Bell’s Vireo still there, plus a smorgasbord of other rare birds

From: Rex Rowan <>
To: Alachua County birding report

Friends! Are you bothered by wintering hummingbirds? Are these tiny little garden pests drinking all of your nectar? Well then tell me about it! Especially if you’d like Fred Bassett of Hummingbird Research, Inc., to capture, identify, and band the little rascals. Fred will be coming through Gainesville on January 19th while working his way south, and then returning on the 21st or 22nd. He’d love to band your hummers and document their presence here in Florida. For an interesting video on hummingbird banding (featuring Fred from 1:00 to 2:32) click here:

Helen Warren reminds me, “If you are going on the Alachua Audubon field trip to St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge this weekend, there is a nice hotel in Crawfordville, the Inn at Wildwood Resort, that has Audubon rates of $69/night. Its phone number is 800-878-1546. If you already have reservations they will give this rate when you check in.” Remember there are Razorbills being seen at St. Marks! (Though I think this is one of those trips that allows only a certain number of participants. You can always call Wild Birds Unlimited at 352-381-1997 and find out.)

The big birding news of the week has been the discovery of Alachua County’s first-ever Bell’s Vireo by Chris Burney along the fenceline trail (AKA Sparrow Alley) near La Chua. I sent out a map of the location earlier, but here it is again. Study that map. Note that the bird is being seen near a sandy spot in the trail. There’s also a large X of pink flagging tape on the left side of the trail right about where the bird was discovered in a shrubby stand of blackberry and winged sumac. Jonathan Mays got a photo of the bird on the morning of the 7th: It’s a very shy bird, so plan on spending a little time out there if you want to get a look at it. I’ve been out there twice and I still haven’t seen it.

We knew that a Groove-billed Ani, a Peregrine Falcon, and two Ash-throated Flycatchers were present along the fenceline trail, but as an increasing number of birders come seeking the Bell’s Vireo, the “Patagonia Picnic Table Effect” is kicking in. The PPTE gets its name from a roadside rest area in Patagonia, Arizona, where the first Black-capped Gnatcatcher found in the U.S. was discovered in 1971. The many birders who searched the rest stop over the following days and weeks found not only the gnatcatcher, but other rarities as well. And that’s what’s happening here. Birders looking for the Bell’s Vireo this morning (the 8th) found it, but also found a wintering Yellow-breasted Chat, a Fox Sparrow, and a Nashville Warbler first seen by Dalcio Dacol in late November.

Incidentally, if you go out there, wear boots or old shoes. Some big trucks are using the service road to go to and from the construction site of the new Paynes Prairie Sheetflow Project, and you’ll be walking in deep muddy ruts part of the way.

Should you be watching your feeders? Like a Sharp-shinned Hawk, you should. A Dark-eyed Junco visited Linda Hensley’s NW Gainesville yard on the 1st, and Bubba Scales of Wild Birds Unlimited writes, “Customers are apparently reporting Pine Siskins fairly regularly. It sounds as though there are fairly good numbers of small flocks out there and they’re hitting feeders.” Start looking out for Purple Finches, too. Here’s a fairly good web site on differentiating House and Purple Finches:

Ron Smith’s PinellasBirds web site asked local birders, “What was the best bird of 2012 in Pinellas County?” Here’s their choice, with runners-up. What about Alachua County? What was the best bird of 2012 around here? Please submit your nominee to (Speaking of Pinellas County, Don Margeson noted Florida’s first Purple Martins in St. Pete on the 6th.)

Are you a professional biologist with an interest in shorebirds? If you don’t mind moving to the Panama City area, this may be for you:

Remember, if you’ve got hummingbirds wintering in your yard, let me know about them. Even if you don’t want them banded, please tell me so that I can include them in the seasonal report I’ll submit to Florida Field Naturalist and North American Birds.