Got warblers? Why yes, yes we do!

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

Adam Zions found two Nashville Warblers at Paynes Prairie this morning. He wrote, “They were foraging together along Sparrow Alley. Both had light gray hoods and conspicuous, complete white eye-rings. Yellow undersides transitioned to a white lower belly before transitioning back to yellow. Trace of yellow underside noted on shoulders of both as well. In proximity of female Common Yellowthroats which made for good comparison.” He also found 12 Prairie Warblers and a Yellow-breasted Chat. I phoned him and asked where the Nashvilles were, and he said they were between the beginning of Sparrow Alley (near the old stable) and the power line cut, and that they were fairly conspicuous in their behavior. By the time we spoke he’d walked on to the sheetflow restoration area and was trying to hunt down a bird he’d quickly glimpsed that might have been either a Black-bellied Plover or an American Golden-Plover, both very rare birds in Alachua County. (Map of Sparrow Alley is here. If the map does not show you an aerial photograph, click on the little square in the lower left corner of the screen that says, “Earth.”)

Meanwhile, I got a brief email from Austin Gregg at 11:30 that said, “Warblerpalooza at Palm Point right now.” He reports that the Canada Warbler is there.

Sounds like a good day to get outside.

Fall migration count results

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

As I mentioned last fall, for three years I’ve been working with the American Entomological Institute to catalog the paper wasps of north Florida. I thought the project would be about my speed – eight or nine species to work with, all pretty easily distinguishable, just about right for an amateur with a butterfly net and a stupid grin on his face. But an actual entomologist got involved, and it turns out that three to five of the “species” are actually complexes, each of which contains two to four different species. At least this seems to be the case based on markings and structural differences; it can be confirmed only by DNA analysis. Anyway, I need your help: can you direct me to any active paper wasp nests in Alachua County? At this time of the year, a lot of the wasps are males, which are more common in the fall (and can’t sting!). Since all the wasps on a nest are related, finding a nest tells us what males and females of a given species look like and helps us to document the range of variation. However you should be aware that we would need to collect both the nest and the wasps on it for the DNA analysis, so if you’re sentimentally attached to your wasps, or just want them to stay alive, please move on to the next paragraph. And just to be clear, I’m NOT talking about this kind of nest, which is the work of the Bald-face Hornet; I’m talking about something that looks like this or this or this, generally hanging from under a sheltering horizontal surface like eaves or a kiosk, or from a branch or main stem of a shrub or robust weed like dog fennel. If you know of a nest in Alachua County, and there are still wasps on it, and you don’t mind my taking it, please send me an email (a photo of the nest would be a plus, but isn’t necessary).

Announcement from City Naturalist Geoff Parks: “The City is going to be doing some maintenance at Palm Point on Monday, between approximately 1 and 3 pm. Birders should be advised that during that time there will be equipment being operated in the park which may interfere with trail use and quiet park enjoyment. Visitors should be careful not to block the gate that leads from the parking area onto the trail so that staff can have access to the gate (this is generally true but particularly important on Monday afternoon).”

And an announcement from Paynes Prairie: “Due to change in construction activities, the La Chua closure will not begin until Monday, Sept 29th and will only require part of the trail to be closed. The La Chua Trail boardwalk will remain open, and the closure will only include the portion of the trail beyond the end of the boardwalk. People will be able to park in the parking lot, access the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail, and access the first portion of La Chua Trail.” Which, I assume, includes Sparrow Alley. According to the original announcement, the trail will remain closed through October 9th. But that’s okay, because in early October you should be in the woods looking at migrant warblers, not on the La Chua Trail.

Speaking of which, Palm Point has been jumping since the 18th, when Matt O’Sullivan found a male Golden-winged Warbler there. During the migration count on the 20th, the Newnans Lake team found 15 warbler species within the park itself, including a Golden-winged (presumably the same one that Matt found two days earlier), two Blue-wingeds, and two or three Blackburnians. On the 24th several birders visited and found a Canada Warbler, as well as the lingering Golden-winged. On the 25th several of us not only relocated the Canada, but we found a rare-in-fall Cape May Warbler – and of course the Golden-winged, present for its eighth straight day; once again, there were 15 species overall. Samuel Ewing got photos of a Blackburnian (here) and the Golden-winged (here), and Lloyd Davis got a picture of the Canada (click here). And on the 26th Adam Zions and “loads of other birders” relocated both the Cape May and the Canada.

This makes three Canada Warblers this fall, all in the past week: one at Forest Park by Geoff Parks on the 18th, one by Jacqui Sulek, Tina Greenberg, and the Community Education Birding Class at Lake Wauberg on the 20th, and the Palm Point bird on the 24th, 25th, and 26th. That’s as many Canada Warblers as John Hintermister has seen in Alachua County in his entire life. Along with eight Cerulean Warblers between August 21st and September 20th, that’s a lot of rare warblers.

The fall migration count was held on the 20th. We recorded 119 species, including 24 warbler species. There were some surprising misses – no House Finches, Brown-headed Nuthatches, and White-winged Doves – and some not so surprising misses – no Northern Bobwhites or Northern Flickers. There were no gulls, no terns, and no shorebirds but a Solitary Sandpiper – not even a Killdeer!

There were only 8 Loggerhead Shrikes, 4 in NW Gainesville, 3 in SW Alachua County, and 1 at Paynes Prairie’s main entrance. The first eight years we did the fall count (1995-2002), Loggerhead Shrike totals were 15, 20, 9, 18, 23, 33, 20, and 23. So there was this anomalous 9 in 1997, but all the other counts were between 15 and 33. But in 2011 there were 3 and in 2013 there were 8.

Of the 119 species recorded, 13 were represented by only a single individual: Blue-winged Teal, Northern Harrier, Solitary Sandpiper, Black-billed Cuckoo, Barn Owl, Merlin, House Wren, Golden-winged Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Tennessee Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, and Bobolink. Other notables included 2 Tree Swallows, 3 Northern Rough-winged Swallows, 2 Chuck-will’s-widows, a surprising number of Palm Warblers, and lots of very late Purple Martins but few other swallows. Our count of 1044 individual warblers was one of our best ever.

Here are the totals:

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck 46
Wood Duck 25
Mottled Duck 16
Blue-winged Teal 1
Wild Turkey 3
Pied-billed Grebe 6
Wood Stork 20
Double-crested Cormorant 451
Anhinga 91
Great Blue Heron 39
Great Egret 77
Snowy Egret 32
Little Blue Heron 82
Tricolored Heron 21
Cattle Egret 611
Green Heron 18
Black-crowned Night-Heron 6
White Ibis 268
Glossy Ibis 154
Black Vulture 132
Turkey Vulture 181
Osprey 12
Bald Eagle 23
Northern Harrier 1
Cooper’s Hawk 7
Red-shouldered Hawk 82
Short-tailed Hawk 2
Red-tailed Hawk 11
King Rail 3
Purple Gallinule 6
Common Moorhen 60
Limpkin 11
Sandhill Crane 16
Rock Pigeon 48
Eurasian Collared-Dove 21
Mourning Dove 128
Common Ground-Dove 3
Black-billed Cuckoo 1
Yellow-billed Cuckoo 12
Barn Owl 1
Eastern Screech-Owl 11
Great Horned Owl 7
Barred Owl 37
Common Nighthawk 4
Chuck-will’s-widow 2
Chimney Swift 523
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 9
hummingbird, sp. 2
Belted Kingfisher 15
Red-headed Woodpecker 18
Red-bellied Woodpecker 167
Downy Woodpecker 133
Pileated Woodpecker 97
American Kestrel 6
Merlin 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee 17
Acadian Flycatcher 78
Empidonax, sp. 6
Great Crested Flycatcher 2
Eastern Kingbird 12
Loggerhead Shrike 8
White-eyed Vireo 603
Yellow-throated Vireo 14
Red-eyed Vireo 246
Blue Jay 254
American Crow 410
Fish Crow 108
crow, sp. 68
Purple Martin 40
Tree Swallow 2
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 3
Cliff Swallow 4
Barn Swallow 12
swallow, sp. 2
Carolina Chickadee 179
Tufted Titmouse 318
House Wren 1
Carolina Wren 461
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 278
Eastern Bluebird 64
Veery 101
Swainson’s Thrush 13
Gray Catbird 14
Brown Thrasher 30
Northern Mockingbird 94
European Starling 23
Ovenbird 123
Worm-eating Warbler 12
Northern Waterthrush 56
waterthrush, sp. 1
Golden-winged Warbler 1
Blue-winged Warbler 11
Black-and-white Warbler 38
Prothonotary Warbler 11
Tennessee Warbler 1
Kentucky Warbler 5
Common Yellowthroat 232
Hooded Warbler 35
American Redstart 49
Cerulean Warbler 1
Northern Parula 174
Magnolia Warbler 4
Blackburnian Warbler 8
Yellow Warbler 70
Chestnut-sided Warbler 18
Black-throated Blue Warbler 1
Palm Warbler 29
Pine Warbler 38
Yellow-throated Warbler 55
Prairie Warbler 70
Yellow-breasted Chat 1
Eastern Towhee 57
Summer Tanager 35
Northern Cardinal 585
Blue Grosbeak 7
Indigo Bunting 13
Bobolink 1
Red-winged Blackbird 520
Eastern Meadowlark 3
Common Grackle 248
Boat-tailed Grackle 202
Brown-headed Cowbird 401
Baltimore Oriole 6
House Sparrow 27

Remember those wasp nests!

It’s the birding news! Right in your inbox! Is that cool or what?

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

Because he delights in putting the working man down, Bob Carroll is starting a monthly weekday-morning bird walk for retirees and other persons of leisure, beginning this week: “Will you please let people know about our Thursday Bird Walk coming up this week? We’ll meet at 8:00 AM at Bolen Bluff and spend a few hours searching for what I’m sure will be a migrant fallout. Afterwards, some of us will go to Blue Highway Pizza in Micanopy. Anyone planning on going to lunch should let me know so I can contact the restaurant and warn them about what’s going to happen to their lovely little place. They can email me at gatorbob23@yahoo.com or text me at (352) 2813616.”

An official Paynes Prairie announcement: “La Chua Trail [including Sparrow Alley] will be closed September 26th through October 9th for culvert removal and restoration. Heavy Equipment will be operated in the area. Visitors are requested to call the Paynes Prairie Ranger Station at (352) 466-3397 to verify that the trail has reopened prior to visiting.” You want to be careful around Heavy Equipment.

In warbler news, Mike Manetz had the fall’s only Golden-winged Warbler at Poe Springs on the 12th – we weren’t able to relocate it on the field trip – and Adam Kent spotted a Cerulean Warbler in his SE Gainesville yard on the 15th.

A dark-morph Short-tailed Hawk spending the summer around La Chua has been seen twice lately, on the 10th by Adam Zions and on the 14th by the lucky birders who saw the Gray Kingbird (not relocated, alas).

Those lucky birders also saw an Alder Flycatcher. I have now tried for those Alders on Sparrow Alley four times, plus Cones Dike once and Barr Hammock once. I’ve seen flycatchers fitting that general description each time, but without a vocalization they’re essentially unidentifiable, and either they clam up when I’m around or else I’ve gone deaf. It’s making me peevish.

Adam Zions saw both a Bank Swallow and a Cliff Swallow over La Chua on the 13th. Both are tough birds to get in Alachua County, yet when you see one it’s not that unusual to see the other.

In a recent birding report I mentioned the Common Nighthawk migration, as witnessed by local birders on the 7th, 8th, and 9th. On the 10th the Florida Keys Hawkwatch counted 4,275 nighthawks passing over, and captured several dozen on video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVAgKjc39u4 I notice that they have a more regular flight style in migration; from a distance I might mistake them for Laughing Gulls.

Here’s something unexpected, to me anyway. I know that hawks and falcons prey on migrant birds, but I didn’t know that gulls do it too: http://www.anythinglarus.com/2014/09/ring-billeds-preying-on-migrating.html

Remember: Mangrove Cuckoo presentation at the Millhopper Library on Wednesday night at 6:30, fall migration count on Saturday, Cedar Key boat trip on Sunday. Details here (click on the + symbol for more information): http://www.alachuaaudubon.org/classes-field-trips/

Gray Kingbird at La Chua Trail

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

At about ten minutes till ten, Cameron Cox, Adam Kent, and Mike Manetz found a Gray Kingbird on the powerlines along Sparrow Alley. Adam got a photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/15235701175/ However, as they watched, it flew in the direction of the La Chua Trail, so it’s anybody’s guess whether it will be relocated. I plan to try, however.

Yesterday’s field trip to Poe Springs Park found a fairly early Scarlet Tanager plus nine warbler species, including this Worm-eating Warbler beautifully photographed (as always) by Glenn Price: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/15049239098/

Brown Pelicans at Newnans Lake, migrating nighthawks and warblers

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

On the 7th there were six Brown Pelicans at Newnans Lake, as well as Black Terns and some mid-sized white terns, at least one of which appeared to be a Common (dusky primaries, charcoal nape), though it was too distant to say for sure. Adam Zions found one pelican still present on the 10th.

In early September, Common Nighthawks are often seen migrating in flocks, especially ahead of advancing rain clouds. Ron Robinson observed this over his west Gainesville home on the morning of the 7th: “This morning at 7:35 I saw twenty plus Common Nighthawks flying southeasterly in a very loose kettle-type formation. Some swooped very low to the ground directly above our pasture. I tried to count, got to nineteen and the kettle came around and everyone mixed together. Later, Elaine and I went on our daily walk, and we saw a single nighthawk. Cooool! I wish they were more ‘Common’ here.” That evening he saw more: “Elaine and I counted forty plus nighthawks at 7:30 PM. They were everywhere, seeming to be moving just in front of a line of heavy dark clouds moving west to east. I’m sure we only saw a small number of the group, our front pasture has a limited overhead.” Geoff Parks saw the same thing over his NE Gainesville home on the same evening, reporting a total of 78 birds. On the evening of the 8th Andy Kratter counted 184 going over his place in SE Gainesville, and on the 9th Samuel Ewing counted 103 over his yard in NW Gainesville.

John Hintermister found a Cerulean Warbler at the north end of Lakeshore Drive on the 8th, where the road curves west, away from the lake front. Three days later Becky Enneis photographed a male Cerulean in her back yard: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/15033635987/ That makes four in the county so far this fall.

Glenn Israel had the fall’s first Blackburnian Warbler at Bolen Bluff on September 1st, and there have been more than half a dozen reports since. Samuel Ewing photographed one in a sugarberry tree in his yard on the 9th; if you look closely, you can see the Asian Woolly Hackberry Aphids on the leaves, small fuzzy white insects that usually attract lots of warblers: https://www.flickr.com/photos/121511542@N02/15003669380/ If you’ve got an aphid-infested sugarberry, grab your binoculars, pour a cup of coffee, and sit yourself down in a lawn chair with a good view of the tree, because you’re going to see some birds.

Bubba Scales had the fall’s first Baltimore Oriole at his SE Gainesville home on the 26th. There have been a couple of reports since, one from the Ewing brothers, Samuel and Benjamin, and one from Adam and Gina Kent.

A change of the guard is underway around the local lakes. During the summer, Ospreys are common and Bald Eagles are scarce, while during fall and winter it’s the other way around. Right now Ospreys are migrating out and Bald Eagles are migrating in; I saw two of each from Palm Point on the 7th. Speaking of raptors, Samuel Ewing photographed a late Mississippi Kite over his yard on the 9th: https://www.flickr.com/photos/121511542@N02/15190272725/ The last Swallow-taileds I’ve heard about in the county were six moving south in a group, seen by Geoff Parks over Williston Road on August 15th.

Bob Sargent of Trussville, Alabama, has died of a post-operative infection. An electrician by trade, he became a pioneer in the field of hummingbird banding, and was one of its unforgettable characters. Here’s a video of Bob describing hummingbird nests to the crowd at one of his banding demonstrations: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-v36GcpHsbw (At 1:00 the video switches over to Fred Bassett, switching back to Bob at 2:33.)

First field trips this weekend, Poe Springs on Saturday and San Felasco Hammock (Millhopper Road entrance) on Sunday. Also a program on Mangrove Cuckoos next Wednesday night. All the details are here (click on the “+” button for more info): http://www.alachuaaudubon.org/classes-field-trips/

Let’s give the late great Bob Sargent the last word, a minute’s worth of eloquence from a bird-lover’s heart: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnH1XhvdGuk

Don’t look behind you, Summer, those are Fall’s footsteps you hear!

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

Up to four fall-migrant Alder Flycatchers have been sighted along Sparrow Alley recently, mostly around “the dip.” That’s the low area in the trail about a hundred yards past the powerlines – the low area that often turns into a puddle of water, though it’s currently dry. Here’s a picture of Andy Kratter and Matt O’Sullivan birding just on the far side of the dip on the 5th – https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/14974401200/in/photostream/ – and here’s a slightly different view just to give you some visual context – https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/14974314939/in/photostream/ – and I’m showing you these photos because that’s where you need to go, because that’s where most of the Alders are sighted. That’s where Mike Manetz found one on the 31st, where John Hintermister, Phil Laipis, and Matt O’Sullivan found four on the 2nd (Matt got a photo), and where a visiting Central Florida birder saw two on the 3rd. On the 5th, Andy and Matt and I saw two probable Alders in the horse pasture immediately north of the dip, but I never got a very good look or heard any vocalizations, so I just wrote them off as “Empidonax sp.” It was my third unsuccessful attempt to see an Alder Flycatcher in the past week – or rather, to hear one. In each case I saw at least one Empidonax flycatcher, but I never heard the characteristic “pip!” that identifies it as an Alder (click here, and scroll down till you get to “Calls,” then click on the first one, the “Pip call”). Maybe I haven’t mentioned this yet, but Alder Flycatcher is normally a very rare bird in Alachua County. In 2012 we had two, and last year we had several at La Chua, Cones Dike, and Levy Lake from late August to late September, but we shouldn’t assume that they’ll always be this common. Enjoy their presence while you can. (That is, if you can get them to say “pip.”)

Samuel Ewing photographed the fall’s first Veery in his yard on the 3rd: https://www.flickr.com/photos/121511542@N02/14941925498/ Veeries normally arrive in numbers during the first week of September. They seem to especially favor the deep deciduous woods of San Felasco Hammock, but like most migrants they can show up just about anywhere. Samuel has also seen and (before dawn) heard Bobolinks flying over his NW Gainesville home, one as early as the 29th, probably the earliest-ever for Alachua County, and he saw seven or eight fly over on the 4th.

But what about the warblers, you ask, what about the warblers? Blue-winged Warblers seem fairly common so far this fall; eBird shows at least eight, maybe more, since August 25th, most recently along Sparrow Alley, at Bolen Bluff, and along San Felasco’s Moonshine Creek Trail. No Blackburnians or Golden-wingeds yet. About half a dozen Kentucky Warblers have been reported since July 31st, the most recent at Ring Park and the Moonshine Creek Trail. Two Ceruleans have been reported, as mentioned in previous birding reports, but none since the 24th; normally their passage extends through September, rarely into October. The first Chestnut-sided Warblers were seen on the 3rd, one by Charlene Leonard along Sparrow Alley and one by Matt O’Sullivan at Loblolly Woods. Finally, Jonathan Mays saw the county’s earliest-ever Palm Warbler near Prairie Creek on the 4th. His eBird writeup reads, “Early; observed at least one and possibly a second just east of the fishing bridge. Heard chip then saw two similar-sized birds working at eye level through vegetation. One was viewed well, including yellow vent, dingy breast and sides, and pumping tail.” This beat the existing early record by four days.

On the 5th Geoff Parks saw a Short-tailed Hawk over Green Acres Park, tucked away in the neighborhood across Newberry Road from the Royal Park Theater. He wrote, “All-dark smallish buteo with faintly barred tail; flight feathers slightly lighter in color than rest of underwings, with faint barring; lightish patch at base of primaries was noticeably the palest portion of the underwing. Circled over just above the treetops, giving good views.” How many Short-tailed Hawks does that make this year? Looking over the thirteen observations reported to eBird since January 1st, I think there have been a minimum of five birds. When you consider the history of the species in Alachua County, that’s a little bit mind-boggling. The county’s first record was a bird shot in 1927. The second wasn’t reported until 1993, one of five sightings in the 1990s. There were seven more between 2000 and 2005. And now they’re seen a few times each year, usually between late February and mid-October, and there’s circumstantial evidence to suggest that they’re nesting here. Quite a change.

The feral cat issue raised its head again in the August 20th Gainesville Sun. You can remind yourself of what free-roaming cats are capable of by watching National Geographic’s “The Secret Life of Cats” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkWuLoHdF2s Warning: Do not read the comments unless you want your opinion of humanity to descend to a point from which it will never be lifted again.

Lake County is holding its third annual Wings and Wildflowers Festival in a month. You can see a list of their field trips, speakers, and events at http://wingsandwildflowers.com/

Have you looked at our birders’ photo gallery lately? Why not? We’re all so pretty! http://www.alachuaaudubon.org/meet-the-birders/ (Click photos to enlarge.) All Alachua County birders should send me a picture so I can add it to the gallery.

Alder Flycatchers, Lawrence’s Warbler at Sparrow Alley

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

Mike Manetz walked Sparrow Alley this morning after Jennifer Donsky told him that she’d found an Alder Flycatcher there. Mike relocated Jennifer’s bird and saw a second one as well. The first was south of the trail near the watery dip beyond the powerlines, and the second was in a small grove of persimmons just a couple hundred feet in from the trail’s beginning, where an Alder lingered for nearly a month at this time last year. Both were identified by their “pip!” call notes. If last weekend’s Barr Hammock bird was also an Alder, that makes three in the county at once. It’s bizarre: we never had an Alder Flycatcher here until 2010, and now they’re so abundant that the county will soon commence spraying empidonacide to control them….(No, not really.) Mike also saw two Blue-winged Warblers on his walk, and even more surprising than the Alders, a Lawrence’s Warbler, a hybrid of Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warbler that has been recorded in Alachua County only three times before, most recently in 1990. Here’s what a Lawrence’s looks like: https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7419/9124553719_b120308131_z.jpg

Debbie Segal made arrangements with GRU to offer a special Sheet Flow Restoration Project field trip for Alachua Audubon volunteers on the 30th. It was a very productive morning, and the group saw some nice things: a flock of four Roseate Spoonbills, a Great White Heron wandering from the Florida Keys, a mixed flock of Barn and Bank Swallows swarming over one of the cells, and eleven species of shorebirds, including some uncommon species – Pectoral and Stilt Sandpipers and Semipalmated Plover – and some that are locally quite rare – Western Sandpiper and Short-billed Dowitcher. Hopefully the Sheet Flow Restoration Project will continue to attract birds once the vegetation has stabilized in all three cells.

One hundred years ago tomorrow, September 1, 1914, the last Passenger Pigeon in the world, a 29-year-old female named Martha, tumbled from her perch in the Cincinnati Zoo, and the most abundant bird in the history of Planet Earth went extinct. John Fitzpatrick of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology has written about the event, and what it means to us today, in a New York Times editorial. But the closest we’ll ever come to seeing a live Passenger Pigeon is reading John James Audubon’s 1831 description of a flock settling in to feed: “As soon as the Pigeons discover a sufficiency of food to entice them to alight, they fly round in circles, reviewing the country below. During their evolutions, on such occasions, the dense mass which they form exhibits a beautiful appearance, as it changes its direction, now displaying a glistening sheet of azure, when the backs of the birds come simultaneously into view, and anon, suddenly presenting a mass of rich deep purple. Then they pass lower, over the woods, and for a moment are lost among the foliage, but again emerge, and are seen gliding aloft. They now alight, but the next moment, as if suddenly alarmed, they take to wing, producing by the flappings of their wings a noise like the roar of distant thunder, and sweep through the forests to see if danger is near. Hunger, however, soon brings them to the ground. When alighted, they are seen industriously throwing up the withered leaves in quest of the fallen mast. The rear ranks are continually rising, passing over the main-body, and alighting in front, in such rapid succession, that the whole flock seems still on wing.”

Possible Alder Flycatcher at Barr Hammock

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

This morning’s walk at Barr Hammock was largely birdless, but we did find what may have been an Alder Flycatcher. We’re not positive – it didn’t call – but it was not too far from where Mike Manetz, Adam Zions, and I found one a year ago tomorrow, on the north fork of the trail maybe a quarter of a mile out. Matt O’Sullivan got a picture: https://www.flickr.com/photos/118053703@N02/15021189862/  Alder Flycatcher had never been identified in this county prior to 2010, but if this is an Alder, we’ve had them three falls in a row now. That’s weird.

The Cerulean Warbler that Matt found at Bolen Bluff on the 21st remained until at least yesterday, but several birders spent all of this morning scouring its usual haunts without finding it. However John Martin spent this morning at San Felasco Hammock’s Moonshine Creek Trail (on the south side of Millhopper Road), and there he found another Cerulean: “Found along Moonshine Creek Trail, south leg of loop which passes through upland dominated by oak, hickory, sweetgum. Foraging with small flock containing Northern Parulas, American Redstarts, and Red-eyed Vireos.”

Geoff Parks wrote this morning with some exciting news: “This morning as I sat on my patio, I saw two robins fly into the top of a pine where there’s a mass of fruiting Virginia creeper. One was an adult; the other only perched in view briefly, but I confirmed that it had the paler, spotted breast of a juvenile. They flew away together, and were accompanied by a third that I hadn’t seen previously. Since they didn’t stay long, I wasn’t able to get a photo, but I’ll keep trying.” That’s the first confirmed breeding of American Robin in the history of Alachua County.

First Cerulean Warbler! and Barr Hammock walk

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

Did you hear about the hipster who burned his mouth on some coffee? He drank it before it was cool.

Matt O’Sullivan found the fall’s first Cerulean Warbler at Bolen Bluff on the 21st, “about 200 feet before the fork in the trail.” I’ve seen Ceruleans in that general location two or three times over the years. I don’t know if there’s something about it that they (and other warblers) like, or if I just tend to linger there myself and consequently see more.

John Hintermister saw 2014’s only Brown Pelican so far at Newnans Lake on the 17th, flying past Palm Point.

We’re getting toward the peak of swallow migration. Mostly you’ll see Barn Swallows flying due south, but the last week of August gives you your best chance of seeing Bank and Cliff Swallows among them. Samuel Ewing has been keeping an eye to the sky at his NW Gainesville home and has already seen Cliffs on two occasions: one (previously mentioned) on the 15th, and two or three more on the 19th.

The Alachua Audubon Society has made a few changes in its field trip schedule, adding fall and spring Cedar Key boat trips (for which you have to sign up ahead of time). You can check out the in-progress events calendar, which includes both field trips and program meetings through October, here (note that the printable field trip schedule for the 2014-15 year is not available yet). If you want to see the programs only – the first one is on Mangrove Cuckoos – click here. In the near future I’ll announce a few late-summer field trips that aren’t on the schedule, for instance to the new sheetflow wetlands on Labor Day weekend. And this Sunday morning at 8:00, meet at the Barr Hammock Trail to do some birding (Mike Manetz, Adam Zions, and I saw two Alder Flycatchers out there at this time last year) and to see the section of the trail that’s being threatened with closure. To get to the trail, go south on US-441 to Wacahoota Road (across 441 from the Lake Wauberg entrance) and turn right. In a fraction of a mile you’ll cross over I-75, and as you come down from the overpass take your first left onto SE 11th Drive, a dirt road which you’ll follow to the Barr Hammock parking lot at the end. We won’t walk the entire 6.5 mile loop!

There’s an election for governor in November. One exceedingly important thing to keep in mind is that the winner of the election appoints the governing boards of the St. Johns River Water Management District and Suwannee River Water Management District, which set water policy for this area, including our springs. To get some idea of the important issues at stake, read this editorial from the Ocala Star-Banner on a couple of environmental heroes, one of whom, Karen Ahlers, has stepped into the shoes of Alachua Audubon’s legendary Marjorie Carr: http://www.ocala.com/article/20140817/OPINION/140819739/1183/OPINION?p=all&tc=pgall

Looks like a fall migration to me

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

Rufous Hummingbirds have already returned to two local feeders. Both are adult males. One that’s been visiting Mike Manetz’s yard since the 11th is wearing a little silver bracelet, so it’s probably the same bird that Fred Bassett banded there in January; Mike got a photo. Just across the Gilchrist County line, one has been coming to Jim Allison’s feeder since the 12th. Both of these beat the county’s previous early arrival date by about two weeks; that was an adult male that Greg Hart saw at his place in Alachua on August 25, 2003.

Mike Manetz, Bob Carroll, and I checked for shorebirds at Hague Dairy on July 17th. There was plenty of water, but the vegetation was too high for shorebirds; they prefer the unobstructed view provided by mud flats and other vegetation-free landscapes. In the four weeks since then, all the vegetation has been mowed down, and when the Ewings (father Dean, sons Caleb, Benjamin, and Samuel) visited on the 14th they found seven shorebird species: “5 Lesser Yellowlegs, 4 Semipalmated Plovers, 9 Least Sandpipers, 5 Pectorals, 3 Solitaries, 1 Spotted, and best of all 6 Stilt Sandpipers!” Samuel got a photo of all six Stilts: https://www.flickr.com/photos/121511542@N02/14730385127/ All were in the same spot as last year, the northwest corner of the lagoon. A Laughing Gull was out there as well. Remember that a Short-billed Dowitcher and a Wilson’s Phalarope were recorded there last August, so it would be worthwhile to check back frequently.

Samuel has been watching the sky from his NW Gainesville neighborhood, and it paid off on the 15th with a pair of Eastern Kingbirds and a Cliff Swallow, our first fall migrants of both species.

Mike Manetz and I found nine warbler species at San Felasco Hammock on the 14th as we walked the Moonshine Creek and Creek Sink Trails, including one Worm-eating, single Louisiana and Northern Waterthrushes, 3 Black-and-whites, 2 Prothonotaries, 2 Kentuckies, 7 Hoodeds, 3 American Redstarts, and 10 Northern Parulas.

John Killian sneaked out to the sheet flow restoration area on the 12th in hopes of seeing the Buff-breasted Sandpiper that Matt O’Sullivan and I found on the 10th, but it had moved on. He writes, “I did see a Roseate Spoonbill, half a dozen each of Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers, 3 Pectoral Sandpipers, 9 Black Terns, and a Laughing Gull. There must be about 100 Black-bellied Whistling ducks out there as well.”

Speaking of Black Terns, I saw a flock of 14 at Newnans Lake during the stormy weather on the evening of the 14th.

Bob Carroll went to Arizona in late July. He’s telling the story on his blog. In order:

http://bobsgonebirding.blogspot.com/2014/08/birding-in-arizona-and-new-mexico.html

http://bobsgonebirding.blogspot.com/2014/08/part-2-silver-city-nm-and-road-to-portal.html

I expect another installment any day now.

Don’t forget to keep up the pressure on the County Commission in regards to Barr Hammock. Email the Commission at bocc@alachuacounty.us and urge them to keep the loop open.

There’s an election coming up on the 26th. I don’t know whether Lee Pinkoson or Harvey Ward is the better candidate overall, but I can tell you that Ward has declared himself to be against both the Plum Creek project and the Barr Hammock trail closure, while Pinkoson has not.