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

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.

First fall migrants

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

Well dang, it’s fall already. Seems like it was just summer the other day. But we’ve lost nine minutes of daylight since the solstice – the sun rose eight minutes later this morning than it did on June 21st, and sunset will be a minute earlier. And more importantly, local birders have already recorded five fall migrant species (six if you count the two Belted Kingfishers seen during The June Challenge). The first was a Prairie Warbler spotted by Jonathan Mays at Paynes Prairie on July 9th. The second, third, and fourth came during a walk that Mike Manetz and I took with Dean and Samuel Ewing at Watermelon Pond on the 12th: a southbound Black Tern passed overhead; a Greater Yellowlegs flew by, calling; and a Least Sandpiper landed on the shore of a small pond we were exploring and spent a few minutes foraging before winging off to the west. The other migrants were found by John Hintermister at Palm Point and Lakeshore Drive on the 12th: another Prairie Warbler and the fall’s first Black-and-white Warbler.

Let me say a few more words about Watermelon Pond. I’ve been out there many times before, but haven’t wandered quite so far back onto the property. I’ve got to tell you, it’s one of the most beautiful places in Alachua County. There were times when I looked out at the vista of rolling, wildflower-dotted uplands pocked with pothole ponds and marshes and isolated oak groves and felt that I’d strayed into some landscape painting by one of the 19th-century English masters. Afterward, Mike and I agreed that a Watermelon Pond walk would have to be part of Alachua Audubon’s 2013-14 field trip schedule. Not the least exciting part of the day to me was sighting a frog I’d never seen before. On the west side of the property we passed a couple of Gopher Tortoise burrows. I glimpsed something inside one of them, and, hopeful of a tortoise or snake, I peered in with my binoculars. It was a root that had caught my eye – but there on the floor of the burrow sat a Gopher Frog, a species that depends on tortoise burrows for its survival. Samuel got a photo. If you want to see Watermelon Pond for yourself, drive to the traffic light in Newberry, go south on US-41 to SW 46th Avenue, turn right on 46th and go to SW 250th Street, and then turn left and go four miles to the county park. Walk down to the (mainly dry) marsh, bearing right, and follow the path across to the oak grove. A few more steps and you’re through the oaks, and from there you should just go where your curiosity and exhilaration lead you.

Hey, is it still popularly believed that Green Anoles change color to blend in with their backgrounds? When I was a schoolboy in Jacksonville in the 1960s it was an article of faith that chameleons – as they were called – turned green on green backgrounds and brown on brown backgrounds, and there was a joke that you could drive them crazy by placing them on plaid. I was thinking about them this morning as I drove home from the grocery store, and was surprised to realize that I still don’t know, in 2013, what causes them to change color. Well, lo and behold, no one else knows either. In 2013 it’s still a mystery. There are theories, such as thermoregulation, but the latest study suggests that adult males turn green more often than immatures or females, and that green color may play a role in signaling to other anoles. A blog summary is here. Some of you newcomers to Florida may not realize that Gainesville has two species of anoles: the Green Anole, which is native, and which changes color; and the permanently-brown Brown Anole, a non-native of Caribbean origin which was still getting a foothold here when I arrived in the 1980s. The Brown Anole now greatly outnumbers the Green Anole in urban and residential environments, and they’re working their way into wilder terrain as well; I saw one at Palm Point on the 11th.

Paynes Prairie and Florida Park Service staff will conduct a public meeting and presentation on the Prairie’s updated management plan at 7:00 p.m. this Monday, July 15th, at the Doyle Conner Building, 1911 SW 34th Street. This is your sole chance to ask questions and express your opinions face to face with the Park Service staff. The plan is here and the agenda is here.

To be sure that the State of Florida continues to fund the purchase of conservation lands, an organization called Florida’s Land and Water Legacy has been trying to collect enough petitions to put the matter up for a statewide referendum. Nearly 700,000 signed petitions are needed. If you’re a registered Florida voter, and you haven’t submitted one yet, please print it out using the following link and mail it in (a pen-and-ink signature is required for the petition to count). For that matter, you can print a bunch of them out and make them available for people to sign at your place of business: http://floridawaterlandlegacy.org/pages/171/audubon-florida-partners-with-the-legacy-campaign/

Those of you who use Facebook might be interested in this “Save Loblolly Woods” Facebook page, put together by a group that’s opposed to the city cashing in on its conservation land holdings by selling off five acres to a local developer: https://www.facebook.com/saveloblolly?fref=ts

Raptor biologist Gina Kent writes with a request: “We are looking for Mississippi Kite nests, and areas where kites are seen, especially with fledglings. ‘Tis the season for orphan kite chicks that need a surrogate nest.” If you know of a nest, send me an email and I’ll pass it along to Gina.