Another flycatcher from Out West

From: Rex Rowan <>
To: Alachua County birding report

Adam Zions found a female Vermilion Flycatcher at the Chapmans Pond parking lot on the morning of the 9th, “observed in close proximity for at least 10-15 minutes as it was actively hawking and sallying after insects.” This is the earliest Vermilion ever recorded in Alachua County.

The Western Kingbird discovered at the soccer field in front of Norman Hall by Ben Ewing on the 5th is present for its fifth day in a row. On the morning of the 9th Bob Simons wrote, “I found the Western Kingbird this morning on a light pole at Norman Hall field and got a few bad photos.” You can check out Bob’s “bad” photo here, as well as Matt O’Sullivan’s photo of the same bird, taken on the 8th, here. A late Eastern Kingbird was keeping the Western company through at least the 8th.

The American Redstart migration is pretty heavy right now. On the morning of the 8th Mike Manetz counted 14 at Bolen Bluff while I had 12 at Palm Point, and on the 9th Andy Kratter counted 21 (“probably an undercount”) at Bolen Bluff. Other migrant species are being seen in smaller numbers, but diversity has improved at least a little bit. On his aforementioned walk Mike had 13 warbler species, including a Black-throated Green, a Blue-winged, a Blackburnian, a Magnolia, a Chestnut-sided, and a Worm-eating, as well as a Swainson’s Thrush; while Andy had only eight species, Magnolia being the only notable migrant. At Chapmans Pond this morning Adam Zions recorded ten warbler species, a Tennessee being the best, as well as a female Painted Bunting and a rather late Northern Rough-winged Swallow. Birders have been hearing plenty of thrushes flying over in the pre-dawn hours – Sam Ewing counted 350 Swainson’s and 46 Gray-cheeked between 5:40 and 7:00 on the morning of the 8th – but in the woods they’re being seen only in ones and twos.

Yellow-billed Cuckoos were few and far between during the last part of September. Though five were tallied on the September 19th migration count, only two were seen during the subsequent week, and none at all in the week after that. However it seems likely that bad weather in the mid-Atlantic states simply held up their migration for a little while, because beginning on October 4th reports once more began to show up on eBird. Usually cuckoos – including Black-billed, which is rare in Florida – pass through in their highest numbers during mid-October. We’ll have to see if that holds true this year.

Winter arrivals so far: Lloyd Davis saw the winter’s first Wilson’s Snipe at Sweetwater Wetlands Park on September 5th, the winter’s first Northern Harrier at La Chua on September 16th, and the winter’s first Marsh Wren at Sweetwater Wetlands Park on September 27th. The first Ruby-crowned Kinglet of the season was seen by Andy Kratter at his SE Gainesville home on October 1st; Geoff Parks saw the first Savannah Sparrow at Sweetwater on the 2nd, tying the early record for the county; the first Eastern Phoebe was seen by Mike Manetz on the 3rd at the Hague Dairy; Chip Deutsch saw two Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, the season’s first, at Palm Point on the 4th; and John Hintermister saw the winter’s first Blue-headed Vireo at San Felasco on the 8th.

The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has just posted this map of bear sightings. Interesting how many are in the northeast quadrant of the peninsula:

In case you didn’t see it, here’s video of a hummingbird snoring:

Field trips this weekend: Peregrine Falcon watch at Guana River on Saturday, Bolen Bluff on Sunday (click on the hyperlinks for meeting times and places and other details).

Western Kingbird on UF campus

From: Rex Rowan <>
To: Alachua County birding report

Yesterday afternoon Ben Ewing was walking across the grounds of Norman Hall when he spotted a Western Kingbird perched on the fence at the north boundary of the soccer field (SW 13th Street and 8th Avenue). Using his smartphone he submitted the observation to eBird, and shortly thereafter Mike Manetz got an alert (more on eBird alerts here). He gave me a call, and a few minutes later he picked me up in his wife’s very small car, since his pickup truck had a flat tire. The small car was a bit of luck, since it allowed us to parallel park in the only vacant space at the north end of the Norman Hall grounds. We were parked illegally, of course – no decal – but we hoped that the bird would be easy to find and that we’d be long gone by the time the roam-towing truck found us. But the bird did not oblige. It wasn’t evident to our initial scans of the fence, treetops, and light poles. We decided to give it a few minutes and see if it flew out into view. Ben stopped by and showed us a blurry photo he’d been able to take with his smartphone, and Andy Kratter showed up, having gotten an eBird alert at the museum and biked over. We watched and scanned for twenty minutes, casting nervous glances back at Mike’s car. Every once in a while we’d see a bird fly out into the field from the surrounding oaks, but it always turned out to be an Eastern Bluebird. Mike occasionally tried playing a Western Kingbird call on his smartphone, but nothing responded – though, bizarrely, we spotted a very late Eastern Kingbird at the top of a light pole across the field. I was getting progressively more nervous about the towtruck, and had given up on our mission – it would have shown itself by now, right? – when the kingbird came flying along the trees on the far side of the field and landed out of sight in a live oak. Crossing our fingers in regards to Mike’s car, we hurried across the field to the oak and spooked it across SW 8th Avenue into the top of a magnolia tree, where we had great looks at it, dark mask, yellow belly, white on the outer tail feathers, the whole thing. After high fives, we headed back to the car, which had not, surprisingly, been towed. And in case you were wondering, the kingbird is still at Norman Hall this morning. Andy Kratter saw it at nine, noting in his eBird checklist, “Continuing from yesterday, being chased about the trees on the south side of the field by crows and Red-bellied Woodpecker. As well as the worn /molting feathers on the head, the wing coverts are also very worn, and the pale covert edges give two grayish wingbars.”

After this past weekend I think I’m going to ignore all further weather predictions in regards to birding, and maybe in regards to everything else. I don’t think that I personally have ever seen a birding-related weather forecast or radar forecast (“Radar shows tons and tons of birds in the air! Tomorrow is the day!”) that didn’t turn out to be wrong. However the rain over the Carolinas and Tennessee has cleared now, and it’s likely that birds will start showing up in a day or two. They’re not here yet, though; Mike Manetz went out to Bolen Bluff this morning but found it “still painfully slow. Four American Redstarts, then onesies of Northern Parula, Black-and-white Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Ovenbird, and Hooded Warbler. No thrushes or tanagers.” There were, however, a few Indigo Buntings in my backyard ragweed this morning, and hopefully they’ll be joined by many friends in the days to come. October is the month for Indigo Bunting migration, and sometimes Painteds will show up among them.

Speaking of which, at least three Painted Buntings are already here, around the boardwalk at the La Chua Trail. On the 3rd Dalcio Dacol posted this extremely good writeup on eBird: “One adult male and two females. First saw them when they flushed from the side of the trail and I could clearly see the red chest and belly of the adult male as it flew away. I tracked the birds by sight and they landed not too far away in the thickets of a round area near the (southern) end of the boardwalk. I played Painted Bunting calls and one of the females came to investigate. I continued playing calls and had no more responses. Shortly after two other birders approached the area and I told them about the buntings and one of the birders played a Painted Bunting song. Three PBs came to investigate and the adult male perched low at about 15 ft from us and showed itself very well. The two females were yellowish green with very little extra green on wings and crown, darker on the back than on the throat, chest and belly. The adult male was unmistakable in its ‘paint by the numbers’ color scheme with blue head, very red underparts starting with the throat, green back and dark green wings with almost black primary tips.”

Michael Meisenburg emailed that Tony Davanzo had a Black-billed Cuckoo “along Hatchett Creek the other day.” I’ve asked him to get details from Tony as to exactly where and when.

A western stray and an early winter arrival

From: Rex Rowan <>
To: Alachua County birding report

Tom Kent photographed a male Yellow-headed Blackbird at a pond near the west end of Millhopper Road on October 2nd. This is the second-earliest ever recorded here. The only earlier one was found in a blackbird trap in “Alachua County” (the record shows no more specific location) on September 17, 1965; it recently celebrated fifty years lying on its back in a museum drawer. Perhaps celebrated is not the word. Anyway, here’s Tom Kent’s photo:

Geoff Parks saw an amazingly early Savannah Sparrow at Sweetwater Wetlands Park this afternoon. That ties the early record set two years ago by Sam and Dean Ewing at the US-441 observation platform.

Andy Kratter reported the winter’s first Ruby-crowned Kinglet in Evergreen Cemetery on the 1st.

I walked the upland loop of the Bolen Bluff Trail this morning with Vicki Evans and Jennifer Donsky. The results were not what we’d hoped for; it wasn’t so much Bolen Bluff as Boring Bluff. No thrushes, tanagers, buntings, grosbeaks, or cuckoos. Didn’t even see a Red-eyed Vireo. Only eleven individual warblers of seven species: 3 American Redstarts, 2 Black-and-whites, 2 Common Yellowthroats, 1 Hooded, 1 Northern Waterthrush, 1 Yellow, 1 Yellow-throated. It’s supposed to clear this evening, at least temporarily, so we may have some new birds tomorrow morning in time for the San Felasco Hammock walk that begins at 8 a.m. at the Millhopper Road entrance. But Pat Burns, writing from the mountains, has a less optimistic forecast than Bob Duncan’s (which I quoted in the last birding report): “Birds have been trapped in the my area of North Carolina and Tennessee since Sept 24. We had 82 of hours of rain before there were brief breaks. Yesterday we had some sun before the rain began again. I watched the weather forecast this morning. My prediction of birds migrating after Oct 3. needs to be revised to after Oct. 6. I will mucking out the Ark until then.”

Well, fall migration peaks during the first two weeks of October. So it’s worthwhile to keep going out, enduring the inevitable dry spells as patiently as you can, because after October 15th (more or less) the number of warblers, thrushes, tanagers, etc., will decline steeply. You only get one Peak Of Fall Migration every year, and the next two weeks are it.

Those of you with smartphones can download the Audubon Bird Guide App for free:

Lake County started its fourth annual “Wings and Wildflowers Festival” today. It will run through Sunday, though the pelagic trip shown on the web site’s front page has been cancelled due to the hurricane. The web page is here – – and the brochure listing the programs and field trips is here –

You may have read in this morning’s paper about the Lake City meeting in which 30 people addressed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in opposition to the Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline. There will be another such meeting from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 8th, at the Bell High School auditorium at 930 South Main Street in the small community of Bell (northern Gilchrist County, between Branford and Trenton). More information: (If you can’t attend the meeting, see the comments at the bottom of the web page.)

Time to go birding

From: Rex Rowan <>
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:

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:

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:

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.”

Fall: a good time for fall migration…

… and hey, it’s fall! The season’s first Palm Warbler anticipated the season by eight days: it was seen by Howard Adams along the La Chua Trail on the 15th and there have been three sightings since then. Likewise the first House Wren sneaked in before the equinox, showing up in Geoff Parks’s NE Gainesville back yard on the 20th.

The 21st annual fall migration count was held on Saturday the 19th. We fielded 87 observers in 30 parties and covered 13 territories across the county, finding 128 species and 11,296 individual birds. Best sightings included a Short-tailed Hawk and 2 Alder Flycatchers, a Least Flycatcher, one Tree and one Bank Swallow, and a Golden-winged Warbler. We saw 918 warblers of 23 species, the most common of which were Common Yellowthroat (159), Northern Parula (144), and Ovenbird (141). Loggerhead Shrikes continue their decline; we found only six, compared to an average of 17 during 1995-99, and four of them were in one location, the Horse Retirement Farm near Alachua. Likewise Northern Flickers, down to 2 from a 1995-99 average of 8. Big misses included White-winged Dove and Brown-headed Nuthatch. The totals for the count are appended to the end of the email. You can compare this year’s performance with the first five years of the fall count, 1995-99:

At least one Alder Flycatcher is still at La Chua, as of the morning of the 23rd. Dean and Sam Ewing saw it – “Heard calling near the beginning of Sparrow Alley. Finally saw it on our way out, while standing along the sidewalk after coming through the horse barns” – and Trina Anderson got a photo: It’s not likely to stick around much longer, so see it soon.

Becky Enneis of Alachua noticed one Veery at the drip pool in her back yard, then two, and finally five at once on the 20th:

Our kites are all gone. The last Swallow-tailed of the year was seen northwest of Gainesville by Adam Zions on September 5th. The last Mississippi was seen flying north over Sparrow Alley with a dragonfly in its bill on the 14th, and Frank Goodwin got a photo of it:

Zach Neece has composed a five-minute orchestral piece called “La Florida for Strings: an homage to natural Florida” that’s amazingly beautiful and serene. I was reminded of Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” and some of the pastoral pieces of Ralph Vaughan Williams. The music, performed by the University of Florida Symphony Orchestra, plays over a series of nature photographs taken in the Gainesville area by Katherine Edison and Larry Reimer:

The next Alachua Audubon program meeting is “Harpy Eagles and Chocolate: Conserving Migrant and Resident Birds in Belize.” It will be held on Wednesday, September 30th, in the meeting room of the Millhopper Branch Library (3145 NW 43rd Street), and is open to members and non-members alike. The social hour (well, half hour) begins at 6:30, the program at 7:00. The program will be presented by Jacob Marlin, Executive Director of BFREE (Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education), who writes, “The discovery of the first wild Harpy Eagle population in Belize is changing the attitudes of local people about the value of protecting tropical forests. This, coupled with an innovative program to support local farmers to transition from traditional agricultural practices to shade grown organic bird friendly cacao farming, bodes well for the future of migrant and resident birds in Belize.”

Two field trips this weekend, Levy Lake Loop with Matt Bruce on Saturday and Barr Hammock (the forested part) with Michael Drummond on Sunday. On the latter trip we’ll be looking at trees, wildflowers, insects, and everything else, not just birds. Field trip schedule, with meeting times and places, is here:

Alachua Audubon sponsors a Beginning Birding class through Santa Fe College’s Community Education program. The next class will run on four Saturday mornings between October 17th and November 21st, beginning at the tail end of the warbler migration and taking in the arrival of winter birds. If you’re interested, you can sign up by calling (352) 395-5193 or visiting (just enter “bird” in the search field).

Vanderbilt University is doing a study on birding ability and needs participants at all levels of skill for a simple online survey. Here’s their pitch: “We are currently conducting a research project testing birding experts funded by the National Science Foundation. We are trying to recruit birders of all experience levels, from beginners to experts. I am writing to ask for your permission to contact members of the Alachua Audubon Society to see if they might be interested in participating in our research. Could you help us to send a brief invitation to your group, either directly by email, forwarded by email on our behalf, or posted in a newsletter or web site? Our experiments are all online. Birders can simply register and participate by copying and pasting this link into their browser: If you or your members wish to know more about us, visit our ‘This is Your Brain on Birds’ Facebook page at or visit our website at ” I participated – it took just a few minutes to answer the questions and do the followup bird quiz – and I enjoyed it.

Results of the migration count:

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck 115
Muscovy Duck 50
Wood Duck 27
Mottled Duck 14
Mallard (domestic) 1
Blue-winged Teal 40
duck, sp. 25
Pied-billed Grebe 29
Wood Stork 15
Double-crested Cormorant 23
Anhinga 94
American Bittern 3
Least Bittern 1
Great Blue Heron 47
Great Egret 75
Snowy Egret 29
Little Blue Heron 121
Tricolored Heron 31
Cattle Egret 873
Green Heron 24
Black-crowned Night-Heron 4
White Ibis 267
Glossy Ibis 15
Black Vulture 126
Turkey Vulture 209
Osprey 7
Bald Eagle 19
Northern Harrier 1
Cooper’s Hawk 9
Red-shouldered Hawk 112
Short-tailed Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 10
King Rail 5
Sora 10
Purple Gallinule 21
Commmon Gallinule 272
American Coot 11
Limpkin 19
Sandhill Crane 13
Killdeer 2
Spotted Sandpiper 6
Rock Pigeon 67
Eurasian Collared-Dove 3
Common Ground-Dove 1
Mourning Dove 67
Yellow-billed Cuckoo 8
Eastern Screech-Owl 2
Great Horned Owl 9
Barred Owl 23
Common Nighthawk 3
Chuck-will’s-widow 1
Eastern Whip-poor-will 3
Chimney Swift 26
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 5
Belted Kingfisher 19
Red-headed Woodpecker 18
Red-bellied Woodpecker 250
Downy Woodpecker 181
Northern Flicker 2
Pileated Woodpecker 105
American Kestrel 4
Merlin 2
Eastern Wood-Pewee 20
Acadian Flycatcher 66
Alder Flycatcher 2
Alder/Willow Flycatcher 1
Least Flycatcher 1
Empidonax, sp. 11
Great Crested Flycatcher 3
Eastern Kingbird 2
Loggerhead Shrike 7
White-eyed Vireo 660
Yellow-throated Vireo 23
Red-eyed Vireo 403
Blue Jay 305
American Crow 362
Fish Crow 34
crow, sp. 15
Tree Swallow 1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 1
Bank Swallow 1
Barn Swallow 88
swallow, sp. 7
Carolina Chickadee 221
Tufted Titmouse 411
Carolina Wren 555
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 344
Eastern Bluebird 101
Veery 115
Swainson’s Thrush 4
Wood Thrush 1
Gray Catbird 3
Brown Thrasher 34
Northern Mockingbird 114
European Starling 10
Ovenbird 141
Worm-eating Warbler 16
Louisiana Waterthrush 2
Northern Waterthrush 61
waterthrush, sp. 2
Golden-winged Warbler 1
Blue-winged Warbler 3
Black-and-white Warbler 32
Prothonotary Warbler 10
Tennessee Warbler 9
Kentucky Warbler 4
Common Yellowthroat 159
Hooded Warbler 38
American Redstart 73
Northern Parula 144
Magnolia Warbler 1
Blackburnian Warbler 4
Yellow Warbler 36
Chestnut-sided Warbler 8
Black-throated Blue Warbler 1
Palm Warbler 1
Pine Warbler 66
Yellow-throated Warbler 68
Prairie Warbler 38
Eastern Towhee 42
Summer Tanager 54
Scarlet Tanager 4
Northern Cardinal 664
Blue Grosbeak 4
Indigo Bunting 3
Bobolink 1
Red-winged Blackbird 1,236
Eastern Meadowlark 4
Common Grackle 425
Boat-tailed Grackle 291
Brown-headed Cowbird 53
Baltimore Oriole 6
House Finch 34
House Sparrow 2

A wave of warblers

From: Rex Rowan <>
To: Alachua County birding report

This weekend’s cold front brought us a bunch of good birds. Mike Manetz told me that 20 species were seen by different birders here and there in the county. Most surprising was the huge influx of Blackburnian Warblers. They were the most abundant warbler species in Alachua County on Saturday and Sunday, reported from 16 different locations according to eBird. Adam Kent had 10 in his SE Gainesville yard on Saturday and 6 on Sunday. Sam Ewing had 9 in his NW Gainesville yard on Saturday and 12 on Sunday. Our Bolen Bluff field trip on Sunday morning, though challenging (flooded trail, mosquitoes, fast-moving treetop birds), managed to tally seven or eight. Matt O’Sullivan got a photo of one:

For a normally-uncommon warbler to be so abundant relative to other species is unusual but not unprecendented. Fifty Magnolia Warblers were tallied on an Audubon field trip to Bolen Bluff a few years ago, and there were a few days one October when Bay-breasted Warblers were the most common warbler in the woods.

Blackburnians weren’t the only good birds that the front brought us on Sunday. Tennessee Warblers, the fall’s first, were observed in several locations. Sam Ewing saw one Cerulean Warbler in his yard and Adam Zions saw another at San Felasco Hammock. Golden-winged Warblers were reported in three locations, by Craig Faulhaber and Ryan Butryn at Bolen Bluff, by John Hintermister at Palm Point, and by Frank Goodwin at Lake Wauberg. Frank got a picture of his bird prying open a dead sweetgum leaf with its bill:

And the excitement wasn’t restricted to Gainesville. Scott Flamand and John Killian saw a Canada Warbler at Cedar Key.

It’s the time of year when you can hear the calls of migrating birds as they fly over during the night. If you wake up before dawn, step out the back door and listen for a few minutes. Andy Kratter did this on the 7th and heard “about 10 Swainson’s Thrushes pass in 5 or so minutes, giving their spring-peeper-like call notes.” And on the morning of the 14th Mike Manetz reported, “I sat out from 5 to 6 this morning and had a lot of birds going over, mostly Veerys (330 flight calls) but also Swainson’s Thrushes (5 calls), Bobolinks (2 calls), Green Herons! (7 calls from probably 4 birds), and best of all, a Dickcissel called 3 times directly overhead and relatively low!” If you’re entering a nocturnal flight call count into eBird, remember to read this first:

And speaking of vocalizations, have you noticed that Northern Mockingbirds are singing again? I’ve been hearing them almost daily. In my experience they’ll keep it up till November, and then fall silent again until February.

Is anyone still seeing Mississippi Kites?

This would have given me a nervous breakdown, but it would have been worth it (“this day’s total was well-beyond every past YEAR total”):

In case you’ve only been birding around here for a year or two, here’s a Flickr photo gallery of rare birds from Alachua County:

Bob Carroll is ready to get the Third Thursday group going again: “I’ve been looking forward to this for a couple of months! It’s time to do some birding when everyone else is at work. Our first Third Thursday stop will be at Bolen Bluff at 8:30 AM on Thursday, September 17. As far as lunch is concerned, I haven’t picked a spot yet. I’m torn between something safe (like Peach Valley – I think you guys liked it last year), something new (like Blaze Pizza in Gainesville – I’ve heard it’s really good but have never been there) or something with a wider appeal like BJ’s near the Oaks Mall. I’m open to suggestion! If you have a lunch suggestion – including any of the three I mentioned – let me know. If you’re going to join us for lunch once I make a decision – let me know! I hope to see you on Thursday. I’m really looking forward to getting the group together again!”

Would you like to be on the county’s Environmental Protection Advisory Committee? They’re looking for applicants:

Canada Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler(s)

From: Rex Rowan <>
To: Alachua County birding report

Ron Robinson had a Canada Warbler visit his yard west of Gainesville on the 8th. It gorged itself on the aphids covering Ron’s two sugarberry trees, and then came down to his birdbath. It was a life bird for Ron. Unfortunately it was a one-day wonder and hasn’t been seen since. Ron did manage to get several photos:

Jacqui Sulek found the county’s first-of-the-season Golden-winged Warbler at Bolen Bluff on the 7th, “on the southern part of the Bolen Bluff loop trail maybe 100 yards from the clearing where the trail goes down into the basin.” Mike Manetz and I took a walk around the trail on the following day. At the place where the Wilson’s Warbler had been seen – the north fork where a gully runs down the slope from the trail to the trees at the edge of the Prairie – we followed the gully down the slope in hopes of finding the Wilson’s and ended up finding a male Golden-winged instead. We ended up with only nine warbler species that day, the best of which were, in addition to the Golden-winged, three Worm-eating and four Hooded. (The Wilson’s hasn’t been reported since the 5th.)

Sam Ewing found a Cerulean Warbler in his NW Gainesville yard on the 5th. That’s the third of the fall.

The Alder Flycatcher at Sparrow Alley was still there on the morning of the 11th. I missed it on the walk out, but heard its soft “pip” on the way back to the trailhead, about a hundred feet west of the powerline cut. It flew into the trees along the old fenceline and fluttered about in there for a minute or two, flycatching and calling, and then flew across the trail again and disappeared down the powerline cut.

The fall’s first American Bittern was seen and photographed by Irina and Frank Goodwin along La Chua on the 11th:

Wild Birds Unlimited is having a Seed and Suet Sale from the 12th through the 20th:

Bob Duncan of Pensacola wrote on the 10th, “A cold front is forecast to come through northwest Florida on Saturday night, with clearing skies and NW to N winds 13 to 18 knots Saturday night and Sunday. This time of year it usually means one thing – birds! Weekend birding should be good at the migrant traps and maybe even Monday morning.” This evening Bob updated his prediction: “The original forecast from NWS Wednesday has held and actually improved some for birding as the front is a little stronger than predicted. Winds at about migrating altitude (2500 – 3000 ft) are predicted to shift from W to NW Saturday night veering to N later in the night with surface winds 15 – 20 knots N. Clearing skies behind the front should have migrants on the move. It would be better to have winds N shifting to NE overnight since most of our migrants are coming down the Appalachian corridor, but we take what we get and might get some surprises with NW winds initially. So Sunday is my preferred day to bird. However, Monday might be a sleeper since winds veer from N to NE Sunday night, though weaker in velocity. But as Jim Stevenson pointed out, the best day to bird is right after the front. It appears that the front will pass as far east as Cedar Keys Saturday night, so birding east of the NW FL – AL coasts may be good. Birds pass over our coast from the early morning hours until dawn (birds have no trouble landing at night) and those that pause at our migrant traps for refueling will be waiting for us to ID them. So bird the traps in the morning.”

We’ll have our first Alachua Audubon field trip on Saturday morning (Poe Springs) and our second on Sunday morning (Bolen Bluff). You can see trip details on our field trip schedule here (click the “+” sign at the right and then click “Read more”):

Wilson’s Warbler at Bolen Bluff

From: Rex Rowan <>
To: Alachua County birding report

ATTENTION ALACHUA COUNTY BIRDERS: We are very short handed filling teams for the Fall Migration Count this year. If you can identify all our resident birds and at least some fall migrants and are interested in participating on Saturday, September 19th, please contact Mike Manetz at

Matt O’Sullivan found a Wilson’s Warbler on the 3rd, “on the northern part of Bolen Bluff a little more than half way along and a little before that wooded gully.” Mike Manetz and I had birded the area earlier in the day and had seen nothing more interesting than a Blackburnian Warbler, but we obviously lack Matt’s ability or luck. The bird was still present on the 4th, seen by Bob Carroll, Becky Enneis, and Linda Holt. Wilson’s is usually a late fall migrant, with most detected in October. Previous to this, there was only one September report for the county, involving two birds found by Jack and Jessie Connor and Paul Moler at Newnans Lake on September 25, 1977. I’m aware of only four earlier records anywhere in Florida. Here’s one of Matt’s pictures:

Lloyd Davis saw two Soras along the La Chua Trail on the morning of September 3rd, and he got a photo of one:

I mentioned previously that American Goldfinches were reported during the last week of August, two in High Springs on the 26th and one in west Gainesville on the 29th. The latter was in Ron Robinson’s yard and he got this photo:

Several birders spent time in Evinston on the morning of the 3rd, the day after John Menoski reported a Crested Caracara there, but the bird wasn’t relocated.

David Sibley passes along a pretty reliable way to tell Downy from Hairy Woodpecker (that is, if you can see the mark in question):

The Alachua Audubon field trip schedule is on line (well, mostly). Our first field trip is September 12th. You can see the early trips here (click on the little “+” sign at the right for more information):

I’ve put up blog posts about three wildflowers at the Gainesville Sun web site: “Two Wild Poinsettias” and “Spotted Beebalm.” They can be accessed here, if the Sun’s web site will cooperate:

Remember to contact Mike Manetz if you can help with the Fall Migration Count.

Crested Caracara in Evinston!

From: Rex Rowan <>
To: Alachua County birding report

John Menoski reports that this morning he saw a Crested Caracara in Evinston (south of Micanopy and east of 441 at the Marion County line): “I spotted the Caracara while biking about a quarter mile north of the Evinston Post Office on CR 225 heading toward CR 346. It was in the company of about a dozen Black and Turkey Vultures feeding just off the roadside. As we approached they flew into the pasture and a couple of the Blacks along with the Caracara perched on the fence posts. All of us on the ride noticed one of the birds had a white throat, black crest, white rump, and yellow legs as it flew away. Even the non-birders took notice that this bird was not a Black or Turkey Vulture. Years ago I traveled across south-central Florida on a weekly basis on business and observed these birds a lot in the open pasture lands between Lake Wales and the east coast.”

I got John’s email this afternoon and immediately drove down to Evinston to see if the bird was still around. I drove north from Evinston on 225 and then south along the same route. I saw an American Kestrel and a Fox Squirrel, but no Crested Caracara. So I then checked out the big cattle pasture immediately south of Evinston, scoping it out from both 225 and 441. Then I went back to Evinston and once more drove north along 225. Finally I checked out the Tuscawilla Prairie from 441. No sign of the caracara anywhere. However it may be worth checking the area tomorrow. This would be the seventh report for the county; the last was in January 2010.

This morning John Hintermister found one or two Alder Flycatchers along Sparrow Alley, right under the powerline. He also saw a Short-tailed Hawk.

Mike Manetz found the fall’s first Veery this morning at Palm Point. It was singing, the first time he’s heard a Veery do that in the county.

Ron Robinson found the fall’s first Baltimore Oriole at his place in west Gainesville on the 30th.

This evening Andy Kratter spotted a Cerulean Warbler in his yard, the second he’s discovered this fall (vs. zero for everybody else, so let’s step it up, guys!).

Sora and American Goldfinches in August! plus some new migrants

From: Rex Rowan <>
To: Alachua County birding report

First of September. By the end of the month we’ll have more darkness than light. Sounds right existential, don’t it?

Josh Watson writes that on the 29th he and Dan Gualtieri saw a Sora at Sweetwater Wetlands Park “off the pavilion boardwalk on the right before the split.” That ties the early record set in 1997 when Christina Romagosa found one dead in the road near Lake Alice.

I think we all had high hopes for Sweetwater Wetlands Park as a shorebird hotspot this fall, since it was so good this spring. But August is over, and with it the peak of shorebird migration, and nothing ever showed up there because the water was too high. We had an unusually rainy summer, of course, but summer is almost always rainy to some degree. Will the water be lower during a normal summer? Let’s hope so. We could use a reliable shorebird spot around here.

Migrants are moving through in good numbers and good variety. No one has reported a Golden-winged yet, but they’re certainly out there.

Sam Ewing reported the fall’s only Chestnut-sided Warbler (so far) on the 25th and the fall’s only Blackburnian Warbler (so far) on the 27th, both at his NW Gainesville home.

John Martin had an excellent day at the Bolen Bluff Trail on the 30th, tallying a dozen warbler species. His best were a Blue-winged Warbler, two Worm-eating Warblers, five American Redstarts, two Hooded Warblers, and a Kentucky Warbler. He writes, “Jacqui Sulek accompanied me for half the route and found the Blue-winged Warbler early where the trail initially forks. I hung out longer at the Prairie fringe, walking the woodline east and west of where the trail levels out on the basin; I found the Kentucky to the east, about 75 feet past the ‘trail closed’ sign, just past where the dog fennel opens into a stand of trees – it appeared after I played a screech-owl call.” He got a very nice picture: Craig Faulhaber was out there on the same day and found a second Kentucky, “about 3/4th of the way down the left-hand (north) fork of the trail, on the prairie rim (north) side of the trail.”

Also on the 30th, Felicia Lee and Elizabeth Martin birded the Lake Wauberg area: “At the boardwalk, we saw several American Redstarts, a Yellow Warbler, and a Prothonotary. We also ran into Frank Goodwin, who said he’d seen a large flock of Prairie Warblers as well as a Blue-winged Warbler off the Lake Trail, so we went up there to check it out. We saw only 3 or 4 Prairies, but we did find the Blue-winged and over a dozen Northern Parulas pretty easily. Fun morning!”

ALSO on the 30th, Becky Enneis spotted a Kentucky Warbler in her back yard in Alachua.

I got out to Bolen Bluff about five hours after Andy Kratter saw the Cerulean Warbler on the 27th. He’d left a bunch of sticks in the middle of the trail where he’d seen the bird, spelling out “CERW,” the banding code for Cerulean Warbler, but I couldn’t locate it in that area. I kept walking till I got to the fork in the trail, and then I heard a bunch of birds in the little pond off to the left. Walking over to the pond, I found a mixed feeding flock that included nine warbler species, among them one Blue-winged Warbler as well as Andy’s Cerulean, which was an adult male. After enjoying it for a while I walked a short distance down the right fork of the trail in search of a Kentucky Warbler that Felicia Lee and Elizabeth Martin had seen five days earlier. I wasn’t able to relocate it, so I started back to the car. Along the way I met Will Sexton and Mitch Walters, who were in search of the Cerulean. I led them to the pond where I’d seen it. Only five minutes had elapsed, but every last bird in that feeding flock was gone. We spent the next half-hour or so searching the adjoining woodlands – Dotty Robbins showed up to help us – but we never relocated the flock.

American Goldfinches don’t usually get here until later in the fall – I almost never see one until November – but in the past week early birds turned up in two locations. Dennis Knisely of High Springs photographed two at his feeders on the 26th (still there on the 30th) and Ron Robinson photographed one at his place at the west end of Gainesville on the 29th (not seen since). My records show only one previous August record in the county, at Ron’s place on August 28, 1996.

One thing about eBird. Though I fully support it (I’m a regional reviewer), it does sort of give the impression that birding didn’t exist until five years ago, since 99.9% of all birding records date from 2010 or later. Luckily John Hintermister, who’s been keeping personal records for Alachua County since 1968, has been entering his old checklists into eBird ever since he signed on. So if you do a search for Golden Eagle in Alachua County, you’ll see that it has in fact been recorded here, in 1974 at Newnans Lake and in 1981 at Paynes Prairie. But if John hadn’t entered his records, you wouldn’t know that Golden Eagle had ever been seen here at all (in fact there have been six reports over the years, the most recent in 1999, but the others weren’t entered into eBird). If you do a search for Brewer’s Blackbird, you’ll find three reports, one by Robert Repenning along Wacahoota Road in February 1977, and two by John Hintermister at Paynes Prairie, one in December 1969 and one in February 1990. In fact Brewer’s Blackbird was annually recorded on the Gainesville Christmas Bird Count from 1970 to 1990 in numbers ranging from 1 to 1,000 (average 151). So eBird is of limited use if you want to know the historical status of a species. If you’re only interested in recent trends, or in what’s being seen right now, it’s gangbusters.

Remember to mail those postcards that came in The Crane!