Greater Yellowlegs and Belted Kingfisher at Sweetwater Wetlands Park

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

In case you missed the Greater Yellowlegs from the La Chua observation platform on 1 June, there’s one at Sweetwater Wetlands Park today: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/18994861221/in/dateposted-public/ If this isn’t the same bird we saw on the 1st – and to my eye it seems to have a longer bill – then it’s the earliest fall migrant in Alachua County history.

Last Sunday’s Belted Kingfisher is still there too: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/18994865391/in/dateposted-public/

We’re coming down to the last third of June. Birders are still trying to track down Broad-winged Hawk, Hairy Woodpecker, and Wood Thrush. If you know where any of those birds can be found, let me know and I’ll pass the word.

The Red-headed Woodpeckers in my back yard fledged at least one youngster yesterday. “More Red-headed Woodpeckers” belongs decidedly on the good side of the world’s ledger.

Belted Kingfisher at Sweetwater Wetlands Park, Short-tailed-Hawk-o-rama!

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

When I wasn’t looking, Short-tailed Hawk became the most common bird in Alachua County. We’ve had five sightings in a little more than three weeks: Matt Bruce saw one near Kanapaha Gardens on May 27th, John Martin saw one near Hunters Crossing on June 8th, Peter Polshek saw one at Lake Alice on the 12th, Lloyd Davis and Will Sexton saw one in Windsor on the 13th, and Bob Carroll saw one over Hitchcock’s in Alachua on the 17th. All were dark morphs, but even if the first three involved a single wide-ranging bird, I can’t believe it also went to Windsor and then Alachua, so I think there are at least three birds involved, maybe more. Also keep in mind that there were three sightings of dark morph Short-taileds in April. What it comes down to is this: Short-tailed Hawk = trash bird.

Last Sunday Bob Carroll wrote, “I went to Sweetwater Wetlands Park to look for the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. There were plenty of Black-crowned Night-Herons, but none of their Yellow-crowned cousins. Nonetheless, it proved to be a good day. Besides the Least Bitterns, Purple Gallinules, Limpkins, etc., I saw a King Rail and a Belted Kingfisher. Both were on the southern edge near the two covered benches. The kingfisher flew the length of the canal in front of the benches, hunting along the opposite bank. He caught a small fish, perched in the southwest corner of the property, and settled in for lunch.” That’s the only kingfisher recorded during the June Challenge this year. So far, anyway – we might get some early-returning migrants at the end of the month. At any rate, it might be worth checking SWP this weekend.

Last Saturday’s field trip to look at the Burrowing Owls of Watermelon Pond was a success. Not only did 37 people turn out – https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/18869341866/in/dateposted-public/ – but a minimum of 12 Burrowing Owls were seen, half of which were recently-fledged young: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/18895362865/in/dateposted-public/

Eastern Kingbirds are resident in the same area as the Burrowing Owls, and Michael Drummond got this (typically) excellent photo of one: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/18895903775/in/dateposted-public/

Several of us went to the Newberry Cemetery after the Burrowing Owl trip in search of White-winged Dove and Northern Flicker. No luck on the doves, but we found the flickers nesting right next door, in front of the elementary school: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/18869704466/

Chuck-will’s-widow isn’t always easy to find, but Peter Polshek was canny enough to consult A Birdwatcher’s Guide to Alachua County, Florida (p. 104-05), and on the 11th he wrote, “I saw 4 Chucks along the first mile of Fish Camp Road off County Road 325 last evening about 8:45-9:15.” Fish Camp Road is one and a half miles south of the Longleaf Flatwoods Reserve parking corral.

The Common Loon found by Chris Cattau at Newnans Lake on the 12th was seen again by Peter Polshek on the 13th. Mike Manetz and I decided to maximize our chances of seeing the loon by kayaking across the northern part of the lake. By my calculation, we paddled between seven and eight miles, a fair bit of that against the wind. Did we see the loon? Do you really have to ask? Of course not. The only even slightly interesting bird we saw was a Laughing Gull. Oddly, we didn’t see or hear a single Limpkin.

Ron Robinson advises, “While searching (unsuccessfully) all around the county today for Wood Ducks, I did stumble on to a group of three Mottled Ducks in the retention pond at the corner of NW 24th Boulevard and NW 53rd Avenue near Rainbow Lakes subdivision. It is on the South west corner on the intersection. I thought it might save some Challengers the walk out to the middle of the Prairie. The water level was very low, I missed them on my first scan, they were hiding in some Torpedo Grass.”

Gainesville’s doughty band of amateur naturalists is losing two important members this summer. Kathy Malone, the guiding spirit behind the local chapter of the North American Butterfly Association and an excellent photographer, moved to Tennessee earlier this month; and in fact the NABA chapter that she founded has now disbanded. And Katherine Edison, one of our best photographers and bloggers, is moving to Athens, Georgia, at the end of the summer. Katherine is making a “farewell tour” of her favorite Gainesville natural areas this month and writing about them in her blog. I think this link will take you to the first one in the “30 Days in June” series (but remember you have to scroll down): http://earthteachme.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2015-06-05T10:36:00-04:00&max-results=12&start=8&by-date=false

An appropriations bill that just passed the House of Representatives will prevent enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treatment Act of 1918, and Congress needs to hear from you about that. The American Birding Association explains it very well: http://blog.aba.org/2015/06/what-birders-should-know-about-the-migratory-bird-treaty-act-threat.html  Cindy Boyd told me that someone knocked down the Chimney Swift roost/nesting site at Creekside Mall. I don’t know whether birds were nesting in it at the time, but if this bill passes the Senate and gets signed into law, it wouldn’t matter whether birds were nesting in it or not. Nesting birds wouldn’t be protected anywhere.

Common Loon at Newnans Lake

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

Chris Cattau, kayaking on Newnans Lake this evening, photographed a Common Loon at the north end of the lake, “slowly swimming 100+ yards off the west shore, may be visible from Palm Point soon if it continues.” Probably not now – he emailed me at 7:30 – but it might be worth checking tomorrow. Here’s his picture: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/18562990408/in/dateposted-public/

Remember, though, that tomorrow is also the Burrowing Owl field trip. Carpool if you can – we’ve got something like 43 people on the list to go! Meet at 7:30 at the county park at the south end of SW 250th Street.

At 1:05 this afternoon Peter Polshek wrote, “Just saw an adult dark-phase Short-tailed Hawk over the eastern portion of the Lake Alice Conservation Area. I was at the corner of Mowry Road and Gale Lemerand Drive.” That’s three sightings in less than a month – one near Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, one near the Devils Millhopper, and one at Lake Alice. Are Short-tailed Hawks nesting in Gainesville now, or is this a very wide-ranging single bird?

Ron Robinson and I took a walk at San Felasco Hammock this morning – Yellow Trail, Hammock Cutoff, and Blue-Yellow Trail – and found Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian Flycatchers, a male Hooded Warbler tending a youngster, singing Red-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireos, and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher feeding a juvenile Brown-headed Cowbird.

Have you looked at our “Meet the Birders of Alachua County” page lately? It might help you put a face with a name you’ve read before. There are now 88 birders on it, including a dozen new photos: http://www.alachuaaudubon.org/meet-the-birders/ If you’re an Alachua County birder, please send me a picture and I’ll add you too.

Short-tailed Hawk, Least Tern, other good birds

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

John Martin saw a Short-tailed Hawk in NW Gainesville on the 8th. Here’s what he wrote in his eBird description: “Dark morph, circling relatively low over NW 48th Street near Hunters Crossing. All dark except for thin banding visible on tail and flight feathers, wings distinctly upswept. Original impression was of a distant circling black vulture, but as I got closer could see the lightness under the tail and wings; no white patches at the wingtips. Pulled over and viewed only for a minute before it moved beyond the tree line associated with Hunters Crossing apartment complex.” If it’s resident in the neighborhood, you might see it rising up with the vultures in the morning. Magnolia Parke and Possum Creek Park both seem like nearby places that might serve for a sky watch.

John pointed out a Least Tern to Mike Manetz at Palm Point on the evening of the 9th. That’s probably a recurring bird at Newnans and maybe other local lakes. They nest on the roof of the high school in Keystone Heights, so Lake Santa Fe might be a good place to look for them if you have access to a boat.

A few Tree Swallows are still lingering at Paynes Prairie. They were seen in the first few days of the month by Lloyd Davis, Mike Manetz, and Matt O’Sullivan, but as recently as the 7th Lloyd saw three at Sweetwater Wetlands Park and one at La Chua, and Peter Polshek saw one today: “observed from La Chua observation platform mid-morning feeding low over the main open water area.”

If you still need Eastern Wood-Pewee for the June Challenge, try San Felasco Hammock’s Spring Grove Trail AKA the Yellow Trail. From the parking lot on Millhopper Road, cross over to the north side and walk down to the informational kiosk. Go left there, and walk until you get to the intersection with the Hammock Cutoff. Peter Polshek saw one there on the 7th, and Mike Manetz found it there today, though he had to wait a few minutes for it to show up.

Peter also reports a Prothonotary Warbler at River Styx on the 6th. Others have mentioned hearing Acadian Flycatchers calling from the swamps on the west (Micanopy) side of the bridge.

Barn Owl can be tough, but Deena Mickelson wrote on the 7th: “Cindy Boyd spotted two adult Barn Owls at La Chua tonight at exactly 8:30 p.m. I would have completely missed them if she hadn’t practically yelled at me to look up as they flew right past us along the water at the end of the boardwalk. They came from the direction of the far corner if you were looking from that ‘gazebo’ (to the right of and behind where the Great Blue Heron nests), and flew along the water’s edge on the side of the trail, and out towards the Prairie.” Mike Manetz saw it the next evening: “Brad Hall and I saw it flying out at 8:50, above treetop level, heading south more or less up the canal.” Please note that the gate to the La Chua parking lot closes at 8:00, after which you can’t get in (though you can get out, by driving up to the gate and triggering its automatic opening device).

Don’t forget that American Robins are back at NE 7th Street (the 2000 block, more or less). This is a residential neighborhood, so listen for the singing robin and, once you’ve located it, wait for it to show itself. Don’t spook the robins or the neighbors.

If you’re a frequent birder in Alachua County, send me a picture of yourself so that you can be included in this rogue’s gallery: http://www.alachuaaudubon.org/meet-the-birders/

Remember that you can add your Alachua County life list to those already on this page. We’d like it if you did: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1sVSSm0cEbsRkpGOMGvSlKMrvQp2KJ78iXJeU5kidyY4/edit?usp=sharing

Also remember to let me know if you’re going on the Burrowing Owl field trip on the 13th. So far we have 29 participants. Directions: From Gainesville go west on State Road 26 (Newberry Road) to Newberry. Turn left at the traffic light at the junction of 26 and State Road 41 and go south 2.9 miles to SW 46th Avenue. Turn right and go 1.2 miles to SW 250th Street. Turn left – it’s a dirt road – and go all the way to the end, which is 3.8 miles. There’s a county park there, and that’s where we’ll meet at 7:30 a.m. on the 13th.

Spotted Sandpiper at Palm Point and other good news

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

Chris Cattau, who found the Gray Catbird at Tumblin Creek Park a few days ago (still singing invisibly across SW 6th Street from the park’s parking lot at nine), reports that a Spotted Sandpiper is at Palm Point this morning. This ties the record for the latest migrant of any species ever reported in Alachua County. Here’s Chris’s photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/18519439452/in/dateposted-public/

This morning several of us converged on Sweetwater Wetlands Park to see if we could add anything to our June Challenge lists. We began by looking for Yellow-crowned Night-Heron in the trash basin. We saw a mystery bird in the trees facing the red bridge, and walked around to the bridge to get a better look. It was an immature Black-crowned Night-Heron, but I decided to set up my scope and take a look at it anyway. I extended the legs of the tripod, set it down, then looked into the lens to see where it was pointed so I could direct it at the Black-crowned – and right there in the lens was the Yellow-crowned! Dumb luck! About half a dozen of us had a look at the bird. We went on around to the south moat in hopes of some late shorebirds, but the water had risen and flooded the mud flats. However Ron Robinson pointed out a King Rail stalking along the edge of the cattails, which was a new June Challenge bird for all of us.

Andy Kratter had an American Redstart at his SE Gainesville home on the 5th, but it was gone this morning.

If you still need Blue-winged Teal, Linda Hensley saw one (plus an American Coot) at Chapmans Pond on the 5th.

Pied-billed Grebes have nested again in the retention pond at NE 4th Street and NE 35th Avenue. The address is misleading: NE 4th Street is a block WEST of Main.

It look me five days to finish it, but I finally put up a blog post about the first day of the June Challenge: http://fieldguide.blogs.gainesville.com/347/the-june-challenge/

A couple of months ago I ran into Susie Hetrick at Publix. Susie is the land manager for the Gladman Tract, the Watermelon Pond property that supports the county’s last known population of Burrowing Owls. I asked her if she’d been out to check on the owls lately. She said she had, but had seen only one, and a subsequent trip had found none at all. “I went home and got drunk,” she said, because she was managing the Gladman Tract specifically for Burrowing Owls. But she returned in late May and saw a single owl. Would I like to join her for a more thorough search to see if any owls remained on the property? I said I would, and on the morning of June 5th I met Susie and county biologist Michael Drummond at Watermelon Pond County Park. I climbed into the back seat of their truck and we drove up the road and through a gate. We crossed one pasture and then another, and as we ascended a slope toward a fence line that marked a third Susie said, “What is that bird on the fence post? It’s got a big head.” It was a Burrowing Owl, and as we went over the rise she said, “I see four!” Michael said, “I see three!” And they were looking in different directions! Reader, we found ten Burrowing Owls, and several of them were juveniles.

Which is all prefatory to this announcement: There will be a field trip to add Burrowing Owl to your June Challenge list, or just to see it, on the morning of Saturday, June 13th. There won’t be much opportunity for photography, because the owls are too far away and the county wants them to remain undisturbed, but you should be able to get very decent looks through the many spotting scopes that will be there. We’ll meet at Watermelon Pond County Park at 7:30. LET ME KNOW if you’re coming, because the county wants to know how many to prepare for.

Prairie Warbler at Sparrow Alley

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

Mike Manetz just called to report a Prairie Warbler where La Chua’s Sparrow Alley meets the power line cut. I think that may be the first confirmed Prairie Warbler in June Challenge history.

Nobody was able to relocate the Brown Pelican at Lake Wauberg yesterday or this morning.

Lloyd Davis relocated the Bobolinks off the old Sweetwater Dike yesterday and got a great picture of one: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/17834028723/in/dateposted-public/

Lloyd also photographed Chris Cattau’s Gray Catbird this morning: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/18456487621/in/dateposted-public/ Mike saw it yesterday afternoon and believes there might be a pair.

If you’re closer to High Springs than Newberry, you might be interested in this location for White-winged Doves, discovered by Peter Polshek: “While looking for my suspected E Kingbird, I found a pair of WW Doves. I think I may have heard starlings and mistaken them for a kingbird…or not. They were located in trees along the southern fenceline of 10807 SR 41 south of High Springs. The house has for sale signs and is across the street of a property that had giant (truly) cardinals on top of each fence post.”

Good birds for June Challengers!

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

Although the Red-necked Phalarope stuck around through the morning of the 2nd, it was not relocated in the afternoon, and several of us who went looking for it this morning spent over an hour on the observation platform without seeing it, so we figure it’s gone. The only migrants we saw, in fact, were eight Semipalmated Sandpipers. Which is not to say the morning was a waste. It was really beautiful out there, with all the blooming American Lotuses, and the birds are unusually plentiful: Least Bitterns and Purple Gallinules are more abundant than I’ve ever seen them, we counted 24 Black-necked Stilts, including five sitting on nests and a few with chicks, we saw Mottled Ducks with Mottled Ducklings, we saw three Roseate Spoonbills, and everywhere you look there are herons and waterbirds and blackbirds. On the way back, Mike Manetz and I decided to walk the old Sweetwater Dike trail in hopes of seeing a King Rail. Matt O’Sullivan had been with us, but at this point he said goodbye and headed back to his car. Mike and I didn’t see the rail, but as we were starting back we got a call from Matt, who was looking at a late Blackpoll Warbler near the boardwalk. We continued on our way, and about a quarter-mile from the main trail a couple of birds popped up from the grass. I could only follow one of them with my binoculars, but it was a female Bobolink, the latest ever recorded in the county. After a congratulatory high-five we continued on toward the Blackpoll – but neither Matt nor the warbler was there when we arrived. We spent ten minutes looking around the vicinity, but with no luck.

On the 1st and 2nd Lloyd Davis and others found a very late Tree Swallow hanging around with some Barn Swallows in the general area where we saw the Bobolink – walk out the old Sweetwater Dike to what used to be a sharp left turn, and just ahead of you there’s a shallow body of water. Mike and I looked for the Tree Swallow today, but didn’t see any sign of it, though we did see Barn Swallows feeding their fledglings there.

Peter Polshek has advice on finding a tough bird: “I saw an adult Yellow-crowned Night-Heron at San Felasco Hammock in the swamp where the Creek Sink Trail first gets close to the open water area with the high banks where there are several large trees fallen in the water.”

Likewise, Chris Cattau can put you on a Gray Catbird: “I’m not sure if Gray Catbirds have always been as rare in June as they have been during the last few years, but if any June Challengers are seeking one now, you might direct them to the map linked below (it should come up with the satellite imagery layer, which makes interpreting the map icon notes easier). I observed it in some shrubs/tress around a tiny drainage ravine, where it was singing on/off for >45min on Monday. I stopped by on my way to work today to check whether it was still there. I heard and saw it again briefly before it flew up into some taller trees and across SW 6th ST, but I have a feeling it will be returning to same spot. https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zPh7QdAm_050.kLmvRY86lZwU&usp=sharing ” This is Tumblin Creek Park, where you may remember a Nashville Warbler wintered several years ago.

On the 1st Becky Enneis wrote, “The Northern Bobwhites were out in force this morning along Cellon Creek Boulevard. I saw 6, possibly 7. They were calling from both sides of the road. Three flew across the road in front of me and landed in the short grass at road’s edge, two more were standing in the short grass where the trailers are parked, and another was sauntering along in front of the blackberry bushes. I saw a couple more out walking, but they could have been from the original three.”

On the 2nd Anne Casella went to lots of places and saw lots of birds, “Just wanted to let you know of locations where I saw some birds today to pass on in case folks need these birds. I started out at the Hague Dairy and Cellon Creek Boulevard this morning. There was a family of Wild Turkeys foraging along NW 43rd Street on the east side past Blues Creek both on my way out and an hour later on my way back. At the dairy I found 3 American Kestrels. Two Sandhill Cranes were foraging right next to the road that runs through the dairy and 2 Common Ground-Doves were on the road just past where you sign in. At Cellon Creek Boulevard, I found all the expected species (except American Kestrel). There are also Purple Martins at the end of the road where the Northern Rough-winged Swallows and Eastern Kingbird hang out. I was able to flush a Northern Bobwhite which made up for missing the one at Longleaf yesterday. I went to San Felasco where I only saw Acadian Flycatcher although I chased both Red-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireos around but never saw them. No Hooded Warbler, but it was a little late by this time – 9:30 and I didn’t walk that far. I went out to Newberry to look for Northern Flicker and White-winged Dove. There were state prisoners all over the cemetery mowing and weed-whacking so I went to the Country Way subdivision to get White-winged Dove – very easy – and I found a Northern Flicker at the top of a tree in the yard at the corner of SW 20th Avenue and SW 254th Street. I don’t know if this is a regular perch for the bird, but there is at least one flicker out in Newberry.”

As both Becky and Anne suggest, Cellon Creek Boulevard is a worthwhile stop for June Challengers, offering Northern Bobwhite, Swallow-tailed Kite (watch the treeline to the south), Common Ground-Dove, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Eastern Kingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, Purple Martin, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Eastern Bluebird, Brown Thrasher, European Starling, and Eastern Meadowlark. It’s a short road, just drive along watching the wires till you get to the power substation, then get out of your car and look around. Here’s a map: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zUwrxikNCmjA.k320X2sM0ChY&usp=sharing

Becky Enneis is looking ahead to the June Challenge party on July 1st. She has a request: “Since so many birders now take cameras with them, I was wondering if maybe a June Challenge bird slideshow might be enjoyable. Birders could email me their good Challenge bird photos during the month, and I could make a slideshow of them for the party. Of course you should send only photos taken during June 2015 in Alachua County. Also, please identify the bird and tell where the photo was taken. (Example: Brown Thrasher, Cellon Creek Boulevard.)”

THAT’S why we do The June Challenge: Red-necked Phalarope at La Chua

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

We started the 2015 June Challenge at 6:15 this morning at Longleaf Flatwoods Reserve with 24 participants. We saw our two target birds, Common Nighthawk and Bachman’s Sparrow, but it was fairly quiet otherwise.

We went on to the Windsor boat ramp, where we found Bald Eagle, Laughing Gull, and Limpkin. However our best bird, a singing Prairie Warbler, never gave us a look. I may go back tomorrow morning and try for that one again.

Powers Park and Palm Point produced the expected birds, but the only thing even slightly out of the ordinary was a flyover Cooper’s Hawk in the parking lot.

At La Chua we were confused by a sign that said the trail is closed, but it turned out that only a section was closed: the shortcut that allows you to bypass the boardwalk. It was about 10:00 by the time we got there, and we weren’t sure that the birds would still be singing, but there was a brilliant male Indigo Bunting near the boardwalk and several singing adult male Orchard Orioles, one of which had fledged two or three young. We were going to follow the old Sweetwater Dike down to the first bend and try for King Rail and Purple Gallinule, but we ran into Howard Adams, Barbara Mollison, Linda Hensley, and Brad Hall coming from the opposite direction, and they told us that Alachua Lake was alive with birds. So we made the long hot walk to the observation platform and found that the water level is falling, exposing a lot of mud around the edges of the lake. We saw Mottled Ducks (some with ducklings) and three Blue-winged Teal. We saw Glossy Ibis, Wood Storks, and Roseate Spoonbills. We saw Purple Gallinules and Least Bitterns (Least Bitterns were so frequently seen that we got tired of them). And we saw some lingering shorebirds. Not just the expected Black-necked Stilts (some of them sitting on nests) and Killdeer, but a Greater Yellowlegs, a Semipalmated Plover, and a Least Sandpiper. Then Dean Ewing pointed out a little swimming bird that he didn’t recognize to his son Sam, and Sam identified it as a phalarope. After a lot of peering through telescopes and long-distance photography, we all agreed on Red-necked Phalarope. It wasn’t an easy bird to find, because it’s quite small and spent most of its time swimming around in a weedy area where it was partially hidden from view. I think I’ll go back tonight, when the glare isn’t so bad, to see if I can get a better view and to see if anything else has shown up. There’s a lot of mud out there!

We finished up at 1:00 with a Yellow-breasted Chat a couple hundred yards out from the old horse barn. Some people had more, some people had fewer, but I ended the morning with 59 species.

Last birding report before summer. Ornithological summer, I mean, not astronomical summer.

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

AN IMPORTANT REMINDER for eBirders: Use the “Sweetwater Wetlands Park” hotspot when you’re eBirding your sightings there, otherwise they won’t be added to the park’s eBird database. Lots of SWP sightings are being referred to Sweetwater Preserve or the former Sweetwater Branch, which are not the same thing.

Here’s how you go about it:
1. When you click on “Submit Observations” in the menu, you’re taken to a page headed, “Where did you bird?”
2. Halfway down the page is the “Find it on a map” option, and you should enter “Alachua” into the search box there.
3. One of the choices presented is, “Alachua, Florida, United States (US).” Click on that, and you’ll get a map of Alachua County with several red and blue teardrops on it.
4. In the upper left hand corner is a scale. Click on the plus sign (“+”) two times.
5. About an inch below the word “Gainesville” you’ll see “331” with a circle around it. Just overlapping that 331 is a red teardrop with a flame in it (flame means a hot-spot! get it?). Click on that red teardrop, and “Sweetwater Wetlands Park” ought to appear in a yellow rectangle to the right.
6. Then click “Continue” and … um, continue.

This weekend’s eBird reports from Sweetwater Wetland Parks showed no migrant shorebirds remaining. Which is actually good news, because we won’t spend the first week of The June Challenge with our fingers crossed, hoping they stay put until Saturday.

Matt Bruce saw a Short-tailed Hawk at his place near Kanapaha Botanical Gardens on the 27th. He wrote, “Dark morph. From my horse pasture I watched as the hawk circled overhead, hovered in place, and finally plunged into the treetops. It emerged with nothing to show for its efforts and continued to circle around in a kite-like fashion until it was out of view.”

On the 28th Frank Goodwin reported some good birds from from La Chua: “In case this hasn’t been reported yet, there is a Least Bittern nest visible from the La Chua observation platform. Looking southwest from the platform toward the northeastern edge of the willow grove, the nest is at the base of a tangle of rushes (cattails, perhaps?) and other foliage, thus about 50-75 yards from the platform. Irina and I counted three fledglings this morning, one of which is already strong and bold enough to clamber along the crest of the foliage for a vista of the brave new world. The parents are foraging conspicuously throughout the vicinity, so if the fledglings aren’t immediately visible, one can just wait for the parents to fly in to deliver food. There’s actually a second nest, as well (we saw a second set of parents descend into it), but that one is further south, deeper in the rushes on the southern side of that same willow grove. There are also at least four different female Black-necked Stilts all sitting atop nests on the mud flats. And four Roseate Spoonbills, too.”

Here’s something for you county listers. I’m always curious to know what species other birders have seen in the county that I haven’t and vice-versa. Mike Manetz and I, for instance, are tied with 318 species each for Alachua County, but our lists aren’t identical. Mike has seen five species I haven’t: Red Knot, Broad-billed Hummingbird, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Bell’s Vireo, and Warbling Vireo. Likewise I’ve seen five species Mike hasn’t: American Oystercatcher, Pomarine Jaeger, Philadelphia Vireo, Connecticut Warbler, and Black-throated Gray Warbler. If you want to compare your Alachua County list with that of other birders, go to this page, type your name into the cell in Row 1, and then start putting 1’s next to every species you’ve seen in the county. The checklist will automatically tally them for you. Here’s the link: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1sVSSm0cEbsRkpGOMGvSlKMrvQp2KJ78iXJeU5kidyY4/edit?usp=sharing

And here’s something else (because we birders are a generous bunch!). Phil Laipis writes, “John Hintermister keeps asking me why my Garmin GPSr does not show county lines. I finally gave up, and figured out how to do it. So I thought maybe there are other birders out there who would find this useful, and wrote a brief ‘how to’ file. It will also work on your hiking GPS, if that interests you. I don’t use my smart phone because they don’t work in some of the places I NEED a GPS, like northern New Hampshire and Maine, Mount Hood in Oregon, Lower Suwanee, etc. So here’s the file.” https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4E7iNkfaDyUMTJaaEQyY1Q2dWZ1WWdHSXRhVWZsd2VUaFAw/view?usp=sharing

Remember, if you’d like to get a head start on The June Challenge, meet me in the parking corral at Longleaf Flatwoods Reserve on County Road 325 at 6:15 on Monday morning. Even if you’ve got to be at work at 8:00, it’s a great way to start the day!