Earlier this month, we had the pleasure of exploring Big and Little Talbot Island State Parks in Jacksonville. With miles of undeveloped beaches, these parks are one of the last strongholds of pristine barrier island in northeast Florida – making them an incredibly important site for breeding shorebirds like Least Terns, Black Skimmers and American Oystercatchers.
The morning we set off for the parks was gray, windy, and drizzly, but we were still hopeful for a good day of birding as we geared up with our spotting scope, cozy sweatshirts and hot coffee. After dropping off some birding checklists at the ranger station on our way in (be sure to pick one up when you visit!), we took off north on A1A to Spoonbill Pond. While we didn’t see any of the pond’s namesake Roseate Spoonbills, a stroll down to the boat ramp and along the boardwalk gave us great views of Wood Storks, Tricolored Herons, Killdeer and Dunlin. Closely scouting the edge of the parking lot, we were rewarded with Clapper Rails calling from the marsh and an Indigo Bunting devouring seeds near the ground.
In addition to wonderful birding opportunities, the parks offer several miles of hiking and biking trails, comfortable modern campsites, and opportunities for paddling, surfing and fishing.
On our way back to Jacksonville, we made what we thought would be a relatively quick stop at Huguenot Memorial Park. On the drive down to the shore, we picked up Loggerhead Shrikes, Savannah Sparrows and Osprey soaring overhead. When we came to the water, we watched some Ruddy Turnstones and Semipalmated Plovers foraging as they dodged the strong surf. A few gulls soaring on the other side of the jetty kept us moving down the beach, and we were not prepared for what was on the other side – hundreds of birds were hunkered down on the lee side. A quick scan with the scope yielded Great and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Caspian, Royal, and Sandwich Terns, and more – well worth having to bundle up on a cold, damp day.