Major birdage at Newnans Lake!

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

The Patagonia Picnic Table Effect was operating at Newnans Lake today. After hearing about Andy Kratter’s sighting of a Red-throated Loon from the Windsor boat ramp yesterday, several birders descended on the lake (some at Windsor, some at Palm Point), including Lloyd Davis, John Hintermister, and Bryan Tarbox. I hope they will excuse me if I just give a cumulative list of their best finds:

Greater White-fronted Goose 3
Snow Goose 1
Ring-necked Duck 60
Red-breasted Merganser 3
Ruddy Duck 10
Common Loon 21
Horned Grebe 3

Husband-and-wife team Bob Knight and Debbie Segal had the wrong lake, but the right idea, when they took their boat out today. They did pretty well, though. Debbie writes, “Bob and I boated around Lake Lochloosa and Orange Lake today. Orange Lake wasn’t particularly birdy, or at least we didn’t find the birds there, but Lochloosa Lake was impressive. Most exciting was finding a huge flock of Ruddy Ducks, well over 400, at the north central end of the lake. However, the slight chop and boat rocking made it difficult to estimate the number, but the flock extended out into the lake in multiple directions. There were a few Bufflehead and Horned Grebes with the Ruddys. Also a tight group of Common Loons floating together near the group of Ruddies. At the southern end of the lake in amongst the floating hydrilla was a large group of American Coots, over 600. Mixed in with the coots were Pied-billed Grebes, Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal, Northern Shovelers, and Ring-necked Ducks.”

Red-throated Loon at Newnans Lake

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

On the morning of Saturday the 15th Andy Kratter was scanning Newnans Lake from the Windsor boat ramp when he spied a Red-throated Loon. He wrote, “Watched for 40 min. Thin bill pointed above horizontal entire time. Whiter face and thinner neck than Common Loon. Nape paler than back. Indistinct contrast between nape and white throat.”

More waterfowl are showing up: Buck Snelson saw a hen Canvasback at the sheetflow restoration area on the 7th, by eleven days a new early record; and Geoff Parks saw the fall’s first Snow Goose along the La Chua Trail on the 9th. On the 14th Barbara Shea and Steve Nesbitt saw an American Wigeon and a flock of Northern Pintails along the La Chua Trail.

More sparrows are showing up too. Adam Kent reported three Henslow’s Sparrows “in the far field” at Gum Root Park on the 12th.

And Gainesville’s favorite migrants, the Sandhill Cranes, are beginning to arrive as well. Barbara Shea and Steve Nesbitt saw “obviously migrating” Sandhills over La Chua on the 14th, and at about 8:30 that same evening Austin Gregg heard a “large flock” flying over his Duck Pond neighborhood.

Matt O’Sulllivan found some excellent birds during a walk along the Cones Dike Trail on the 12th: a Clay-colored Sparrow, a Nashville Warbler, a Least Flycatcher, and a lingering migrant Swainson’s Thrush. He photographed all of them, and you can see the pictures on his Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/118053703@N02/

Some nice birds have visited Cedar Key during the last week and a half. John Hintermister and Debbie Segal found one Scissor-tailed Flycatcher at the airfield on the 4th, and Pat Burns found a second near downtown on the 9th. Geoff Parks found a Bronzed Cowbird at the park adjoining the beach on the 11th. However I led a Clearwater Audubon field trip to Cedar Key on the 15th and we found none of these birds, though we did see a Reddish Egret roosting in a mangrove near the airfield.

If you’d like to visit the sheetflow restoration area, you’ll be interested in this invitation from Debbie Segal: “GRU has given Alachua Audubon special permission to conduct a birding field trip at the Paynes Prairie Sheetflow Wetland on Saturday, Nov. 22nd at 8 a.m. The Sheetflow Wetland is still undergoing final construction activities and is expected to open on a limited basis sometime in January. Because the area is an active construction site, we are required to adhere to the following: visitors have to stay in a group and cannot venture around on their own, and all visitors are required to sign in and sign a liability release. The field trip attendance will be limited to 40 people. We will divide into three smaller groups and have three field trip leaders. If you are interested in attending this field trip, please confirm with Debbie Segal (debbie.segal@gmail.com) so she can sign you up and send you the liability release and directions to the meeting location. The field trip is estimated to last approximately three hours. Since the gate will be locked while we are on the field trip, it will be difficult to accommodate those who arrive late or need to leave early.

Yellow-headed Blackbird at Hague Dairy

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

Greg McDermott wrecked his car four months after he moved to Gainesville in 1992. So Mike Manetz and I used to pick him up at his apartment and take him along when we went birding. Greg moved away in 1998, but he’s stayed in touch, and has returned for every Christmas Bird Count since then. In recent years Greg has taken up the electric guitar, and (if you didn’t know) Mike played bass guitar for many years with local rock, country, and blues bands; so when Greg comes down for the CBC they have informal jam sessions in Mike’s living room. Last year I introduced them to The Cramps, a brief enthusiasm of my younger years, and they invited me to join them in a performance of “Strychnine,” singing the vocals. I did this about as well as I do most things, which is to say, not very well. In fact, the caliber of last year’s rendition prompted Mike to send me this email a couple of days ago: “Hey Rex, you know Greg is coming and we’re getting the band back together. Wondered if you could cover the vocals on this: http://spazzdhn.tumblr.com/post/91320324689

Saturday morning’s field trip to the Hague Dairy was one of the worst field trips I’ve ever been on. The birds were sheltering in the brush and weeds and would not be lured into the open. We had a few brief but clear looks at a Sedge Wren, we saw the fall’s first flock of American Robins (11 of them), and Savannah Sparrows and Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers popped up occasionally. But there was very little warbler and sparrow diversity, there were no ducks and few raptors, and there were no Indigo or Painted Buntings. Not surprisingly, most of the 24 birders who turned out for the trip went home before it ended. This satisfied the birding gods’ appetite for a sacrifice, and consequently they granted us a gift. At our final stop, as we pored through a flock of cowbirds on the roof of an animal building, Shane Runyon spotted a Yellow-headed Blackbird, and it stayed put long enough for everyone to get a decent look. That’s birding for you: three and a half hours of nothing redeemed by a single great bird!

Late this afternoon I walked out La Chua to the observation platform. My primary purpose was to see what had become of Sweetwater Branch, the drainage ditch that was filled in for the sake of the new sheetflow restoration project. Here’s what Sweetwater looked like almost exactly three years ago (ditch directly in front of you, dike trail visible to the left): https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/15742957225/ And here’s what it looks like now: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/15719228906/ I didn’t see too much on La Chua – I arrived late – but there were a lot of Tree and Barn Swallows, Ring-necked Ducks, an American Bittern, and a King Rail. I didn’t see the Vermilion Flycatcher that Trina Anderson photographed on the 7th – https://www.flickr.com/photos/46902575@N06/15731848951/ – but it was already pretty gloomy by the time I got to the platform. There’s no open water along the first two-thirds of the trail, in Alachua Sink or in the first part of the canal, but it opens up as it nears Alachua Lake.

The fall transients are mostly gone now, but you never can tell. Austin Gregg had a Rose-breasted Grosbeak visit his back yard on Saturday: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/15745549802/

The World Big Day Record was broken in Peru on October 14th, which gives me an opportunity to link to this half-hour video of the Florida Museum’s Scott Robinson describing the previous World Big Day Record that he and Ted Parker set in 1982. Scott is an articulate and entertaining speaker, and the whole talk is enjoyable – but it’s hard to beat the anecdote he tells in the first 60 seconds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUXAEwWw-LQ

Speaking of Peru, Adam Kent will describe his participation in the Peru Birding Rally at the Alachua Audubon program meeting at the Millhopper Branch Library this Monday, November 10th. Refreshments and sparking conversation commence at 6:30, Adam will begin his talk and slide show at 7:00. Here’s another birder’s impression of the 2014 Rally, with Adam peeking into the very left edge of the first photo: http://birdernaturalist.blogspot.com/2014/05/peru-birding-rally-challenge-days-7-8.html

Vermilion Flycatcher, Horned Grebe, plus La Chua Trail open again

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

Debbie Segal found the season’s first Vermilion Flycatcher, a female, at the Sheetflow Restoration project on the 30th.

On the 1st the La Chua Trail opened up again. Paynes Prairie’s park biologist Andi Christman and Tom Fox walked out to the observation platform that morning and found a Horned Grebe there, by two days the earliest ever recorded in the county: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/15066791904/

I’ve read about Franklin’s Gulls being seen up and down the Atlantic Coast over the past few days, so on the 31st and again on the 1st I spent some time at Palm Point scoping the lake in hopes of seeing one. I was disappointed, though I did see 17 distant gulls flying north to south on the 31st. Some looked like Laughing Gulls, some looked like Ring-billed Gulls, all of them could have been something else, but none were Franklin’s. On the 1st I saw no gulls at all, but I did see a flock of ducks that included a few drake Redheads, and there was also a mixed flock of swallows just off the Point, mostly Tree Swallows but half a dozen Barn Swallows and an extremely late Bank Swallow as well (previous late record, October 6th).

On the 31st Mike Manetz wrote, “Just got back from my 5th trip to the Hague Dairy in 6 days. Still no Yellow-headed Blackbirds. In fact, the Brown-headed Cowbirds have even gotten fickle. First two days I was there I found over 1,000 of them, but they were mostly hiding in the rafters and feeding in the darkest reaches of the barn. Was lucky to get the Bronzed Cowbird on Saturday. Last few days there have been few cowbirds around. John Hintermister and I found about 300 at the calf operation north of the dairy. Today there were about 150, mostly feeding in the lot along the main drive west of the entrance buildings. If you happen to post anything about the dairy, you might want to mention that it has been very busy out there, at least in the mornings. In addition to the usual feed trucks going back and forth, there is a lot of earth moving going on – front end loaders, etc. – so folks should be extra careful to stay out of the way.” The dairy has posted a list of rules for birders on the office window: please read and heed.

Don’t forget the Avian Research and Conservation Institute benefit at First Magnitude Brewery a block east of South Main Street from 4:00 to 6:00 on Sunday afternoon. Details, and a map, here: http://arcinst.org/events ARCINST does some of the most important bird-conservation research in North America, and it’s based right here in Gainesville. Come out to learn about their work with Swallow-tailed Kites, Short-tailed Hawks, and Magnificent Frigatebirds, among other species, and to chat with your fellow Alachua County birders while sipping one of FM’s tasty beers (I recommend Drift English Mild) or a glass of cider.

Bronzed Cowbird, Philadelphia Vireo, and other fall rarities

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

In only three days the County Commission will vote on whether to close one end of Barr Hammock’s Levy Lake Loop, turning it into an unwalkable ten-mile in-and-out trail, and more seriously, putting a handful of private citizens in control of your public property. The Sun editorialized about it yesterday: http://www.gainesville.com/article/20141024/OPINION01/141029870/1076/opinion?Title=Editorial-Keep-the-trail-open

Speaking of publicly inaccessible trails, La Chua will remain closed beyond the boardwalk through the end of the month. The boardwalk and Sparrow Alley are accessible, but the remainder of the trail won’t reopen until November 1st.

A Bronzed Cowbird was found by Adam Kent and Dean and Samuel Ewing at the Hague Dairy on the 15th. It was still there on the 23rd, when Matt O’Sullivan photographed it: https://www.flickr.com/photos/118053703@N02/15612468082/

Also on the 15th, an Oak Hall School field trip that numbered local birders Michael Martinez and John Dickinson among its participants discovered a Roseate Spoonbill and two Black Skimmers at the sheetflow restoration site. This was the 19th occurrence of Black Skimmers in Alachua County; the first one was discovered at Newnans Lake 73 years ago this month.

The county’s only Philadelphia Vireo of the fall was spotted by Samuel Ewing in his NW Gainesville yard on the 18th. Samuel photographed another bird that’s rarely seen in Alachua County during the fall, a Cape May Warbler that visited his yard on the 24th and 25th: https://www.flickr.com/photos/121511542@N02/15432413000/

I was late for the Bolen Bluff field trip on the 12th, and consequently missed the Bay-breasted Warbler and two Barred Owls, one of which was photographed by Alan Shapiro: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/15600277366/

Sparrows are arriving: the first Savannah was spotted on the 11th, and now they’re plentiful enough that Matt Bruce found 12 along the Levy Lake Loop on the 22nd; Adam Kent and Dean and Samuel Ewing found the season’s first Swamp Sparrow at the Hague Dairy on the 15th and counted 15 of them along La Chua just a week later; Jonathan Mays found the fall’s first Grasshopper Sparrow at La Chua on the 19th; and Matt O’Sullivan photographed the first Vesper Sparrow, a rather early one, at the Hague Dairy on the 23rd: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/15437448989/

A week from tomorrow, on Sunday, November 2nd, Avian Research and Conservation – the Gainesville-based organization that does satellite tracking on Swallow-tailed Kites and other birds – will have a fund-raiser at the First Magnitude Brewing Company just off South Main Street. Try one of their locally-brewed beers or their cider (“all ages welcome and we are kid-friendly”), chat with your fellow birders, and help ARCINST continue its valuable research: http://arcinst.org/events

Hey, it’s time to put Christmas Bird Counts on your calendar:
• Andy Kratter writes, “The Gainesville Christmas Count has new compilers! After years of dedicated and strong leadership, Howard Adams and John Hintermister are retiring. Bob Carroll and I are taking over. We will run the count pretty much identical to the way it has been run for the last 20 years, and keep the current geographical and personnel structure, including the team captains. The Gainesville CBC this year is on 14 December. Mark you calendars!” If you’re interested in doing the Count, email Andy at kratter@flmnh.ufl.edu
• Cedar Key’s Count will be Tuesday, December 30th. Contact Dale Henderson (dalehenderson2@icloud.com or 352-543-5166) or Ron Christen (ronrun@embarqmail.com or 850-567-0490) if you’d like to participate.
Other local Counts:
• Tuesday, December 16 – Ichetucknee/Santa Fe/O’Leno: Contact Ginger Morgan at 386-208-4313 or ginger.morgan@dep.state.fl.us Volunteers are needed.
• Thursday, December 18 – Melrose: Contact Joyce King (sjoyceking@comcast.net 352-475-1999) or Laura Berkelman (lberkelman@windstream.net, 352-475-2023) Volunteers are needed.
• Tuesday, December 30 (same day as Cedar Key) – Lake City: Contact Valerie Thomas at 386-466-2193 or v.thomas57@gmail.com Volunteers are needed.

Remember that the Barr Hammock question comes before the County Commission on Tuesday. Make plans to attend. The more of us there are, the more they’ll realize what “the public” means.

Connecticut Warbler at Bolen Bluff

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

I received the following email from Ignacio Rodriguez: “Sunday afternoon at Bolen Bluff I spotted what I identified as a Connecticut Warbler. It was on the ground, almost at the end of the trail (right fork) just where the trail goes downhill, approximately 100-150 meters before the Prairie. It had a clear eye ring, gray head and chest, and yellowish belly, and was olive above. I saw it around 6:30 PM, not the best light, but the eye ring was very clear, which caught my attention. I hope someone can confirm.” I contacted Ignacio to get a more exact location, and it seems to have been on the slope below the covered bench that overlooks the edge of the Prairie basin. This is the 13th report of Connecticut Warbler in Alachua County, but only the third in fall; the other two were: in Gainesville on 20 Oct 1975 by Jim Horner and at San Felasco Hammock on 15 Sep 1982 by Stewart Levinson.

The Home Depot Pond was swarming with waders this morning as I drove by on the interstate on-ramp. I saw Wood Storks, White Ibises, various white herons and egrets, and lots of Glossy Ibises. Those Glossy Ibises (better plural: WE-bis, according to John Sivinski) might be worth checking for a White-faced Ibis straying from out west. We’ve been seeing those annually during the last several years.

This Wednesday, October 15th, the Alachua Audubon program meeting will feature Katherine Edison on “Sharing Nature Through Photography.” Katherine will discuss photography as a tool for teaching and for inspiring an interest in nature, and will present creative ways to use photography as well as examples of easy project ideas and some basic photography pointers. As with all Alachua Audubon functions, the general public is welcome. The social begins at 6:30 p.m. and the program at 7:00 p.m. at the Millhopper Library Meeting Room, 3145 NW 43rd Street, Gainesville. You may know Katherine’s nature blog “Earth Teach Me” – http://earthteachme.blogspot.com/

Bob Carroll keeps his birding boot firmly on the neck of the working man with yet another bird walk for those who are retired or otherwise free this Thursday morning: “Please include a mention of our Thursday Bird Walk in your next mailing. We are meeting at San Felasco Progress Park at 8:00 on Thursday, October 16. Afterwards, some of us are going to lunch at Conestoga’s in Alachua. The food there is terrific and Main Street in Alachua is beautifully decorated for Halloween, so it should be fun. Anyone wanting to go to lunch should email me at gatorbob23@yahoo.com so I can warn the restaurant in advance.”

Winter is coming

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

We’re going to try something new for field trips: carpooling via the Audubon web site. First go to the field trip schedule: http://www.alachuaaudubon.org/classes-field-trips/ Click on a field trip, and the information bar will expand. Click on the button that says, “Read more.” Try it on the O’Leno trip; you’ll end up here: http://www.alachuaaudubon.org/event/oleno-state-park-3/?instance_id=349 Scroll down the page a bit, and you’ll see a gray box that says, “Leave a reply.” If you need a ride, or you’re willing to provide a ride, use the “Leave a reply” box to say so. Don’t wait till the last minute. I know how you can be.

What may turn out to be Alachua County’s sixth-ever Black-headed Grosbeak had a fatal collision with a window at UF’s Bartram Hall on the 9th (photo here). It was an immature bird, and Black-headed Grosbeaks of that age can be difficult to distinguish from Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. Andy Kratter will be prepping the specimen in the next week or so, and should be able to determine its identity then. Meanwhile, watch your feeders!

The arrival of Bay-breasted Warblers and Black-throated Green Warblers during the second week of October normally signals the last wave of neotropical migrants. This year the first Bay-breasted was extraordinarily early: Barbara Shea saw one at Sparrow Alley on September 21st, by thirteen days a new record. From the description it was in breeding plumage – they normally molt into winter plumage on the nesting grounds, before heading south – but that may be connected with its early arrival here. Jonathan Mays saw another relatively early Bay-breasted in his SE Gainesville yard on the 5th, and on the more typical date of October 9th Matt O’Sullivan saw one at Bolen Bluff and Dean and Samuel Ewing saw one in their NW Gainesville yard. Chris Burney spotted the only Black-throated Green that’s been reported this fall, on the 4th at Prairie Creek Preserve.

Jerry Krummrich had a nice day on Bellamy Road on the 3rd: “Was drawn to my favorite trail today and it was kinda birdy. Trail was wet but walkable and always interesting habitat changes from flooded woods to wildflowers in sandhills in a 50 yard stretch. Best bird was a Swainson’s Warbler along the trail with flooded woods in background. He was repeating call notes I was unfamiliar with – unlike Ovenbird, clearer and less frequent, less agitated attitude. He was cooperative and hopped up on limbs about 10 feet away/5 feet off ground. Had 11 warblers total including Blue-winged and Golden-winged in same tree, a dozen Ovenbirds, 1 Redstart and a Magnolia. Had a Merlin and a Cooper’s over scrub open woods. Several Empidonax and Veerys.” I asked Jerry where along Bellamy Road he was, and he replied, “I was referring to the Interpretive Trailhead, a portion of O’Leno SP located/accessed off 441 just south of main entrance road to O’Leno. You turn on Bellamy here (is a sign on highway), drive east and enter parking area trailhead. Trail connects to Sweetwater Branch Trail. I enjoy birding here because of habitat diversity – sandhill, scrub, and floodplain – it’s the area on top of the underground Santa Fe River which turns into a meandering slough during rainy periods – lots of tree species. Trail also connects to marked horse trails – lots of edges. Yes – sorry – it’s in Columbia County.” So now you’ve got a new birding spot to check out, or just a pretty place to take a walk.

Mike Manetz and I spent a couple of hours birding at the Powers Park fishing pier on the 9th. We saw no Ospreys, which is normal for October, but no Limpkins either, which was very surprising given their abundance at Newnans over the past couple of years. We did, however, see a Peregrine Falcon come cruising along the southern shore of the lake at treetop level, veer out into the open at the mouth of the boat channel to give us a nice close-range look, and then head in the direction of Paynes Prairie. Samuel Ewing didn’t have to go to Powers Park to see a Peregrine; he photographed one flying over his yard on the 11th: https://www.flickr.com/photos/121511542@N02/15322086547/in/photostream/

The Alachua Audubon field trip to O’Leno on the 11th had only middling success. Warblers were sparse, and overall we didn’t see many birds of any sort. However we came across two fruiting tupelo trees that attracted thrushes of three species (Wood, Swainson’s, Gray-cheeked) and tanagers of two species (Scarlet, Summer). The day was beautiful, the trail was beautiful, and the mosquitoes were few. On the way home Mike and I spent a few minutes at the Hague Dairy because it’s getting to be time for Yellow-headed Blackbirds. They often travel with big flocks of Brown-headed Cowbirds, but today cowbird flocks appeared to be nonexistent.

Ron Robinson photographed the fall’s first Wilson’s Warbler at his backyard bird bath on the 7th: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/15287033897/

As the migration of neotropical species draws to a close, the winter birds are starting to show up. The first Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, two of them, were seen by Matt Bruce at Palm Point on the 4th. The first Blue-headed Vireo was seen by John Hintermister at Bolen Bluff on the 5th. The first American Goldfinch – a very early bird – was seen by Andy Kratter in his SE Gainesville yard on the 6th, and it was Andy who saw the first Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Bolen Bluff on the 7th. The first Yellow-rumped Warbler (!), another early bird, was seen by Mike Manetz at Palm Point on the 9th. And I saw the winter’s first sparrow, a Savannah, at the Hague Dairy on the 11th.

Speaking of winter, Ron Pittaway’s annual Winter Finch Forecast has been posted on the eBird web site: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/news/wf1415/

When we visit the Cedar Key cemetery, we always park in the shady grove of sand pines at the north end. Until this week there was a thick border of palmettos and scrubby vegetation growing along the driveway. Now it looks like this. Migratory birds have one less bit of shelter on this island, which has become too popular for its own good. If you’d like to protest this action, and say a few words on behalf of the birds (and remind those in power that birders often visit Cedar Key, and spend money there), write the Cedar Key Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 610, Cedar Key, FL 32625 AND Mayor Dale Register, P.O. Box 339 Cedar Key, FL 32625.

Remember: carpooling via the Alachua Audubon web site!

Got warblers? Why yes, yes we do!

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

Adam Zions found two Nashville Warblers at Paynes Prairie this morning. He wrote, “They were foraging together along Sparrow Alley. Both had light gray hoods and conspicuous, complete white eye-rings. Yellow undersides transitioned to a white lower belly before transitioning back to yellow. Trace of yellow underside noted on shoulders of both as well. In proximity of female Common Yellowthroats which made for good comparison.” He also found 12 Prairie Warblers and a Yellow-breasted Chat. I phoned him and asked where the Nashvilles were, and he said they were between the beginning of Sparrow Alley (near the old stable) and the power line cut, and that they were fairly conspicuous in their behavior. By the time we spoke he’d walked on to the sheetflow restoration area and was trying to hunt down a bird he’d quickly glimpsed that might have been either a Black-bellied Plover or an American Golden-Plover, both very rare birds in Alachua County. (Map of Sparrow Alley is here. If the map does not show you an aerial photograph, click on the little square in the lower left corner of the screen that says, “Earth.”)

Meanwhile, I got a brief email from Austin Gregg at 11:30 that said, “Warblerpalooza at Palm Point right now.” He reports that the Canada Warbler is there.

Sounds like a good day to get outside.

Fall migration count results

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

As I mentioned last fall, for three years I’ve been working with the American Entomological Institute to catalog the paper wasps of north Florida. I thought the project would be about my speed – eight or nine species to work with, all pretty easily distinguishable, just about right for an amateur with a butterfly net and a stupid grin on his face. But an actual entomologist got involved, and it turns out that three to five of the “species” are actually complexes, each of which contains two to four different species. At least this seems to be the case based on markings and structural differences; it can be confirmed only by DNA analysis. Anyway, I need your help: can you direct me to any active paper wasp nests in Alachua County? At this time of the year, a lot of the wasps are males, which are more common in the fall (and can’t sting!). Since all the wasps on a nest are related, finding a nest tells us what males and females of a given species look like and helps us to document the range of variation. However you should be aware that we would need to collect both the nest and the wasps on it for the DNA analysis, so if you’re sentimentally attached to your wasps, or just want them to stay alive, please move on to the next paragraph. And just to be clear, I’m NOT talking about this kind of nest, which is the work of the Bald-face Hornet; I’m talking about something that looks like this or this or this, generally hanging from under a sheltering horizontal surface like eaves or a kiosk, or from a branch or main stem of a shrub or robust weed like dog fennel. If you know of a nest in Alachua County, and there are still wasps on it, and you don’t mind my taking it, please send me an email (a photo of the nest would be a plus, but isn’t necessary).

Announcement from City Naturalist Geoff Parks: “The City is going to be doing some maintenance at Palm Point on Monday, between approximately 1 and 3 pm. Birders should be advised that during that time there will be equipment being operated in the park which may interfere with trail use and quiet park enjoyment. Visitors should be careful not to block the gate that leads from the parking area onto the trail so that staff can have access to the gate (this is generally true but particularly important on Monday afternoon).”

And an announcement from Paynes Prairie: “Due to change in construction activities, the La Chua closure will not begin until Monday, Sept 29th and will only require part of the trail to be closed. The La Chua Trail boardwalk will remain open, and the closure will only include the portion of the trail beyond the end of the boardwalk. People will be able to park in the parking lot, access the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail, and access the first portion of La Chua Trail.” Which, I assume, includes Sparrow Alley. According to the original announcement, the trail will remain closed through October 9th. But that’s okay, because in early October you should be in the woods looking at migrant warblers, not on the La Chua Trail.

Speaking of which, Palm Point has been jumping since the 18th, when Matt O’Sullivan found a male Golden-winged Warbler there. During the migration count on the 20th, the Newnans Lake team found 15 warbler species within the park itself, including a Golden-winged (presumably the same one that Matt found two days earlier), two Blue-wingeds, and two or three Blackburnians. On the 24th several birders visited and found a Canada Warbler, as well as the lingering Golden-winged. On the 25th several of us not only relocated the Canada, but we found a rare-in-fall Cape May Warbler – and of course the Golden-winged, present for its eighth straight day; once again, there were 15 species overall. Samuel Ewing got photos of a Blackburnian (here) and the Golden-winged (here), and Lloyd Davis got a picture of the Canada (click here). And on the 26th Adam Zions and “loads of other birders” relocated both the Cape May and the Canada.

This makes three Canada Warblers this fall, all in the past week: one at Forest Park by Geoff Parks on the 18th, one by Jacqui Sulek, Tina Greenberg, and the Community Education Birding Class at Lake Wauberg on the 20th, and the Palm Point bird on the 24th, 25th, and 26th. That’s as many Canada Warblers as John Hintermister has seen in Alachua County in his entire life. Along with eight Cerulean Warblers between August 21st and September 20th, that’s a lot of rare warblers.

The fall migration count was held on the 20th. We recorded 119 species, including 24 warbler species. There were some surprising misses – no House Finches, Brown-headed Nuthatches, and White-winged Doves – and some not so surprising misses – no Northern Bobwhites or Northern Flickers. There were no gulls, no terns, and no shorebirds but a Solitary Sandpiper – not even a Killdeer!

There were only 8 Loggerhead Shrikes, 4 in NW Gainesville, 3 in SW Alachua County, and 1 at Paynes Prairie’s main entrance. The first eight years we did the fall count (1995-2002), Loggerhead Shrike totals were 15, 20, 9, 18, 23, 33, 20, and 23. So there was this anomalous 9 in 1997, but all the other counts were between 15 and 33. But in 2011 there were 3 and in 2013 there were 8.

Of the 119 species recorded, 13 were represented by only a single individual: Blue-winged Teal, Northern Harrier, Solitary Sandpiper, Black-billed Cuckoo, Barn Owl, Merlin, House Wren, Golden-winged Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Tennessee Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, and Bobolink. Other notables included 2 Tree Swallows, 3 Northern Rough-winged Swallows, 2 Chuck-will’s-widows, a surprising number of Palm Warblers, and lots of very late Purple Martins but few other swallows. Our count of 1044 individual warblers was one of our best ever.

Here are the totals:

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck 46
Wood Duck 25
Mottled Duck 16
Blue-winged Teal 1
Wild Turkey 3
Pied-billed Grebe 6
Wood Stork 20
Double-crested Cormorant 451
Anhinga 91
Great Blue Heron 39
Great Egret 77
Snowy Egret 32
Little Blue Heron 82
Tricolored Heron 21
Cattle Egret 611
Green Heron 18
Black-crowned Night-Heron 6
White Ibis 268
Glossy Ibis 154
Black Vulture 132
Turkey Vulture 181
Osprey 12
Bald Eagle 23
Northern Harrier 1
Cooper’s Hawk 7
Red-shouldered Hawk 82
Short-tailed Hawk 2
Red-tailed Hawk 11
King Rail 3
Purple Gallinule 6
Common Moorhen 60
Limpkin 11
Sandhill Crane 16
Rock Pigeon 48
Eurasian Collared-Dove 21
Mourning Dove 128
Common Ground-Dove 3
Black-billed Cuckoo 1
Yellow-billed Cuckoo 12
Barn Owl 1
Eastern Screech-Owl 11
Great Horned Owl 7
Barred Owl 37
Common Nighthawk 4
Chuck-will’s-widow 2
Chimney Swift 523
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 9
hummingbird, sp. 2
Belted Kingfisher 15
Red-headed Woodpecker 18
Red-bellied Woodpecker 167
Downy Woodpecker 133
Pileated Woodpecker 97
American Kestrel 6
Merlin 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee 17
Acadian Flycatcher 78
Empidonax, sp. 6
Great Crested Flycatcher 2
Eastern Kingbird 12
Loggerhead Shrike 8
White-eyed Vireo 603
Yellow-throated Vireo 14
Red-eyed Vireo 246
Blue Jay 254
American Crow 410
Fish Crow 108
crow, sp. 68
Purple Martin 40
Tree Swallow 2
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 3
Cliff Swallow 4
Barn Swallow 12
swallow, sp. 2
Carolina Chickadee 179
Tufted Titmouse 318
House Wren 1
Carolina Wren 461
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 278
Eastern Bluebird 64
Veery 101
Swainson’s Thrush 13
Gray Catbird 14
Brown Thrasher 30
Northern Mockingbird 94
European Starling 23
Ovenbird 123
Worm-eating Warbler 12
Northern Waterthrush 56
waterthrush, sp. 1
Golden-winged Warbler 1
Blue-winged Warbler 11
Black-and-white Warbler 38
Prothonotary Warbler 11
Tennessee Warbler 1
Kentucky Warbler 5
Common Yellowthroat 232
Hooded Warbler 35
American Redstart 49
Cerulean Warbler 1
Northern Parula 174
Magnolia Warbler 4
Blackburnian Warbler 8
Yellow Warbler 70
Chestnut-sided Warbler 18
Black-throated Blue Warbler 1
Palm Warbler 29
Pine Warbler 38
Yellow-throated Warbler 55
Prairie Warbler 70
Yellow-breasted Chat 1
Eastern Towhee 57
Summer Tanager 35
Northern Cardinal 585
Blue Grosbeak 7
Indigo Bunting 13
Bobolink 1
Red-winged Blackbird 520
Eastern Meadowlark 3
Common Grackle 248
Boat-tailed Grackle 202
Brown-headed Cowbird 401
Baltimore Oriole 6
House Sparrow 27

Remember those wasp nests!

It’s the birding news! Right in your inbox! Is that cool or what?

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

Because he delights in putting the working man down, Bob Carroll is starting a monthly weekday-morning bird walk for retirees and other persons of leisure, beginning this week: “Will you please let people know about our Thursday Bird Walk coming up this week? We’ll meet at 8:00 AM at Bolen Bluff and spend a few hours searching for what I’m sure will be a migrant fallout. Afterwards, some of us will go to Blue Highway Pizza in Micanopy. Anyone planning on going to lunch should let me know so I can contact the restaurant and warn them about what’s going to happen to their lovely little place. They can email me at gatorbob23@yahoo.com or text me at (352) 2813616.”

An official Paynes Prairie announcement: “La Chua Trail [including Sparrow Alley] will be closed September 26th through October 9th for culvert removal and restoration. Heavy Equipment will be operated in the area. Visitors are requested to call the Paynes Prairie Ranger Station at (352) 466-3397 to verify that the trail has reopened prior to visiting.” You want to be careful around Heavy Equipment.

In warbler news, Mike Manetz had the fall’s only Golden-winged Warbler at Poe Springs on the 12th – we weren’t able to relocate it on the field trip – and Adam Kent spotted a Cerulean Warbler in his SE Gainesville yard on the 15th.

A dark-morph Short-tailed Hawk spending the summer around La Chua has been seen twice lately, on the 10th by Adam Zions and on the 14th by the lucky birders who saw the Gray Kingbird (not relocated, alas).

Those lucky birders also saw an Alder Flycatcher. I have now tried for those Alders on Sparrow Alley four times, plus Cones Dike once and Barr Hammock once. I’ve seen flycatchers fitting that general description each time, but without a vocalization they’re essentially unidentifiable, and either they clam up when I’m around or else I’ve gone deaf. It’s making me peevish.

Adam Zions saw both a Bank Swallow and a Cliff Swallow over La Chua on the 13th. Both are tough birds to get in Alachua County, yet when you see one it’s not that unusual to see the other.

In a recent birding report I mentioned the Common Nighthawk migration, as witnessed by local birders on the 7th, 8th, and 9th. On the 10th the Florida Keys Hawkwatch counted 4,275 nighthawks passing over, and captured several dozen on video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVAgKjc39u4 I notice that they have a more regular flight style in migration; from a distance I might mistake them for Laughing Gulls.

Here’s something unexpected, to me anyway. I know that hawks and falcons prey on migrant birds, but I didn’t know that gulls do it too: http://www.anythinglarus.com/2014/09/ring-billeds-preying-on-migrating.html

Remember: Mangrove Cuckoo presentation at the Millhopper Library on Wednesday night at 6:30, fall migration count on Saturday, Cedar Key boat trip on Sunday. Details here (click on the + symbol for more information): http://www.alachuaaudubon.org/classes-field-trips/