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.
American White Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Great Horned Owl