Kirtland’s Warbler at San Felasco Hammock, update

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

This morning Mike Manetz went to San Felasco Hammock in hopes of finding a Connecticut Warbler. Down a side trail near the entrance he came upon a gray-headed, yellow-bellied warbler, but not the one he was seeking: it had black streaking on its gray back, a bold white eye-ring broken fore and aft, and black streaks on its sides and flanks. It was pumping its tail. Only one thing bothered him: it seemed to have a little too much white on its underparts. Otherwise it looked like a Kirtland’s Warbler.

Kirtland’s Warbler had been reported only one other time in the history of Alachua County, by Robert C. McClanahan at Bivens Arm on April 26, 1934. So this was sort of a big deal. Several of us converged on San Felasco to confirm the sighting, if possible, and hopefully add the species to our own county lists (and in most cases, including mine, state lists and life lists). We crisscrossed the second-growth oak woods where Mike had seen the bird. There were lots of warblers around, but not the one we were looking for. Some people left, some people arrived. After two and a half hours, we relocated the bird along a main trail, and confirmed that it was indeed a Kirtland’s. I called home and dictated a birding report to my daughter (she didn’t quite catch my spelling over the cell phone, thus “Kirtlane’s Warbler”). Other calls went out. People started showing up. And unbelievably, the bird stayed in the same place, disporting itself within a few yards of the trail, staying low, sometimes hopping around on the ground, and allowing for several excellent photos to be taken, like this one by Glenn Price and this one by Jonathan Mays. It was almost as if it didn’t know it was a rare bird, one of “no more than 5,000” Kirtland’s Warblers left on the face of the earth.

Will it stick around for one more day? Skies are clear, so it may continue its migration north. Still, it might be worth a look. Here are directions to where it was first seen, and where it was last seen. Park at the Millhopper Road entrance of San Felasco Hammock. Walk past the pay station, the composting toilet, and the informational kiosk, and then turn right onto the main trail. About a hundred feet on, you’ll see a spur trail that goes off to the right. That’s where Mike first saw the bird. Continue along the main trail, ignoring the trails leading off to the left, which lead you to the Moonshine Creek Loop Trail; just keep on straight. When the trail bends left, you’ll be in the right neighborhood. (Marie Zeglen writes, “Someone put a big tree branch across the trail to mark where the Kirtland’s is appearing. From there look within about the next 50-75 yards. All heights – bird was on trail a lot too and often low to ground. Others reported seeing higher too.”)

Good luck!

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