When one thinks of the number 70, things that often come to mind are a grandparent’s age, Mark McGwire shattering Roger Maris’s single season home run record in 1998, how long it takes for a copyright to expire, the weird clothes, recreational drugs and classic music from the 1970’s, or even the fact that 70 is the fourth triskaidecagonal number. Ok, so maybe that last particular notion didn’t come to mind…
In the birding world, I see 70 as an extraordinary number of species to tally in a single visit at a single “hotspot”. Seeing 50 species in visit at most hotspots is a nice benchmark and is certainly notable, but it’s actually pretty easy to do in most months. Seeing 60 or more is exceptional, but seeing 70 (or more!) can be extraordinary – particularly in Duval County.
Yesterday, Roger Clark and I managed 70 species at the Ribault Monument in what amounted to an essentially stationary count; sure, we birded the fringes of the parking lot but primarily we scoped from the top of the bluff. As we started counting all the species we could add if the tide was out rather than all the way in, I think 80 there is well within reason – we missed such things as Boat-tailed Grackle, Palm Warbler, Willet, Ruddy Turnstone, and Roseate Spoonbill. It also got me thinking about how many times I may have hit the “Seventy Plus Club”.
Based on a quick scan of my eBird lists, I’ve done this at least three times locally at three different locations. On 12 December 2015 we notched 70 species while I was leading a local Audubon field trip to Spoonbill Pond, and back on 17 October 2015 we did it at Reddie Point Preserve. I don’t recall ever hitting 70 elsewhere in town, but as I think about it I believe some other local hotspots are certainly capable: Huguenot Memorial Park, Little Talbot Island State Park, Westside Industrial Park, Eastport Wastelands, and Hanna Park all come to mind. I think Little Talbot and Hanna Park are perhaps too large an area to really consider a single hotspot, but Huguenot certainly fits in the realm to compare it with Ribault and Spoonbill. Westside Industrial is large in area, but since it lacks a river or coastline I think the gain in acreage is a suitable handicap.
As birders, we’re always looking for new challenges or new ways to measure and compare lists. Last year I participated in the 12 Day Big Year; this year I believe I’ll try to add Huguenot and Westside Industrial Park to the 70 club. When I get there, I’ll share the results!