jax birding

Birding February 2014

POSTED by Thomas

February is usually one of the slowest months for birding, only winter birds are here and weather is usually cold and windy so I didn't expect to get lot of birds. Almost every morning I was out for a couple of hours as is my morning activity. I am a web designer and developer, so it's good to start your day with some time outside and then jump into web coding.

My first year bird in February was a Sharp-shinned Hawk. Easiest way to separate Sharp-shinned and Coopers are by tail shape. Sharp-shinned have shorter square tail while Cooper's Hawk has longer rounded one. Other good field mark are the shape of wings. I got some good views, which is not always the case. Sharp-shinned like to speed between trees, so it's kind of hard to positively ID it.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

I missed Least Sandpiper in January, I was happy to get it at Huguenot finally. I might have seen them last month but wasn't sure and didn't list. At this time I was sure to separate Least from other pipets.

I got female Canvasback at Perdue Road pond. David lives close by and checks that pond all the time for ducks. He said some old lady pays to the guy to feed them, ducks and geese love it. Now there are at wintertime couple of hundred ducks and geese. Sometimes some good ones like Canvasback or Snow Goose or American Wigeon.

All these mallards and mottled ducks we see all year around are mostly mixed ups and listed as in eBird as domestic mallards. But sometime you may still see some wild ones, like these two at Spanish Pond, one is Mottled Duck and other one is hybrid Mottled and Mallard, so finally I could list it in eBird. I still need to find wild Mallard too.

Mottled Duck

One day I happened to be at Jacksonville Beach. I didn't have my camera with me (binoculars are always in a car) but I decided to check out Jacksonville Pier for loons and I got lucky, one Common Loon was close to pier. As I was leaving parasitic Jaeger made appearance. That bird is always a treat. Jaegers are lazy, much easier is to harass Terns and Gulls, to get them drop the food, than catch it itself. I feel sorry for that Foster's Tern who lost hard to earned fish for this Jaeger.

Hanna Park is always good birding ground. One day I got 60 species and one was new for a year, Merlin. Merlin is a tiny raptor, he was speeding through air and scared little warblers to death. But I was glad to see him.

Painted Bunting is reported throughout this winter many backyard feeders. I wander if Buntings are more common at winter than we previously thought or if this year is just exceptional. Looks like eBird and a Facebook help to bring out all these new reports and probably that's the case. I got my first Bunting of year at M & M Dairy February 23, love buntings colors and clear whistling song.

If you need Wild Turkeys then Westside or airport area is the place to go, but I was glad to find two of them near M & M Dairy. Always a treat.

Ovenbird is not the regular winter warbler here, but one or two of them show up here and there every winter. I found one of them at Reddie Point. Actually that's the reliable location for them anyway but other half of February is time for them to start showing up anyway, so no big teal, but glad to see one.

I still needed Brown-headed Cowbird. Sometimes you see them all the time, but not me and not this year. One location they were showing up this winter in numbers was Atlantic Beach. Last day of February I checked that out and sure enough, cowbirds were at Atlantic Beach trees at 2-3 different locations. I counted 35 of them together. That's interesting that look and look for them and can't find anywhere, and then you go and find tens of them.

Brown-headed Cowbird

So, February wasn't as bad as I thought, actually pretty good. I got 11 new year birds, comparing with last year two only, but last year I did January as a Big Month, not this year. So, I ended February with 160 species.

Here is a list of new yearbirds in February:

  1. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  2. Least Sandpiper
  3. Canvasback
  4. Mottled Duck
  5. Common Loon
  6. Parasitic Jaeger
  7. Merlin
  8. Painted Bunting
  9. Wild Turkey
  10. Ovenbird
  11. Brown-headed Cowbird

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