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

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

Return of the Pacific Loon!

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

Have you contacted Jessica Burnett about that House Sparrow project yet? If you live in Gainesville, and you have a yard, you should: jburnett9@ufl.edu

The Alachua Audubon field trip to Alligator Lake on February 1st found a White-winged Scoter. Normally rare in Florida, this year they’re being seen in fairly large numbers on both coasts. But this inland sighting made me wonder what might be swimming around on Lake Santa Fe. So I called John Hintermister to see if he was as curious as I was, and what do you know, he was. On the 6th, he, Mike Manetz, and I motored out in cold, breezy weather to see what we could find. Coincidentally, that day was the one-year anniversary of our discovering the county’s first-ever Pacific Loon on Lake Santa Fe. Did we find a White-winged Scoter? We did not. But we found the Pacific Loon again, back for a second winter! We followed it around for a while, trying to get photographs, which isn’t easy when your quarry submerges one hundred feet to the south and, thirty seconds later, surfaces two hundred feet to the north. But Mike, sitting in the bow with the camera, persisted, and managed to get a profile shot, a picture of the dark “chinstrap” that identifies this species, and a photo of the bird with its wings spread, showing that it has molted its flight feathers – which means that it should be right there on Lake Santa Fe until they grow back in.

On the afternoon of the 7th Andy Kratter emailed me, “Just now an immature Brown Pelican soared past our (mine and Tom Webber’s) office window at the museum.” Two immature Brown Pelicans were at Bivens Arm, not that far away from the museum, on January 4th. Could this have been one of those birds?

The Clay-colored Sparrow discovered by Lloyd Davis at the Hague Dairy on the 30th has been seen several times since, most recently by Adam Zions on the 8th. Mike Manetz and I saw it on the 4th in a flock of Chipping and Savannah Sparrows, but even more interesting was a Northern Rough-winged Swallow we saw perched on a power line near the parking area. Its head, throat, and breast the same shade of dusty brown, smaller than a nearby Eastern Bluebird, it sat for several seconds and gave us a good look before a passing tractor scared it off. We didn’t see it again. This is the first February report for Alachua County, and the second or third in winter. Rough-wingeds are relatively early arrivals in spring, often showing up during the first week of March, and they do nest annually at the dairy, so keep an eye out to see if it sticks around.

You might describe this bird as a “golden-crowned” kinglet, but it’s not really. It’s a leucistic Ruby-crowned Kinglet that Barbara Shea noticed at Adam Kent’s house as we were finishing up the Backyard Birding Tour on the 8th. To me it looked cafe-au-lait in color, with white tertials creating a big white spot in the center of its back, a partly white tail, and yellow secondary edgings. But you don’t need to imagine the bird based on my description, because Adam ran inside and got a camera to document it.

I was grousing, in the February 3rd birding report, about the dearth of American Robins and Ospreys around here. Well I can grouse no more. I woke up to hundreds of American Robins pillaging the neighbors’ laurel cherries on the 7th and 8th. And the Ospreys, though just a little later than normal, showed up too. Michael Drummond told me that one had been on the old BellSouth tower downtown since the 27th. Others were seen at La Chua on the 2nd, Buchholz High School on the 4th, and the nest pole opposite the Gainesville Police Department on the 5th. Not to be shown up in the spring department by migratory upstarts, a Carolina Wren is building a nest on Michael Meisenburg’s back porch.

Friends of Courtney Tye created a memorial Facebook page to share pictures and stories: https://www.facebook.com/groups/courtneytyememorial/  Be sure to scroll down to Kate Pasch’s video of Courtney moving a hognose snake off the road to safety while pleading with it, “Don’t musk, don’t musk, don’t musk…” and Dustin Bonds’s three photos of Courtney peeling a road-killed Fox Squirrel off the highway while dressed in a strapless gown. An “expense and education fund” has been set up in her newborn son’s behalf. It’s a good way to honor her memory: http://www.youcaring.com/other/carter-wayne-tye-education-and-expense-fund/134335

A Bullock’s Oriole! Did you hear me? A BULLOCK’S ORIOLE!

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

The Bullock’s Oriole continues to visit the Goodmans’ back yard. I arrived at 8:15 on Sunday morning, and was surprised when Leigh Larsen was the only other person to show up. The Bullock’s took its sweet time arriving – I waited an hour and forty minutes – but when it got there at 9:55 it stuck around for nearly half an hour, mostly investigating withered leaves in the big sweetgum tree in the back yard just south of the Goodmans’. On Tuesday morning several birders went to see it – John Hintermister, Mike Manetz, Will Sexton, Bob Carroll, Becky Enneis, and Jonathan Mays – and the oriole obliged again, at the feeder at 9:00 and 10:00, and then again close to noon in an oak tree down the street. Mike got a photo, and Jonathan got two.

Now listen to me, brothers and sisters. Bullock’s Oriole is native to the American West. On those rare occasions when one strays to Florida, it’s usually a female, which can be extremely difficult to distinguish from a pale female Baltimore. An adult male, especially one this beautiful, is a rare thing. How rare? I’ve compiled all the published records, and adult males have been seen only three times in Alachua County: in 1963, in 1979, and right now. Look at those pictures again. How long has it been since you saw a bird that beautiful? So get yourselves over to the Goodmans’ house in Mile Run, brothers and sisters. Park at the curb and take one of the chairs they’ve set up on the right (south) side of the house. And hope it shows up. This is a great bird.

Speaking of great birds, what were the best Alachua County birds of 2013? Adam Zions came up with a top ten (“in no particular order”) and ten more that he thought worthy of mention:

Ross’s Goose
Pacific Loon
White-faced Ibis
Swainson’s Hawk
Groove-billed Ani
Alder Flycatcher
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Bell’s Vireo
Kirtland’s Warbler
Nelson’s Sparrow

Honorable Mentions perhaps:

Dunlin
Wilson’s Phalarope
Ash-throated Flycatcher
Vermilion Flycatcher
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Swainson’s Warbler
Canada Warbler
Western Tanager
Dickcissel
Bronzed Cowbird

Adam concludes, “I think it just goes to show how great a year we experienced last year in Alachua (how does the Vermilion not crack this Top 10???). Even with water levels around the county finally getting closer to normal, we still had a wealth of avifauna arrive on our doorstep. I know my top 3 would be the Kirtland’s Warbler, Pacific Loon, and Bell’s Vireo. I could switch the loon and vireo positions, but I just don’t think any species could oust the Kirtland’s from the #1 position. Sadly I really wanted to add in the Swainson’s Hawk as a possible tie for 3rd place as it only seems appropriate.”

So what do y’all think? Send me your top ten, and I’ll compile the votes.

Rarity update: Has anyone looked for the three Brown Pelicans at Bivens Arm? The Rusty Blackbirds were still at Magnolia Parke late this afternoon. On the afternoon of the 5th, while scoping off Palm Point, I saw 5 Horned Grebes and 3 juvenile Herring Gulls.

Someone posted a photo of a Snowy Owl on the Alachua County Birders Facebook page today, claiming that he’d taken it at Morningside Nature Center. Geoff Parks showed it to his wife, who suggested that he do a Google image search on “Snowy Owl” and see if that photo came up. Oddly enough, it did, in the blog of a Minnesota birder (fourth picture down): http://ecobirder.blogspot.com/2007/11/snowy-owl-at-tamarack-nature-center.html  It’s actually a pretty good practical joke, but birders don’t have a sense of humor about things like this!

Alachua Audubon will be sponsoring a Kids’ Christmas Bird Count on Saturday, January 18th. Details here.

Bullock’s Oriole in northwest Gainesville!

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

On Saturday morning an adult male Bullock’s Oriole visited Ted and Steven Goodman’s feeding station in the Mile Run development. Ted got a photo – a bit overexposed, so that the bird looks yellow instead of orange, but the dark line through the eye and the throat stripe are clearly visible: http://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/11760659335/

The bird was not seen again in the afternoon, but Ted says there’s a flock of Baltimore Orioles that roams the neighborhood and the Bullock’s was associating with them. He says that anyone hoping to see the bird is welcome to drop by the house at 6437 NW 37th Drive (you can use Google Maps to find it; but it’s just west of NW 37th Street, north of NW 53rd Avenue). Sunday morning would be ideal, since he and the family will be leaving early in hopes of seeing the Bar-tailed Godwit in the Tampa Bay area. The bird was last seen today a little before noon. There have been three to six previous sightings of this species in Alachua County, depending on the reliability of the observers.

And that’s not the only good bird here: today Mary Landsman alerted me to the presence of three immature Brown Pelicans on Bivens Arm. They had gone to roost in some lakeside trees by late afternoon, and should still be there tomorrow.

This morning’s Alachua Audubon field trip to La Chua went pretty well. We found a Wilson’s Warbler at the little dip in Sparrow Alley, right where Mike Manetz found it on the 29th, and saw two King Rails, several Soras, the semi-resident female Vermilion Flycatcher, and an immature Purple Gallinule. Ducks were hard to see because of all the vegetation, but we did spot Blue-winged Teal (numerous), Green-winged Teal, Mottled Ducks, Ring-necked Ducks, Ruddy Ducks, and a couple of Northern Shovelers. Those who stayed late added two Grasshopper Sparrows and a Barn Owl to the list – 68 species overall, by my count.

For the rain it raineth every day

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

The last few days’ weather has brought us some exceptional birding.

On the 3rd it rained warblers. Jonathan Mays, working on the north rim of Paynes Prairie, saw 14 species, some in relatively large numbers. His best were a Chestnut-sided Warbler, only the second or third spring record for the county, and a Tennessee, almost as rare at this season. The others included 24 (!) American Redstarts, 12 Blackpoll Warblers, 2 Black-throated Greens, 3 Cape Mays, and 3 Black-throated Blues. Mike Manetz, birding nearer the La Chua trailhead, saw ten warbler species, including three singing Yellow-breasted Chats. And Andy Kratter, splitting his time between Pine Grove Cemetery and Palm Point, saw twelve warbler species (plus a Cliff Swallow at Palm Point). All together, Jonathan, Mike, and Andy totaled 18 warbler species on the 3rd. And the warblerpalooza continued through the 4th, when Adam Zions and Jonathan Mays found a Black-throated Green along Bellamy Road, and Adam later counted thirteen Black-throated Blues at Ring Park.

Surprisingly, Jonathan’s Tennessee wasn’t the only one this spring. Andy Kratter saw three (!) at Pine Grove Cemetery on the 1st, and one of them stuck around till the next day.

On the 4th Mike Manetz wrote, “I ran into John Hintermister and Debbie Segal and we decided to try the Hague Dairy. It rained the entire time there, but we got 2 Semipalmated Plovers and 2 Least Sandpipers at the dirt field just east of Silo Pond. At the Lagoon we had 31 Least Sandpipers and 2 Semipalmated Sandpipers. Also present were 6 Solitary Sandpipers and 3 Spotteds. The Bronzed Cowbird is still there!! We saw it in one of the barns with a few Brown-headeds. White-rumped Sandpipers should be there any day.” (White-rumpeds are already being seen in Jacksonville as well as South Florida.) A little later in the day Dean and Samuel Ewing read Mike’s report of the Bronzed on eBird and drove out to the dairy, where Samuel got a photo.

A couple of lingering falcons have been reported. Adam Zions saw a Merlin at the Hague Dairy on the 4th, while Samuel Ewing saw a Peregrine Falcon at Watermelon Pond on the 3rd.

Jonathan Mays photographed a Brown Pelican over Newnans Lake on the 2nd.

Barbara Knutson of Ft. White (Columbia County) had a male Western Tanager at her place from the 27th to the 30th. Unfortunately I learned about it on the 30th.

Tina Greenberg photographed a male Painted Bunting that visited her home at the western edge of Gainesville on the 2nd and 3rd.

Linda Hensley’s NW Gainesville yard, which is hosting a couple of Gray Catbirds that may be nesting, also attracted a male Purple Finch on the afternoon of the 3rd. It’s not the only winter bird lingering around town. On the 4th Caleb Gordon saw two American Goldfinches in NW Gainesville, and later the same day John Hintermister saw Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Ducks, and Bonaparte’s Gulls at Newnans Lake.

 

We go birding with the migration we have

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

There is still a window of opportunity to join Alachua Audubon in Costa Rica this June. In particular, a congenial female participant is looking for an equally congenial female participant to share double occupancy. Please email Mike Manetz at mmanetz@yahoo.com

Also, remember that Ron Robinson will lead a field trip to Bronson on Sunday the 28th to see a “super Purple Martin colony” (over 200 nests!). Meet Ron in the parking lot of the Jonesville Publix at the corner of Newberry Road (State Road 26) and County Road 241 at 8:00 a.m. Lynn Badger once said to me, “You can’t hear Purple Martins and NOT be happy.” Was she right? Here’s your chance to find out.

Some of you may already know this, but thrushes are not expected spring migrants in Alachua County. How unusual are they? Swainson’s Thrush has been seen three times previously (1988, 1995, 2012). Gray-cheeked Thrush has been seen six times (1887, 1971, 1972, 2000, 2003, 2008). And Veery has been seen about fifteen times. In short, it’s rare for even one of these birds to show up in Alachua County in spring. So I’ve been surprised, over the past week, to learn that local birders have recorded all three species. That’s got to be some kind of first. Caleb Gordon saw a Gray-cheeked in the swamp along NW 8th Avenue on the 20th, and Adam Zions saw one right next door at Loblolly Woods on the 23rd (same bird?). Samuel Ewing saw a Swainson’s at the University Gardens adjoining Lake Alice on the 22nd. Adam Zions photographed a Veery at Ring Park on the 24th, while Geoff Parks heard one or two singing (!) at Bivens Arm Nature Park on the 26th.

Other migrants are beginning to pass through. Cape May and Blackpoll Warblers are now widespread in small numbers; if you’ve got big oaks in your yard, that’s as good a place to look as any. Stephen McCullers saw the county’s earliest-ever Bobolink on the 15th, and since the 20th they’ve been seen almost daily at La Chua. In case you were wondering, almost no migrants showed up for last weekend’s Cedar Key field trip. Late in the day we did find a Tennessee Warbler and a stunning male Black-throated Green Warbler, but no tanagers, no grosbeaks, no swarms of warblers. This was explained by Angel and Mariel Abreu of Badbirdz Reloaded: “Looks like NE winds reached the southern take off points for migrants. The Yucatán Peninsula, Belize, Honduras and Cuba all experienced northerly winds and clouded skies, this effectively shut down nocturnal migration.” So the migrants didn’t even leave Central America the previous night. They just stayed put.

Samuel Ewing had his camera handy on the 24th when some saltwater birds flew over his home near Watermelon Pond: a couple of Brown Pelicans and a flock of Laughing Gulls.

Mississippi Kites are finally here. There were three sightings on March 29th, then nothing for two weeks. Felicia Lee saw one on the 13th, Linda Holt on the 14th, but they didn’t really check in till the 21st, when they were seen in four separate locations. There have been multiple sightings every day since.

I was impressed when Keith Collingwood saw a Clay-colored Sparrow at his place near Melrose on the 14th, because it tied the late record for the county. But then John Hintermister saw one at La Chua on the 17th (near the barn), and Dalcio Dacol got a photo of one at Barr Hammock’s Levy Loop Trail on the 23rd.

Red-breasted Nuthatches are still around too. Samuel and Benjamin Ewing had one in a residential area out Archer Road on the 21st, and I had one in my NE Gainesville back yard on the 22nd. I saw a Black-and-white Warbler going round and round a branch way up in an oak tree and I almost didn’t bother to look at it, but when I did – “Hey, that’s not a Black-and-white Warbler!”

Katherine Edison celebrated Earth Day by getting up close and personal with a Whooping Crane at La Chua: http://earthteachme.blogspot.com/2013/04/whooping-cranes-happy-earth-day.html

Remember Adena Springs Ranch? The Marion County ranch that wants to use as much water as the entire city of Ocala, even if they have to dry up Silver Springs to do it? Here’s their application, which is receiving serious consideration by the St. Johns River Water Management District: http://www.sjrwmd.com/facts/AdenaSpringsRanchCUP.html  Remember that this is the same agency that urges you to “use less water in your home or business.”  Do they expect us to care more about water conservation than they do? Apparently so. Submit your opinion here: https://permitting.sjrwmd.com/epermitting/jsp/supportAction.do?command=sb2080&prmtNo=2-083-129419-1&projNm=Adena+Springs+Ranch&ntc_sent=false