Summary of the Spring Season – 2014

Summary of the Spring Season

1 Mar – 31 May 2014

Baker, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam & St. Johns 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.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks have become more abundant in the area in recent years, but most observations still start occurring each year in April and May. This year, at least 3 were recorded at Fleming Island (Clay) on 24 May, and several were reported in the GTM NERR (St. Johns) 12-16 April. A group of up to 60 was reliable at Ocean Groves Condominiums (St. Johns) from 10 April through the end of the season. In Duval County, they were recorded at both Purdue Road pond and the Lem Turner spray fields intermittently throughout the season.

On 21 May, perhaps the season’s most significant observation was reported in the form of 8 Fulvous Whistling-Ducks at M&M Dairy (Duval), marking the first county record in 38 years. Previous known records were of migrating flocks along the ocean, so the fact that these remained for 5 days allowing for prolonged observations was an extra treat.

Other notable waterfowl included up to 400 Northern Shovelers as late as 20 April at a restricted access area in Jacksonville (Duval). At Flagler Hospital (St. Johns) a Redhead was recorded on 24 March, and a single Ring-necked Duck remained at Huguenot Memorial Park (Duval) from 15-18 May.

It was a good season for sea ducks, with a female Common Eider recorded at Huguenot from 15-18 May, 10 Surf Scoters and 18 White-winged Scoters remaining at Salt Run (St. Johns) through 10 March, and a single Long-tailed Duck observed at Salt Run on 2 March (continuing bird from the previous season). For the second year in a row, a small group of Black Scoters remained at Huguenot through the end of the spring season.

In late May, weather conditions favored pelagic birding from shore and Sooty Shearwaters were reported from the St. Augustine Pier (St. Johns) on 20 May and from Little Talbot Island State Park (Duval) on 27 May.

Rare in northeast Florida in any season, Magnificent Frigatebirds made two appearances; one at Fort Clinch State Park on 7 May and another at Washington Oaks State Park (Flagler) on 22 May.

Glossy Ibis may be becoming more reliable in Duval County, at least at M&M Dairy where up to 22 were recorded on 8 April and smaller numbers remained throughout the season.

A single Broad-winged Hawk was reported from Hastings (St. Johns) on 3 April along with a Short-tailed Hawk. Short-tailed Hawk was also reported from Flagler County on 30 March. Swainson’s Hawk was reported in Hastings on 23 March (light morph) and again from Bartram Fields (St. Johns) on 25 March.

Limpkins have continued their very localized presence at Westside Industrial Park (Duval) and a single bird was reported in Flagler at Lehigh Trail on 29 March.

The second modern breeding record of Sandhill Cranes in Duval County occurred along New World Avenue on 23 March, where 2 adults and 1 colt were observed.

A latish Purple Sandpiper was reported from Huguenot Memorial Park on 2 March. A rather unexpected American Woodcock was reported from Kingsley Plantation (Duval) on 11 March during an Eastern Whip-poor-will stakeout.

Up to 135 breeding plumaged American Avocets were recorded in the Timucaun Preserve (Duval) on 20 April. Marbled Godwits continue to be very scarce in the last two years in Duval County; just a single bird was reported from Huguenot Memorial Park on 10 April.

Stilt Sandpipers can be challenging to find, but this year reports from GTM NERR (20 March), Six Mile Landing (St. Johns) on 12 April, and within the Timucaun Preserve (23 April) represented them well. A single report of White-rumped Sandpiper came from Anastasia SP (St. Johns) on 1 May, and just one Pectoral Sandpiper was reported in the region from Six Mile Landing on 12 April.

Jaegers are not often reported in the spring season, and just a single Parasitic Jaeger was reported from the St. Augustine pier on 18 March.

On 18 March, two first cycle Iceland Gulls were reported at Huguenot Memorial Park. This observation coincided with a cool front that included constant and persistent rain throughout the area for two days. At least one of the Iceland Gulls remained throughout the end of the season, and there was an unconfirmed report that the other was injured and taken to BEAKS for rehabilitation.

A single Glaucous Gull was recorded at Huguenot on 6 April. Gull-billed Terns arrived on schedule the first week of April throughout the coastal areas of the region.

Eastern Whip-poor-wills are most easily found in northeast Florida from approximately 10-24 March, and this year was no exception in Duval County. On 11 March, two were recorded outside the gates at Kingsley Plantation (Duval), and over the next several nights they were reported from Theodore Roosevelt Area (Duval), Cedar Point Preserve (Duval), and Betz Tiger Point Preserve (Duval).

The Cassin’s Kingbird in Flagler County remained through at least 12 March. An early arrival of Eastern Kingbird on 4 March was noted in Baker County.

Two Florida Scrub-Jays were recorded in Palm Coast (Flagler) on 24 May.

Five species of thrushes were reported in the area this season, which is a rather surprising number considering many of the species are much more of a fall migrant. The five species reported were Veery, Gray-cheeked, Hermit, Swainson’s and Wood Thrush; the latter two being recorded on 23 and 24 April at Theodore Roosevelt Preserve (Duval).

There have been several reports of American Robin nesting again in the region this year, with a successful pair recorded in St. Augustine and in west Jacksonville.

The three Snow Buntings from the previous season at Huguenot Memorial Park were recorded on 1 March and were not recorded after that.

A very respectable 29 species of warbler were reported in the region this season, matching last year’s tally precisely. There were several reports of rare-in-spring species such as Bay-breasted and Chestnut-sided. The peak seems to have been from 22-26 April, with the most variety occurring during that window.

Blue-winged Warblers were reported from Kingsley Plantation (19 April) and Vail Point Park (St. Johns) on 23 April, where the season’s only Kentucky Warbler was also observed.

A lone Magnolia Warbler came from the GTM NERR on 22 April. Two days later the same area produced the only Bay-breasted Warbler and the only Chestnut-sided on a single outing. One Yellow Warbler was reported from Arlington (Duval) on 25 April.

A Swainson’s Warbler was reported at Nocatee Preserve (St. Johns) on 7 April. More of a fall migrant, two Black-throated Green Warblers were reported at Little Talbot Island SP on 3 May.

Bachman’s Sparrows were recorded singing on territory in the Julington Creek area (Duval) on 23 March and in the Simmons State Forest (Nassau) on 22 March. A single Clay-colored Sparrow was reported at Fort Clinch SP on 31 March.

Grasshopper Sparrows were reported at Durbin Preserve (Duval) on 23 March and from Fort Clinch SP on 6 May.

A Western Tanager visited a feeder in Jacksonville on 9 March.

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks showed well throughout the region this season, with up to 5 males being seen in a single tree at Reddie Point Preserve (Duval) from 19-23 April.

Bobolinks moved through on schedule the last week of April, and 62 (mostly males) were reported at Sheffield Park (Duval) on 26 April next to the athletic fields.

A late American Goldfinch was reported from Faver Dykes SP (St. Johns) on 22 May.

Kevin Dailey

12 July 2014