Alachua Audubon Society

A chapter of the National Audubon Society

The birds abide

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

Don’t forget that you can arrange carpooling for Alachua Audubon field trips, using the “Leave a Reply” function on the individual field trip pages on the web site. Here are the pages for the next three field trips:
Tall Timbers / Wade Tract, January 31 and February 1: http://www.alachuaaudubon.org/event/tall-timbers-research-station-sparrow-banding-and-the-wade-tract/?instance_id=375
La Chua, February 7: http://www.alachuaaudubon.org/event/la-chua-trail-9/?instance_id=376
Northeast Florida Coast, February 15: http://www.alachuaaudubon.org/event/northeast-florida-coast-3/?instance_id=377

Spring is creeping up on us. Though sunrise is actually one minute later than it was on the solstice, sunset is a whole half an hour later. Red maples have been blooming since mid-December, but now I’m seeing redbuds and wild plums covered with flowers, elms with drooping samaras, and early-blooming wildflowers like lyre-leafed sage and yellow jessamine. Purple Martins should be here by now, but I’ve driven past the martin houses at George’s Hardware four times in the past week or so and have yet to see one; there have been no local reports in eBird, either, though there have been plenty throughout the southern half of the state. Ospreys should also show up in the next week. A small number winter in Alachua County, but breeding birds normally arrive at their nests about the beginning of February.

The Lark Sparrow is still at the Hague Dairy. Sam Ewing saw it on the 28th: “He was singing in an oak tree when we stepped out of the car, and then flew to the ground to feed with Chipping Sparrows.” He also got a nice photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/121511542@N02/16390142895/

The Rusty Blackbirds are still being seen at Magnolia Parke. Lloyd Davis counted 66 on the 24th, and Melissa James and Dave Gagne saw two on the 28th. One of Melissa’s photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/melissa_vet/16204251218/in/photostream/

The Whooping Crane is still at the UF Beef Teaching Unit at the corner of Williston Road and SW 23rd Street. If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t delay, because all the cranes will be leaving us before much longer.

Here’s a really remarkable set of photos that I found on Google: a leucistic Red-winged Blackbird from Wisconsin, nearly all white except for a few black feathers and bright red epaulets: http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/sports/205262591.html

Speaking of really remarkable photos … You know how hard it is to find a Henslow’s Sparrow. They conceal themselves under matted grasses, usually in open fields like the one at Gum Root Park. It’s even harder to see a Henslow’s Sparrow. They flush just in front of you, fly a few yards, land in the grass, and then, out of sight, run away so that you can’t relocate them. All of this being the case, just imagine how hard it is to actually photograph a Henslow’s. And as to photographing one in flight, it’s pretty much impossible. Yet Rob Norton managed the impossible on the 17th: https://www.flickr.com/photos/73960438@N04/16114809538

On the 19th Bob Simons wrote, “I think I saw three black ducks flying at Paynes Prairie today. We were near the end of the La Chua Trail. The ducks were flying around, seemingly looking for a good place to land, and were NW of me, giving me good light to see them. They were very dark – nearly black, with much lighter heads and necks, white under the wing, and red-orange legs and feet. They ended up landing out of sight to the NW.” American Black Duck is a rare bird in Alachua County these days, so keep an eye out.

A researcher at UF has discovered that Lone Star Ticks at San Felasco Hammock, O’Leno, and Manatee Springs carry the incurable hemorrhagic fever virus: http://www.gainesville.com/article/20150126/ARTICLES/150129717?tc=cr I wonder how long that virus has been out there. I’ve been plucking Lone Star Ticks off myself for a couple of decades and haven’t had anything more serious than a suspected case of STARI. According to a table in the scientific paper itself – http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0115769#pone-0115769-t002 – two sites at Manatee Springs had populations in which, respectively, 25% and 10% of the ticks carried the virus. So you’d think the human population of northern Florida would have been decimated by hemorrhagic fever by now. And yet there have been no cases anywhere in four decades. I don’t get it.

Wildlife professor Katie Sieving has a request for those of you who live in the central part of Gainesville: “I have an undergrad, Jason Lacson, who is testing a playback attractant for raptors consisting of a platform with a 15 hour playback of titmouse or jay distress calls (from an MP3 player under the platform) and a fake cardinal model with a birdcam. The setup consists of two poles next to each other sunk in the dirt about 5 feet high, one with the cardinal and speaker and one with a bird cam to obtain photos/detections of owls and other raptors that choose to attack the cardinal model. Can you ask around for any folks willing to let Jason place a setup in their yards for a two-week period? He can run 4 at a time until late March. What he needs is the names, addresses and phone numbers of folks willing to participate, who have secure backyards that are within scooter distance of campus (so approximately 43rd Street to 6th Street and from Bivens Arm to 23rd or 39th Avenue).” If you live in the area described, and are willing to help, send me your email address and I’ll put you in touch with Katie and Jason.

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