Ash-throated flycatchers (yes, flycatchers. plural). M&M Dairy

Yesterday morning Dave Foster found an Ash-throated Flycatcher at M&M Dairy. Ash-throated is a very rare species in Duval County…so rare that I finally just found my first in the county last winter. Having said that, this winter seems to be a “good one” for Ash-throated in Northeast Florida, with several observations in Duval, Clay, and St. Johns counties already this fall/winter.

I’ve been in a bit of a rut and mainly going to Huguenot to bird when I’m in town, but this morning I decided M&M would be a nice change of pace and maybe I’d see the Ash-throated. (jump to checklist here). I arrived to even more development at the old dairy and continue to lament that in 5 more years there will be nothing left of habitat here.

New warehouses. M&M Dairy. Wild Turkeys near the culvert.

I saw an Ash-throated fly in over head and set up for a picture, when a SECOND one flew in right behind it! There has never been a report of more than one of the species in NE Florida, so this is a new record high count. My pictures are horrible and I had to adjust them to lighten them up, but here they are for the record; the birds were roughly 10 feet apart so no chance of double counting:

Ash-throated Flycatcher #1. M&M Dairy 1 Dec 2019.
Ash-throated Flycatcher #2. M&M Dairy 1 Dec 2019.

Another nice part of this observation is that while Dave got the Ash-throated yesterday for the Fall Season’s Florida Field Naturalist Field Observations Report, today is the beginning of the winter season, so I’ll be able to include the Ash-throateds in the FFN’s Winter Report as well!

After leaving the flycatcher spot, I saw another local birder parked up on the sidewalk area (again), rather than in one of the abundant parking places. Much like I wrote about in the spring this year – at this same location – he left in a hurry and missed these target birds. In the spring he walked right by an Upland Sandpiper and today the flycatchers. It goes to show you that getting out and actually walking around a hotspot can yield a quite productive day versus pulling over and barely getting out of the car. To each their own.

The walk along Port Jacksonville Parkway was pleasant, with overcast skies and a balmy 68F. I managed some decent shots of an Eastern Phoebe, which is a species that normally gives me fits trying to photograph.

Eastern Phoebe. M&M Dairy. 1 Dec 2019.

I cropped this picture below rather heavily to show the rarely-seen-in-the-field “whiskers” at the base of the bill.

(Heavily cropped) Eastern Phoebe illustrating whiskers.

It was also a good day for sparrows, with dozens of Vespers about, along with Swamp, Song, Savannah, and Field.

Vesper Sparrows plus a Savannah. M&M Dairy. 1 Dec 2019.

The Vespers were a little sketchy and didn’t allow me too close, but this Savannah was a little more obliging.

Savannah Sparrow. M&M Dairy. 1 Dec 2019.

I continued walking down the sidewalk towards Alta Drive, and when I got to the power lines, there was a flurry of activity, including a late Indigo Bunting, Song Sparrows, and several Field Sparrows.

Field Sparrow. M&M Dairy. 1 Dec 2019.

I finished up with a couple Orange-crowned Warblers.

Orange-crowned Warbler. M&M Dairy. 1 Dec 2019.

On the way back to the parking lot, I passed by the big pond that is now half-filled in; they’ve literally plowed the dirt into half the existing pond and are filling it in so they can….you guessed it….build another warehouse on top of it.

Filled in pond. M&M Dairy. 1 Dec 2019.

The unmitigated overdevelopment in Jacksonville continues.