region for the first time in 4 spring seasons, Gray Kingbirds returned to their breeding area in Mayport (Duval) and in front of Ripley’s in historic St. Augustine (St. Johns).

The winter irruption of Red-breasted Nuthatches in Northeast Florida continued into the season, with 2 reported in Ponte Vedra (St. Johns) on 9 March, and 3 as late as 20 April along the St. Mary’s River (Nassau). Golden-crowned Kinglets were reported throughout the month of March in Baker County.

Many species that are uncommon-to-rare in spring were reported, including Veery, Swainson’s and Gray-cheeked Thrushes.

Twenty-six species of warblers were reported in Duval County during the season, including 2 Wilson’s (6 Apr, Kingsley Plantation), 2 Black-throated Green, 1 Connecticut (8 May), 1 Blue-winged (17 Apr, Reddie Point), and 1 Magnolia (26 Apr, Hanna Park).

Twenty-four species of warblers were reported in St. Johns County, including the region’s only Bay-breasted (9 May; Faver-Dykes). A single Blue-winged was reported 8 April at Vaill Point park (St. Johns), and a Nashville Warbler was reported on 23 March from GTM NERR (St. Johns). Overall, the region produced twenty-nine species of warblers during the season.

On 5 April, lone Grasshopper Sparrows were reported in Hanna and Helen Floyd Cooper parks in Jacksonville (Duval); then on 20 April, single Clay-colored Sparrows were recorded at Reddie Point (Duval) and at the Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine (St. Johns). Our coastal state parks produced noteworthy sparrows as well, with a Fox Sparrow at Faver-Dykes SP (St. Johns) on 3 March and a Dark-eyed Junco at the Ft. Clinch SP (Nassau) feeders on 17 April.

One of the highlights of the season was a very cooperative Western Tanager visiting a feeder in Jacksonville’s west side from 22 March – 11 April 11 (Duval). Equally cooperative was the homeowner that graciously allowed any and all visitors to come enjoy the bird.