Alachua Audubon Society

A chapter of the National Audubon Society

Two Kings (-fisher and rail), plus an exciting new AOU Check-List Supplement! I mean AOS, sorry, I guess I just live in the past.

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Less than a week to go!

Chris Cattau saw a Belted Kingfisher from the La Chua Trail at about 8 p.m. on the 22nd. It flew from the direction of the old horse barn, traveled around Alachua Sink, then continued flying out La Chua in the direction of the observation platform: “I guess it was probably going to have to roost somewhere fairly soon after I saw it so maybe there’s hope for a resight?” This may be the same individual that Tom Wronski photographed at Sweetwater Wetlands Park on the 7th.

Barbara Woodmansee reports that the Canada Geese were still on County Road 346A half a mile from Williston Road as of the 24th. She first saw them on the 10th. She writes, “They are always in the exact same place. I only see them in the late PM, never in the morning – and I’ve been looking hard every morning for them. I think there may be 4 or 5 of them. They sit down low in the tall grass, so only their heads/necks are showing. They’re usually under the same tree just south of the ‘lake’ (flooded pasture), almost directly across from the Misty Oaks sign.” I’d forgotten this, but Jerry Pruitt found two in that very spot in July 2016.

Colleen Cowdery, leading the busy life of a medical student, showed the value of patience and persistence in an email on the 24th: “Today was actually the first day in all of June that I was able to get outside and go birding, horror of horrors. Since I had no hope of catching up with the rest of the pack, I decided to go for quality over quantity and get myself a life bird today. I spent three hours trying to get a good look at a King Rail at Watermelon Pond. About two hours in, I had more or less given up and was heading back to the car when an incoming boat startled the bird into calling. I knew where it was, so I just sat and waited, having a nice conversation with it via recorded birdcall – recording, rail, recording, rail, back and forth. Finally, it came flying out and landed on the grass by the boat ramp. Success!” Success, too, in obtaining the only sharp photo of a King Rail that I’ve seen this month!

On the morning of the 22nd Geoff Parks spotted “a roost of a dozen or so Swallow-tailed kites in a tall dead pine on the south side of NW 8th Avenue” in the mile east of NW 34th Street. There’s a fairly good chance that it’s a regular overnight roost for these birds. Geoff saw them while driving, so they should be a cinch to see from the road or sidewalk.

Those mischievous fellers at the American Ornithological Society (formerly the AOU) released their annual Check-List Supplement last week. They changed a couple of English names, neither of which affected birds we see in Alachua County: Gray Jay went back to being Canada Jay; and White-collared Seedeater was split into Morelet’s Seedeater (found from South Texas to Panama, the one most of us have on our life lists) and Cinnamon-rumped Seedeater (found in western Mexico).

They did make some interesting taxonomic changes, however:

  • They reorganized the sparrows of the genus Ammodramus – Grasshopper, Henslow’s, LeConte’s, Baird’s, Nelson’s, Saltmarsh, and Seaside – by spreading them out over three genera as follows: Grasshopper remains in Ammodramus, Henslow’s and Baird’s go into Centronyx, and LeConte’s, Saltmarsh, Nelson’s, and Seaside go into Ammospiza. (Editorial note: I don’t like this one, just as a practical matter. Until now, if you were walking through a grassy field and a sparrow popped up a couple of inches from the toe of your boot, flew weakly for a few yards, and dived back into the grass, you could call out, “Hey, I’ve got an Ammodramus over here!” Now you’ll have to say, “I’ve got an Ammodramus! … or a Centronyx! … or possibly even an Ammospiza!”)
  • They moved most of the woodpeckers of the genus Picoides – Downy, Hairy, Red-cockaded, Nuttall’s, Strickland’s, Ladder-backed, Arizona, and White-headed – into the genus Dryobates, leaving only American Three-toed and Black-backed Woodpeckers in Picoides.
  • Finally, the kites were split up into three subfamilies. For the past few years the family Accipitridae has included the eagles, the hawks, the harriers, and the kites – one big happy family with no subdivisions among them. But now DNA analysis has shown that the kites are not that closely related to each other, so the Accipitridae has been split into three subfamilies to accommodate these newly-understood relationships: the White-tailed Kite and Pearl Kite have the subfamily Elaninae to themselves; the Swallow-tailed Kite, the Hook-billed Kite, and the Gray-headed Kite are given their own subfamily, Gypaetinae; while the Mississippi Kite and the Snail Kite, along with all the other hawks, eagles, and harriers, will be in the subfamily Accipitrinae (families have the -dae suffix, subfamilies the -nae). Interesting to think that the Mississippi Kite is more closely related to the Bald Eagle than to the Swallow-tailed Kite. (Speaking of kites, did you know that the paper kite that we fly on a string is named after the bird, and not the other way around? The bird was well-known to 8th-century Anglo-Saxons, who called it the cyta, while the paper kite didn’t arrive in Europe till the 13th century and the first reference to it in English dates from the 17th century.)

Anyway, you can see the whole supplement here. And you can see the updated Alachua County checklist here.

During some years we see fall migrants during the final days of The June Challenge. We’ve had Louisiana Waterthrushes several times (three years since 2013), Black-and-white Warblers on a couple of occasions, and a handful of shorebirds. These last few days of June can make a difference, so don’t waste them.

Not Alachua County, but pretty interesting nonetheless. J.W. Callis of Tallahassee recently photographed this pre-migratory congregation of Purple Martins at Cedar Key.

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