Alachua County Birding Calendar

January

  • Get out on the 1st and start your Florida and Alachua County year-lists!
  • Ducks begin to leave the area early in the month, though some – notably Blue-winged Teal – will linger into April and May. Visit the La Chua Trail and Chapmans Pond to see them before they go.
  • Cardinals begin singing early in the month.
  • Though the first American Robins arrived in October or November, and the first Cedar Waxwings in December, their numbers increase markedly this month.
  • First Purple Martins arrive at George’s Hardware (3424 W. University Avenue) during the last week of the month.

February

  • Ospreys arrive during the first half of the month (though a few have wintered) and begin working on their nests.
  • American Robins and Cedar Waxwings overrun residential neighborhoods.
  • American Goldfinches start brightening up and become more abundant at feeders. Watch for locally-rare Pine Siskins among them.
  • Many species are singing by now: Brown Thrashers, Northern Mockingbirds, White-eyed Vireos, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Pine Warblers, House Finches, Red-winged Blackbirds. Some may begin nesting as well.
  • Sandhill Cranes leave the area in big noisy flocks throughout the second half of the month.
  • Northern Parulas and Yellow-throated Warblers arrive and begin singing during the last ten days of the month.

March

  • A few Ruby-throated Hummingbirds arrive during the first week of the month. Cattle Egrets and Green Herons become more common.
  • Most year-round residents begin nesting this month.
  • Whip-poor-wills may sing for a week or two before they leave about the 20th.
  • Early transient warblers, Prairie Warbler and Louisiana Waterthrush, may be seen around mid-March.
  • The season’s first Chuck-will’s-widows, Hooded and Prothonotary Warblers, Yellow-throated and Red-eyed Vireos, Summer Tanagers, and Great Crested Flycatchers have arrived by the last week of March.

April

  • American Goldfinches, the males brilliant yellow, are common at the beginning of the month, mostly gone by the end.
  • Watch the skies during the first couple hours of daylight for northbound Common Loons.
  • Locally-nesting species arrive in numbers: Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Blue Grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings, Orchard Orioles, Mississippi Kites, etc.
  • Migrant passerines are most common from April 20-30: Prairie, Blackpoll, Cape May, and Black-throated Blue Warblers, and American Redstarts. Migration is not quite as interesting inland as along the coast, however, so most local birders head for Cedar Key toward the end of the month.
  • A sudden torrential downpour during daylight hours may ground such daylight migrants as sandpipers and swallows – check Chapmans Pond or the Hague Dairy. Rain during the first half of the night may make the next morning’s birding for warblers and other nocturnal migrants especially successful.

May

  • Last lingering winter birds – Cedar Waxwings, American Goldfinches, Ring-billed Gulls, Forster’s Terns – leave the area.
  • Visit Lake Alice during the first half of the month to see migrating Bobolinks.
  • Check Chapmans Pond for shorebirds, some in breeding plumage.
  • Overall, migration declines steeply during the first week, and by the middle of the month it’s all over.
  • Walk out the Bolen Bluff dike and listen for Yellow-breasted Chats.
  • Check Newnans Lake for Laughing Gulls.

June

  • The June Challenge! How many species can you see – and they must be seen, not just heard – in one month within the borders of Alachua County? You’ll have to get out in the heat to find lingering spring migrants in the first week, early fall migrants in the last week, and ALL the locally nesting species. The record is 115. Can you beat it?
  • Roseate Spoonbills tend to stray inland to Paynes Prairie or other shallow bodies of water.
  • By the end of the month, Purple Martins have fledged their young and most have left the area.

July

  • The first southward-bound migrants – usually Louisiana Waterthrushes – arrive during the second week. Look at the water’s edge at Palm Point, San Felasco, and Camps Canal.
  • Orchard Orioles leave for their Latin American wintering grounds.
  • Check Newnans Lake for Black and Forster’s Terns.
  • Mississippi Kites finish nesting towards the end of the month and become more obvious over Gainesville.
  • By the end of the month, several warbler (e.g., Prairie, Yellow, Black-and-white) and sandpiper (e.g., Least, Pectoral, Solitary) species have been recorded.

August

  • Continued arrival of warbler species throughout the month. Start looking for Blue-wingeds, Golden-wingeds, and Ceruleans by August 20-25.
  • Prime time for shorebirds at Chapmans Pond and the Hague Dairy.
  • The first half of the month is the easiest time to see Mississippi Kites. Kanapaha Park on Tower Road is probably the best spot to watch for them.
  • Barn Swallow migration peaks during the second half of the month. Watch for Bank Swallows among them.
  • Migrating Red-eyed Vireos become so numerous as almost to constitute a nuisance.
  • If a hurricane makes landfall anywhere on Florida’s Gulf Coast, look for seabirds on Newnans Lake.

September

  • Veeries arrive during the first week of the month.
  • Migrating Common Nighthawks, sometimes in flocks, may be seen on rainy evenings during the first week or two of the month.
  • Fall migration gains momentum. September is the month of maximum migrant diversity, if not maximum numbers (though there are occasional 20-warbler days). Spend your time at Newnans Lake, the Bolen Bluff Trail, and San Felasco Hammock.
  • Migrating White-eyed Vireos are annoyingly abundant during the second half of the month.
  • Whip-poor-wills arrive about the 20th and may sing for a week or so afterwards.
  • If you have a spotting scope, focus it on any full moon during September and the first half of October. You may see night-flying migrants pass across the lunar disk.

October

  • Passerine migration peaks during the first two-thirds of the month.
  • Look for later-migrating species – Bay-breasted, Tennessee, and Magnolia Warblers, Scarlet Tanagers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Wood, Swainson’s, and Gray-cheeked Thrushes – at San Felasco, Bolen Bluff, and Newnans Lake during the first half of the month.
  • Watch for migrating hawks, including Sharp-shinneds, Merlins, and Peregrine Falcons, at Palm Point and over Lakeshore Drive.
  • Birding can be very good after cold fronts, especially those with rain, especially those that pass through during the first half of the night.
  • Migrant warblers are increasingly difficult to find during the last half of the month, though a few will linger into early November.
  • Check the Hague Dairy during the last half of the month for Yellow-headed Blackbirds among the cowbirds and Red-wings.
  • First flocks of Yellow-rumped Warblers arrive about October 20, first Orange-crowned Warblers October 25-30.
  • From mid-month into December, keep an eye out for rare western strays on Paynes Prairie and other open areas, like Scissor-tailed, Vermilion, and Ash-throated Flycatchers, and Western Kingbirds. And watch your hummingbird feeders (you did keep them out, didn’t you?) for Rufous and Black-chinned Hummingbirds.

November

  • This month is the best time of the year for ducks. Check out Chapmans Pond, Post Office Pond, Home Depot Pond, and the Hague Dairy.
  • American Pipits arrive at the dairy during the first week.
  • Sparrows become common at Paynes Prairie.
  • Ring-billed Gulls and Forster’s Terns are common by mid-month, the gulls moving into local shopping center parking lots.
  • Sandhill Cranes arrive.

December

  • Bald Eagles and Great Horned Owls (and sometimes Great Blue Herons) are on the nest.
  • Cedar Waxwings arrive.
  • If the water’s low, look for Long-billed Dowitchers at Chapmans Pond, the Home Depot Pond, and the La Chua Trail.Christmas Bird Count (third Sunday) usually discovers some interesting birds. Keep the next day or two free to look for them.
  • Tally up this year’s totals and get ready to start next year’s Florida and Alachua County lists!