Sora and American Goldfinches in August! plus some new migrants

From: Rex Rowan <rexrowan@gmail.com>
To: Alachua County birding report

First of September. By the end of the month we’ll have more darkness than light. Sounds right existential, don’t it?

Josh Watson writes that on the 29th he and Dan Gualtieri saw a Sora at Sweetwater Wetlands Park “off the pavilion boardwalk on the right before the split.” That ties the early record set in 1997 when Christina Romagosa found one dead in the road near Lake Alice.

I think we all had high hopes for Sweetwater Wetlands Park as a shorebird hotspot this fall, since it was so good this spring. But August is over, and with it the peak of shorebird migration, and nothing ever showed up there because the water was too high. We had an unusually rainy summer, of course, but summer is almost always rainy to some degree. Will the water be lower during a normal summer? Let’s hope so. We could use a reliable shorebird spot around here.

Migrants are moving through in good numbers and good variety. No one has reported a Golden-winged yet, but they’re certainly out there.

Sam Ewing reported the fall’s only Chestnut-sided Warbler (so far) on the 25th and the fall’s only Blackburnian Warbler (so far) on the 27th, both at his NW Gainesville home.

John Martin had an excellent day at the Bolen Bluff Trail on the 30th, tallying a dozen warbler species. His best were a Blue-winged Warbler, two Worm-eating Warblers, five American Redstarts, two Hooded Warblers, and a Kentucky Warbler. He writes, “Jacqui Sulek accompanied me for half the route and found the Blue-winged Warbler early where the trail initially forks. I hung out longer at the Prairie fringe, walking the woodline east and west of where the trail levels out on the basin; I found the Kentucky to the east, about 75 feet past the ‘trail closed’ sign, just past where the dog fennel opens into a stand of trees – it appeared after I played a screech-owl call.” He got a very nice picture: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thermalin/20826157900/in/dateposted/ Craig Faulhaber was out there on the same day and found a second Kentucky, “about 3/4th of the way down the left-hand (north) fork of the trail, on the prairie rim (north) side of the trail.”

Also on the 30th, Felicia Lee and Elizabeth Martin birded the Lake Wauberg area: “At the boardwalk, we saw several American Redstarts, a Yellow Warbler, and a Prothonotary. We also ran into Frank Goodwin, who said he’d seen a large flock of Prairie Warblers as well as a Blue-winged Warbler off the Lake Trail, so we went up there to check it out. We saw only 3 or 4 Prairies, but we did find the Blue-winged and over a dozen Northern Parulas pretty easily. Fun morning!”

ALSO on the 30th, Becky Enneis spotted a Kentucky Warbler in her back yard in Alachua.

I got out to Bolen Bluff about five hours after Andy Kratter saw the Cerulean Warbler on the 27th. He’d left a bunch of sticks in the middle of the trail where he’d seen the bird, spelling out “CERW,” the banding code for Cerulean Warbler, but I couldn’t locate it in that area. I kept walking till I got to the fork in the trail, and then I heard a bunch of birds in the little pond off to the left. Walking back, I found a mixed feeding flock that included nine warbler species, among them one Blue-winged Warbler as well as Andy’s Cerulean, which was an adult male. After enjoying it for a while I walked a short distance down the right fork of the trail in search of a Kentucky Warbler that Felicia Lee and Elizabeth Martin had seen five days earlier. I wasn’t able to relocate it, so I started back to the car. Along the way I met Will Sexton and Mitch Walters, who were in search of the Cerulean. I led them to the pond where I’d seen it. Only five minutes had elapsed, but every last bird in that feeding flock was gone. We spent the next half-hour or so searching the adjoining woodlands – Dotty Robbins showed up to help us – but we never relocated the flock.

American Goldfinches don’t usually get here until later in the fall – I almost never see one until November – but in the past week early birds turned up in two locations. Dennis Knisely of High Springs photographed two at his feeders on the 26th (still there on the 30th) and Ron Robinson photographed one at his place at the west end of Gainesville on the 29th (not seen since). My records show only one previous August record in the county, at Ron’s place on August 28, 1996.

One thing about eBird. Though I fully support it (I’m a regional reviewer), it does sort of give the impression that birding didn’t exist until five years ago, since 99.9% of all birding records date from 2010 or later. Luckily John Hintermister, who’s been keeping personal records for Alachua County since 1968, has been entering his old checklists into eBird ever since he signed on. So if you do a search for Golden Eagle in Alachua County, you’ll see that it has in fact been recorded here, in 1974 at Newnans Lake and in 1981 at Paynes Prairie. But if John hadn’t entered his records, you wouldn’t know that Golden Eagle had ever been seen here at all (in fact there have been six reports over the years, the most recent in 1999, but the others weren’t entered into eBird). If you do a search for Brewer’s Blackbird, you’ll find three reports, one by Robert Repenning along Wacahoota Road in February 1977, and two by John Hintermister at Paynes Prairie, one in December 1969 and one in February 1990. In fact Brewer’s Blackbird was annually recorded on the Gainesville Christmas Bird Count from 1970 to 1990 in numbers ranging from 1 to 1,000 (average 151). So eBird is of limited use if you want to know the historical status of a species. If you’re only interested in recent trends, or in what’s being seen right now, it’s gangbusters.

Remember to mail those postcards that came in The Crane!

First Cerulean and Blue-winged Warblers!

The next issue of The Crane (the Alachua Audubon Society newsletter) should arrive in your mailbox in the next couple of days. It will contain two inserts. One is the complete 2015-16 field trip schedule, suitable for pinning to a bulletin board or hanging on a refrigerator with a magnet. The other is a set of four pre-stamped postcards, one each for Governor Scott, Representative Perry, Representative Watson, and Senator Bradley, telling them that we’re against leasing out Paynes Prairie for cattle grazing, forestry, or hunting. Please separate these postcards at the perforations, put your name and address on each one, and drop them in a mailbox.

Andy Kratter found the first Cerulean Warbler of the season at the Bolen Bluff Trail today, “in sweetgums 100 yards from parking lot, in feeding flock with Prothonotary Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Prairie Warbler, etc.” Andy had ten warbler species overall this morning. In addition to the Cerulean he saw 5 American Redstarts, a Worm-eating Warbler, an Ovenbird, 2 Northern Waterthrushes, 8 Yellow Warblers, and 3 Prairies.

Debbie Segal, Trina Anderson, and Rob Norton also accumulated ten warbler species at Owens-Illinois Park and the surrounding area this morning, “along the floodplain and upland fringe (after walking through the Owens Illinois Park) on the south side of the Windsor boat ramp. In just 1.5 hours, we saw 10 warbler species, which included Worm-eating, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Hooded, Prairie, Prothonotary, American Redstart, Black-and-white, Yellow-throated, and Northern Parula. We also spotted at least one Black Tern from the lake shore at the Windsor boat ramp and several more unidentifiable terns across the lake.”

Earlier in the morning, Debbie Segal saw the fall’s first Blue-winged Warbler at her place north of the Hague dairy.

Felicia Lee and Elizabeth Martin found a Kentucky Warbler at Bolen Bluff on the 22nd, “on the south branch of the trail near the first pond/puddle on the right.” On the day after, Felicia also found the season’s first Black-throated Blue Warbler at Palm Point; “in the same tree were a Prairie Warbler, a female/juv. American Redstart, a Northern Parula, and a Black-and-white Warbler, along with about a dozen local birds.”

Greg Hart of Alachua and Ron Robinson of western Gainesville have both reported Rufous Hummingbirds at their feeders since the 23rd, though Ron’s came and went in a day.

Remember to mail those postcards!

Alder Flycatcher at Cones Dike

From: Rex Rowan <rexrowan@gmail.com>
To: Alachua County birding report

On the 16th Gallus Quigley and Gerald Walker found two Alder Flycatchers and a Willow Flycatcher at Lake Apopka Restoration Area (formerly called Zellwood) in Orange County. Mike Manetz saw the eBird report and wondered if it would be worth looking for Alder Flycatchers here too. After all, they were recorded at Paynes Prairie in each of three previous years. So on the 17th he and Lloyd Davis and I walked out Sparrow Alley, where they’d been found in August 2013 and August 2014. We saw 5 Yellow Warblers, 3 Prairie Warblers, an American Redstart, an Orchard Oriole, and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, but no sight or sound of an Alder Flycatcher. So this morning Mike went over to Cones Dike, where Alders occurred for three years in a row, and near the sign announcing the end of the trail (at the Camps Canal end) he discovered one. The bird was both calling and singing, and Mike made recordings.

I took Matt O’Sullivan’s grandparents out La Chua on the 14th, and though we didn’t get them all the birds they wanted (we missed King Rail and never got a really good look at Least Bittern) we saw a male Painted Bunting near the barn, family groups of Blue Grosbeaks and Orchard Orioles near the barn, single Mississippi and Swallow-tailed Kites, numerous adult and juvenile Purple Gallinules, and a summering Blue-winged Teal (one of two in the area, the other being at Sweetwater Wetlands Park).

Take that, drone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hr-xBtVU4lg

Dr. Karl Miller of FWC writes, “We are recruiting birdwatchers who might be interested in helping look for color banded scrub-jays within Ocala National Forest. FWC has undertaken a multi-year survival and dispersal project, banding scrub-jays at four designated long-term study sites, then tracking their survival and movements over time. We are focusing our attention on all clearcut stands that are only a few years old. They are easy walking, and much of the surveying can be done from dirt roads. We use mp3 players to broadcast calls, bring them in close, and then record any bands we see. If you know of any birders who either visit Ocala NF periodically, or would like to do so in the future, and who would enjoy keeping an eye out for banded scrub-jays, please let me know! I can set you up with what you need to get started. Each of these re-sightings of a ‘lost’ banded bird on a new territory is extremely valuable to us! I can’t pay cash rewards, but perhaps I can repay the effort by inviting those who contribute to join us one morning when we band scrub-jays in September.” Contact Karl at karl.miller@myfwc.com or 352-575-8282.

Rufous Hummingbird, Painted Bunting, Black Terns

From: Rex Rowan <rexrowan@gmail.com>
To: Alachua County birding report

On the 9th Emerson Graveley photographed an adult male Rufous Hummingbird at his place near Newberry. It’s probably the same bird that visited his place last winter, but it’s certainly the county’s earliest ever: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/20424736462/in/dateposted-public/

Also on the 9th, George Hecht of SW Gainesville noticed a male Painted Bunting at his feeder. This could be a migrating bird, but most migrant Painted Buntings pass through during October. Is it only a coincidence that a Painted Bunting was reported singing at Sweetwater Wetlands Park a month ago? Mr. Hecht lives only a mile away. Here’s a photo of the bunting: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/19842576963/in/dateposted-public/

On the 8th Debbie Segal and her husband Bob Knight “boated around Newnans Lake and found a small flock of 5 Black Terns feeding over the south end of the lake. We also found three Forster’s Terns feeding over the lake. We launched from the Rochelle boat ramp on the east side of the lake. As we were launching, I heard loud chipping from the floodplain on the north side of the park and easily found two Northern Waterthrushes. After boating I went back into the floodplain and found a nice assortment of woodland birds – Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Great Crested Flycatcher, Yellow Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Northern Parula, Summer Tanager, woodpeckers (Downy, Pileated, Red-bellied), vireos (White-eyed, Yellow-throated, Red-eyed), and a few other common woodland species. These were seen around 12:30 p.m., not the best time of the day for birding. Morning birding in the floodplain may be even better.” Mike Manetz and I went out to Palm Point on the evening of the 9th in hopes of seeing the Black Terns. We saw 5-6 Laughing Gulls but no terns of any description.

You may have seen David Johnston’s obituary in Sunday’s paper. Johnston was one of the most important figures in the history of Alachua County birding. He taught zoology at the University beginning in 1963 and spent a lot of time exploring Alachua County with binoculars and shotgun. As far as I’m aware, he was the first person in 20 or 30 years to put a lot of time into studying the birds of this county. In May 1964 he discovered that Blue Grosbeaks were nesting here, having expanded their range from the north (like Indigo Buntings less than ten years earlier), he saw the first Red-breasted Nuthatch ever recorded in the county (November 30, 1968), and in Gilchrist County on January 11, 1969, he found and collected the first Sage Thrasher ever recorded east of the Mississippi River. He collected a lot of birds for the museum, and Andy Kratter commented just last week that his specimens were particularly well-prepared. He moved to Virginia in about 1979, but kept a winter home in Cedar Key, and in 2009 he self-published Cedar Key: Birding in Paradise: Finding Birds Then and Now, which contains a little history, a little advice on finding birds, and a complete list of species that have occurred there over the years, with brief notes about their status. He was sort of a cranky guy, and when Mike Manetz and I included Cedar Key in our 2006 edition of the Birdwatcher’s Guide he had plenty of criticisms, some of them bizarre – he maintained that there was no such tree as a Sand Pine and no such bird as a Long-billed Murrelet – but he backed off when I showed him the pertinent references, and later solicited my assistance with his Cedar Key book. I didn’t know him well, but I recognized him when he pulled up in his truck this spring as we were birding the road that parallels the Cedar Key airfield. He had a couple of little dogs on the seat beside him. He told me what he’d seen that morning and asked what we’d found – the typical birder’s conversation – and after a minute’s small talk he said goodbye and drove away.

Kentucky Warbler, Pectoral Sandpiper, and other migrants

From: Rex Rowan <rexrowan@gmail.com>
To: Alachua County birding report

Thoreau called it “the royal month of August.”

On the 6th Dean and Samuel Ewing checked out the shorebird situation at the Hague Dairy. Samuel wrote, “Walked around the lagoon, but found very poor shorebird habitat. Found much better habitat along NW 59th Drive, just to the east of the dairy, but almost zero shorebirds except for a nice group in the northernmost flooded field, where we had several species.” These included 15 Pectoral Sandpipers, 15 Killdeer, 4 Spotted Sandpipers, 2 Solitary Sandpipers, and 1 Least Sandpiper.

On the 5th Mike Manetz and I went looking for a Kentucky Warbler on the Bolen Bluff Trail. We didn’t find it – it’s still a little early – but we had an excellent morning nonetheless: four Black-and-white Warblers, an American Redstart, three Louisiana Waterthrushes, a Yellow Warbler, a Prairie Warbler, and two Hooded Warblers. The trail was flooded in places, thanks to the recent rains, but we’d expected that so we wore rubber boots. Another result of the rain: plenty of mosquitoes, especially along the first part of the trail, and that’s probably going to get worse as the season progresses.

On the 6th Mike found his Kentucky at San Felasco’s Millhopper Road entrance, as well as three Louisiana Waterthrushes, two Black-and-white Warblers, and several (probably resident) Hooded Warblers. Most of his birds were along the Moonshine Creek and Creek Sink Trails: “The Kentucky was up the narrow trail beyond the ‘Take only Pictures’ sign.”

The FWC’s Fox Squirrel program is up and running again. If you see one, report it: https://public.myfwc.com/hsc/foxsquirrel/GetLatLong.aspx Which makes me think of Courtney Tye, who worked on this before her untimely death. I was reminded of her not long ago, when I found a memorial plaque beside a longleaf pine that had been planted in her honor at Watermelon Pond Wildlife and Environmental Area (established partly to provide habitat for Fox Squirrels). And I found a moving remembrance of Courtney online: http://www.chicagonow.com/swirleytime/2014/02/courtney-tye/

I’ve posted a blog entry describing a May bird count at the islands off Cedar Key in May. It’s remarkable mainly for the excellent bird photos by Coleman Sheehy, Jr.: http://fieldguide.blogs.gainesville.com/485/bird-count-at-cedar-key/

American Avocet at Hague Dairy

From: Rex Rowan <rexrowan@gmail.com>
To: Alachua County birding report

John Hintermister just called (8:56 a.m.) to report an American Avocet at the Hague Dairy. The bird is best seen from NW 59th Drive, the road that runs north and south along the eastern edge of the dairy property. From the dairy’s back entrance (on 59th) go north to the powerlines, and the avocet is in a flooded field there. Good luck!

The visitor center at Paynes Prairie will close for remodeling on August 3rd and will remain closed until some time in January, though a temporary office trailer will be set up in the visitor center parking lot. If you’re looking for a copy of A Birdwatcher’s Guide to Alachua County, Florida, you can buy one there at the visitor center before it closes – or, if you live in Gainesville, you can pick up a copy at Wild Birds Unlimited, next door to The Flying Biscuit. Everybody needs one, it’s been voted The Great American Novel even though it isn’t a novel, which should give you some idea of how good it is!

Bookmark this page: some of you may not know that Mike Manetz is a great songwriter who once made a living as a bass player. He’s been posting some of his music on SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/manetzma It’s hard to choose among so many terrific songs, but I’d particularly recommend “My Baby Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” (just because, as a former English major, I’m impressed with the rhyme scheme – every other line ends in “-ore”), “Clouds and Silver Linings,” which is about a father and son, and the moving “Goin’ Back to Kentucky.” They’re all good, really. Bookmark the page, as I said. Give them a listen.

As the kids would say, Awesome! This is Michigan, June 2011: https://www.facebook.com/BobAnderson23/videos/2675341286076/

Here’s something not to do: take a selfie with a rattlesnake: http://www.10news.com/news/mans-ordeal-stirs-debate-on-cost-of-treating-rattlesnake-bites My daughter comments, “This explains why peanut cans have to display a label that says, ‘Warning! Contains peanuts!'”

My latest Gainesville Sun blog deals with the Seahorse Key nest desertion and suggests a possible solution to the mystery, but you’ll have to read both Part One and Part Two.

Government in the Shadows vs. Paynes Prairie

From: Rex Rowan <rexrowan@gmail.com>
To: Alachua County birding report

See Bob Simons’s editorial below. Also, if you’re on Facebook, you can follow (or is it “friend”?) the Protect Paynes Prairie organization: https://www.facebook.com/protectpaynesprairie

There are two or maybe three interrelated matters here: (1.) use of Paynes Prairie (and State Parks in general) by private businesses; (2.) appointment of Jon Steverson, a big supporter of the private use of public land, as head of the Department of Environmental Protection; and, admittedly speculative, but I can imagine it developing on the horizon, (3.) using this as an excuse to divert Amendment 1 money toward management of State Parks rather than purchase of additional state lands – which may in fact be the ultimate aim here.

Please read Bob’s editorial below.

Government in the Shadows vs. Paynes Prairie
by Bob Simons

The workings of government in Tallahassee have always been messy. The money from the Florida Lottery, voted upon by the people of Florida for the purpose of increasing funding for education, was long ago siphoned off into the murky politics of Tallahassee. Amendment One, also voted upon by the people of Florida (passing by a 75% to 25 % majority of the people who voted) is suffering the same fate. (The overall funding for the environment in the State’s 2015 budget, in spite of supposed additions from Amendment One, is $48 million less than it was in the 2014 budget according to Pegeen Hanrahan – Gainesville Sun 7/19/15.) The Water Management Districts, designed to carefully ration Florida’s fresh water supply to ensure a sustainable future for the people of Florida have been downsized and reworked to eliminate the “sustainable” aspect of that idea. And now, it seems, Tallahassee’s attention has turned to Florida’s State Parks.

Some time ago, the people of Florida came up with a plan to help reduce or limit some of the worst aspects of state and local politics by devising a legal system termed “Government in the Sunshine”. This has never been perfect, but it has been helpful. Alas, nothing lasts forever.

What is happening? Well, this is pretty hard to determine, due to systematic circumventing of the “Sunshine” aspect of governance. No public announcements have been made. No plans have been revealed. No public workshops have been held. Only by listening to recently-retired people who have worked for the State Park System for many decades do we learn that there is a concerted effort in Tallahassee to dramatically alter State Park management. First, budgets and numbers of employees have been reduced year after year. Second, there seems to be a plan to privatize much of the management of the parks, as evidenced by more and more management activities are being done by private contractors. Third, the Governor and his proposed appointee, Jon Steverson, have stated the intention to introduce hunting, cattle grazing, and timbering to State Parks to make them more profitable. This last bit is being called multiple use management.

It is this last bit that now seems to be coming to Paynes Prairie. Or is it? No plans have been revealed to the people of Florida. However, private cattle ranchers have recently been asked to consider cattle leases on Paynes Prairie.

Paynes Prairie has a long history of cattle ranching. It was one of the first cattle ranches in North America, when Spanish colonists first settled here. Later, it was a Seminole cattle ranch under the leadership of the Seminole Chief, King Payne, for whom the Prairie is named. Later still, it was Camp Ranch, up until it was purchased by the State and added to the State Parks System as the first State Preserve. After careful study by a distinguished group of scientists soon after this purchase, it was determined that cattle grazing was unwise, if the purpose was to preserve the native fauna, flora, and ecology of the Prairie in a healthy condition. The dikes, canals, ditches, and pumps that kept the Prairie dry to facilitate grazing were then removed, and the water from Sweetwater Branch has just recently been allowed back onto the Prairie.

Should all of this be undone? Should we go back to managing the Prairie as a cattle ranch? If so, why did we spend so much tax money buying the land, filling in the canals and ditches, removing pumps, removing fences, and establishing trails for visitors? Does this make any sense? Are we going to have any say in this? Are we even going to be informed?

Of course, this isn’t just about Paynes Prairie. This applies to all of Florida’s State Parks. Up until now, Florida’s State Parks have been managed to maintain examples of natural Florida for people to visit and enjoy. Unlike the vast majority of public lands, such as state and national forests, wildlife refuges, and water management district lands, our state parks have not been used for hunting, cattle grazing for profit, and timbering for profit. When lands have been purchased by the various efforts such as Florida Forever, the purchased lands were evaluated, and those that could support timbering, grazing, and hunting were assigned to agencies that practice multiple use management. Lands where hunting, grazing, and timbering would be damaging or inappropriate were assigned to the state park system. True, state parks do not make quite enough money to pay for their own management. They make about 77% of this amount. Hunting, grazing and timbering might add to this, but at what cost? If it damages the value of the parks for ecotourism, it will clearly be a penny wise and pound foolish change. The economic value of our State Park System (voted the best state park system in the country) to Florida’s overall economy is vastly greater than the budgets for park management.

It seems that all of the effort to make Florida’s State Parks the best in the land and uniquely different from other sorts of public lands is about to be undone in the shadowy back rooms in Tallahassee. Or is it? Would the people of Florida really let that happen?
Thanks, Bob.

There’s another good editorial in today’s paper: http://www.gainesville.com/article/20150728/OPINION01/150729709/1076/opinion01?Title=Editorial-Protecting-state-parks

Fall migration underway

From: Rex Rowan <rexrowan@gmail.com>
To: Alachua County birding report

Jennifer Donsky saw the season’s first American Redstart at San Felasco City Park on July 20th and the season’s first Prairie Warbler at La Chua on the 21st.

Ron Robinson and I walked out La Chua on the 24th in search of migrants and did better than we expected. We saw one Yellow Warbler and two Prairie Warblers along Sparrow Alley, then walked out to the observation platform, where we saw two or three more Yellow Warblers, one Lesser Yellowlegs, and one distant shorebird that I’m pretty sure was a Stilt Sandpiper: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/19380630533/in/dateposted-public/ We also saw two Roseate Spoonbills from the platform. We looked for the Whooping Crane seen by Jennifer on the 21st, but saw no sign of it. And although we saw two Wood Ducks and plenty of Mottled Ducks and Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, the Blue-winged Teal that was present through at least the 13th was nowhere to be seen. The water is now too high for mud flats, and the shoreline vegetation is encroaching on the open water to such an extent that it looks about a third smaller than it did at the beginning of the June Challenge.

I see that the Ospreys have left the nest near the GPD office. The young Osprey on the powerline support overlooking the sidewalk that leads to La Chua is fully feathered and ready to fly – but still being fed by its parents as of the 24th. Kids these days.

I’ve just become aware of a Flickr group called “Alachua County Birding” that Sam Ewing set up last September. If you’re a photographer and you’d like to join and contribute bird pictures, here’s the link: https://www.flickr.com/groups/2753272@N22/pool/

Google Earth and Google Maps are finally showing Sweetwater Wetlands Park. It’s not a recent depiction – the driveway is still unpaved – but it’s much better than it was.

Katherine Edison, on the verge of a move to Athens, Georgia, wrote a beautiful farewell to her yard and all its flora and fauna: http://earthteachme.blogspot.com/2015/07/closer-to-home.html

Be sure to share that information about Paynes Prairie (here) with all your Facebook friends. And sign the petition set up by Shirley Lasseter: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/paynes-prairie-in-danger.fb51?source=s.fb&r_by=46840

Paynes Prairie in danger

From: Rex Rowan <rexrowan@gmail.com>
To: Alachua County birding report

You may have read in the papers that Governor Scott is encouraging private business to rent our State Parks for grazing cattle or growing trees. Myakka River was first, but Paynes Prairie is now in the sights. Cattle ranch owners have already been invited to government meetings to discuss setting aside part of the Prairie for grazing cattle. Whether or not you support Governor Scott on other issues, you will hopefully agree that this is a misuse of our park system. Forbidding certain sectors of publicly-owned land to the general public, while allowing a small subset of the public to use those sectors for individual profit, is not what the State Parks were created for, but it seems to be what the current administration has in mind.

Jim Stevenson, the retired Chief Naturalist of the State Park system (not to be confused with the cat-shooting Jim Stevenson of Galveston, Texas), has sketched out the strategy that Governor Scott, his appointees, and like-minded legislators have mapped out in order to achieve this end. Here is Jim’s view of “The Big Picture”:
A few years ago, Governor Scott’s previous DEP Secretary told his deputy secretary that he wanted to privatize the entire state park system. The deputy advised against it, knowing there would be a huge public outcry.

The current game plan to reach that goal:

1. Exploit the natural resources through hunting, cattle grazing and timbering which will require “private” contractors and further crush morale of the park service staff.

2. Starve the parks by eliminating more staff and funding each year including professional biologists and education staff. DEP has recommended cutting 209 park service positions during the Scott administration. Instead, the Legislature cut 78 positions.

3. In the absence of adequate staff and funding, the parks won’t be able to get their job done.

4. Gov. Scott increases “Free Days” which reduces revenue while park managers are struggling to increase revenue.

5. The parks’ facilities and resources will deteriorate and the politicians will criticize the poor management.

6. Since the park service will not been able to maintain the resources, DEP is justified to “privatize the state park system.” Of course government should be run like a business.

End Game is achieved.

“The first sign of tyranny is government’s complicity in privatizing the commons for private gain.” Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

The future of Florida’s state parks depends on your apathy or your action. It is your choice.
That’s the end of Jim’s statement.

It’s important to remember that the Park Service is not a willing participant in this process. The Park Service is under attack. It’s our job to stand with them against Governor Scott and his allies. Emails and phone calls to the governor and cabinet members will be helpful in stopping this anti-park, anti-nature, anti-human-being plan from becoming reality. Take a few minutes to call or email at the numbers and addresses given below and tell them what you think of their plans for Paynes Prairie right now. Communication with the cabinet – Bondi, Atwater, and Putnam – is particularly important, since they’re not getting along so well with Governor Scott right now.

Governor Rick Scott (850) 488-7146 or http://www.flgov.com/contact-gov-scott/email-the-governor/

Attorney General Pam Bondi (850) 414-3300 or http://myfloridalegal.com/contact.nsf/contact?Open&Section=Attorney_General

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater (850) 413-2850 or jeff.atwater@myfloridacfo.com

Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam (850) 488-3022 or http://app2.freshfromflorida.com/contact/?ID=1

Senator Rob Bradley (904) 278-2085 or https://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/s7 (Click on “Email this Senator)

Representative Keith Perry (352) 264-4040 or http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/emailrepresentative.aspx?MemberId=4497&SessionId=81

Representative Clovis Watson (352) 264-4001 or http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/emailrepresentative.aspx?MemberId=4541&SessionId=81

Summertime, and the birdin’ is … sort of slow, actually

From: Rex Rowan <rexrowan@gmail.com>
To: Alachua County birding report

Well, we’re past the solstice. We’ve lost eleven minutes of daylight since June 21st; sunrise this morning was nine minutes later, sunset two minutes earlier. The birds have gotten quieter. I worked in my back yard for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon and during that time I heard only one American Crow and one Fish Crow. I saw a Great Crested Flycatcher, and it made me wonder when I last heard that familiar wheep! They’re usually silent during the latter half of the summer, and then start calling again in August, a few weeks before their departure for Latin American wintering grounds. When was the last time you heard a Northern Cardinal singing?

I did hear a Northern Mockingbird two days ago, imitating the song of an Eastern Phoebe, which it wouldn’t have heard since March.

Speaking of vocalizations, Frank Goodwin recorded a young Carolina Wren practicing its song in his yard on the 21st and posted it to xeno-canto. It’s a curiously random series of phrases, barely recognizable as a Carolina Wren: http://www.xeno-canto.org/253665

The best bird seen in the past couple of weeks was a Shiny Cowbird, the county’s seventh-ever, that Lloyd Davis spotted at Sweetwater Wetlands Park on July 5th. He got a photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/19529364808/in/dateposted-public/

Equally interesting – perhaps more so – is a singing Painted Bunting reported in eBird by Jessica Burnett on the 11th. Mike Manetz made a general inquiry about this, and learned that Rick Stransky had seen a male in the same location the week before. This would be only the second July record for the species in the county, and its presence in midsummer raises the question of nesting. Painted Buntings have never nested in Alachua County, so this is intriguing. Keep an eye out for a female or a family group if you go out there this weekend.

Early fall migrants continue to show up … slowly. Barbara Shea saw a Greater Yellowlegs at La Chua on the 27th, and it was seen again on the 1st by Lloyd Davis. The fall’s first Spotted Sandpiper was reported at Sweetwater Wetlands Park by Trina Anderson on the 12th. Ben and Sam Ewing have found three Louisiana Waterthrushes in the Loblolly area in the two weeks beginning on the 30th, but the Black-and-white Warbler seen by Adam and Gina Kent at their SE Gainesville home on the 14th was the first since Tina Greenberg found one in her west Gainesville yard in the final days of the June Challenge.

I’m still blogging for the Gainesville Sun, though I didn’t accomplish much on my vacation. Here’s a post on Steven Goodman and Sam Ewing’s victory in Georgia’s Youth Birding Competition: http://fieldguide.blogs.gainesville.com/392/florida-beats-georgia/

And here’s an Indigo Snake story: http://fieldguide.blogs.gainesville.com/401/the-indigo-snake-story/