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Since December 6 I have been at the Six-mile Landing in Guana River WMA (
northern St. Johns County) from 4 am to 1 pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays,
working the duck-hunter check station.  This has allowed me to make a
regular "point surveys" of the local birdlife.

To me, the most surprising observation so far has been the number of Least
Bitterns present in this area.  All detections were the "kek-kek-kek"
call.  The birds are calling when I arrive on-site at 4 am, and continue to
call regularly until about 1/2 hour or so after sunrise.  I have rarely
heard them later in the day.  Judging from the directions and distances of
the calling birds I am guessing that there may be six or so bitterns within
hearing range of this site.  Since I am sampling only a fraction of the
cattail marsh habitat in the impounded area of Guana River, I can only
assume that there many bitterns in this area.

This runs counter to the conventional wisdom that this species is rare in
north Florida in the winter.

An aside -- I suspect that many birders ascribe the "kek-kek-kek" call to
King Rail.  I know I did for years!  I will try to make an audio recording
in the next few weeks.  Oddly, I have not heard any King Rails calling at
this site.

Noel Wamer
Jacksonville, FL

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