Summary of the Spring Season
1 Mar – 31 May 2015
Baker, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam & St. Johns Counties
Sight-only observations are considered “reports”. Those supported by verifiable evidence (photographs, video or audio recordings, or specimens) are called “records.” A county designation (in italics) accompanies the first-time listing of each site in this report.
After several days of clear skies, great weather, and winds out of the east, a small front moved through NE FL overnight on 11 April bringing new migrants to the area on the 12th – including the region’s first Cape May and Black-throated Blue Warblers. The rest of the season consisted of unremarkable weather conditions other than an unusually dry month of May.
Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks were reported coastally again this season in St. Johns at Six Mile Landing and in Ponte Vedra Beach, and there were reports scattered across Duval at locations like Hanna Park, Gander Mountain, Pine Lakes, and even a flyover group of 12 at Spanish Pond as early as 3 April. Their stronghold continues to be around the Lem Turner Road “Spray Fields” at Lannie Road, where as many as 106 were recorded on 22 May.
Snow Geese were recorded in Aberdeen (St. Johns) 2 March, at Huguenot Memorial Park (Duval) 25 March, and a group of 4 were reliable off Imeson Road in western Duval County from 1-13 March. Other notable waterfowl observations include late Blue-winged Teal and a pair of Lesser Scaup remaining at Spoonbill Pond (Duval) through the end of the season. Last season’s Common Eider remained in Nassau Sound until 9 March, as did the White-winged Scoters at Spoonbill Pond – they were last reported 7 March.
Northern Bobwhite were reported more this season than the last few years in spring, with reports coming from Branan Mitigation area (Duval), Pumpkin Hill SP (Duval), M&M Dairy (Duval), Goldhead Branch SP (Clay), and several locations in St. Johns including Bartram Farms and Faver-Dykes SP.
Horned Grebes were reported sporadically through March, but one on Doctor’s Lake (Clay) 5 April was noteworthy and already in alternate plumage – not something we’re treated to in NE FL often.
A single Magnificent Frigatebird was photographed at Huguenot Memorial Park on 5 April 2015. A docile Brown Booby delighted observers at the St. Johns County Pier from 13 March through 7 April.
Least Bittern are regular breeders in NE FL, but can be difficult to find as evidenced by just 3 reports: as many as 3 at Imeson Center (Duval) 25 May-end of season, 1 in Nassau County marshes, and another at Stoney Creek (Nassau) 21 May.
Notable observations of Glossy Ibis include 49 at GTM NERR (St. Johns) 23 April , as many as 65 at Six Mile Landing in mid-April, and 35 at M&M Dairy on 19 April.
Mississippi Kites arrived on schedule in Duval mid-April, but were curiously absent from all neighboring counties save one report from Nassau on 11 May. The region’s only Broad-winged Hawk report came from Reddie Point Preserve (Duval) 29 April. Two Short-tailed Hawks were reported, one from Twelve Mile Swamp Conservation Area (St. Johns) 1 May and the other from Westside Industrial Park (Duval) 15 March; the latter providing the first known Duval County record, accompanied by a photograph.
The region’s only Purple Gallinule report came expectedly from Putnam County at Deep Creek bridge 10 March – 16 April; the species is extremely rare elsewhere in the region.
American Avocets were scarce again this season, with reports from Six Mile Landing (8 April), GTM NERR (23 April), the Ribault Monument (Duval) and Spoonbill Pond on 6 May. Marbled Godwits are notable in any season the last several years; two could be found at Huguenot Memorial Park from 27 March through 19 April. A report of a remarkable 18 Godwits on the Guana River (St. Johns) 28 April perhaps should have required confirmation.
The region’s only Stilt Sandpipers came from Spoonbill Pond (5-8 April) and Six Mile Landing (8-20 April). A single Purple Sandpiper was recorded at Huguenot Memorial Park 1 March, providing the first record there since 2 Jan 2014. Two other Purples remained at the Fort Clinch Pier (Nassau) until 20 April. Rare in spring White-rumped Sandpipers were recorded at Spoonbill Pond 17 May through the end of the season. Three reports of individual Pectoral Sandpipers include 1 at M&M Dairy 8 May, 1 at Ribault Monument 2 May, and another from Six Mile Landing 20 April.
The only jaegers this season were reported from Huguenot Memorial Park 27 March, where both Pomarine and Parasitic were observed.
White-winged Doves continue to be scarce and localized, with only reports from Jacksonville Beach 14 March, Atlantic Beach 3 March, and “GG Hookers” (St. Johns) on 11 April.
Barn Owl was reported from the Deep Creek Yarborough Tract (St. Johns) 18 March and again 7 April, an excellent find in the region at any time of year. In mid-May a Barn Owl feather was recovered in suitable habitat at Thomas Creek WMA (Duval), which is the first verifiable evidence of the species occurrence in the county in at least the last twenty years.
A concerted effort to find Eastern Whip-poor-wills throughout March paid off around many areas in Duval, but none were reported in neighboring counties – probably more an artifact of lack of effort than of scarcity of the species.
A single Hairy Woodpecker was sighted along the St. Marys River (Nassau) 9 March. As expected, Red-cockaded Woodpecker reports came exclusively from Baker throughout the season, where they are localized but year round in the Osceola forest and Olustee Battlefield Historic SP.
Acadian Flycatchers cooperated at Seaton Creek Historic Preserve, and a remarkable report of Ash-throated Flycatcher came from Clay at Camp Blanding WMA on 10 March. A one-day wonder, adult male Scissor-tailed Flycatcher delighted the Duval Audubon Society’s eBird field workshop crew on 16 May and was joined in the evening by an out of place Gray Kingbird.
There were three reports of Bank Swallow, two from St. Johns and one from Nassau, all occurring from 21-24 April. A report of twelve Cliff Swallows in Duval 24 April is somewhat questionable.
A single report of Golden-crowned Kinglet 3 March from Rice Creek Conservation Area (Putnam) is noteworthy but unverified.
Twenty seven species of warblers were reported in the region this season, which is exactly on par with recent spring seasons. One of the more notable observations was of “Brewster’s Warbler” Reddie Point Preserve (Duval) 21 April. There were two reports of Swainson’s Warbler: 1 at Spanish Pond (Duval) 29-30 March, and the other at Hanna Park (Duval) 1 May. Uncommon in spring, Magnolia Warblers peaked from 28 April through 2 May, when a remarkable six individuals were reported from Reddie Point Preserve. Yellow-breasted Chat was recorded at Eastport (Duval), where one was singing on territory from 3 May through the end of season. Another Chat was reported intermittently from Guana River WMA (St Johns) throughout May.
There was one significant sparrow observations this season – a Lark Sparrow was recorded at Eastport 25-26 April.
The irruption of Pine Siskins continued into the spring season, with numerous reports throughout the region extending into mid-April.
3 Jul 2015