Alachua Audubon Society

A chapter of the National Audubon Society

Directions for Burrowing Owl field trip; plus additional owlage; plus a spoonbill

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The Burrowing Owl field trip to Watermelon Pond will take place this Saturday, June 10th. We’ll meet at the gate at 7:30 a.m. To get there, go west on State Road 26 (Newberry Road) to the town of Newberry. When you come to the stop light where 26 intersects US-41, turn left onto 41 and proceed 2.9 miles to SW 46th Avenue. Turn right onto 46th and go 1.2 mile to SW 250th Street. Turn left onto 250th, a dirt road, and go 3.0 miles to the gate. Park as best you can on the roadside. We’ll then walk half a mile to the viewing area. I’ve made a map if you’re confused about any of this, which allows you to zoom in for detail or zoom out for perspective: https://drive.google.com/open?id=170-j_s4JUwiLEg3b100Cq_S1yUw&usp=sharing

Yesterday evening Mike Manetz and I walked out to the La Chua observation platform in hope of seeing the Whooping Crane that was photographed on the 31st roosting in the little patch of open water there. By 8 p.m. we had counted 8 Sandhill Cranes and about 60 Mottled Ducks (including one obvious hybrid with a Mallard-like white ring around its neck), but no Whooping Crane. So we headed back to the boardwalk to shelter from the rain (seen approaching in the photo below) and, once the rain stopped, to watch for owls. Great Horned Owls were the first to arrive, giving raspy little shrieks and flying around from treetop to treetop. At about 8:45 we heard night-herons squawking out toward the Sweetwater Dike. “Those are Yellow-crowneds!” Mike exclaimed. They flew right over us, and we could see the feet and a little bit of leg trailing behind the tail, rather than just the tips of the toes as would be the case with Black-crowned. Five minutes later we heard a weird series of loud mechanical notes from the direction of Little Alachua Sink. It sounded like a frog of some sort, but not one I’d ever heard before. Then two Barn Owls flew out over the treetops and away over Alachua Sink, and as they flew the strange sound went with them and we realized that it was being made by the owls. Later we found it in the collection of online bird calls associated with the Peterson Field Guide to Bird Sounds; of the two calls labeled “Chitter,” it’s the one on the left, with the little open-book symbol: https://academy.allaboutbirds.org/peterson-field-guide-to-bird-sounds/?species=Barn+Owl+-+Tyto+alba&speciesCode=brnowl

Anne Casella and Jennifer Donsky saw a Short-tailed Hawk over Palm Point yesterday evening, one of those raggedy-looking birds that’s missing some tail feathers and secondaries. It was the first sighting in the county since April 30th. Mike Manetz went out there this morning in hopes of seeing it, and he succeeded: standing at the Point, looking back towards the south, he spotted it at about 9:40, “soaring over the treeline about half way between Palm Point and Powers Park.”

On the 3rd and 4th Orit Schechtman and Beckie Dale noticed a Roseate Spoonbill in a retention pond in the Townsend neighborhood (NW 23rd Terrace north of 23rd Avenue). Their friend Madeline Davidson notified me of the sighting, and on the 5th I visited the pond three times but didn’t see the spoonbill. So at lunchtime today, since I couldn’t go birding in the rain, I made a driving tour of some local ponds – the Townsend retention pond, the retention ponds behind the Royal Park Plaza, Clear Lake, the retention pond behind Dick’s Sporting Goods in Butlerzilla, and, finally, Post Office Pond, where I found a spoonbill at 12:30. Mike Manetz got there at a little after one, but it had already gone. (There was nothing else of note in any of the other ponds, by the way, only a few White Ibises, Snowy Egrets, Little Blue Herons, and Tricolored Herons.)

I mentioned in the previous email that an Orchard Oriole was seen in the grove of trees in the corner of Cell 2 near the red metal bridge. On the morning of the 5th several birders saw a first-year male and a female delivering insects and dropping fecal sacs, obviously caring for a brood of nestlings. Linda Hensley got a photo of the male, and wrote, “We watched this bird fly back and forth with insects/caterpillars almost non-stop.”

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