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.

A pretty interesting day

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

This was probably the best single day of spring migration in Alachua County that I can remember.

This morning Ryan Terrill and Jessica Oswald biked from the Duck Pond area to the La Chua Trail by way of the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail and then walked along Sparrow Alley. They spotted a male Blackburnian Warbler at the Sweetwater Overlook – Ryan wrote, “Seen in flight only but adult male — orange throat, face pattern, white patch on wing noted” – which is only the second spring record in the county’s history; the first was in 1961. Then, along Sparrow Alley, they saw the county’s fourth-ever Cave Swallow! Ryan again: “Foraging with big flock of Chimney Swifts, Tree Swallows, Northern Rough-winged Swallows, and a Purple Martin. Orange rump, and pale underparts fading to buffy orange throat and reddish forehead seen, though briefly.”

Otherwise, the best birding today was at San Felasco Hammock (Millhopper Road entrance), where Felicia Lee, Elizabeth Martin, and John Martin (no relation) walked the Moonshine Creek Trail and saw “5 Cape May Warblers, 2 Black-throated Green Warblers, 2 Scarlet Tanagers, 1 male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, 1 Blackpoll Warbler, 2 Worm-Eating Warblers, and a Wood Thrush. All in all, 11 warbler species.”

This morning’s field trip to Powers Park and Palm Point did fairly well. At Powers we saw a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak, a breeding-plumage Bonaparte’s Gull (photo here), and 75 Common Loons flying north. At Palm Point and Lakeshore Drive we saw a very cooperative male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, a Cape May Warbler, and a Prothonotary Warbler.

Geoff Parks had seen two Cliff Swallows at La Chua on the 17th. Today’s weather was cloudy with intermittent drizzle, good weather to keep swallows down (as Ryan and Jessica found), so Mike Manetz and I walked out La Chua to see if we could match Geoff’s feat. We did find a huge congregation of swallows and swifts – we agreed that “1,000” didn’t sound excessive – and saw two or three Cliff Swallows among them. We also saw a single male Bobolink, the spring’s first. And we were surprised and pleased to find shorebirds foraging in puddles along the flooded trail – three Solitary Sandpipers, four Least Sandpipers, a Lesser Yellowlegs, and four Spotted Sandpipers.

Late this afternoon Matt O’Sullivan found a Nashville Warbler at Loblolly Woods near the parking lot (on NW 34th Street, entrance directly east of 5th Avenue). Also present at Loblolly were Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, Cape May, Prairie, Hooded, and Worm-eating Warblers.

There’s a pretty good chance that all the birds mentioned above will still be here tomorrow.

On tiny little Seahorse Key, an island two miles off Cedar Key, Andy Kratter saw 15 Tennessee Warblers and 15 Painted Buntings on the 17th, and six Lincoln’s Sparrows (“probably more”) on the 18th. Hopefully we’ll have just a fraction of his success on Sunday’s Cedar Key field trip. If you’d like to join us, meet us in the Target parking lot at 6:30 a.m.

The Alder Flycatcher abides; plus Short-tailed Hawk and a plethora of other sightings (that’s right, a plethora).

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

The Crane gave the wrong dates for the Florida Native Plant Sale at Morningside Nature Center. The sale covers two days, only the second of which is open to the general public: Friday, September 27th, 4:30-6:30 p.m. is exclusively for members of the Florida Native Plant Society and Friends of Nature Parks (BUT! you can join when you get there), while Saturday, September 28th, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. is open to everyone.

Today’s Alachua Audubon field trip to San Felasco Hammock went well, according to trip leader Steve Hofstetter: “We had a beautiful morning with 28 people coming out and enjoying the park. We did the Moonshine Creek Trail and split up into two groups around the loop. There were lots of vireos (22 White-eyed, 14 Red-eyed, 2 Yellow-throated), Veeries (8), Ovenbirds (11), and Northern Parulas (19), but other than that the diversity of species was low. My group did get a great view of a Chestnut-sided Warbler and the other group heard a Louisiana Waterthrush.” Remember that there’s a field trip to Barr Hammock tomorrow (Sunday the 15th). Michael Drummond will lead.

Jonathan Mays and I took a leisurely walk around San Felasco’s Cellon Creek Loop on the 13th. We found 60 species of birds, including 11 warbler species, but they weren’t our best finds; a pair of Cliff Swallows twice circled past us at low altitude while we were scanning Lee Pond, and as we were watching a couple of Red-tailed Hawks soaring up on a thermal, a dark-morph Short-tailed Hawk dived into our field of view and made a couple passes at the Red-taileds. That’s only the second Short-tailed ever recorded at San Felasco. The first was seen by John DeLuca almost exactly six years ago, on September 15, 2007.

On the 12th Lloyd Davis relocated and photographed the Alder Flycatcher that’s been hanging around Sparrow Alley since August 27th.

Samuel Ewing found the season’s first Blackburnian Warbler in his NW Gainesville yard on the 10th. For those of you keeping score at home, I think that’s the 20th warbler species recorded in Alachua County this fall; several others have been reported in the four days since then. Samuel got another seasonal first this morning, when he found a Swainson’s Thrush in his yard: “The thrush landed in a tree and when I put my binocs up I realized it wasn’t a Veery. I’ve been seeing Veeries almost everyday and this wasn’t like one. It had larger, much darker spots on the breast. I also could clearly see the buffy lores. It flew off before I could get a picture. I got excellent looks at Veeries a few minutes later and they were much different. This wasn’t near as reddish either.” And Lloyd Davis got yet another first-of-the-fall when he found three Wilson’s Snipe along the Cones Dike Trail on the 13th.

Adam Kent pointed out four Bobolinks to me at the Levy Lake loop trail this morning. Migrating Bobolinks have been heard since the 4th by birders listening for their distinctive calls passing overhead at night, but I think these were the first to have been seen.

On the 10th I was surprised to find a Great White Heron at Watermelon Pond not far south of the county park.

Also on the 10th, Dave Steadman, Curator of Birds at the museum, wrote, “This morning I saw a female Selasphorus in my yard at close range (10 ft). The bird was gone by the time I grabbed my binocs, but I’m confident to call it a female ‘Rufous/Allen’s.’  If anyone is interested, birders are welcome to stop by [send me an email if you want his address]. The fire bushes in the front yard have been getting lots of attention from a male and female Ruby-throated for many weeks, but today is the only time that I’ve seen a Selasphorus.”

If you’re lucky enough to have a sugarberry tree in your yard, watch for the signs of Asian woolly hackberry aphid. Warblers love them. Ron Robinson has an infested tree in his back yard, and over the last week he’s seen several warbler species feasting on the aphids, including Prairie, Chestnut-sided, and Blackburnian.

Sharon Kuchinski’s second-graders and their “Song of the Whooping Crane” dance merited an article in the Gainesville Sun on September 10th. The dance was created as an entry for the Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder Contest. They need your vote in order to win the contest, however. You can vote here.

If you’ve always wanted to spend your days at Archbold Biological Station, living the romantic life of a research assistant and working with Red-cockaded Woodpeckers and Florida Grasshopper Sparrows – and who are you kidding, of course you have – here’s your chance.