Summary of the Spring Season
1 Mar – 31 May 2016
Sight-only observations are considered “reports”. Those supported by verifiable evidence (photographs, video or audio recordings, or specimens) are called “records.”
A strong front with winds from the south on 27 March pushed many migrants north; on that day I observed several large groups including two groups of over 40 Anhinga, streams of Turkey Vultures, 40+ Wood Storks and hundreds upon hundreds of Double-crested Cormorants. Otherwise, there was no real “fallout” during the season and migration was a rather slow and uneventful experience. The season was highlighted by three rather exciting discoveries: the county’s first record of Green-tailed Towhee in March, the first record of nesting Swainson’s Warbler in several decades, and the appearance of a Ruff at Spoonbill Pond.
Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks arrived 3 April at Lem Turner, where numbers during the season were significantly down compared to recent years. One Snow Goose remained at Perdue Pond Wildlife Area through 12 March; other notable waterfowl included a pair of Gadwall at Big Talbot Island SP – Spoonbill Pond through 4 April, two American Wigeon at Huguenot Memorial Park on 19 March (and a pair at Spoonbill Pond through 26 April), a pair of American Black Duck at Perdue Pond through 11 March, a drake Northern Shoveler that remained at Spoonbill Pond through the end of season, and two Canvasback at Perdue Pond through 12 March. Two Greater Scaup and one Lesser Scaup could be found at Spoonbill Pond through 3 and 17 April, respectively. A single Common Eider was reported in the Intracoastal Waterway on 4 April, and up to 10 Black Scoter lingered at Huguenot through the end of season. A pair of Bufflehead remained at Spoonbill Pond until 3 April.
A great new birding location for Northern Bobwhite has proven to be Branan Field Mitigation Park in western Duval, where as many as ten could be found in May.
A Horned Grebe in alternate plumage at Huguenot on 4 April was a rare treat.
While not in Duval County, a weak Northern Fulmar collected on a St. Johns beach 16 April was significant and worth mentioning.
Two American Bitterns were recorded off Waterworks Street on 3 March. Least Bitterns returned to Imeson Center and could be found on territory from 20 March through the end of the season. One was also reported off Waterworks Street 1 May. Glossy Ibis continue to be locally uncommon, but could be found regularly at Spoonbill Pond from 25 March onward.
One Limpkin nested at least a month earlier than normal at Westside Industrial Park on 8 April. A single Sandhill Crane on 1 March near the ICW at San Pablo Road was unusual.
Thirty-six American Avocets were reported from the Ribault Monument on 2 March, and seven American Oystercatchers at Huguenot on 4 April is a high count for the region. A single Purple Sandpiper was reported from Huguenot on 26 March, and up to six Stilt Sandpipers at Spoonbill Pond from 17 April through 15 May were a delight to many. A pair of Marbled Godwit at Huguenot on 29 March proved to be the seasons only. The county’s third record of Ruff was also the first “chaseable” one; the bird was recorded at Spoonbill Pond from 3 to 8 May. White-rumped Sandpipers were recorded at Spoonbill Pond 5-15 May and at Westside Industrial Park 7-14 May. A Wilson’s Snipe was late there on 19 April, and one American Woodcock I observed at the south end of Little Talbot Island State Park on 6 March was very unusual.
Bonaparte’s Gulls in alternate plumage remained at Spoonbill Pond through 15 May. On 31 March I observed a Great Black-backed Gull take and eat an adult Sandwich Tern at Huguenot. A single Gull-billed Tern could periodically be seen foraging at Spoonbill Pond beginning 17 April.
Eastern Whip-poor-wills were recorded a couple days early this year, beginning on 11 March at Cedar Point Preserve.
A late Peregrine Falcon visited Spoonbill Pond on 15 May.
Acadian Flycatchers were recorded on territory again this year at Seaton Creek Historic Preserve beginning 14 May; they were also heard at “Sample Swamp” on the northside on 1 and 2 May. Other notable flycatchers include a Western Kingbird at Helen Cooper Floyd Park on 18 April and Gray Kingbirds at Spoonbill Pond (6 May) and Mayport Naval Station (14 May).
A single Golden-crowned Kinglet reported in north Jacksonville on 22 March was very late for the species.
Just twenty-two species of warblers reported this spring is well below the normal mark of twenty-six to twenty-nine species, and reflects the paltry migration this year. However, a remarkable and important record of nesting Swainson’s Warblers on the northside of town was made on 1 May and continued through the season, providing the first such record in many decades. A single Connecticut Warbler was reported at Theodore Roosevelt Preserve on 9 May; another reported from the parking lot at Pumpkin Hill Preserve SP a few days later should be disregarded.
On 3 March, visiting birders recorded the county’s first Green-tailed Towhee at Little Talbot Island State Park. Despite the efforts of a number of birders over dozens of hours searching later that day and in subsequent days, the bird was not recorded again after the initial observation.
The Lark Sparrow at Eastport Wastelands continued through at least 26 March. It’s worth noting here that the main entrances into Eastport were blockaded early in the season, leaving just one access point (where four wheel drive is essential); otherwise any further entry will be exclusively on foot. A single Grasshopper Sparrow was recorded there 2 April.
An Indigo Bunting on 13 March at Reddie Point Preserve was slightly early, and a Dickcissel off San Pablo Road 15 March was very rare. Bobolinks arrived early this year, with small numbers beginning 29 April, with increased numbers by 14 May (85, at Lem Turner) and 15 May (125+, Spoonbill Pond).
One Pine Siskin lingered at a north Jacksonville feeder through 9 April.