Nightjars

Lesser Nighthawk Chordeiles acutipennis
The only report of Lesser Nighthawk in Duval County came during the Christmas Bird Count on 26 Dec 2009. I was birding with Roger Clark all day in our area of Black Hammock Island and Cedar Point, but we decided to  finish the birding day at dusk at M&M Dairy.

Two nighthawks started flying low over the field, and we were able to study them quite well for many minutes. We determined there was one each Lesser and Common Nighthawk, which at that time of year is actually more remarkable for Common than Lesser! Neither species is expected in winter, and Lesser should not be expected here at any time of year.

Common Nighthawk Chordeiles minor
Common Nighthawks usually arrive in the area between the third and fourth week of April and remain throughout the summer. They are entirely gone by the end of the first week in October. Historically, a go-to place  to find them was a patch of land off Heckscher Drive near Carlucci Boat Ramp, an area that was turned into a salt marsh mitigation area in 2017…a place I then dubbed “Heritage River Road Wetlands”.

Regardless, they can be found quite easily in any of the open spaces – I’ve even had them regularly over the dirt lot next to WalMart on Monument Road. Try in suitable habitat around 7:50-8:20PM in late April and throughout May and June, and you should be able to find one. Suggested places include the south end of Little Talbot Island over the dunes, Sheffield Regional Park, or Taye Brown park on the Westside.

Common Nighthawk. 2 Jun 2018. Fanning Island, Jacksonville, Florida.

In terms of significant local dates, on 7 March 1979 Julie Cocke observed one that Kale (1979) noted as the earliest spring date for the Northern Peninsula (of Florida). The only winter report is from M&M Dairy on 26 Dec 2009 (see Lesser Nighthawk entry). The species is also known to migrate in significant numbers in September; indeed, on 4-5 September 1974 Markgraf and Cocke counted over 10,000 one evening (Edscorn, 1975). This can still be an interesting spectacle to look out for each fall (though not quite in those numbers!).

Chuck-will’s-widow Antrostomus carolinensis
Chuck-will’s-widow is another nightjar species that breeds in the area, arrives in mid-March, and remains throughout the spring and summer months. “Chucks” are quite vocal all over Fort George Island, particularly around the Ribault Club area. Just park in the (free) dirt parking lot across the street from the Club around dusk and you’ll easily hear them (although you may not see one). Walk the trails on the island in May and June – even during daylight – and you may encounter one roosting. This species is also quite easily found at places like Theodore Roosevelt Area, Cedar Point Preserve, Reddie Point Preserve, or Betz Tiger Point.

Eastern Whip-poor-will Antrostomus vociferus
Not much is known about the status of Eastern Whip-poor-will in northeast Florida, but I do know that the best time to hear them is around 14 March. Like clockwork, you can go out in suitable habitat and hear them start calling promptly around 7:53PM from 14-20 March (you may want to even start trying around the 10th). The earliest known record comes from the 10th and another on 11 March, a bird Marie and I heard in 2016 at Cedar Point. Suitable habitat includes just outside the closed gate of Kingsley Plantation, Theodore Roosevelt Area, Cedar Point, or Sheffield Park. I believe Reddie Point Preserve would produce them as well, but I haven’t confirmed that yet.

There have also been intermittent reports in winter over the years, but should not be expected then. I had one many years ago around twilight at Tiger Point Preserve in January and again there on the 2014 CBC, and personally tallied other late December observations from Fort George Island in 2016 and 2017.

Vireos

White-eyed Vireo Vireo griseus
The earliest documented observation of White-eyed Vireo is from 26 January 1934 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). They are our county’s most abundant vireo species, and is the only one that can be found year-round. eBird data suggests they are more abundant in spring during April and again in fall from early September through November 1. October reports spike considerably, perhaps suggesting post-breeding dispersal or migration. Observations are scarce in winter months, but they can be found with some persistence. They are fairly reliable at most of the local hotspots across a wide variety of habitats; the first few hundred yards after entering Huguenot Memorial Park can be excellent, as can the trails of Reddie Point Preserve. If you’re on the west side of the county, Taye Brown Regional Park is your best bet.

Bell’s Vireo Vireo bellii
There are four reports of Bell’s Vireo in Duval County history. The first was reported by Julie Cocke on 31 October 1973 (Edscorn, 1974) and the second was reported by Virge Markgraf on 5 October 1980. Markgraf’s observation was in her backyard where the flock included the Bell’s, a Red-eyed Vireo, two Philadelphia Vireos and one Warbling Vireo (Atherton & Atherton, 1981).

Roger Clark owns the two most recent reports, both coming from his time on Fort George Island. The first was reported on 29 Sept 2003 at Kingsley Plantation (Pranty, 2004) and the second on 4 October 2007 from the same general area (about one quarter mile from the Kingsley gate).

Yellow-throated Vireo Vireo flavifrons
Yellow-throated Vireo occur from early March through mid October, but although they are a localized breeding species they are not consistently seen or reported outside of spring and fall migration. The earliest records come from 3 April 1931 and 15 April 1936, when Grimes collected eggs from the nest of at least one breeding pair (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). An early spring arrival was noted as 8 March 1957, which has since been bested by a report from late February.

There is at least one winter report of the species, coming from 26 December 1965 (Cunningham, 1966). During spring migration, look for them throughout April at Reddie Point Preserve or Fort George Island. The most reliable place to find them during the late spring and summer are the deciduous woods of Seaton Creek Preserve, where they can be found around the “Picnic Table” area on the site’s trail map. This habitat is consistent with breeding notes dating back to 12 April 1930, where Grimes noted finding several nests in pine forest (Howell, 1932, p. 378).

Blue-headed Vireo Vireo solitarius
Blue-headed Vireo is a winter resident in Jacksonville, arriving in mid-October and departing by the first of May. They can obviously be found throughout the county, but particularly good places to seek them are Reddie Point Preserve, Theodore Roosevelt Preserve, Ringhaver Park, and Fort George Island. There is no specific earliest date, but Howell did mention a specimen collected in Jacksonville by 1932. There are no verifiable summer records including through the third week of September.

Warbling Vireo Vireo gilvus
There are but four reports of this rare species beginning with the one in Markgraf’s south Jacksonville yard on 5 October 1980 (see Bell’s account above). On 24 April 1982 Peggy Powell observed the second county bird (Kale, 1982); the third report comes from Julie Cocke on 19 Sept 2003 where she observed one in her yard in south Jacksonville (Pranty, 2004). The fourth and most recent report is from 13 October 2007 during a local Audubon field trip led by Roger Clark. I recall the day vividly, where the large group of us were birding around the slave quarters at Kingsley Plantation looking for migrant warblers. I noticed Roger step away from the pack and turn around to face the trees on the north side of the ruins; since he was the trip leader, I dutifully followed him and he quickly pointed out a Warbling Vireo foraging directly overhead. We got good looks for about a minute and by the time the rest of the group made it over, it was gone. I still tease Gary Davis to this day about the incident, since he was one of the ones looking at Chickadees instead if “following the leader”.

Philadelphia Vireo Vireo philadelphicus
There have been a number of reports of Philadelphia Vireo over the years, all but one of which have come from the month of October. The earliest dates come from 10 October and 13 October 1968 of a single bird reported by Ray Edwards that Robertson and Ogden (1969) speculated was the second “Northern Peninsula record”. The second report is from 5 October 1980 during the aforementioned Vireo bonanza in Markgraf’s yard.

Julie Cocke reported them nine times over 35 years in her south Jacksonville yard including 15 October 1989 (West, 1990) and 24 October 1992 (West & Wamer, 1993). Other reports are from Kingsley Plantation (5 October 1991), Kingsley on 8 October 1996 (Rowan, 1996), Fort George Island (2 October 1999), and most recently David Foster recorded one at Reddie Point Preserve on 5 October 2014. The lone exception to the October rule on this species is one observed by Paul Sykes on Fort George Island 6 May 2002 (Pranty, 2002).

Red-eyed Vireo Vireo olivaceus
Red-eyed Vireo is a summer resident and breeding species in Duval County, arriving in numbers in mid-March and departing by the end of October. The oldest known record is from 2 May 1930 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994). The highest single count of the species in one location is unfortunately of a massive tower kill at a downtown TV tower on 12 April 1961 when 280 birds perished (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994).

They are most abundant the last two weeks of September, suggesting post breeding dispersal and southernly movement. Look for them at Kingsley Plantation, Seaton Creek Preserve, Hanna Park, and Theodore Roosevelt Preserve. There are no verifiable winter records of the species.