From: Rex Rowan <email@example.com>
To: Alachua County birding report
Yesterday afternoon Ben Ewing was walking across the grounds of Norman Hall when he spotted a Western Kingbird perched on the fence at the north boundary of the soccer field (SW 13th Street and 8th Avenue). Using his smartphone he submitted the observation to eBird, and shortly thereafter Mike Manetz got an alert (more on eBird alerts here). He gave me a call, and a few minutes later he picked me up in his wife’s very small car, since his pickup truck had a flat tire. The small car was a bit of luck, since it allowed us to parallel park in the only vacant space at the north end of the Norman Hall grounds. We were parked illegally, of course – no decal – but we hoped that the bird would be easy to find and that we’d be long gone by the time the roam-towing truck found us. But the bird did not oblige. It wasn’t evident to our initial scans of the fence, treetops, and light poles. We decided to give it a few minutes and see if it flew out into view. Ben stopped by and showed us a blurry photo he’d been able to take with his smartphone, and Andy Kratter showed up, having gotten an eBird alert at the museum and biked over. We watched and scanned for twenty minutes, casting nervous glances back at Mike’s car. Every once in a while we’d see a bird fly out into the field from the surrounding oaks, but it always turned out to be an Eastern Bluebird. Mike occasionally tried playing a Western Kingbird call on his smartphone, but nothing responded – though, bizarrely, we spotted a very late Eastern Kingbird at the top of a light pole across the field. I was getting progressively more nervous about the towtruck, and had given up on our mission – it would have shown itself by now, right? – when the kingbird came flying along the trees on the far side of the field and landed out of sight in a live oak. Crossing our fingers in regards to Mike’s car, we hurried across the field to the oak and spooked it across SW 8th Avenue into the top of a magnolia tree, where we had great looks at it, dark mask, yellow belly, white on the outer tail feathers, the whole thing. After high fives, we headed back to the car, which had not, surprisingly, been towed. And in case you were wondering, the kingbird is still at Norman Hall this morning. Andy Kratter saw it at nine, noting in his eBird checklist, “Continuing from yesterday, being chased about the trees on the south side of the field by crows and Red-bellied Woodpecker. As well as the worn /molting feathers on the head, the wing coverts are also very worn, and the pale covert edges give two grayish wingbars.”
After this past weekend I think I’m going to ignore all further weather predictions in regards to birding, and maybe in regards to everything else. I don’t think that I personally have ever seen a birding-related weather forecast or radar forecast (“Radar shows tons and tons of birds in the air! Tomorrow is the day!”) that didn’t turn out to be wrong. However the rain over the Carolinas and Tennessee has cleared now, and it’s likely that birds will start showing up in a day or two. They’re not here yet, though; Mike Manetz went out to Bolen Bluff this morning but found it “still painfully slow. Four American Redstarts, then onesies of Northern Parula, Black-and-white Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Ovenbird, and Hooded Warbler. No thrushes or tanagers.” There were, however, a few Indigo Buntings in my backyard ragweed this morning, and hopefully they’ll be joined by many friends in the days to come. October is the month for Indigo Bunting migration, and sometimes Painteds will show up among them.
Speaking of which, at least three Painted Buntings are already here, around the boardwalk at the La Chua Trail. On the 3rd Dalcio Dacol posted this extremely good writeup on eBird: “One adult male and two females. First saw them when they flushed from the side of the trail and I could clearly see the red chest and belly of the adult male as it flew away. I tracked the birds by sight and they landed not too far away in the thickets of a round area near the (southern) end of the boardwalk. I played Painted Bunting calls and one of the females came to investigate. I continued playing calls and had no more responses. Shortly after two other birders approached the area and I told them about the buntings and one of the birders played a Painted Bunting song. Three PBs came to investigate and the adult male perched low at about 15 ft from us and showed itself very well. The two females were yellowish green with very little extra green on wings and crown, darker on the back than on the throat, chest and belly. The adult male was unmistakable in its ‘paint by the numbers’ color scheme with blue head, very red underparts starting with the throat, green back and dark green wings with almost black primary tips.”
Michael Meisenburg emailed that Tony Davanzo had a Black-billed Cuckoo “along Hatchett Creek the other day.” I’ve asked him to get details from Tony as to exactly where and when.