From: Rex Rowan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Alachua County birding report
Bob Duncan of Gulf Breeze, the weather guru of Florida birding, is optimistic about conditions at the end of this week. On the 29th he wrote: “We’ve been blanketed under clouds for the past couple of days and not much has happened. That’s about to change if the forecast holds. I have found that in recent years the National Weather Service forecasts have become very accurate, accurate to the point that I would not have believed it years ago. Four times a day the GFS (Global Forecasting System) computers crank out forecasts based on world-wide input. What comes out is a quantum leap ahead of what we got years ago. It’s not always right but most of the time it’s extremely accurate. At any rate, the wet low pressure area over us is moving northeast and is going to drench a good part of the eastern US, shutting migration down. However, tomorrow night a cool, dry air mass is going to start moving in to the coast. Whether birds will be moving behind it will depend on how soon the wet weather clears to our north and northeast. At any rate, it will clear eventually and I think Thursday or Friday should be some of the best birding of this fall season – whether Thursday or Friday will depend on when the wet weather to our north clears. Continued dry weather with north winds are forecast through the weekend, so birding prospects look great for the immediate future.”
In my last birding report I listed the 128 species reported on the September 19th fall-migration count. One bird, buried in the list, might have been the prize of the day. Late in the afternoon Mike Manetz and his team were walking the trail at Poe Springs. As they approached a swampy area Mike spied an Empidonax flycatcher perched in a small tree. His team had already seen several Acadians and silent empids, and so he didn’t look too hard at this one, especially since someone had just discovered a very late Louisiana Waterthrush. As he hurried past the flycatcher it gave a little rising whistle. Mike came to a screeching halt, turned around, and brought up his binoculars – only to see the empty branch the bird had just vacated. He activated the sound recorder on his smartphone and whistled an imitation of the call he’d heard, and that evening he browsed in xeno-canto for a match. He only found one species of empid that produced a call like that: a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, a bird he’d never seen in Florida. So he emailed me an invitation to join him the next morning in a search for the bird (since the only one I ever saw was in Nova Scotia). Long story short – actually it may be too late for that – we spent about an hour and a half at the site, playing the song of the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, playing its calls, feeding the extraordinarily numerous and hungry mosquitoes, just trying to give the bird enough time to wander back to where Mike had seen it the previous day. But it never showed up. So it’s there on the list, as one of several “Empidonax, sp.,” but it was likely something much more exciting.
And speaking of Empidonax flycatchers, the Alder Flycatcher at Sparrow Alley was photographed on the 25th by Alex Wang and on the 30th by Trina Anderson. This ties the late record for Alder in Alachua County. Another extremely late flycatcher was this Great Crested found by Trina at Sparrow Alley on the 30th: https://www.flickr.com/photos/46902575@N06/21221609264/
Sam Ewing saw a Peregrine Falcon over Westside Park today: “Low flying bird, heading directly south.”
Becky Enneis has a huge live oak in her back yard, with branches that droop to the ground. A puddle has formed under one of these branches, and it seems to be very popular with thrushes this year. As mentioned in the last birding report, five Veeries showed up at once on the 20th, and five days later she looked out the window and saw a Swainson’s Thrush freshening up: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/21839681622/in/dateposted-public/
I saw in the paper that Hilda Bellot died on September 4th. Hilda was known to many of us as the owner of a yard where the county’s one-and-only Buff-bellied Hummingbird spent the winter of 2004-05 and where a Black-chinned Hummingbird was present in January and February 2014. She also had a good population of wintering orioles, and possessed the only yard in Gainesville (that I knew about, anyway) with a resident population of House Sparrows.
The winter finch forecast is out. Doesn’t sound like an irruption year: http://www.jeaniron.ca/2015/forecast15.htm
As of tomorrow, October 1st, Sweetwater Wetlands Park will be open seven days a week. Annual passes are on sale. According to a press release, “The annual pass costs $75, and is valid from Oct. 1, 2015 to Sept. 30, 2016. Passes allow a vehicle to enter the park with any number of persons in the car. Passes are available for purchase in person at the Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs administrative office, which is located on the third floor of the Thomas Center, Building B, 306 NE Sixth Ave., and is open Monday-Thursday from 7 a.m.-6 p.m.”
If you haven’t been checking my Gainesville Sun blog, recent posts have included one called “Behold the Lowly Roly-Poly,” one on my favorite wildflower, Blue Curls, and one called “A Walk on Sparrow Alley.”