I’ve written about Getting to Seventy and 84 – a new record!, and I’ve recently been able to add two more visits to the 70+ club. To recap, the 70+ Club consisted of Reddie Point Preserve (71 species, 17 Oct 2015), Spoonbill Pond (70 sp., 12 Dec 2015), Ribault Monument (70 sp., 28 Feb 2016), and Spoonbill Pond (84 sp., 15 May 2016).
On 26 Nov 2016, Marie and I added Eastport Wastelands to the Club, with a four-hour, 76 species visit. The keys to big lists at Eastport are to arrive early when the passerines are more active and then cover the rest of the property repeatedly – including scoping the “recharge ponds” from the bluff at the southern part of the property. Eastport is technically privately owned and is posted for “No Trespassing” at two of the entrances, but there is a non-posted entrance to the property closer to Heckscher Drive. You absolutely need a four wheel drive vehicle to get very far, and this is not someplace you want to get stuck.
A day later on 27 Nov 2016 I led a bird walk for Duval Audubon Society at Big Talbot Island State Park – Spoonbill Pond, where my tally was an even 70 species. I was a little worried about a good outing because the pond hasn’t yet recovered from the storm surge brought by Hurricane Matthew this past October. During the surge, the pond’s water chemistry changed and it became rather brackish. Consequently, there are virtually no duck species here this winter – not even the former resident mallard/Mottled Ducks! We did manage very distant migrating Black Scoters and Hooded Mergansers, but that was it in terms of waterfowl. The highlights of the trip were very cooperative Seaside Sparrows on the rocks at the Sawpit Creek boat ramp (“life birds” for many) and Saltmarsh Sparrows that allowed a couple photographs before shying away. Toward the end of the trip we were birding the shallow pond near the restrooms when one of those fantastic birding experiences occurred: a variety of species came down to the edge of the pond to drink – in one binocular view were a Painted Bunting, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Gray Catbird, Hermit Thrush, and WOOD THRUSH drinking side-by side! The Wood Thrush is already a difficult species to see here, and to have one this late in November was almost unheard of (there are only a small handful of verified records of the species in the entire state of Florida in winter).
So I now have 4 local sites on the 70+ Club, with Spoonbill Pond a three time winner. In 2017, I will challenge myself to add Westside Industrial Park and Hanna Park to the list!