Some birds linger longer

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

I inquired about hummingbirds in my previous birding report and haven’t heard from a single solitary soul. Are all the hummers gone? Please, oh please tell me if you know of one in the area. The rest of this heart-rending plea for information should be illustrated by a flow chart: Is it in your yard, yes or no? If yes, is it coming to a feeder, yes or no? If yes, would you like Fred Bassett to stop by your place and band it, yes or no? I’ll wait patiently beside my computer for your response.

The other question I asked in the previous birding report elicited only a couple of responses: What was the Bird of the Year 2012? One person nominated the flock of Black Scoters at Lake Wauberg, another nominated the Vermilion Flycatcher that’s been hanging around the La Chua observation platform. What about the cooperative Alder Flycatchers at Cones Dike, the Green-tailed Towhee at Paynes Prairie along US-441, the Sprague’s Pipits on the Kanapaha Prairie? There must be some I’m forgetting. Nominate, you black-hearted scoundrels, nominate!

My third and last question for the day: does anyone know where there’s an active Bald Eagle nest? An out-of-town photographer is looking for one to … um, photograph.

The Bell’s Vireo was last reported on the 12th. John Martin send me a map showing where he found it, “about 500 feet” south of the usual spot:
https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=217764550819642906685.0004d31d92e0e1b6f57af&msa=0&ie=UTF8&t=h&z=20&vpsrc=1

As to other local rarities, the Groove-billed Ani was seen this morning (the 15th) in the usual spot by Mike Manetz, Jonathan Mays, and special guest star Paul Lehman, former editor of Birding magazine. (Hint: Follow the link to one of birding’s best time-wasting websites.) And here’s Jonathan’s picture of the ani: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jmays/8383632533/in/photostream/  On the 13th Howard Adams saw a Whooping Crane from the La Chua observation platform. On the 12th Chris Hooker, visiting from St. Augustine, found the Vermilion Flycatcher at the La Chua observation platform and a Yellow-breasted Chat along the fenceline trail. And on the 11th I saw a Peregrine Falcon perched on the powerline supports near the fenceline trail.

The fenceline trail is called Sparrow Alley by Frank Goodwin, and it’s been living up to its name. On the 7th Caleb Gordon and Allison Costello saw a Clay-colored Sparrow. On the 8th Adam Kent, Chris Burney, and several others saw a Fox. On the 12th Chris Hooker saw a Lincoln’s and John Martin saw four Grasshoppers in a tree at one time and got a picture of two of them: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thermalin/8375463546/in/photostream/

On the 13th Andy Kratter found that the ducks had returned to the crew team parking lot, where East University Avenue dead-ends at Newnans Lake. He reported “7 Canvasbacks, 9 Redheads, 10 Ring-necked Ducks, 25 scaup sp. (some of these look like Greater but they didn’t flap wings for me), 5 Lesser Scaup, heaps of Ruddy Ducks far offshore (>300), 180 American White Pelicans, and 200 Bonaparte’s Gulls.”

Remember! Hummingbirds! Bird of the Year 2012! Eagle nest!

Christmas Bird Count results

From: Rex Rowan [rexrowan@gmail.com]
Subject: Alachua County birding report

Hey, make a note if you’re planning to join the January 5th field trip to Alligator Lake: the driving directions on the Alachua Audubon web site are wrong. Here’s what they should say: “From I-75 take US-90 east through Lake City and turn south on Old Country Club Road (also known as SE Avalon Avenue or County Road 133). Entrance to parking area is 1.5 miles south on the right side of the road.” Thanks to Tom Camarata for pointing out the mistakes to me.

We’ve got some gifted photographers around here, and some of you may be interested in the 2013 Wildlife and Nature Photography Contest being held by Audubon of Martin County. They’ve put together a video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcd38dEvbAs

Speaking of photographers, Adam Zions found and photographed some uncommon birds in the conservation lands north of Newnans Lake on the 30th. He started at Gum Root Park, where he saw two Henslow’s Sparrows in the big field, then drove a couple of miles east on State Road 26 to the Hatchet Creek Tract, where he found a Red-breasted Nuthatch (not to mention a Brown-headed Nuthatch, which is resident at Hatchet Creek but can be hard to find).

I haven’t heard of any definite sightings of the Groove-billed Ani recently, though visiting Tennessee birder David Kirschke and his daughter thought they heard it on the 27th, “about half way between the Sweetwater Overlook turn off and the next bend in the trail.” If you see it, please let me know. The last positive sightings were by Lloyd Davis and Adam Zions on the 23rd, when Adam got a picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/76166204@N08/8302688762/in/photostream

Mike Manetz found a big flock of ducks off the crew team parking lot on the 18th, and Andy Kratter saw them in the same place on the 23rd: “300+ Ring-necked, 25 or so Lesser Scaup, 8 Redhead, 5 Canvasbacks, and a bunch of American Coots. Four Red-breasted Mergansers were quite far offshore, as were 2 Horned Grebes.” I found most of the same birds still present in the late afternoon of the 24th, but by the 30th they’d dispersed and their place had been taken by Ruddy Ducks and Bonaparte’s Gulls, plus one hunting decoy.

Here finally are the results of the December 16th Gainesville CBC:

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  207
Muscovy Duck  90
Wood Duck  821
Gadwall  34
American Wigeon  6
Mallard  29
Mottled Duck  89
Blue-winged Teal  81
Northern Shoveler  14
Northern Pintail  64
Green-winged Teal  1
Canvasback  5
Ring-necked Duck  252
Lesser Scaup  312
Black Scoter  6
Bufflehead  4
Common Goldeneye  1
Hooded Merganser  125
Red-breasted Merganser  4
Ruddy Duck  500
Northern Bobwhite  13
Wild Turkey  46
Common Loon  3
Pied-billed Grebe  74
Wood Stork  28
Double-crested Cormorant  772
Anhinga  187
American White Pelican  137
American Bittern  12
Great Blue Heron  134
Great Egret  206
Snowy Egret  177
Little Blue Heron  163
Tricolored Heron  77
Cattle Egret  211
Green Heron  17
Black-crowned Night-Heron  79
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron  1
White Ibis  2,013
Glossy Ibis  528
Roseate Spoonbill  1
Black Vulture  343
Turkey Vulture  1,144
Osprey  8
Bald Eagle  82
Northern Harrier  42
Sharp-shinned Hawk  12
Cooper’s Hawk  12
Red-shouldered Hawk  164
Red-tailed Hawk  64
King Rail  2
Virginia Rail  5
Sora  252
Common Gallinule  82
American Coot  883
Limpkin  6
Sandhill Crane  3,009
Killdeer  247
Spotted Sandpiper  1
Greater Yellowlegs  54
Lesser Yellowlegs  55
Least Sandpiper  2
Wilson’s Snipe  398
American Woodcock  7
Bonaparte’s Gull  30
Laughing Gull  1
Ring-billed Gull  330
Herring Gull  2
Forster’s Tern  30
Rock Pigeon  70
Eurasian Collared-Dove  9
Mourning Dove  495
Common Ground-Dove  7
Groove-billed Ani  1
Barn Owl  5
Eastern Screech-Owl  16
Great Horned Owl  55
Barred Owl  64
Eastern Whip-poor-will  2
Selasphorus, sp. (probably Rufous Hummingbird)  1
Belted Kingfisher  38
Red-headed Woodpecker  32
Red-bellied Woodpecker  284
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  61
Downy Woodpecker  118
Northern Flicker  38
Pileated Woodpecker  129
American Kestrel  56
Merlin  3
Least Flycatcher  4
Eastern Phoebe  580
Vermilion Flycatcher  1
Ash-throated Flycatcher  10
Loggerhead Shrike  38
White-eyed Vireo  203
Blue-headed Vireo  44
Blue Jay  276
American Crow  621
Fish Crow  297
crow, sp.  45
Tree Swallow  6
Carolina Chickadee  204
Tufted Titmouse  248
Red-breasted Nuthatch  4
Brown-headed Nuthatch  4
House Wren  236
Winter Wren  1
Sedge Wren  52
Marsh Wren  129
Carolina Wren  420
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  387
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  405
Eastern Bluebird  173
Hermit Thrush  27
American Robin  2,583
Gray Catbird  205
Northern Mockingbird  180
Brown Thrasher  15
European Starling  43
American Pipit  124
Sprague’s Pipit  2
Cedar Waxwing  54
Ovenbird  2
Northern Waterthrush  6
Black-and-white Warbler  69
Orange-crowned Warbler  105
Common Yellowthroat  292
Northern Parula  3
Palm Warbler  830
Pine Warbler  204
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1,910
Yellow-throated Warbler  28
Prairie Warbler  8
Wilson’s Warbler  2
Yellow-breasted Chat  2
Eastern Towhee  187
Chipping Sparrow  488
Field Sparrow  20
Vesper Sparrow  57
Savannah Sparrow  515
Grasshopper Sparrow  20
Henslow’s Sparrow  2
Le Conte’s Sparrow  6
Fox Sparrow  4
Song Sparrow  74
Lincoln’s Sparrow  6
Swamp Sparrow  455
White-throated Sparrow  62
White-crowned Sparrow  35
Summer Tanager  4
Northern Cardinal  832
Indigo Bunting  2
Painted Bunting  1
Red-winged Blackbird  9,915
Eastern Meadowlark  382
Common Grackle  585
Boat-tailed Grackle  727
Brown-headed Cowbird  12,798
Baltimore Oriole  29
House Finch  72
American Goldfinch  372
House Sparrow  11

We’ve gained two minutes of daylight since the solstice! Two minutes! Yes! And the first Purple Martins should be back within three weeks, maybe four. So it’s nearly spring. Watch your feeders for Pine Siskins and Purple Finches, which tend to show up after January 1st.

The management and staff of the Alachua County Birding Report, Inc., TM, LLC, LOL, ROTFLMAO, would like to take this opportunity to wish you and yours a Happy New Year.

Audubon Holiday Social, and thrilling seasonal rarities!

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

Alachua Audubon will hold its annual Holiday Social this coming Friday, December 7th, from 6:30 to 9:00. Please join us for refreshments, a silent auction to benefit Alachua Audubon, and of course the customarily brilliant and high-toned conversation of your fellow bird enthusiasts. This year Audubon board member Lynn Rollins is opening her home for our festivities. Lynn lives in Colony Park, a little west of Gainesville High School. Here’s a map, with Lynn’s house marked by an inverted blue teardrop: https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=203358630947857947932.0004cfcb2b711575242b3&msa=0&ll=29.668534,-82.342122&spn=0.007104,0.009645  We hope to see you there. In fact, if you don’t show up, we may come looking for you…

Myiarchus is a genus of flycatchers with five members in North America, all of which look pretty much alike: Great Crested, Ash-throated, Brown-crested, Dusky-capped, and LaSagra’s. The first three of these have been recorded in Alachua County. Great Cresteds are of course common from late March through mid-September. Ash-throateds have been recorded 15-20 times over the past twenty years. Brown-cresteds have been recorded twice, Dusky-cappeds and LaSagra’s not at all. On the 29th Dalcio Dacol wrote, “A bit before noon today I saw from the observation platform and on the same row of bushes that the Vermilion Flycatcher has been frequenting on the west side of the trail, a Myiarchus flycatcher which I think is an Ash-throated Flycatcher. I saw it from the platform with 10x binoculars, it had that washed-out gray tone with prominent and bright rufous patch on the wing edge and on the upper tail, it also didn’t look as robust as a Great Crested Flycatcher. I had a good, but short, view of the back and of the right side of the bird but did not see the underparts. It didn’t fly away but dove down into the thick vegetation cover. I waited around the area for about half an hour but didn’t see it again.” He went back on the following day and spent two hours, playing vocalizations of the four Myiarchus species, but he didn’t see the bird again.

On the 30th Frank Goodwin saw a Snow Goose from the La Chua observation platform. Mike Manetz walked out on the 1st and got a look at it, his 253rd species for Alachua County in 2012.

This morning’s Alachua Audubon field trip to the La Chua Trail didn’t find either the Snow Goose or the Myiarchus flycatcher, but did amass a list of 80 species, including the resident female Vermilion Flycatcher, a Merlin, and 10 species of sparrows (11 if you include Eastern Towhee, which – and you’d know this if you’d looked over the Alachua County checklist - is just as much a sparrow as the others), the best of which were 5 Vespers, a Field, a Grasshopper, and a Lincoln’s. The Whooping Crane seen on the 27th and 28th has not been spotted since then.

Doug Richard reported a female Yellow-headed Blackbird at the Hague Dairy on the 29th.

On the 1st Matt and Erin Kalinowski found and photographed a female Common Goldeneye on the UF campus: http://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/8235771567/in/photostream  At least I think it’s a Common. The all-yellow bill is a field mark of Barrow’s Goldeneye, but of western Barrow’s rather than eastern; the National Geographic Society field guide notes that female Commons’ bills are “rarely all-yellow.”

Yellow-breasted Chats are normally very reclusive birds, and it’s tough to get a picture of one even when it’s singing. On the 21st Greg Stephens got an outstanding shot of a chat that may well be wintering on Burnt Island at the south end of Lake Lochloosa: http://www.photographybygregstephens.com/p622066799/h4d9ddb42#h4d9ddb42

Clay-colored Sparrows, more cold fronts, and a good book

In 1989 two British birders published a 39-page booklet. This booklet was not a field guide, and not a natural history. It was a brief (39 pages) informal manual that explained *how* to look at a bird. It was entitled The New Approach to Identification and its authors, Peter Grant and Killian Mullarney, were among the best birders in the world. Grant, who died a year after The New Approach came out, was responsible for starting the gull craze in 1982 with his Gulls: A Guide to Identification, and Mullarney went on to become the senior author and illustrator of the Collins guide to the birds of Europe, considered to be the premier field guide in the world.

The New Approach went out of print years ago, but I bought myself a copy while it was still available. I’ve studied it many times, and I still regard it as an invaluable book, the best explanation of what you’re supposed to be looking for when you encounter a bird in the field. If you give it a serious perusal (only 39 pages!), I think you’ll be pleased at how much more you begin to see through your binoculars. As the authors put it, the New Approach “adds a great deal of extra interest to the identification of birds.” Phil Laipis was kind enough to make me a pdf of the booklet – with Killian Mullarney’s blessing – and you can find it here: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/83186272/New%20Approach/The%20New%20Approachv3.pdf

Phil made a second pdf in printable format and took it to Renaissance Printing. They printed it out, trimmed the pages, and put a spiral binding and transparent plastic covers on it, all for about ten dollars. The photos in the printed copy were nearly as sharp as those in the pdf. If you want to print yourself a copy, let me know, and I’ll send you a link to the printable file.

More sparrows are starting to show up. On the 11th, Frank Goodwin found and photographed the fall’s first Grasshopper Sparrow at La Chua Trail, probably the second-earliest in the county’s history: http://www.flickr.com/photos/30736692@N00/8088775324/in/photostream  On the 12th Frank was back at La Chua with Mike Manetz, and near the observation tower they found a Clay-colored Sparrow, a western species that’s a rare fall visitor here. The Clay-colored was still present on the 13th, and was seen by Jonathan Mays and by John Hintermister – and on the same day Geoff Parks saw a little bird feeding in a patch of Coral Foxtail grass in his NE Gainesville backyard that turned out to be another Clay-colored! Geoff managed to get a picture of the bird eating the seeds of the Coral Foxtail: http://www.flickr.com/photos/30736692@N00/8088774385/in/photostream  (“Everybody ought to be growing this stuff,” he comments.) Were there any other sparrows? Why yes, now that you mention it, there were! Mike and Frank saw the fall’s first Swamp Sparrow in addition to the Grasshopper and the Clay-colored on the 12th, and on the 13th John found a very early White-crowned, a sighting duplicated on the Bolen Bluff Trail on the same day by sharp-eyed Samuel Ewing – again, the fall’s first.

Other sightings worth your notice: Several people have mentioned to me that the La Chua Trail is overrun with Soras right now. John Hintermister estimated 125 along the trail on the 13th, so if you’d like to see one of these secretive little birds, you know where to go. On the 12th, Mike Manetz heard an American Pipit fly over the La Chua observation platform, by 19 days the earliest ever recorded in the county. And on the 13th Jonathan Mays saw a rather late Cliff Swallow at … let’s all say it together … La Chua.

I don’t think fall migration is over, but you couldn’t prove it by this weekend’s field trips. Saturday’s Bolen Bluff walk produced 51 species of birds, including 11 warbler species, but it was like pulling teeth to get them, and only a handful of the 30 original participants remained when we finally stumbled across a feeding flock. Sunday’s Powers Park / Palm Point field trip was somewhat livelier, but again the migrants just weren’t there in any numbers.

So it’s good news to hear that more cold fronts, followed by more birds, are headed this way. Bob Duncan of Pensacola writes, “Looking good for birding this week. Two cold fronts are forecast to pass through the northern Gulf Coast. Monday winds are shifting to NW 8-13 knots and to N Monday night 13-18 knots. So I think Tuesday should be good at the migrant traps. Another front is due Thursday night, winds Thursday SW 11-15 knots shifting to NW 15-20 knots Thursday night, so Friday looks promising. Some late Neotropical migrants should still be coming down and winter visitors, sparrows, etc., should really be on the move. This is a good time for drought-driven vagrants from the west to appear. Already a Say’s Phoebe, Ash-throated Flycatcher, and Groove-billed Ani have been found in the Pensacola area.” Two years ago a Groove-billed Ani showed up at Paynes Prairie on October 16th.