Mid-Summer Update

It’s been a particularly hot summer so far, the last couple weeks have been real scorchers with intense sun, making it undesirable to do much birding.

Nevertheless, there have been some notable birds around in Jacksonville. The Common Eider that has been present since 6 May is apparently still around although I haven’t seen it in weeks. I received a call yesterday that it’s been hanging out on a Heckscher Drive resident’s “beach” and under their docks; the observer even said there have been two! I’m anxiously waiting for another report and invitation so I can go observe the bird and collect more photos.

On July 2nd, Marie and I found a lone Glossy Ibis at M&M Dairy and managed a halfway decent photograph before a big rig came barreling down the road and flushed it off.

Glossy Ibis. M&M Dairy, Duval County, Florida. 2 July 2017.

Glossies are fairly uncommon to rare in the county and there have not been many reported this year; in fact this was just the third record this entire year.

The gull and tern colony at Huguenot is doing well, although there are many dead Laughing Gulls scattered about. Royal, Least, and Sandwich Terns have all fledged young thus far, but there have been no reports of Gull-billed Terns or Black Skimmers being successful. Brown Pelicans have been roosting in the dunes and I’ve been carefully checking them out, but so far I haven’t been able to confirm any attempt at breeding/nesting. Pelicans are not known to breed in northeast Florida higher than around Volusia County, so this would be significant.

Royal Tern. Huguenot Memorial Park, Duval County, Florida. 3 July 2017.

On June 11th I found a single Great Shearwater just offshore at the north end of Huguenot. I managed a few distant images of this very rarely seen species. June is the best time to see them here, but normally you’d have to venture well offshore to do so. Duval County records are about once every five years for this bird. I managed to get the word out to a few people in time for them to see the bird before it moved on.

Great Shearwater. Huguenot Memorial Park, Duval County, Florida. 11 June 2017.

Gray Kingbirds can be difficult to find anywhere in Duval County outside of Mayport NAS where they breed. I’ve found several so far this year, including one at Huguenot on June 20 and again on July 9th.

Gray Kingbird. Huguenot Memorial Park, Duval County, Florida. 9 July 2017.

It may seem like all the action’s been at Huguenot but I’ve been checking other places too. I’ve cruised M&M Dairy quite a bit looking for a stray flycatcher (I’ve found Scissor-tailed there in the summer before) and Fort George Island beginning around July 1st looking for Louisiana Waterthrushes. They’re such an early fall migrant that the first three weeks of July are the best time to look for them, but unfortunately I haven’t been able to sync my availability to search for them with the overnight rains we’ve gotten.

Perhaps the most popular bird right now is the Purple Martin roost in downtown Jacksonville. For some reason it got the attention of some folks this year and it seems our local Audubon group did a full court press to get the media involved. TV, newspaper, and radio have all provided coverage on this rather spectacular sight (I’ve seen up to about 25,000 of them coming into the roost), but unfortunately that drew the interest of a bunch of a-holes and their drones. There’s really no reason to fly a drone into the mass of birds or around the trees in which they roost, but it’s happening nonetheless. In my opinion, there’s a pretty fine line between garnering public attention and keeping a tighter lid on something like this. I honestly don’t see the point in advertising this roost so publicly because I really don’t believe it’s going to make any casual observer into a conservationist or even a birder. The whole thing really made me ponder the reporting aspect of birds and right now I’ve opted to suppress my eBird reports from “Recent Visits” and from sending out “Alerts” for the first time ever. I may change my mind and soften up on this, but right now I’m still agitating on how people treat reports in general (not just the Martin roost). I guess I’m getting crotchety in my old age.


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