Alachua Audubon Society

A chapter of the National Audubon Society

July 10, 2017
by Rex Rowan
4 Comments

Farewell to the Alachua County birding report

All good things must come to an end. But so must all mediocre things. This birding report, for instance. I can’t remember exactly when I started it, but I’ve being sending it out for over fifteen years. Lately it’s been superseded by the “Alachua County Birding” Facebook page and eBird’s various “alerts.” I’ve noticed that many solicitations and questions posed here have gone unanswered (though mailed out to over 550 addresses!). I’ve had birders who are on my mailing list ask me questions which I’d answered a few days previously in a birding report. More to the point, only a few people pass along their unusual sightings to me anymore; I have to get most of my information from eBird. All of this suggests to me that the reports are not much read anymore. I suspect that this is because most of us have moved from desktop computers to smartphones, and the birding report is too long to read on a smartphone – it’s still written for a person relaxing in front of a monitor with a cup of coffee. But it’s the nature of contemporary society to move on from one communications platform to another, and it makes no sense to complain. It was fun while it lasted, and I’m surprised that it lasted more than fifteen years.

Plus, I’m 60 years old, and if my brain holds out – a pretty big if, as it happens – I’ve got only 10 or 20 years to accomplish some of the other things I wanted to do in my life. I’ve got a whole house full of books to read and some other stuff I’d like to do as well. The internet just gets in the way. So I’m discontinuing the Alachua County birding reports. If you want to keep up with the local sightings, take advantage of eBird alerts or the “Alachua County Birding” Facebook page. If you don’t want to join Facebook under your own name, then come up with a fake name like Harry Dogsbotham (maybe something a bit more plausible) and use it solely for checking the birding pages on Facebook (but if you want to join the “Alachua County Birding” Facebook page using a fake name, let Mike Manetz or Bob Carroll know what you’re doing via private email). And don’t forget to join the Alachua Audubon Facebook page for program meetings and field trips (like next year’s Burrowing Owl field trip).

My thanks to you all for many years of support and conversation.

July 9, 2017
by Rex Rowan
0 comments

Results of The June Challenge

Deep, deep in the labyrinthine recesses of the Alachua Audubon Society web site are some rarely-visited pages. One of the most interesting and useful – or so we thought when we created it – is “Meet the Birders of Alachua County,” which displays a photographic gallery of birders you might meet on the trail. “Who was that long-haired hippie?” you might think, and looking through the photos – which can be enlarged by clicking on them – you’d say, “Aha! It was Andy Kratter!” Or, “Who was that fellow with the noble beard, the beard of a prophet?” And you’d look at the “Meet the Birders” page and say, “So THAT’S Bob Simons!” See how useful that can be? However Alachua County has many more birders than photos in the gallery. So if you’re not in there, please send me a recognizable photo of yourself, with or without binoculars, and I’ll add it to the page.

The bicentennial of the birth of Henry David Thoreau is coming up on July 12th. I stole a rock from Walden Pond in 1980, so I’ll take that out and contemplate it. You should do something too, to commemorate the birth of the man who wrote, “I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn.” One thing I especially like about Thoreau is his emphasis on knowing your own local patch: “Give me the old familiar walk, post office and all, with this ever new self, with this infinite expectation and faith, which does not know when it is beaten. We’ll go nutting once more. We’ll pluck the nut of the world, and crack it in the winter evenings. Theaters and all other sightseeing are puppet-shows in comparison. I will take another walk to the Cliff, another row on the river, another skate on the meadow, be out in the first snow, and associate with the winter birds. Here I am at home. In the bare and bleached crust of the earth I recognize my friend.” A great American naturalist. A great American, period.

Mike Manetz won the Fourteenth Annual June Challenge with a total of 117 species, none of them non-countable exotics. Lloyd Davis and Anne Casella tied with 112 ABA-countable species, but Lloyd broke the tie and earned second place by finding four exotics in addition to his ABA-countable birds. Mike, Lloyd, and Anne all saw remarkably high percentages of the 121 species seen in Alachua County during June. In 2012, I won the Challenge by seeing 90% of the total number of species recorded. By comparison, Lloyd and Anne saw 92.6% and Mike saw an amazing 96.7%. Great performances all! In the under-16 category, Nora Parks-Church won first place with 71 species, Maddy Knight won second place with 65 species, and Owen Parks-Church won third place with 63 species. All 44 of this year’s participants should give themselves a pat on the back for a job well done. Photos below show Lloyd Davis receiving his award and Mike Manetz receiving the trophy at the June Challenge party that Becky Enneis hosted on July 8th. Special thanks to Danny Shehee for being the official photographer. The final results are below the pictures, and the count of all the bird species seen in Alachua County during June is at the bottom.

 

Mike Manetz 117/0
Lloyd Davis 112/4
Anne Casella 112/0
Danny Shehee 111/4
Chris Cattau 110/3
Howard Adams 109/3
Brad Hall 108/3
Rex Rowan 108/0
Craig Parenteau 106/0
Deena Mickelson 103/3
Cindy Boyd 101/3
Tina Greenberg 101/3
Barbara Shea 101/3
Jennifer Donsky 100/0
John Hintermister 95/0
Austin Gregg 94/0
Debbie Segal 92/1
Conrad Burkholder 92/0
Bob Knight 85/1
Colleen Cowdery 83/0
Pratibha Singh 82/0
Erin Kalinowski 79/0
Bob Carroll 77/0
Trina Anderson 76/0Geoff Parks 75/0
Glenn Israel 73/0
Danny Rohan 72/1
Linda Holt 72/0
Nora Parks-Church 71/0
Adam Zions 71/0
Barbara Woodmansee 70/0
Bob Simons 66/0
Tom Wronski 66/0
Maddy Knight 65/0
Becky Enneis 64/0
Owen Parks-Church 63/0
Sue Pulsipher 58/0
Scott Knight 54/0
John Martin 48/0
Emily Schwartz 48/0
Erika Simons 43/0
Will Sexton 37/0 (Will specifies that he saw 37 species in June WITHOUT doing a June Challenge)
Debbie Spiceland 37/0
Cayley Buckner 20/0

Scott Flamand writes, “I am never in the same area for all of June. So I have yet to do the Challenge. This year I made up my own. It is a multi-state challenge. The rule was that I had to see every bird from inside my car. I traveled 4986 miles across ten states. My numbers were 146/1. There were a few nice birds like Varied Bunting, Mexican Jay, White-headed Woodpecker, Williamson’s Sapsucker, Arizona Woodpecker, Red-breasted Sapsucker, and Acorn Woodpecker. My one non-ABA bird was a Black-throated Magpie-Jay south of San Diego, where there’s a small population descended from escaped pets. I also picked up a lifer, but not from my car (a Rose-throated Becard).”

Alachua County’s June Challengers found 121 species during the month, or 126 counting the exotics. They included rare breeders like Broad-winged Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk, Hairy Woodpecker, and Gray Catbird, semi-regular visitors like Whooping Crane, Brown Pelican, and American White Pelican, and a few late and early migrants like Blue-winged Teal, Spotted Sandpiper, Louisiana Waterthrush, and American Redstart. Only a handful of really unexpected birds were seen, an injured Gadwall at Newnans Lake, a drake Ring-necked Duck stranded for some reason at Barr Hammock, and an adult male Painted Bunting singing at the La Chua Trail one afternoon. Here’s the complete list in the new and even-more-confusing American Ornithological Society order, with asterisks marking the exotics:

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
*Swan Goose
*Greylag Goose
*Black Swan
Muscovy Duck
Wood Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Gadwall
Mallard
Mottled Duck
Ring-necked Duck
*Helmeted Guineafowl
Northern Bobwhite
*Indian Peafowl
Wild Turkey
Pied-billed Grebe
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Common Ground-Dove
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Common Nighthawk
Chuck-will’s-widow
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
King Rail
Purple Gallinule
Common Gallinule
American Coot
Limpkin
Sandhill Crane
Whooping Crane
Black-necked Stilt
Spotted Sandpiper
Laughing Gull
Wood Stork
Double-crested Cormorant
Anhinga
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
Least Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
White Ibis
Glossy Ibis
Roseate Spoonbill
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
Swallow-tailed Kite
Mississippi Kite
Bald Eagle
Cooper’s Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Broad-winged hawk
Short-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Barn Owl
Eastern Screech-Owl
Great Horned Owl
Barred Owl
Burrowing Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
American Kestrel
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Acadian Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Loggerhead Shrike
White-eyed Vireo
Yellow-throated Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
Purple Martin
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Brown-headed Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
European Starling
House Sparrow
House Finch
Eastern Towhee
Bachman’s Sparrow
Yellow-breasted Chat
Eastern Meadowlark
Orchard Oriole
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
Louisiana Waterthrush
Prothonotary Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
American Redstart
Northern Parula
Pine Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Summer Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Blue Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Painted Bunting

July 7, 2017
by Rex Rowan
0 comments

Oriole vs. hummingbird question, correction to Birds and Brew schedule

This is sort of hard for me to grasp, but there are people who would like to keep orioles away from their hummingbird feeders. Can anyone offer advice on how to do that? Secondary question: what’s the best oriole feeder out there?

As soon as I sent out the birding report announcing the Birds and Brew gatherings, we realized there was a conflict with Bob Carroll’s Third Thursday field trips. So we’re changing Birds and Brew to every FIRST Thursday of the month. Our initial meeting will be Thursday, August 3rd, at 7 p.m. A map showing the location of First Magnitude Brewing is here, and the brewery’s “Visiting Us” page, with parking information, is here. Please join us. I’ve heard that all the cool kids will be there.

In other High Society news, the June Challenge party will take place on Saturday evening (that’s tomorrow) at 6 p.m. Details in first paragraph here: http://www.alachuaaudubon.org/2017/07/01/well-thats-that/

If you’ve got any good bird photos that you’d like to share, Alachua Audubon has a “Birding Photos” Flickr page that welcomes your contributions: https://www.flickr.com/groups/3599086@N23/pool/with/34779629775/ (Click on the link to see Erika Simons’s amazing photo of a Great Blue Heron with a young alligator dangling from its bill!)

A few other things that I noticed about the new AOU … sorry, AOS checklist upon further examination:
– Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, and Northern Shoveler have seceded from the genus Anas, perhaps because they didn’t like the sound of it, and have gone into the genus Spatula. Traitors! (But ha ha! Spatula!)
– Gadwall, Eurasian Wigeon, and American Wigeon have also jumped ship from Anas and been recruited into the genus Mareca. Turncoats!
– The family Emberizidae used to be huge, containing New World warblers, tanagers, grosbeaks, buntings, sparrows, longspurs, and blackbirds, as well as Old World buntings. Over the years one group and then another have left the warm embrace of the Emberizidae and formed families of their own, until only the New World sparrows and Old World buntings remained. This checklist creates a new family, Passerellidae, for New World sparrows (including towhees and juncos), leaving only the Old World buntings – which are on the North American list only because they occasionally stray to the Aleutian Islands – as the last remaining members of Emberizidae. Good bye, emberizids! It was fun saying “emberizids” while it lasted!
– The sequence has been reshuffled almost as drastically as last year. The tail end of the North American bird list, as found in field guides, checklists, et cetera, formerly followed this order: warblers, tanagers (including grosbeaks and buntings), sparrows (including longspurs), blackbirds, and finches. Now it goes like this: finches, longspurs, sparrows, Yellow-breasted Chat, blackbirds, warblers, and tanagers (including grosbeaks and buntings). And the sequence of blackbirds is, as my Army son would say, ALL jacked up, what with the new division into five subfamilies.
– You can see the Alachua County bird list in its new sequence and with all the taxonomic appurtenances here.

So … what about those hummingbird / oriole questions? Any ideas?

July 6, 2017
by Rex Rowan
0 comments

First Black-and-white Warblers, AOU lumps and splits

On the 3rd Eric Amundson found the fall’s first Black-and-white Warblers, two of them, along the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail where it crosses County Road 234 in Rochelle. These are among the earliest ever for Alachua County. Except for 2013, when Black-and-whites showed up in three widely-separated locations in late June, the earliest ever recorded here were found on July 7th – one in 2001, one in 2002, and one in 2003.

Alachua Audubon is sponsoring a new birding program, tentatively called “Birds and Brew.” The first Birds and Brew will be held on Thursday, July 20th, at 7 p.m. We’ll meet at First Magnitude Brewery (1220 SE Veitch Street), stroll to Depot Park to look for birds, and return to First Mag for a cold brew and good conversation. Birds and Brew will be a monthly (3rd Thursday evening) event. All birding skill levels are welcome; enthusiasm is what matters! Bring your binoculars and a thirst for good craft beer (but if you forget your binoculars, stop by anyway, because we’ll have some to loan out). Thanks to Adam Kent and Christine Denny for the idea and to Michael Brock, Mike Manetz, and Adam for working out the details.

Something else for your calendar: on Thursday, July 27th, Adam and Gina Kent will tell us about their recent trip to southern Africa. “The talk will focus on birds, but will also touch on other interesting aspects of the region such as mammals and fascinating landscapes. Learn about a diversity of natural communities including emblematic tropical woodland, the desert-like karoo, and fynbos, a shrubby heathland that looks more like something out of a Mediterranean garden than one’s typical vision of Africa.” Time, place, and other details here: http://www.alachuaaudubon.org/event/wildlife-and-landscapes-of-south-africa/?instance_id=670

The American Ornithologists’ Union is preparing to release its annual Check-list Supplement, but the results are already on line. You can view them here (click on “View Comments” for votes and discussion on each proposal), but I’ve listed some of the more interesting ones below:

– The proposal to change the name of Ring-necked Duck to Ring-billed Duck failed – unanimously. Look at the View Comments page to learn why.
– The proposal to split Willet into two species failed. The vote was 5-5. Andy Kratter, a member of the committee, tells me that proposals need the approval of 75% of the committee to pass.
– Thayer’s Gull no longer exists as a separate species, having been lumped into Iceland Gull by unanimous decision.
– The proposal to split Bell’s Vireo into two species (eastern and western) failed, though the vote was 5-5.
– A large-billed Red Crossbill resident in the South Hills of Cassia County, Idaho, has been split from other Red Crossbills by a vote of 8-2. It’s now a separate species called Cassia Crossbill (Loxia sinesciuris).
– The proposal to lump Common Redpoll and Hoary Redpoll into a single species failed, though the vote was 5-5.
– The proposal to split Yellow-rumped Warbler into three species (eastern Myrtle, western Audubon’s, and Central American Goldman’s) failed, though the vote was 5-5.
– Yellow-breasted Chat is no longer classified as one of the wood-warblers (family Parulidae). It has been given its very own family, Icteriidae (similar to Icteridae, the blackbird family, but note the extra i).
– Le Conte’s Sparrow and Thrasher are now LeConte’s Sparrow and Thrasher, with no space between Le and Conte’s (one committee member writes facetiously, “YES. I look forward to deleting that extra space henceforth”).

Speaking of lumping and name-changing, last year the AOU (which was founded in 1883) was lumped with the Cooper Ornithological Society (founded in 1893), and the new entity is now known as the American Ornithological Society. Goodbye AOU, hello AOS.

Don’t forget the June Challenge party, coming up on Saturday, July 8th, at 6 p.m. Map here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1p7B11MuC4CM9N3eTT7sx1HFWyIs&usp=sharing Winners will be announced and a good time will be had by all. Beer, soft drinks, and grilled hot dogs will be provided by our host, Becky Enneis, but please bring something extraordinarily delicious to share.

July 1, 2017
by Rex Rowan
0 comments

Well that’s that

A correction: I wrote earlier that our June Challenge party will be held on Friday the 8th. Since Friday isn’t the 8th, that would be a pretty neat trick. No, the party will take place at 6 p.m. on SATURDAY, JULY 8TH at Becky Enneis’s house in the town of Alachua. Map here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1p7B11MuC4CM9N3eTT7sx1HFWyIs&usp=sharing Beer, soft drinks, and grilled hot dogs will be provided by the management. Please bring something tasty to share, whether it’s your famous quinoa-and-durian salad with natto dressing or a box of Publix fried chicken.

If you haven’t already done so, please send me your June Challenge results. Remember to send them in this format: if you saw 100 ABA-countable species and 2 non-countable species (like the Black Swans and Greylag Geese at the Duck Pond), report “100/2.” If you saw 101 ABA-countable species and no non-countables, report “101/0.” The contest will be won by the birder with the highest total of ABA-countable species. If there’s a tie, the non-countable species will be used as a tie-breaker. So 101/0 would beat 100/2, but 100/2 would beat 100/1.

Mike Manetz and I spent a bit over an hour on the Powers Park pier yesterday evening, hoping to eke out one last June Challenge bird. I was hoping to see the Belted Kingfisher, Mike was hoping for a tern straying from the coast. We never saw the kingfisher, but we heard a few Least-Tern-like calls off toward Lakeshore Drive, each sounding farther away than the last. We never caught a glimpse of the source, however, so our vigil was fruitless. Our only other sightings of interest were a couple of Swallow-tailed Kites and a Least Bittern. We packed it in at 7:30, with heavy clouds and lightning to the east and south. While we were there, one of the anglers reeled in a catfish, and some teenage kids were watching. “Why is it so ugly?” one of them asked. “Why are YOU so ugly?” the other one replied. Former middle-school-teacher Mike smiled. “I miss being in the classroom,” he said.

When we’d first gotten out of the car I’d noticed that the lake level was much higher than normal. Hard to believe the shoreline was walkable only a month and a half ago, when I took this photo. But we’ve had our rainiest June on record. In 2012, the year the previous record was set, the situation was similar. There was low water at Newnans Lake, even lower than this year, with even more shorebirds. Tropical Storm Beryl hit on May 28th, bringing the water level up, but still leaving plenty of muddy shoreline and shallows, which remained in place nearly all month despite normal summer rainfall. Newnans Lake was a bird bonanza, and our June Challenge list included Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Duck, Common Loon, American White Pelican, Reddish Egret, Semipalmated Plover, American Avocet, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, Franklin’s Gull, Least Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Black Tern, Forster’s Tern, Royal Tern, and Black Skimmer. The arrival of Hurricane Debby on June 26-27 brought enormous amounts of rainfall that filled the lake back up – and set a June precipitation record – but also brought us Sooty Tern and Magnificent Frigatebird to round out our lists. The unusual birdiness wasn’t limited to water-loving species, either; three Black-and-white Warblers showed up during the last week of June, just proving the old adage that when it rains, it pours. Which brings me back around to my original subject. The record-setting rains of June 2012 amounted to 16.34 inches. This year, according to this morning’s Gainesville Sun, we’ve had 16.84 inches, and that doesn’t even include last night’s rain. So if June seemed unusually rainy to you, it was; it was officially the rainiest June ever.

The far end of the La Chua Trail remains inaccessible, though the trail is still open to that point. Howard Adams passed along a note from Donald Forgione, Director of the Florida Park Service: “We will be working with the St. Johns River Water Management District on a permit to replace the culvert. We also will be working with DEP’s District 2 office on additional funding. Of course, all of this takes time and Jerry and I will keep you informed. In the meantime, when asked by our visitors, please let them know that we are working toward the repair of the trail.”

And that’s not Paynes Prairie’s only bad culvert. Amber Roux notified me that there’s a problem at the Prairie’s Main Entrance off 441 near Micanopy: “There is a culvert collapsing on Savannah Blvd (the main park drive) – it is marked by some cones in the road. The road is passable, but there are holes forming across half the width of it.”

Just for your amusement, here’s a June Challenge entry from Phillips County, Montana, submitted by Ben Ewing, who had (or maybe still has) a summer internship doing grassland-bird surveys. They’re listed in the order that he saw them. Eight of these would be lifers for me.

Canada Goose
Ring-necked Pheasant
Mourning Dove
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Western Meadowlark
Red-winged Blackbird
American Robin
European Starling
Mallard
Black-billed Magpie
Killdeer
Horned Lark
Northern Harrier
Chestnut-collared Longspur
Baird’s Sparrow
Brown-headed Cowbird
Sprague’s Pipit
McCown’s Longspur
American Wigeon
Eastern Kingbird
Lark Bunting
Western Kingbird
Barn Swallow
Franklin’s Gull
Willet
Tree Swallow
Lark Sparrow
Common Grackle
Rock Pigeon
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Long-billed Curlew
Marbled Godwit
Ring-billed Gull
Common Nighthawk
Grasshopper Sparrow
Gadwall
Blue-winged Teal
Western Wood-Pewee
House Wren
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow Warbler
Song Sparrow
Yellow-headed Blackbird
House Sparrow
Wilson’s Phalarope
Double-crested Cormorant
American White Pelican
Gray Partridge
Bobolink
Savannah Sparrow
Redhead
Ruddy Duck
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
Great Blue Heron
White-faced Ibis
American Coot
California Gull
Swainson’s Hawk
American Avocet
Black-necked Stilt
Golden Eagle
Common Raven
Sharp-tailed Grouse
Short-eared Owl
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Cliff Swallow
Turkey Vulture
Gray Catbird
Chimney Swift
Hairy Woodpecker
Least Flycatcher
Warbling Vireo
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Baltimore Oriole
Northern Flicker
American Goldfinch
Vesper Sparrow
Cinnamon Teal
Brown Thrasher
Marsh Wren
Common Goldeneye
Bufflehead
Lesser Scaup
Sedge Wren
Common Yellowthroat
Loggerhead Shrike
American Kestrel
Brewer’s Blackbird
Sandhill Crane
House Finch
Red-tailed Hawk
Lazuli Bunting
Downy Woodpecker
Chipping Sparrow
Great Horned Owl
Greater Sage-Grouse
Black-headed Grosbeak
Black-capped Chickadee
Green-winged Teal
Brewer’s Sparrow
Clay-colored Sparrow

June 28, 2017
by Rex Rowan
0 comments

First fall migrants

On the 27th Lloyd Davis saw a Louisiana Waterthrush at San Felasco Hammock’s Moonshine Creek Trail (the loop trail south of Millhopper Road, adjoining the parking lot). He writes that he found it “about half way between the two bridges, following the creek.” This was the county’s first fall migrant, one week after the last day of spring. One thing that The June Challenge has given us in its fourteen years is an awareness of how early some southbound migrants can get here: Louisiana Waterthrush is recorded almost annually during the last week of June, and in 2013 we had three different Black-and-white Warblers during the last few days of the month.

On that subject, Trina Anderson saw the fall’s first Belted Kingfisher today at Powers Park, “flying and chattering across the canal entering the lake.”

If you still need King Rail for the Challenge, you might be interested in this from Anne Casella: “Lloyd Davis told me about some King Rails at the Bolen Bluff platform. I went out there on Thursday and there were at least three and one of them flew in when I played my app. They were much more cooperative than the Sweetwater King Rail who grunted at me two days in a row but never came into view.”

I just got back from a week and a half visiting my son in upstate New York. On the second leg of the drive home, from North Carolina to Gainesville, I occupied myself by watching for the earliest indicators that we were entering the ecological South. Most came in southern South Carolina – an Anhinga flying over I-95 along the Pocotaglia River, a Great Egret and a Snowy Egret near Orangeburg, a road-killed alligator and a cypress tree along the Combahee River, a cabbage palm at Yemassee, and a road-killed armadillo just south of Savannah. I didn’t see any Cattle Egrets till Jacksonville. In New York, just as in Florida, there were white birds following the tractors in the fields – but in New York they weren’t Cattle Egrets, they were flocks of Ring-billed Gulls flapping slowly along.

Remember to send me your June Challenge results by midnight on the 30th. We’ll have a party, and present the trophy to this year’s winner, at Becky Enneis’s house on the evening of Friday the 8th. Stay tuned.

June 20, 2017
by Rex Rowan
0 comments

American White Pelicans at Powers Park, Broad-winged Hawk at Poe Springs

Erin Kalinowski saw two American White Pelicans from Powers Park at about 3:30 this afternoon.

Mike Manetz added Broad-winged Hawk to his June Challenge list the other day. He was sitting on the floating dock along the river when one flew right over his head, continued to the other shore, and perched out in the open, calling (which means that Mike can also add it to his Columbia County June Challenge, if he’s doing one). He thinks one might be nesting in the park.

Karl Miller and Howard Adams both reported large terns (Royal or Caspian) at Newnans Lake in the past week, but they were too far off to confidently ID. Still, scoping Newnans from Palm Point is an excellent way to add uncommon birds to your June Challenge list.

Geoff Parks thought he heard an American Robin calling in his neighborhood earlier this month, but only once and he wasn’t sure. Still, he did hear one singing “loud and clear” on May 4th, so it might be worth checking his neighborhood (roads east and west of NE 7th Street between 16th and 23rd Avenues) to see if you can find one.

Today I added Black-capped Chickadee, Savannah Sparrow, Caspian Tern, and Green Heron to my own June Challenge list. No, I’m not delusional. I’m in upstate New York visiting my son for a week and a half, so what better way to pass the time than by doing a Jefferson County, New York, June Challenge? I’m up to 39 species at this point, and at Derby Hill Bird Observatory this morning (the outing was a Father’s Day present) a couple of excellent local birders named Gerry Smith and Tom Carrolan told me where I might find singing Golden-winged Warblers.

We all know that Lloyd Davis gets around more than anybody. But I was still a surprised when he turned up in a photo on the National Audubon Society web site, watching a Great Gray Owl at Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog: http://www.audubon.org/news/want-photograph-boreal-birds-winter-head-minnesotas-sax-zim-bog

Alachua Conservation Trust is looking for a part-time Land Management Specialist “responsible for supervising and training interns who participate in ACT’s Women in the Woods program on various resource management field projects, conservation and operational tasks relating to prescribed fire, trail maintenance, and recreational improvements.” If you’re interested, here’s a link: http://alachuaconservationtrust.org/index.php?/alachua_v2/jobs

June 13, 2017
by Rex Rowan
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Male Painted Bunting singing at La Chua Trail

On the afternoon of the 12th a visiting Massachusetts birder named Nathan Dubrow photographed a singing male Painted Bunting at the beginning of the La Chua Trail, “on the right side of the sidewalk as you walk out towards the Prairie just before the stable building.” Several birders combed the area around the stable first thing this morning, but without success. Painted Buntings nest along the Atlantic coastal strip from Brevard County northward, so they shouldn’t be in Alachua County right now. However there are three old summer records. A male was seen at Lake Alice on 19 July 1972, a pair was at Ron Robinson’s place in Alachua on 14-15 June 1987, and of two singing males seen along Wacahoota Road in mid-May 1997 one was seen again on 5 July. Only one of those birds was present for an extended period of time, so this may have been a one-day wonder. Or it may not….

Mike Manetz saw a Whooping Crane from the observation tower at the Paynes Prairie Visitor Center on the morning of the 13th.

On the evening of the 12th several birders gathered on the boardwalk between Alachua Sink and Little Alachua Sink in hope of seeing Great Horned Owls and Barn Owls. One Great Horned was perched out in the open when we got there, but the rest of the action happened after 8:30. One Barn Owl flew out at 8:32, and a second Great Horned and a second Barn Owl flew out at 8:40. When I left, two Great Horneds were perched in that solitary pine near the beginning of Sparrow Alley and a third was visible and calling in the big oak beside the stable.

On the morning of the 13th Conrad Burkholder saw two Eastern Kingbirds and a male Orchard Oriole along Cellon Creek Boulevard. He also heard a Northern Bobwhite calling, though he didn’t see it.

June 11, 2017
by Rex Rowan
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Burrowing Owls on Saturday, and another owl trip for Monday night

Sixty-two people showed up for Saturday morning’s field trip to see the Burrowing Owls at Watermelon Pond.

 

Luckily some Burrowing Owls showed up too. I counted 12, including an adult standing at the mouth of a burrow with three sets of fiercely-staring yellow eyes visible below her (see Robert Emond’s digiscoped photo below).

 

County biologist Michael Drummond saw at least one more chick in that burrow, and thought that the total count in the field was somewhere between 13 and 17 owls. You can see six of them in this photo by Keith Collingwood.

 

Several other birds of interest to June Challengers were seen on the trip, and on a subsequent walk in the nearby Watermelon Pond Wildlife and Environmental Area, including Common Nighthawk, American Kestrel, Red-headed Woodpecker (photo below by Keith Collingwood), Eastern Kingbird, Purple Martin, Eastern Meadowlark, and Orchard Oriole. Barbara Shea arrived before sunrise and saw a Chuck-will’s-widow and a Barred Owl as well.

 

Loggerhead Shrikes were nowhere to be found at Watermelon Pond, but today Anne Barkdoll found three of them “next to a large retention pond at 3744-3756 SW 24th Avenue, which is somewhere near/in the new Butler wasteland. It is open and grassy next to the retention pond between two apartment complexes. Never expected to see a shrike here. Had to stop and back up. Fortunately little traffic.” Drive carefully, Anne!

Roseate Spoonbills were reported today by Karl Miller at the Deerhaven Generating Station and by Felicia Lee at Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

On Sunday morning ten of us gathered at San Felasco Hammock and walked about three miles of trails north of Millhopper Road in search of June Challenge birds. We had fair to good looks at three of our five targets – Red-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireos and Acadian Flycatchers – and a fantastic point-blank look at a singing Eastern Wood-Pewee at the junction of the Yellow Trail and the Hammock Cutoff. But we didn’t see or hear a single Hooded Warbler. As we neared the parking lot, Danny Shehee heard an odd call from the woods, so he and Austin Gregg and I went looking for it while the rest of the crowd kept walking. We eventually discovered that we were hearing the begging calls of a fledgling Swallow-tailed Kite perched high in a pine tree, being fed by its parent. Afterward, Austin and I crossed the street and walked down the Moonshine Creek Trail until we found a Hooded Warbler. Going down the left fork, there’s a pond off to the right just before you get to the first bridge. One bird was singing on the back side of the pond, and Austin and I both got a look at it. Glenn Israel and his daughter Larissa had gone ahead of us, and they found a second bird singing on the far side of that first bridge, on the left. So now you know where to look.

Barbara Woodmansee asks, “Do you ever go out to Burnt Island? I got lots of fun stuff out there last weekend – Northern Bobwhite, 3 Chuck-wills-widows in the road at dusk, a Bald Eagle, a Brown Thrasher, Eastern Towhees, Great Crested Flycatcher, and probably a Prothonotary Warbler, but I couldn’t count it because I could only hear it.” Burnt Island is #4 on this map: http://www.sjrwmd.com/trailguides/pdfs/lochloosadrivetrail.pdf (Driving along Fish Camp Road – #2 and #3 on the map – can also be good for Chucks.)

One last field trip offer: If you’d like to try for Great Horned Owl and Barn Owl at La Chua, get to the La Chua parking area by 7:45 on Monday evening (they’ll close the gate not long after that). We’ll wait on the boardwalk for the owls to show up. When Mike Manetz and I were out there, the Barn Owls didn’t show till 8:50, but Danny Shehee has seen them closer to 8:30 twice this week. Great Horned Owls are also possible.