84 – a new record!

In late February this year, I wrote about Getting to Seventy – the extraordinary experience and ability to see or hear over 70 species in a single visit to a single (reasonably sized) location. On 15 May 2016, Diane Reed and I managed to push beyond 70…beyond 75, and yes beyond 79! to a whopping 84 species at Big Talbot Island’s Spoonbill Pond! I’m no expert, but I’m pretty familiar with the local birding scene and history, and I can’t imagine this having been done before in Duval County.

We arrived around 06:30AM and witnessed a remarkable feeding frenzy of hundreds of waders (see video in the eBird checklist). It’s also interesting to note that certain species of shorebirds were present at dawn but quickly dispersed at sunrise and were replaced by other species – for example, Dunlin departed while¬†Semipalmated Plovers arrived.

Diane and I tallied a remarkable 70 of the 84 species from a stationary count at the northeastern ‘pavilion’, and it’s difficult to say what the highlight was – White-rumped Sandpipers or Bobolink flocks flying right up the boardwalk? A stunning Orchard Oriole in morning light or a Mississippi Kite getting buzzed by a low-flying Peregrine Falcon?

After hitting 70, we decided to branch out and quickly scan the Sound, beach, and parking lot area, where we added another 14 species including Northern Waterthrush, Ruddy Turnstone, and Gull-billed Tern. As we closed in on the 6 hour mark we had to decide between pushing for 90 or calling it a day (which we did).

90 is possible and perhaps we should’ve gone for it, but we’ll leave that for another day. It’s something to shoot for next spring (or fall!), and dare I say – reasonable to achieve with some effort. Spoonbill Pond regulars not tallied on this day include Common Yellowthroat, Seaside Sparrow, Wilson’s Plover, Brown Pelican, Canada Goose, Red-shouldered Hawk, Great Black-backed Gull, and White Ibis just to name a few.

Next time we’ll bird the parking area for land birds around dawn, do a little more of the beach, and spend some time around the boat ramp. When we get past 90, I’ll let ya know!

Ruff in Duval County!

Last evening was supposed to be one where I was going to meet Dave and Graham at a local brewery and continue our journey along the “Jacksonville Ale Trail”, but being Cinco de Mayo we opted to avoid the crowds and go birding instead. We had some pretty high winds out of the west and decided Spoonbill Pond would be as good a place as any to meet up. Dave and I arrived about 15 minutes ahead of Graham and started working our scopes from right to left, tallying interesting species like Stilt Sandpiper, a first in season White-rumped Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, and gorgeous drake Green-winged Teal. We got to the far edge and picked out a different looking shorebird that we tentatively identified as a Ruff! Graham arrived, the bird continued to cooperate while the fading light actually got more favorable, and we were able to cinch the ID.

This is just the third record of Ruff in Duval County history, and the first that is “chaseable” – the previous two were in a spoil area controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers (previous records were 10 Feb 2015 and 6 Oct 2015). ¬†The bird was at such a distance as to make photographing it difficult, but still possible and good enough for ID confirmation. My video clip is a little better. Overall, we had 16 species of shorebird during this visit.

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Now for the hard part – two days prior on 3 May, I was birding at Spoonbill and photographed an odd looking shorebird that was “not quite right”. I was leaning towards Ruff, but since there were two reported in Seminole Co. earlier that day, I thought I was trying to over-convince myself on this bird, so I called it a Pectoral. Looking back at my image, I’m confident I did have the Ruff on 3 May at this location as well. Just goes to show you to always “think big”, trust your gut, and never rule anything out.

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Ruff (image from 3 May)