The June Challenge in Alachua County … and Beyond!

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

The massive June Challenge trophy has a new home. Despite being a relative newcomer to Alachua County and spending the first week of the month in Maine, Jonathan Mays beat everyone else to win The Tenth Annual Alachua County June Challenge! An amazing performance. And if you look at the following list, you’ll see quite a few performances that are only fractionally less amazing. We had 48 participants this year and sixteen of them saw 100+ species. Of course the point of The June Challenge is not to win, or to get a big list, the point is to have fun, to get out in the fresh air and (when you can find it) sunshine and to see some beautiful birds, and I hope every participant considers himself or herself a winner in that respect. Here are the final standings:

Jonathan Mays  116 (114/2)
Rex Rowan  114 (112/2)
Howard Adams  113 (111/2)
Lloyd Davis  113 (111/2)
Adam Zions  113 (111/2)
Barbara Mollison  112 (110/2)
Ron Robinson  110 (108/2)
Anne Kendall  109 (107/2)
Marie Zeglen  109 (107/2)
Frank Goodwin  105 (103/2)
Danny Shehee  105 (103/2)
Chris Cattau  104 (102/2)
Maralee Joos  103 (101/2)
Ria Leonard  103 (101/2)
John Martin  102 (100/2)
Anne Barkdoll  102 (99/3)
Barbara Shea  101 (99/2)
Samuel Ewing  97 (96/1)
Dean Ewing  96 (95/1)
Bob Carroll  96 (94/2)
Irma Harris  91 (91/0)
Phil Laipis  91 (91/0)
Felicia Lee  90 (89/1)
Helen Warren  89 (87/2)
Sharon Kuchinski  88 (87/1)
Becky Enneis  88 (86/2)
Judy Bryan  87 (87/0)
Tina Greenberg  86 (85/1)
Elizabeth Martin  84 (84/0)
John Hintermister  83 (83/0)
Steven Goodman  83 (82/1)
Conrad Burkholder  82 (80/2)
Erin Kalinowski  81 (78/3)
Matt Kalinowski  81 (78/3)
Ignacio Rodriguez  80 (78/2)
Debbie Segal  79 (79/0)
Barbara Woodmansee  76 (75/1)
Francisco Jiminez  72 (70/2)
Geoff Parks  67 (65/2)
Mary Landsman  65 (65/0)
Nora Parks  65 (63/2)
Bob Knight  64 (64/0)
Emily Schwartz  64 (64/0)
Sidney Wade  63 (61/2)
Carol Huang  61 (59/2)
Owen Parks  44 (42/2)
Bill Enneis  42 (42/0)
Kathy Fanning  34 (34/0)

And here’s the complete list of the 129 bird species recorded (by at least one person) in the county in June:

  1. Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
  2. Swan Goose – Anne Barkdoll, Duck Pond, June 12
  3. Graylag Goose – Duck Pond and Red Lobster Pond, several observers and dates
  4. Black Swan – Duck Pond and Red Lobster Pond, several observers and dates
  5. Muscovy Duck
  6. Wood Duck
  7. Mallard
  8. Mottled Duck
  9. Blue-winged Teal – La Chua observation platform, throughout the month
  10. Lesser Scaup – John Hintermister, Rex Rowan, Newnans Lake, June 25
  11. Ruddy Duck – John Hintermister, Rex Rowan, Newnans Lake, June 25
  12. Northern Bobwhite
  13. Wild Turkey
  14. Pied-billed Grebe
  15. Horned Grebe – John Hintermister, Rex Rowan, Newnans Lake, June 25
  16. Wood Stork
  17. Double-crested Cormorant
  18. Anhinga
  19. American White Pelican
  20. Least Bittern
  21. Great Blue Heron
  22. Great Egret
  23. Snowy Egret
  24. Little Blue Heron
  25. Tricolored Heron
  26. Cattle Egret
  27. Green Heron
  28. Black-crowned Night-Heron
  29. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron – a pair nested and produced three young at Possum Creek Park
  30. White Ibis
  31. Glossy Ibis
  32. Roseate Spoonbill – La Chua observation platform, pretty much throughout the month
  33. Black Vulture
  34. Turkey Vulture
  35. Osprey
  36. Swallow-tailed Kite
  37. Mississippi Kite
  38. Bald Eagle
  39. Cooper’s Hawk
  40. Red-shouldered Hawk
  41. Broad-winged Hawk – five observers, four locations, June 10-23
  42. Short-tailed Hawk – Adam Zions, Jonathan Mays, Marie Zeglen, Palm Point, June 29-30
  43. Red-tailed Hawk
  44. American Kestrel
  45. King Rail
  46. Purple Gallinule
  47. Common Gallinule
  48. American Coot
  49. Limpkin
  50. Sandhill Crane
  51. Whooping Crane
  52. Killdeer
  53. Black-necked Stilt
  54. Greater Yellowlegs – Samuel and Dean Ewing, Powers Park, June 14
  55. Laughing Gull
  56. Ring-billed Gull – Anne Kendall, several other observers, Powers Park, June 5-7
  57. Least Tern – Rex Rowan, Mike Manetz, Andy Kratter, Palm Point, June 8
  58. Caspian Tern – Jonathan Mays, Powers Park, June 8
  59. Forster’s Tern – Jonathan Mays, Palm Point, June 27
  60. Rock Pigeon
  61. Eurasian Collared-Dove
  62. White-winged Dove
  63. Mourning Dove
  64. Common Ground-Dove
  65. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  66. Barn Owl
  67. Eastern Screech-Owl
  68. Great Horned Owl
  69. Barred Owl
  70. Common Nighthawk
  71. Chuck-will’s-widow
  72. Chimney Swift
  73. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  74. Belted Kingfisher – Irina and Frank Goodwin, Lake Alice, June 16; several observers, Newnans Lake, June 25-30
  75. Red-headed Woodpecker
  76. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  77. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  78. Downy Woodpecker
  79. Hairy Woodpecker – Rex Rowan, Adam Zions, Jonathan Mays, LEAFS, June 10-23
  80. Northern Flicker
  81. Pileated Woodpecker
  82. Eastern Wood-Pewee
  83. Acadian Flycatcher
  84. Great Crested Flycatcher
  85. Eastern Kingbird
  86. Loggerhead Shrike
  87. White-eyed Vireo
  88. Yellow-throated Vireo
  89. Red-eyed Vireo
  90. Blue Jay
  91. American Crow
  92. Fish Crow
  93. Purple Martin
  94. Tree Swallow – Lloyd Davis, Palm Point, June 2
  95. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  96. Barn Swallow
  97. Carolina Chickadee
  98. Tufted Titmouse
  99. Brown-headed Nuthatch
  100. Carolina Wren
  101. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  102. Eastern Bluebird
  103. Gray Catbird – Jonathan Mays, Paynes Prairie, June 7
  104. Northern Mockingbird
  105. Brown Thrasher
  106. European Starling
  107. Cedar Waxwing – Judy Bryan, Lake Lochloosa, June 4
  108. Prothonotary Warbler
  109. Common Yellowthroat
  110. Hooded Warbler
  111. American Redstart – Ron Robinson, at his backyard birdbath, June 1-2
  112. Northern Parula
  113. Pine Warbler
  114. Yellow-throated Warbler
  115. Yellow-breasted Chat
  116. Eastern Towhee
  117. Bachman’s Sparrow
  118. Summer Tanager
  119. Northern Cardinal
  120. Blue Grosbeak
  121. Indigo Bunting
  122. Red-winged Blackbird
  123. Eastern Meadowlark
  124. Common Grackle
  125. Boat-tailed Grackle
  126. Brown-headed Cowbird
  127. Orchard Oriole
  128. House Finch
  129. House Sparrow

No one found a Wood Thrush this year, and there were no early fall warblers (though we had one spring-migrant American Redstart at the beginning of the month). Water levels were higher than usual, so there were almost no shorebirds. Our single tropical storm was unproductive. Under these circumstances, 129 species was impressive.

We weren’t the only birders doing The June Challenge this year. I’ve heard that 54 other birders in 24 other Florida counties participated as well. And there were June Challenges in other states and in England. The founder of The June Challenge, Becky Enneis, went on a birding trip to Alaska with Linda Holt and Bob Carroll, and did a Challenge during the first eight days of the month; you can drool over their list, thick with life birds, here. Former Gainesville birder Steve Collins organized a Challenge in Texas. I haven’t seen the complete results yet, but Steve sent me his own results for Lubbock County, which can be seen here. Matt Hafner organized a Challenge in Harford County, Maryland, and has tabulated the results on the Harford Bird Club’s website. Jay Keller of San Diego County, California, exceeded our winning total by 108 species (!!!) and posted his list here; you can see photos of some of his June discoveries on his Flickr page. And farthest afield, our one international entry, from Kim Tarsey and Sue Cooper of the county of Norfolk, England, who tell me they had a bad year but ended up with 121 species.

All I can say to Jonathan Mays is, “Congratulations. And wait til next year!” To everyone else, I hope you had half as much fun as I did. Now … did I just hear a Louisiana Waterthrush? It must be time for fall migration….

The June Challenge celebrates its tenth birthday, starting Saturday!

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

The Tenth (!) Annual June Challenge begins on Saturday. The June Challenge, for those of you new to Alachua County birding, is a friendly competition in which individual contestants try to see as many species of birds in Alachua County as possible from June 1st to June 30th. Participation has grown considerably since the first Challenge in 2004 – last year 45 Alachua County birders submitted lists! But it hasn’t *just* grown locally: 92 other birders from 39 other counties, mainly in Florida but including counties in five other American states plus Norfolk, England, participated last year.

The ultimate purpose of the Challenge is to inspire birders to keep going through the heat of June, but there are other reasons to do it. In addition to the 100 or so breeding birds we expect here, very late spring migrants and very early fall migrants have been found in June, as have coastal strays like Sandwich Tern and Willet and unexpected wanderers like Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Reddish Egret, and Snail Kite. So there are discoveries to make – and not all of them are birds; June mornings can be beautiful and lively, full of butterflies and wildflowers, and much milder in temperature than you’d expect.

As with all contests, there are rules:

  1. All birds must be seen within the boundaries of Alachua County between June 1st and June 30th. (You non-Alachua birders are challenged to participate within your own counties.)
  2. Each bird on your list must have been seen, not merely heard.
  3. Whooping Cranes and free-flying domestic Mallards and Muscovy Ducks are countable. As are all wild native birds, of course.
  4. You’re competing with other Alachua County birders to see who can amass the longest individual list – BUT send me an email if you find something good so that I can alert the other contestants and they can go out and look for it. It is, after all, a *friendly* competition.
  5. Email your list to me by midnight on Sunday, June 30th. There will be a June Challenge party at TJC creator Becky Enneis’s house in Alachua shortly thereafter, at which a handsome trophy and prizes will be given out.

You can do the Challenge on your own, of course, but I plan to be at Longleaf Flatwoods Reserve at 6:15 a.m. on Saturday to jump start it, and you’re welcome to join me, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced birder. From Longleaf we’ll go to Windsor, Powers Park, Palm Point, and La Chua ($2 admission for La Chua). You should be home by lunchtime with 40-50 species on that checklist! (Directions to Longleaf Flatwoods Reserve: From Gainesville, take State Road 20 (Hawthorne Road) east. After 4.4 miles you’ll pass Powers Park, and shortly thereafter you’ll cross the bridge over Prairie Creek. Three and a half miles after that, turn right onto County Road 325 and proceed 2.3 miles to the Longleaf parking lot.)

If you win, you get The June Challenge trophy, two and a half feet tall and lovingly crafted from the finest wood-like material. Your name and your accomplishment will be engraved in the purest imitation gold and affixed to the trophy, a memorial that will last throughout all eternity, or until someone drops it onto a hard surface. You keep the trophy at your house for a year, contemplating the evidence of your great superiority to all other birders (I can attest), and then the following June you either win again or you sadly pass the trophy on to the next June Challenge champion and sink back into the masses.

Hints for new Challengers: Bird as much as you can during the first and last weeks of the month, to get late spring and early fall migrants. Check the big lakes repeatedly (especially Newnans and Lochloosa) for coastal strays like gulls, terns, and pelicans. Check your email inbox to learn what other people are seeing and for tips on where to go. I apologize in advance for the many birding reports you’ll get in early June…

Please join us for The Tenth Annual June Challenge. Good luck to all!

Audubon Holiday Social, and thrilling seasonal rarities!

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

Alachua Audubon will hold its annual Holiday Social this coming Friday, December 7th, from 6:30 to 9:00. Please join us for refreshments, a silent auction to benefit Alachua Audubon, and of course the customarily brilliant and high-toned conversation of your fellow bird enthusiasts. This year Audubon board member Lynn Rollins is opening her home for our festivities. Lynn lives in Colony Park, a little west of Gainesville High School. Here’s a map, with Lynn’s house marked by an inverted blue teardrop: https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=203358630947857947932.0004cfcb2b711575242b3&msa=0&ll=29.668534,-82.342122&spn=0.007104,0.009645  We hope to see you there. In fact, if you don’t show up, we may come looking for you…

Myiarchus is a genus of flycatchers with five members in North America, all of which look pretty much alike: Great Crested, Ash-throated, Brown-crested, Dusky-capped, and LaSagra’s. The first three of these have been recorded in Alachua County. Great Cresteds are of course common from late March through mid-September. Ash-throateds have been recorded 15-20 times over the past twenty years. Brown-cresteds have been recorded twice, Dusky-cappeds and LaSagra’s not at all. On the 29th Dalcio Dacol wrote, “A bit before noon today I saw from the observation platform and on the same row of bushes that the Vermilion Flycatcher has been frequenting on the west side of the trail, a Myiarchus flycatcher which I think is an Ash-throated Flycatcher. I saw it from the platform with 10x binoculars, it had that washed-out gray tone with prominent and bright rufous patch on the wing edge and on the upper tail, it also didn’t look as robust as a Great Crested Flycatcher. I had a good, but short, view of the back and of the right side of the bird but did not see the underparts. It didn’t fly away but dove down into the thick vegetation cover. I waited around the area for about half an hour but didn’t see it again.” He went back on the following day and spent two hours, playing vocalizations of the four Myiarchus species, but he didn’t see the bird again.

On the 30th Frank Goodwin saw a Snow Goose from the La Chua observation platform. Mike Manetz walked out on the 1st and got a look at it, his 253rd species for Alachua County in 2012.

This morning’s Alachua Audubon field trip to the La Chua Trail didn’t find either the Snow Goose or the Myiarchus flycatcher, but did amass a list of 80 species, including the resident female Vermilion Flycatcher, a Merlin, and 10 species of sparrows (11 if you include Eastern Towhee, which – and you’d know this if you’d looked over the Alachua County checklist – is just as much a sparrow as the others), the best of which were 5 Vespers, a Field, a Grasshopper, and a Lincoln’s. The Whooping Crane seen on the 27th and 28th has not been spotted since then.

Doug Richard reported a female Yellow-headed Blackbird at the Hague Dairy on the 29th.

On the 1st Matt and Erin Kalinowski found and photographed a female Common Goldeneye on the UF campus: http://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/8235771567/in/photostream  At least I think it’s a Common. The all-yellow bill is a field mark of Barrow’s Goldeneye, but of western Barrow’s rather than eastern; the National Geographic Society field guide notes that female Commons’ bills are “rarely all-yellow.”

Yellow-breasted Chats are normally very reclusive birds, and it’s tough to get a picture of one even when it’s singing. On the 21st Greg Stephens got an outstanding shot of a chat that may well be wintering on Burnt Island at the south end of Lake Lochloosa: http://www.photographybygregstephens.com/p622066799/h4d9ddb42#h4d9ddb42