Dovekie Alle alle
In 1932, and again in the winter of 1936-37 there was a remarkable invasion of Dovekie along the Florida coast that was well documented by Alexander Sprunt, Jr. (1938). Sprunt made note of the eastern seaboard’s curvature along Florida’s “First Coast” whereby it juts back east just south of Jacksonville, suggesting that many of the Dovekies in Florida waters missed that pocket (which happens to be offshore Duval County) on their way further south. He also noted that many Dovekie observations occurred in Daytona Beach during these invasions, and Sam Grimes reported a distinct lack of records from the mouth of the St. Johns River in Jacksonville. Regardless, it is evident that Dovekies passed through Duval County in great numbers and there were several observations noted during these invasions.
In 1945, Grimes (1945, p.22) documented shooting a lone Dovekie on 29 November 1932 as it swam in a flooded ditch in Jacksonville Beach. On 7 February 1965, three were reported off Jacksonville Beach; Stevenson (1965) noted this was the first time the species had ever been reported in Florida outside the month of January. Most recently during the Razorbill invasion in the winter of 2012, a single Dovekie was found in distress and taken to BEAKS for rehabilitation; its fate is unknown.
Thick-billed Murre Uria lomvia
There is one record of Thick-billed Murre in Duval County. This bird was photographed in Simpson’s Creek between Big Talbot Island and Little Talbot Island on 15 December 2012 during the Razorbill invasion. It was thought to be a Razorbill by the observer and submitted to the Florida Ornithological Society Records Committee, where they determined it to be a Thick-billed Murre (both of these Alcids are a state review species).
It is also worth noting that one day earlier on 14 December 2012, one was photographed at Fort Clinch State Park in Nassau County.
Razorbill Alca torda
It already seems like a long time ago, but in the winter of 2012 there was a significant Razorbill invasion throughout Florida’s coastal waters, eventually even reaching the western panhandle. The first accepted record for the county occurred on 15 December 2012, by the same observer of the Thick-billed Murre.
I was able to make it out on the water on 17 December 2012 and several subsequent days, taking along friends like Rex Rowan on the journey. We found anywhere from five to twelve individual Razorbills each time, while staying mainly within a mile of shore, as far north as Little Talbot Island and as far south as Hanna Park in my Carolina Skiff. They seemed to favor “slicks” around the jetties, extending at about a forty-five degree angle to the southeast. The lines consisted loosely of wrack and sargassum.
On 24 December 2012, Rex and I collected at least one expired bird in perfect condition, and Rex took it back to the Florida Museum of Natural History, where it was turned into a study skin and two tissue samples. Those three specimens are jointly cataloged as UF 49924 (Rowan, pers communication, 2020).
On 1 January 2013, I arrived at Huguenot Memorial Park at sunrise and observed a single Razorbill about thirty yards out in the surf on the north side of the jetties. That was the last one I have seen and the last credible report in the county.
Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica
On 1 October 1998, an Atlantic Puffin was collected at a local Jacksonville beach and taken to BEAKS for rehabilitation, where it unfortunately died about nine days later (Pranty, 1999). It was the second Florida record for the species, and the one and only county report.