Results of The June Challenge for Alachua County

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

Greetings from New York! I’m visiting my son here in the absurdly beautiful village of Sackets Harbor at the east end of Lake Ontario, a place so small that it doesn’t have a traffic light and so old that the stonework Army barracks constructed during the War of 1812 are still standing (and being used as apartments!). Anyway, I’ve been here since the 1st and so I missed the excitement at the end of this year’s June Challenge. It seems to have been our best horse race ever. This is the entire point of making it a competition, getting people out to find something new, something that otherwise wouldn’t have been discovered, like a Lesser Scaup, apparently-nesting Broad-winged Hawks, straying Least, Royal, and Caspian Terns, and early-arriving Black-and-white Warbler and Louisiana Waterthrush – not to mention all the things found at the beginning of the month! The winning total of 129 sets a new record for Alachua County’s June Challenge. It’s worth noting that the second-place total of 128 ALSO sets a new record. I’d thought the previous record (126) would stand for a while, since it had been set during a drought year with lots of unexpected birds around the muddy shores of Newnans Lake. Anyway, congratulations to all our winners: Mike Manetz and Lloyd Davis tied for first, Peter Polshek at second, Howard Adams at third, and Sam Ewing, Nora Parks-Church, and Maddy Knight coming in one, two, and three in the youth category.

We had 46 participants this year, including five under the age of 16. Of those 46, precisely half saw 100 or more birds. Well done, everyone!

Bob Carroll was kind enough to act as compiler this year, receiving the emails from the participants and tallying them up for me. Thank you, Bob.

Lloyd Davis 124/5 (tie)
Mike Manetz 124/5 (tie)
Peter Polshek 122/6
Howard Adams 119/4
Danny Shehee 118/2 (photographed 107 species during the month!)
Brad Hall 115/3
Barbara Shea 114/3
Susan Jacobson 113/2
Chris Cattau 111/3
Rex Rowan 111/0
Ron Robinson 108/2
Dean Ewing 106/4
Bob Carroll 106/3
John Hintermister 106/0
Ben Ewing 105/4
Sam Ewing 105/4 (14 years old)
Deena Mickelson 105/2
Anne Casella 103/0
Marie Davis 101/5
Ellen Frattino 99/4
Will Sexton 99/2
Jennifer Donsky 98/0
Sharon Kuchinski 97/3
Katherine Edison 96/4
Erika Simons 94/4
Bob Simons 93/4
John Martin 93/3
Tina Greenberg 92/4
Debbie Segal 92/3
Becky Enneis 92/0
Anne Barkdoll 90/3
Trina Anderson 88/0
Geoff Parks 84/1
Bob Knight 82/0
Andy Kratter 81/0
Cindy Boyd 78/0
Linda Holt 77/0
Nora Parks-Church 76/1 (11 years old)
Erin Kalinowski 76/0
Maddy Knight 66/3 (5 years old)
Isaac Ewing 65/0 (6 years old)
Emily Schwartz 64/1
Scott Knight 60/0
Owen Parks-Church 55/0 (7 years old)
Bill Enneis 52/0
Sue Ann Enneis 52/0

We counted an astonishing 138 species this June, and here they are. Non-ABA-countable exotics are marked with an asterisk (*).

1. Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
2. Swan Goose*
3. Graylag Goose*
4. Black Swan*
5. Muscovy Duck
6. Wood Duck
7. Mallard*
8. Mottled Duck
9. Blue-winged Teal
10. Lesser Scaup
11. Helmeted Guineafowl*
12. Northern Bobwhite
13. Indian Peafowl*
14. Wild Turkey
15. Common Loon
16. Pied-billed Grebe
17. Wood Stork
18. Double-crested Cormorant
19. Anhinga
20. Brown Pelican
21. Least Bittern
22. Great Blue Heron
23. Great Egret
24. Snowy Egret
25. Little Blue Heron
26. Tricolored Heron
27. Cattle Egret
28. Green Heron
29. Black-crowned Night-Heron
30. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
31. White Ibis
32. Glossy Ibis
33. Roseate Spoonbill
34. Black Vulture
35. Turkey Vulture
36. Osprey
37. Swallow-tailed Kite
38. Mississippi Kite
39. Bald Eagle
40. Cooper’s Hawk
41. Red-shouldered Hawk
42. Broad-winged Hawk
43. Short-tailed Hawk
44. Red-tailed Hawk
45. King Rail
46. Purple Gallinule
47. Common Gallinule
48. American Coot
49. Limpkin
50. Sandhill Crane
51. Whooping Crane
52. Black-necked Stilt
53. Semipalmated Plover
54. Killdeer
55. Spotted Sandpiper
56. Greater Yellowlegs
57. Least Sandpiper
58. Semipalmated Sandpiper
59. Red-necked Phalarope
60. Laughing Gull
61. Least Tern
62. Caspian Tern
63. Royal Tern
64. Rock Pigeon
65. Eurasian Collared-Dove
66. White-winged Dove
67. Mourning Dove
68. Common Ground-Dove
69. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
70. Barn Owl
71. Eastern Screech-Owl
72. Great Horned Owl
73. Burrowing Owl
74. Barred Owl
75. Common Nighthawk
76. Chuck-will’s-widow
77. Chimney Swift
78. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
79. Belted Kingfisher
80. Red-headed Woodpecker
81. Red-bellied Woodpecker
82. Downy Woodpecker
83. Northern Flicker
84. Pileated Woodpecker
85. American Kestrel
86. Eastern Wood-Pewee
87. Acadian Flycatcher
88. Great Crested Flycatcher
89. Eastern Kingbird
90. Loggerhead Shrike
91. White-eyed Vireo
92. Yellow-throated Vireo
93. Red-eyed Vireo
94. Blue Jay
95. American Crow
96. Fish Crow
97. Purple Martin
98. Tree Swallow
99. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
100. Barn Swallow
101. Carolina Chickadee
102. Tufted Titmouse
103. Brown-headed Nuthatch
104. Carolina Wren
105. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
106. Eastern Bluebird
107. American Robin
108. Gray Catbird
109. Brown Thrasher
110. Northern Mockingbird
111. European Starling
112. Louisiana Waterthrush
113. Black-and-white Warbler
114. Prothonotary Warbler
115. Common Yellowthroat
116. Hooded Warbler
117. American Redstart
118. Northern Parula
119. Blackpoll Warbler
120. Pine Warbler
121. Yellow-throated Warbler
122. Prairie Warbler
123. Yellow-breasted Chat
124. Eastern Towhee
125. Bachman’s Sparrow
126. Summer Tanager
127. Northern Cardinal
128. Blue Grosbeak
129. Indigo Bunting
130. Bobolink
131. Red-winged Blackbird
132. Eastern Meadowlark
133. Common Grackle
134. Boat-tailed Grackle
135. Brown-headed Cowbird
136. Orchard Oriole
137. House Finch
138. House Sparrow

Final birding report of The June Challenge, containing important instructions!

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

Alachua County birders, remember to report your final June Challenge totals TO BOB CARROLL at gatorbob23@yahoo.com by midnight on June 30th. Report them in the following format: Total number of species you saw, followed by the number of ABA-countable species, then a forward slash, and then the number of non-countable species. In other words, if you saw 99 ABA-countable species and 2 non-countable species, you would submit “101 (99/2).” Non-countable species are: Black Swan, Graylag Goose, Swan Goose, and Mallard (including wild-looking Mallards and various domestic forms including the all-white Pekin ducks). Everything else, including Muscovy Duck and Whooping Crane, is countable (non-countable species will serve to break a tie). If you have any questions about this, ask Bob Carroll at the email given above. Also let Bob know if you’ll be attending the June Challenge party at Becky Enneis’s house in Alachua at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 1st. There will be prizes and a big honking trophy. Bring a covered dish and your beverage of choice.

Did I say Whooping Crane? Why yes, yes I did. Peter Polshek reported a Whooping Crane from the La Chua observation platform on the 26th. It was still there today.

Also present today was a pair of Broad-winged Hawks that Peter discovered opposite the Mill Creek Preserve parking lot on the 24th. The parking lot is east of High Springs on County Road 236, just 0.3 mile west of its intersection with County Road 241. Lloyd Davis got a picture: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/18597406293/in/dateposted-public/

Yet another Short-tailed Hawk – the sixth in the past month – was seen by Matt Bruce and Mike Manetz over SW 20th Avenue near Hogtown Creek on the 26th.

The Lesser Scaup – if it’s a Lesser and not a Greater – remains visible off the La Chua observation platform. There has been a lot of discussion about head shape, bill size and shape, and the extent of white in the wing, but there has been no generally-agreed-upon conclusion as to the bird’s identity. Here’s a Lloyd Davis photo from a few days ago: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/19217954415/in/dateposted-public/

In case you’re still looking for a Great Horned Owl for your June Challenge list, Frank Goodwin writes, “I stumbled upon one at Morningside Park this morning (Sat.) just after 8:30 a..m., in the woods just north of the main parking lot.” He got a photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/19030399838/in/dateposted-public/

Adam Kent issues the following invitation (… or Challenge!).

“Now that the June Challenge is almost over, how about the July Throw Down? Can you find evidence of breeding Alachua County birds that are still missing from Florida’s second Breeding Bird Atlas? You can report sightings that will be part of the historical record, plus win a nifty prize*!

“Despite having probable or confirmed breeding evidence for almost 100 bird species in the county, we still only have weak breeding evidence for the following species: Glossy Ibis, Wood Stork, Belted Kingfisher, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Broad-winged Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk, Barn Owl, Hairy Woodpecker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Gray Catbird, Yellow-throated Warbler, and Prairie Warbler.

“Some of these species may not breed here (e.g., the kingfisher), while others such as the Yellow-throated Warbler are fairly common. If you’ve noticed any behaviors that indicate one of these birds is likely breeding in the county, please contact Adam Kent (kestrelkent <at> yahoo.com). In addition to the obvious examples of breeding evidence such as a nest or recently-fledged young, other good indicators of breeding include: an individual bird singing in the same place on two occasions more than 7 days apart; a male-female pair seen in suitable breeding habitat; courtship behavior; distraction displays; or attacking predators near a potential nesting site.

“In addition to the birds listed above, the following birds were recorded on the state’s first atlas (1986-1991), but not yet on this atlas: Black Rail, American Woodcock, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Wood Thrush, Swainson’s Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, and Painted Bunting. If you find any of these birds in the county before the end of July, please let Adam know.

“Please be as specific as possible when giving directions to where the bird was seen, such as “1/2 mile south of the intersection of roads A and B.” GPS coordinates are even better and most smart phones can take them now with free programs. Hope to hear from you with your sightings. Thanks.

“*Oh yeah, what about that prize? It’s a morning of birding with Adam learning about breeding birds of the county. The winner will be the person who finds breeding evidence for the most species listed above in this email. Birds sighted during the June Challenge count as long as you can provide a date and location.”

Remember to get your results in to Bob Carroll by the 30th, and to attend the June Challenge party on the 1st!

Lesser Scaup at La Chua, Louisiana Waterthrush

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

John Martin found a scaup while scanning from the La Chua observation platform on the 21st. I was fairly certain the bird was a Greater Scaup, since it looks round-headed and big-billed in John’s photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thermalin/

However John wrote, “Most notable to me was the peak of the crown near the top of the head, and a good view I had of the white stripe along the secondaries (during some preening it did some good wing flapping) that extended to about half the length of the wing. I watched it for about 30 minutes, and almost the entire time it was dabbling with the head underwater. When it finally came to a rest and started preening I was able to see the peak of the head better.” Lesser Scaup do depress their crown feathers when they feed below the surface, and look very much like Greaters until they dry out a little bit, as John witnessed. Mike Manetz and Lloyd Davis saw the bird too, and both agreed that the head seemed to show a peak toward the rear of the crown. That fact, and the wing stripe as described by John, make for a satisfactory identification. Lesser is certainly more probable here, at any time of the year.

Today John sent me a video of the bird preening. Unfortunately it’s facing away, but you can get a sense of the head shape and bill size: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wqes7mQlI9Q&feature=youtu.be

Joyce King lives in Bradford County, about three miles south of Keystone Heights. On the 21st she spotted a Louisiana Waterthrush along the creek in her back yard. This is three days earlier than Alachua County’s early record. But the best thing about it is that fall migration began on the 21st this year – which was technically still spring. (And of course if Louisiana Waterthrushes are in Keystone Heights, they could be here too!)

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.

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.