Last year I summarized a top 10 list for birds I observed in Duval County in 2018, and since it’s once again New Year’s eve, I thought I’d do the same for 2019. I actually considered doing a top 10 for the decade since a new one is upon us, but I quickly realized that was going to be a little too much work given the time I have.
I once again spent a hell of a lot of time traveling this year (25 weeks/trips / 83 flight segments / 113,986 sky miles); consequently, I tallied less than 200 species in the county for the first time in over 15 years. That really doesn’t bother me since I tallied birds in three countries (USA, Costa Rica, and Spain), and in 10 US States (South Dakota, Minnesota, Texas, Arizona, Wyoming, Florida, Michigan, New York, Georgia, and Nevada).
Having said that, I managed to find a few cool birds, chase a few more, and add a few more to my all-time county list, which is now at 316 and counting – but not for too much longer, given our plans to move west in the first half of 2020. Enough with the intro, on to the list – but one last reminder – these are birds I was able to observe. Undoubtedly, a significant species worth mentioning (that I didn’t see) is the first county record of Vermilion Flycatcher that Carly found at Imeson Center!
10. Ash-throated Flycatcher. 1 December 2019. This species came in at number 2 on last year’s Top 10 list, mainly because it was a) a new county tick for me, and b) it was a bird Marie and I found at Little Talbot Island SP and was not seen by any others. This year, Dave found one at M&M Dairy in late November, and as the “winter season” started on December 1st, I headed over to relocate it. The great thing is that not only did I find Dave’s bird, but I found and photographed a second at the same spot! Two Ash-throateds is a new record high count for Duval County and actually all of Northeast Florida.
9. Smooth-billed Ani. 1 January 2019. This bird was a “2019 gimme”, as it was found in late 2018 and was fairly reliable at Little Talbot Island State Park for a couple months. After starting new year’s day at Huguenot, I headed over to Talbot to notch this sucker on the 2019 list. This bird lingered through at least mid-March 2019.
8. Glaucous Gull. 23 November 2019. Glaucous Gulls are nearly annual at Huguenot, and I found another on 23 November at Huguenot. I was able to point the bird out to a few other birders that were wandering the park and was actually able to relocate it the next morning, but it was not reported since.
7. Franklin’s Gull. 12 October 2019. I’ve written pretty extensively on the site about how Franklin’s are best found in October, and almost exclusively at Huguenot, and this year was no exception. I went looking for this bird on the 12th of October and found it within a few minutes of arriving. It was the only observation this year of the species in the county.
6. Upland Sandpiper. 31 March 2019. This one was pretty special, as it was the first record of the species in several years in Duval, and was also found at M&M Dairy, which is in dire straits and about to be completely wiped out by development. The icing on the cake? The fact that the “guide” walked right by me, and it – without seeing it, while escorting a client. Doesn’t get much better than that.
5. Surf Scoter. 21 December 2019. I expected this one might land higher on the list, but I just can’t get too excited about seeing a bird of this caliber. Sure, they’re cool, but relatively expected along the Atlantic coast in winter. Having said that, it was the first one I’ve seen in Duval County and was a top “Nemesis bird” for years.
4. Great Cormorant. 12 October 2019. Check out my previous post about this one, but in short, I received a text message that this bird was in the park as I was looking at the Franklin’s Gull noted above. I strolled over to the family beach area and checked it out. Ho hum, Florida review species and new county tick.
3. Hudsonian Godwit. 22 October 2019. This bird was found by an out-of-towner at Spoonbill Pond a few days earlier, and when I got back in town I was able to chase it one evening after work. Very rare species here and another state review species.
2. Red-necked Grebe. 4 January 2019. This bird lingered at Huguenot for a few months and I was able to see it on multiple occasions. I was my second I’ve seen in Florida and obviously a new county tick since it was the first Duval record.
1. Fox Sparrow. 13 January 2019. Much like last year’s top bird (Lapland Longspur), I have been deliberately looking for this species in Duval County for almost two decades. Once considered common, Fox Sparrow is an extremely rare species in Northeast Florida. On this morning, I headed the Seaton Creek Preserve to look for one, and found the target several miles in.
So once again, I somehow tallied 5 new county birds this year (same total as 2018), bringing me to the 316. I can’t imagine getting more than 1 or 2 new ones at this point in a given year, and I really only expect at the most, 1. Happy new year!