I decided to visit Huguenot Memorial Park this morning for just my 12th visit there this year. Since I normally visit the park between 1-2 times every week, this year is definitely a “down year” so far for me in terms of getting to Huguenot. Regardless, I’ve tallied 104 species so far there this year so I’m covering it fairly well.
If you haven’t been to the park lately, they’re in the midst of a major construction project to rebuild the revetment along the St. Johns River. The entrance road was washed out and destroyed back in 2016 when Hurricane Matthew impacted the region, and they’re finally able to rebuild it. Below is a picture of some of the progress.
It was unseasonably cool (roughly 76F) this morning when I arrived at 06:50, and I parked just past the pay station at the entrance. Parking here and walking the park will ensure between 7,000-12,000 steps, and will give you the best chance at seeing birds. If you choose to do this, exercise caution when walking along the entrance road, as there is no sidewalk and minimal shoulder to avoid any traffic; the sidewalk doesn’t start for probably a good half mile, when you get closer to the restroom area.
This morning, birding from the entrance to the campground was pretty quiet, but I did find a pair of perched Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (a rare find at Huguenot), several singing Northern Mockingbirds, Mourning and Common Ground-Doves, a Killdeer, a pair of Mallards, a Red-winged Blackbird, Downy Woodpecker, and a singing Painted Bunting. In recent weeks, I’ve tallied several other species along this route like House Finch, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and Eastern Towhee.
I’m as interested in species that are somewhat expected but not observed, especially in situations where I feel like I spent a good amount of time on foot saturating my presence in the habitat. Today, the following species were notably absent on the road from the entrance all the way to the beach driving access: Eastern Towhee, Common Yellowthroat, and Loggerhead Shrike (a Shrike or two is commonly found on the interior campground). On the beach, along the river, and along the interior of the lagoon, I did not see or hear expected species like Sanderling, Red Knot, Double-crested Cormorant, Roseate Spoonbill, or Least Sandpiper (admittedly, Red Knot and the sandpiper are both very limited in June).
I walked up through the campground and then east along the river to the jetties. It was intermittently overcast, with high clouds making for magnificent atmospheric views. The jetties had a mixture of birds, including a nice little concentration of about 30 Least Terns, including freshly minted juveniles; the terns nest in the dunes nearby, which you can see in the picture above. There was also a handful of Black Skimmers, Laughing Gulls, Royal Terns, and two Snowy Egrets. I was pleased to see that the sands have shifted again recently, fully exposing the jetty rocks all the way up to the dunes – which prohibits people from driving into this area of the beach near the river. Had the sand been higher, there undoubtedly would have been vehicles, people, and thus nowhere for the Least Terns to loaf.
I then walked north to the breeding colony, which is made up of Laughing Gull, Royal Tern, Brown Pelican, Sandwich Tern, American Oystercatcher, and Gull-billed Tern, in that order of nesting abundance. Scattered around the colony along the shoreline were a few other species like a single Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Ring-billed Gull, and an uncommon-in-June Caspian Tern.
I captured a rainbow over the breeding colony, just before almost getting strafed with gull poop – one purposefully unloaded right over me, but fortunately the wind caught it and it missed me altogether. Around the north point and interior of the lagoon, I found several Oystercatchers, a Reddish Egret, several vocal Wilson’s Plovers, and a half dozen “eastern” Willet. I also observed a small handful each of Semipalmated Plovers, Black-bellied Plovers, and Short-billed Dowitchers. The Black-bellied were all in drab basic plumage.
The walk back to the truck was uneventful except for a jam packed picnic pavilion along family beach. There was easily 35 people packed in the pavilion with nary a mask in sight. I know I’m a more reserved and cautious individual, but it is still rather unwise to congregate in the manner I observed today.