Time to go birding

From: Rex Rowan <rexrowan@gmail.com>
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.”

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: http://www.alachuaaudubon.org/local-birding-info/bird-counts/fall/

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: https://www.flickr.com/photos/46902575@N06/21467866149/in/dateposted/ 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: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/21421169400/in/dateposted-public/

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: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/21608830906/in/dateposted-public/

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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zf6SxoCQJFY

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: http://www.alachuaaudubon.org/classes-field-trips/

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 http://epublic.sfcollege.edu (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: http://expertise.psy.vanderbilt.edu/ If you or your members wish to know more about us, visit our ‘This is Your Brain on Birds’ Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/This-is-Your-Brain-on-Birds/158030504237705?sk=info&tab=page_info or visit our website at http://catlab.psy.vanderbilt.edu/ ” 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 <rexrowan@gmail.com>
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: https://www.flickr.com/photos/118053703@N02/21200795339/in/dateposted/

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: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/20834057223/in/dateposted-public/

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: http://help.ebird.org/customer/portal/articles/1010492-entering-nocturnal-flight-call-counts

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”): http://cmboviewfromthefield.blogspot.com/2015/09/morning-flight-14-september-2015.html

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: https://www.flickr.com/photos/30736692@N00/albums/72157594281975202

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: http://www.alachuacounty.us/Depts/Communications/Pages/Detail.aspx?itemID=9140

Canada Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler(s)

From: Rex Rowan <rexrowan@gmail.com>
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: https://plus.google.com/photos/109059725171331326796/albums/6192299431961706033

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: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/20714939614/in/dateposted-public/

Wild Birds Unlimited is having a Seed and Suet Sale from the 12th through the 20th: http://gainesville.wbu.com/

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”): http://www.alachuaaudubon.org/classes-field-trips/

Wilson’s Warbler at Bolen Bluff

From: Rex Rowan <rexrowan@gmail.com>
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 mmanetz@yahoo.com

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: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/20963357058/in/dateposted-public/

Lloyd Davis saw two Soras along the La Chua Trail on the morning of September 3rd, and he got a photo of one: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/20529132734/in/dateposted-public/

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: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/20965095979/in/dateposted-public/

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): http://www.sibleyguides.com/2011/03/another-clue-for-identifying-downy-and-hairy-woodpeckers/

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): http://www.alachuaaudubon.org/classes-field-trips/

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: http://fieldguide.blogs.gainesville.com/

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

Crested Caracara in Evinston!

From: Rex Rowan <rexrowan@gmail.com>
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 <rexrowan@gmail.com>
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: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thermalin/20826157900/in/dateposted/ 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!

First Cerulean and Blue-winged Warblers!

From: Rex Rowan <rexrowan@gmail.com>
To: Alachua County birding report

The next issue of The Crane (the Alachua Audubon Society newsletter) should arrive in your mailbox in the next couple of days. It will contain two inserts. One is the complete 2015-16 field trip schedule, suitable for pinning to a bulletin board or hanging on a refrigerator with a magnet. The other is a set of four pre-stamped postcards, one each for Governor Scott, Representative Perry, Representative Watson, and Senator Bradley, telling them that we’re against leasing out Paynes Prairie for cattle grazing, forestry, or hunting. Please separate these postcards at the perforations, put your name and address on each one, and drop them in a mailbox.

Andy Kratter found the first Cerulean Warbler of the season at the Bolen Bluff Trail today, “in sweetgums 100 yards from parking lot, in feeding flock with Prothonotary Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Prairie Warbler, etc.” Andy had ten warbler species overall this morning. In addition to the Cerulean he saw 5 American Redstarts, a Worm-eating Warbler, an Ovenbird, 2 Northern Waterthrushes, 8 Yellow Warblers, and 3 Prairies.

Debbie Segal, Trina Anderson, and Rob Norton also accumulated ten warbler species at Owens-Illinois Park and the surrounding area this morning, “along the floodplain and upland fringe (after walking through the Owens Illinois Park) on the south side of the Windsor boat ramp. In just 1.5 hours, we saw 10 warbler species, which included Worm-eating, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Hooded, Prairie, Prothonotary, American Redstart, Black-and-white, Yellow-throated, and Northern Parula. We also spotted at least one Black Tern from the lake shore at the Windsor boat ramp and several more unidentifiable terns across the lake.”

Earlier in the morning, Debbie Segal saw the fall’s first Blue-winged Warbler at her place north of the Hague dairy.

Felicia Lee and Elizabeth Martin found a Kentucky Warbler at Bolen Bluff on the 22nd, “on the south branch of the trail near the first pond/puddle on the right.” On the day after, Felicia also found the season’s first Black-throated Blue Warbler at Palm Point; “in the same tree were a Prairie Warbler, a female/juv. American Redstart, a Northern Parula, and a Black-and-white Warbler, along with about a dozen local birds.”

Greg Hart of Alachua and Ron Robinson of western Gainesville have both reported Rufous Hummingbirds at their feeders since the 23rd, though Ron’s came and went in a day.

Remember to mail those postcards!

Alder Flycatcher at Cones Dike

From: Rex Rowan <rexrowan@gmail.com>
To: Alachua County birding report

On the 16th Gallus Quigley and Gerald Walker found two Alder Flycatchers and a Willow Flycatcher at Lake Apopka Restoration Area (formerly called Zellwood) in Orange County. Mike Manetz saw the eBird report and wondered if it would be worth looking for Alder Flycatchers here too. After all, they were recorded at Paynes Prairie in each of three previous years. So on the 17th he and Lloyd Davis and I walked out Sparrow Alley, where they’d been found in August 2013 and August 2014. We saw 5 Yellow Warblers, 3 Prairie Warblers, an American Redstart, an Orchard Oriole, and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, but no sight or sound of an Alder Flycatcher. So this morning Mike went over to Cones Dike, where Alders occurred for three years in a row, and near the sign announcing the end of the trail (at the Camps Canal end) he discovered one. The bird was both calling and singing, and Mike made recordings.

I took Matt O’Sullivan’s grandparents out La Chua on the 14th, and though we didn’t get them all the birds they wanted (we missed King Rail and never got a really good look at Least Bittern) we saw a male Painted Bunting near the barn, family groups of Blue Grosbeaks and Orchard Orioles near the barn, single Mississippi and Swallow-tailed Kites, numerous adult and juvenile Purple Gallinules, and a summering Blue-winged Teal (one of two in the area, the other being at Sweetwater Wetlands Park).

Take that, drone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hr-xBtVU4lg

Dr. Karl Miller of FWC writes, “We are recruiting birdwatchers who might be interested in helping look for color banded scrub-jays within Ocala National Forest. FWC has undertaken a multi-year survival and dispersal project, banding scrub-jays at four designated long-term study sites, then tracking their survival and movements over time. We are focusing our attention on all clearcut stands that are only a few years old. They are easy walking, and much of the surveying can be done from dirt roads. We use mp3 players to broadcast calls, bring them in close, and then record any bands we see. If you know of any birders who either visit Ocala NF periodically, or would like to do so in the future, and who would enjoy keeping an eye out for banded scrub-jays, please let me know! I can set you up with what you need to get started. Each of these re-sightings of a ‘lost’ banded bird on a new territory is extremely valuable to us! I can’t pay cash rewards, but perhaps I can repay the effort by inviting those who contribute to join us one morning when we band scrub-jays in September.” Contact Karl at karl.miller@myfwc.com or 352-575-8282.

Rufous Hummingbird, Painted Bunting, Black Terns

From: Rex Rowan <rexrowan@gmail.com>
To: Alachua County birding report

On the 9th Emerson Graveley photographed an adult male Rufous Hummingbird at his place near Newberry. It’s probably the same bird that visited his place last winter, but it’s certainly the county’s earliest ever: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/20424736462/in/dateposted-public/

Also on the 9th, George Hecht of SW Gainesville noticed a male Painted Bunting at his feeder. This could be a migrating bird, but most migrant Painted Buntings pass through during October. Is it only a coincidence that a Painted Bunting was reported singing at Sweetwater Wetlands Park a month ago? Mr. Hecht lives only a mile away. Here’s a photo of the bunting: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/19842576963/in/dateposted-public/

On the 8th Debbie Segal and her husband Bob Knight “boated around Newnans Lake and found a small flock of 5 Black Terns feeding over the south end of the lake. We also found three Forster’s Terns feeding over the lake. We launched from the Rochelle boat ramp on the east side of the lake. As we were launching, I heard loud chipping from the floodplain on the north side of the park and easily found two Northern Waterthrushes. After boating I went back into the floodplain and found a nice assortment of woodland birds – Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Great Crested Flycatcher, Yellow Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Northern Parula, Summer Tanager, woodpeckers (Downy, Pileated, Red-bellied), vireos (White-eyed, Yellow-throated, Red-eyed), and a few other common woodland species. These were seen around 12:30 p.m., not the best time of the day for birding. Morning birding in the floodplain may be even better.” Mike Manetz and I went out to Palm Point on the evening of the 9th in hopes of seeing the Black Terns. We saw 5-6 Laughing Gulls but no terns of any description.

You may have seen David Johnston’s obituary in Sunday’s paper. Johnston was one of the most important figures in the history of Alachua County birding. He taught zoology at the University beginning in 1963 and spent a lot of time exploring Alachua County with binoculars and shotgun. As far as I’m aware, he was the first person in 20 or 30 years to put a lot of time into studying the birds of this county. In May 1964 he discovered that Blue Grosbeaks were nesting here, having expanded their range from the north (like Indigo Buntings less than ten years earlier), he saw the first Red-breasted Nuthatch ever recorded in the county (November 30, 1968), and in Gilchrist County on January 11, 1969, he found and collected the first Sage Thrasher ever recorded east of the Mississippi River. He collected a lot of birds for the museum, and Andy Kratter commented just last week that his specimens were particularly well-prepared. He moved to Virginia in about 1979, but kept a winter home in Cedar Key, and in 2009 he self-published Cedar Key: Birding in Paradise: Finding Birds Then and Now, which contains a little history, a little advice on finding birds, and a complete list of species that have occurred there over the years, with brief notes about their status. He was sort of a cranky guy, and when Mike Manetz and I included Cedar Key in our 2006 edition of the Birdwatcher’s Guide he had plenty of criticisms, some of them bizarre – he maintained that there was no such tree as a Sand Pine and no such bird as a Long-billed Murrelet – but he backed off when I showed him the pertinent references, and later solicited my assistance with his Cedar Key book. I didn’t know him well, but I recognized him when he pulled up in his truck this spring as we were birding the road that parallels the Cedar Key airfield. He had a couple of little dogs on the seat beside him. He told me what he’d seen that morning and asked what we’d found – the typical birder’s conversation – and after a minute’s small talk he said goodbye and drove away.