The first day of The June Challenge went pretty well, with more surprises than I’d have expected.
The kick-off field trip started at Longleaf Flatwoods Reserve at 6:15 and we got our target birds – Common Nighthawk, Bachman’s Sparrow, and Brown-headed Nuthatch – in about an hour. (Tina Greenberg was there before six and had a couple of Chuck-will’s-widows fly over as well, so I think I’ll arrive early for tomorrow morning’s field trip.) Then we went on to the Windsor boat ramp, where we whiffed on our two target birds, Bald Eagle and Laughing Gull, but our consolation prizes were great looks at Prothonotary and Yellow-throated Warblers, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Red-eyed Vireo, and Summer Tanager, plus our first surprise of the morning, a late-migrating Spotted Sandpiper flying down the boat channel. We went on to Sweetwater Wetlands Park, where we saw all the expected species, a few semi-expected species like Snail Kites (four of them), American Coot, and Roseate Spoonbill, and our second surprise of the day, a late Bobolink spotted by Debbie Segal, only the second June record for that species in Alachua County. We ended the day at noon with about 60 birds on our lists.
Park Ranger Danny Rohan came walking up while we were ogling the Bobolink and got to see it. He told us to keep an eye out for a Laughing Gull that had been hanging around, which we were never able to find, and he mentioned that the spoonbill numbers had been as high as 17 recently. While he was talking to us, he got a call from Geoff Parks, who was at the creek inflow near the sedimentation pond. Geoff had seen at least one Tree Swallow mixed in with the Northern Rough-winged Swallows there, so we executed a quick march – but only Bob Carroll, way back at the end of the line, was fortunate enough to see it fly over.
Yesterday Jennifer Donsky found a Ring-billed Gull at the Home Depot Pond, so after finishing up at Sweetwater, Barbara Shea and I drove over there, and sure enough the gull was sitting on the grassy slope leading down to the water’s edge. As near as I can tell, it has exactly one primary feather left on its right wing, none on its left wing, and no tail to speak of, so although it can fly a little it’s probably not going anywhere and may not survive very long. Barbara got a documentary photo, since there are only two or three previous June records for the county: https://www.flickr.com/photos/30736692@N00/40692387640/in/dateposted-public/
Another surprise today was a Least Tern, discovered at Depot Park by Erin Kalinowski at lunchtime. It’s the second Least this week: Felicia Lee saw one at Sweetwater Wetlands Park on May 26th.
Yesterday James Roland saw a Brown Pelican in the retention pond at Townsend, north of Glen Springs Road at NW 23rd Terrace. It was just taunting us; it refused to stick around for the Challenge. I cruised by three hours later and the pond was pelicanless.
Do you need Yellow-breasted Chat or Pied-billed Grebe for your June Challenge list? Mike Manetz suggests Bolen Bluff for the chat. He saw one there on the 15th, “singing from dead sweetgums at the base of the slope, as you look to the east.” And Brad Hall called to report a grebe at Home Depot Pond today, which he noticed (but Barbara and I missed) while looking at the Ring-billed Gull.
Don’t take this the wrong way, but may I knock your socks off? On May 28th Ian Davies and five others went birding in the dunes of Quebec’s Tadoussac Bird Observatory, along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River. They started in the rain at 5:45 a.m. Nine hours and 41 minutes later they quit, having recorded 108 species of birds, of which 24 were warblers. Socks still secure? I’m not surprised, but hold on to them now, because the number of individual warblers they recorded was 721,620. As Ian wrote, “Today was the greatest birding day of my life.” He’s still young, but I feel confident that he will never have a better one. Luckily for us, he’s an eBird administrator, which means that he posted an eBird checklist with the details, and it’s illustrated with 44 photos and two videos. Check it out here, and be sure to read Ian’s introductory comments, which made me giddy: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S46116491 (Thanks to Gainesville birder Min Zhao for forwarding this to me.)