Location: M&M Dairy is located on Port Jacksonville Parkway between Alta Drive and New Berlin Road in north Jacksonville (Duval County).
Parking: There are no designated parking spaces for visitors as this isn’t a park. Park in one of the warehouse parking lots; they are not marked as “No Parking” and I’ve never had an issue parking there. DO NOT park in the middle of the road or along the side of the highway. There is also parking room available on the grass under the power lines.
Trails: There are no trails, but there are paved sidewalks on both sides of the street running the length of Port Jacksonville Parkway and about 100 yards north along New Berlin Road.
Facilities: There are no public restrooms or facilities; visit nearby Sheffield Regional Park about 1 mile away for the closest public restrooms and water fountains.
The Dailey Birder’s Tips: The tip for M&M Dairy is simple – don’t be fooled by its simplicity. A casual drive down the street won’t reveal very much; you really should invest the time to park and walk the sidewalk. The exercise will do you good and it’s the only way you’re going to find such rarities as Upland Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Greater White-fronted Goose or Fulvous Whistling-Duck.
Target Species: Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Loggerhead Shrike, Eastern Kingbird, Greater White-fronted Goose, Glossy Ibis, American Kestrel, Mississippi Kite, Swallow-tailed Kite, Black-necked Stilt, Wood Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Rusty Blackbird, Wild Turkey, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Pectoral Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Wilson’s Snipe, Upland Sandpiper, Killdeer, Orchard Oriole, Blue Grosbeak, Eastern Meadowlark, Bobolink, Vesper Sparrow, Canada Goose.
About: Port Jacksonville Parkway runs just 1.2 miles, and is marked on both ends by a “Northpoint” industrial park sign. M&M Dairy is family owned, and has been continuously operated in north Jacksonville since 1921. In 2004, 220 acres of the dairy were sold and construction shortly began on a planned 3 million square feet of industrial warehouses. The original plan also called for the purchase of another 100 acres for construction of 150 single-family homes, but the real estate market crashed and the last part of the development plan has not yet been seen through to fruition.
While large warehouses and a few retention ponds make up the majority of the south side of the road, the north side has just a single warehouse and over a mile of slightly rolling pastures bordered by barbed-wire fencing. The wide sidewalk and unobstructed views of the farm fields are a birder’s treat that is rarely interrupted by an occasional jogger or pedestrian.
I usually park at the first warehouse lot on the south side of the road closest to New Berlin Road and start with birding the little swampy area there near the corner. This location is fairly reliable for Rusty Blackbird in December and January each year, and Wood Duck year round. It’s also good for a variety of other migrants songbirds during migration.
Cross the street and set up your scope on the northeast corner of Port Jacksonville Parkway and New Berlin Road to scan the fields. This corner often holds standing water and in the spring can be particularly excellent for wading birds and shorebirds like Pectoral Sandpiper, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Black-necked Stilts, Glossy Ibis, and Wilson’s Snipe. Buff-breasted Sandpiper, American Black Duck, Fulvous Whistling-Duck, White-faced Ibis, and American Golden-Plover have all been recorded in that same part of the pasture, and on the 2009 Christmas Bird Count the county’s only record of Lesser Nighthawk occurred here.
Head west along the sidewalk towards Alta Drive and you’ll soon see a metal cattle gate that marks an excellent area for Vesper and Savannah Sparrows in winter, as well as American Kestrel and Eastern Meadowlarks. Continuing west along the sidewalk, make sure to stop and scan the pasture every 30 yards or so – this technique has produced Greater White-fronted Goose and Upland Sandpiper in recent years. Also, make sure to scope the small body of water that runs perpendicular to the road and terminates at the sidewalk about a quarter mile west of New Berlin Road. Shorebirds, waders, and ducks are common here along with an occasional Sora. This is roughly across the street from the APR Energy office where parking is ample; in November 2014 five Greater White-fronted Goose were recorded from that very spot.
Behind the single warehouse on north side of the road is a small pond that is worth checking and will usually reward you with a few shorebirds, hawks, Common Gallinule, American Coot, and a variety of ducks during winter. During migration, this is also a good place to observe swallows as they hunt over the water, and you’ll add Double-crested Cormorant, European Starling, and Eastern Bluebird to your day list. The woods on the far side of the pond can offer calling Barred Owls and (rarely) Wild Turkey. Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks have been recorded there the last couple of years. As of this writing, the area is still accessible by foot even though it looks like it may be restricted; walk along the barbed wire fence to the east side of the tractor trailer parking lot to get there, and keep in mind it is an active business.
The birding heading towards Alta Drive from that last warehouse can slow down a bit, but can still be very productive. Check around the ponds for Green Heron, Anhinga, Orchard Oriole (in spring and summer), Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Belted Kingfisher, and Lesser (and Greater) Scaup. At the last warehouse on the south side of the road there is small stand of pine trees along the back of the property, which will produce woodpeckers, sparrows, a variety of migrant land birds, and even wintering Ovenbird. The clearing beneath the massive power lines is great for sparrows and Wild Turkey in winter, and for Blue Grosbeak and Brown Thrasher in summer. In the summer of 2014, Marie and I found a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in this location that remained for only 2 days.
A visit to the dairy during spring migration will yield Northern Rough-winged, Barn, Tree, and the occasional Bank Swallow, a variety of shorebirds, both Mississippi and Swallow-tailed Kites, and many other raptors. This location is also perhaps the most reliable place in northeast Florida to observe foraging Bobolinks, which can be found in flocks of up to 200.
Known breeding birds along this 1.2 mile stretch of road include Eastern Kingbird, Mallard, Northern Cardinal, Blue Grosbeak, Orchard Oriole, Wild Turkey, Black-necked Stilt, Common Gallinule, Canada Goose, Loggerhead Shrike, Brown Thrasher, and Northern Mockingbird.