Summary of the Winter Season
1 Dec 2015– 29 Feb 2016
Sight-only observations are considered “reports”. Those supported by verifiable evidence (photographs, video or audio recordings, or specimens) are called “records.”
The Winter season was a particularly good one for waterfowl, with 27 species noted in the county. Snow Goose were more numerous this season than I can recall in the last two decades and they could be found regularly at places like Perdue Pond Wildlife Area and Lem Turner Spray Fields. On 15 December a Ross’s Goose was recorded keeping company with two Snows on the lawn at University of North Florida; it remained through 10 January and provided just the third county record.
Gadwall and American Wigeon showed up on schedule but in greater numbers than normal, with as many as 25 Gadwall at Perdue Pond and up to 45 Wigeon there. The latter species could also be found in number at Spoonbill Pond. Up to four American Black Ducks at Perdue Pond were the first area records in a number of years; they occurred there from 2 December through 15 February.
The area’s only Canvasback observation also came from Perdue Pond from 11 December through 28 February, with anywhere between one and four reported during that time. Two Surf Scoters on an inland pond at Mayport Naval Air Station’s golf course 16 December was unusual.
It was a good winter for Red-throated Loon, where they were reported through January from most of the coastal overlooks from Big Talbot Island to Hanna Park.
Horned Grebe numbers were down significantly and only seen periodically through the winter.
A Magnificent Frigatebird was observed some 20 miles inland at Lakeside Marina on 18 February.
The winter’s only American Bittern was seen at Taye Brown Regional Park from 10-17 January.
Single Reddish Egrets occurred at Hanna Park’s lake from 26 December through 1 January, at Cedar Point Preserve 27 February, and Huguenot Memorial Park from 5 December through 26 February; a high count of three came from Huguenot on 13 December. Scattered reports of low numbers of Roseate Spoonbill throughout the season remained consistent with recent years.
Sora were scarce again this year, with a just five reports including five birds recorded along New World Avenue on 27 February.
Limpkin remain reliable at Westside Industrial Park, where up to six were noted on 13 February and in lower numbers from 5 December through 27 February.
A lone Black-necked Stilt photographed at Lem Turner Spray Fields on 10 January provided a rare winter record. Sixty-eight American Avocets in White Shell Bay mid-February provided a high count for northern Florida.
Three reports of Purple Sandpiper all came from the jetties at Huguenot on 6 January and 19 February. Three reports of American Woodcock came from Eastport Wastelands (26 December) and Lannie Road on 2 January. A single Red Phalarope was recorded off Mayport 28 December.
This winter was remarkable in that it was the first in a number of years where neither Iceland nor Glaucous Gull was recorded in the county.
White-winged Doves continue to be very uncommon in the county. A pair at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens Education Center pleased many from 3 December through 26 February.
On 22 February, Dailey and Clark recorded two Hairy Woodpeckers in Branan Field Mitigation Park, leading to a county-record seven woodpecker species the duo tallied in a single day.
The season’s only Western Kingbird was recorded at Huguenot Memorial Park on 29 December.
Golden-crowned Kinglets were reported more often this season than in the previous 20 winter seasons, with reports from Taye Brown Regional Park on 13 January and Sample Swamp off Starratt Road on 30 January and again on 13 February (photos accompanied both records).
Unusual warblers included an Ovenbird at Camp Milton on 14 January and an American Redstart on 26 December at Cedar Point Preserve. A Wilson’s Warbler visited a private residence in Ortega from 6 December through 14 January.
It was a good season for sparrows, with Grasshopper recorded at Eastport Wastelands from 12 December through 1 January. A Henslow’s Sparrow was recorded at Branan Field Mitigation Park on 14 January and again on 23 February. Saltmarsh, Nelson’s, and Seaside numbers were normal and the best place to observe them continued to be at the end of Shark Road on Black Hammock Island.
A Clay-colored Sparrow was recorded at Little Talbot Island’s south parking area on 9 January, and the Lark Sparrow at Eastport continued from mid-November through the end of the winter season.
There were scattered reports of wintering Summer Tanager, and two Western Tanagers provided a record high count for the county from 27-30 January at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens’ education center.
A Dickcissel was recorded at Spoonbill Pond on 31 January.
Rusty Blackbirds continued to be best found at the Jacksonville Zoo and M&M Dairy, with observations throughout December and January. Three Purple Finches recorded off I-10 in western Duval County were remarkable and provided the first county record in over ten years. Pine Siskins were scarce this year, with just two reports on 13 and 28 February.