Spring migration underway, plus continuing rarities

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

Over the past couple of years Mike Manetz has been dividing his time between Alachua County and Charlotte County on the southwest coast. Down in Charlotte he managed to infect some of the local birders with county-listing fever. Three of them in particular – Jeff Bouton, Dennis Peacock, and Brant Julius – have joined Mike in exploring the nooks and crannies of Charlotte County and in vying to see the most species in one year. Due to their high-spirited competitiveness Jeff has bestowed the title of “The Beasts of Birdin'” on the quartet. On March 1st I had the opportunity to go birding with three-quarters of The Beasts: Dennis and Brant drove up to Alachua County so Mike could show them some birds they don’t get to see in Charlotte, and I was invited along.

We started the day at Tuscawilla Prairie, where we hoped to find the Le Conte’s Sparrow discovered there on February 6th. We spent about an hour walking back and forth along the edge of the marsh before Dennis shouted that he’d seen a sparrow in the wet grass at the base of a small tree. He’d played a Henslow’s song, which it ignored, and then a Le Conte’s song, to which it seemed to respond. We all gathered around the tree and the bird flew up into a low branch – and it was a Henslow’s. It was not a bird we’d expected to see (though they’ve occurred there in the past), and it was a lifer for Brant. After a round of high fives we continued birding along the edge – getting a look at a Virginia Rail creeping along in an inch of water – and had all but given up when a sparrow flushed from the short dry grass halfway between the marsh and the live oaks. I could see its orange head as it fluttered up, and sure enough it was the Le Conte’s. It landed in a small oak, and stayed put for twenty or thirty seconds before dropping to the ground again. Another lifer for Brant, and the first time in my 40 years of birding that I’ve seen both Henslow’s and Le Conte’s in a single day.

From there we drove on to the Goodmans’ in NW Gainesville to see the male Bullock’s Oriole present for its third winter in a row. We walked around the block and eventually located a flock of six or eight Baltimore Orioles across the street from the Goodmans’ house that contained the Bullock’s. Lifer #3 for Brant.

We went on to Magnolia Parke, where a flock of about 35 Rusty Blackbirds was feeding in a parking lot just south of the big lawn. Lifer #4 for Brant.

From there it was on to the Hague Dairy. Mike signed us in while we parked Dennis’s truck, and as he came walking back to join us he spied the Lark Sparrow singing at the top of an oak tree. The Greater White-fronted Goose was equally cooperative, and we ran into Matt O’Sullivan, who pointed out an American Redstart that has wintered in the swampy area behind the parking lot.

So it was an absurdly good day. We found every bird we’d hoped to find, and still had a little time left over, so we went to a NW Gainesville neighborhood where Sam Ewing had recently reported Golden-crowned Kinglets. Here, at last, we failed to find our quarry, though Dennis thought he heard one calling. We were done by 1:00, and The Beasts of Birdin’ went home with a truck full of lifers, state birds, and Alachua County birds.

(Golden-crowned Kinglets haven’t left yet. Jonathan Mays saw two of them at San Felasco Hammock on the 1st: “Located north of Millhopper Road along the ‘Hammock Cutoff’ trail just east of its intersection with the yellow-blazed trail. First heard giving their high ‘seet, seet, seet’ calls, one on each side of trail. Was able to pish both in to confirm ID … small-sized, striped faces, one showed orangeish crown well.”)

Speaking of The Beasts of Birdin’, the one who didn’t join us yesterday, Jeff Bouton, used to be the official hawk counter at the Cape May Hawk Watch. He has just posted a very helpful and well-illustrated post on telling the difference between Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks that includes a few bits of information not mentioned in field guides: http://blog.leica-birding.com/advanced-id-tip-sharp-shinned-or-coopers/

And speaking of hawks, the county’s first Swallow-tailed Kites of the spring, four of them, arrived on March 1st, but I’m going to send out the details, as well as an interesting correspondence with kite biologist Ken Meyer, in another birding report.

On the 28th the Audubon field trip had a Northern Parula at the Windsor boat ramp and Andy Kratter had another in his SE Gainesville yard, but both were silent. However on the 1st there were *six separate reports* submitted to eBird, including two that specified singing birds (Debbie Segal at Barr Hammock and Jonathan Mays at San Felasco Hammock). So I think the Northern Parulas have arrived. There were a few sightings during the winter, as is usually the case, but the ones sighted this weekend were spring migrants.

I took an Oxford zoologist out to Paynes Prairie on the 27th and, after an hour’s wait at the edge of the sheet flow site, was able to show him his life Limpkin. While we were out there we saw some extraordinarily early Barn Swallows and on the walk back we saw a couple of extraordinarily late Purple Martins.

Time for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds to start showing up. A few of them spent the winter at local feeders, but the first migrant males should be arriving any day now. Yellow-throated Vireos and Northern Rough-winged Swallows should also be here soon.

In late winter Yellow-rumped Warblers generally leave the treetops and start feeding on the ground. We noticed flocks of them foraging in the grass at both the Windsor boat ramp and Powers Park during the Audubon field trip on the 28th.

Bill Pranty and Tony Leukering have posted a well-illustrated paper on identifying Mottled Duck x Mallard hybrids. The paper starts off with a quiz – how many of these are pure Mottleds and how many are hybrids? – and goes on from there. Not a bad idea, to quiz yourself and find out how much you already know. And the paper will help you to distinguish Mottled x Mallard hybrids (“Muddled Ducks”) from pure Mottled Ducks in case that becomes a major problem here, as it is farther south: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/wp-content/uploads/sites/55/eBird_Muddled_Ducks.pdf

If you see our local Whooping Crane – or any other, for that matter – report it here: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/whoopingcrane/sightings/sightingform.cfm Don’t assume that any Whooping Crane that you see is the same one that has wintered at the Beef Teaching Unit. Be sure to note which color bands are on which legs. By the way, the Beef Teaching Unit bird seems to be on the move. On the 28th its tracking devices showed it at Watermelon Pond in the county’s SW corner.

Greater White-fronted Goose at Hague Dairy

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

Lloyd Davis called at noon to tell me that he’d just seen a Greater White-fronted Goose at the Hague Dairy lagoon: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zUwrxikNCmjA.kX16X2s1_C-E

He later emailed a photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/16026260673/

If you chase it, keep your eyes open – Lloyd saw the Lark Sparrow today as well.

Lingering rarities! Time-limited offer! Get ‘em before they’re gone!

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

I think we’re spoiled around here. Any one of these birds would have been big news when I was a-comin’ up (the days when binoculars were gasoline powered, and we had to start them by turning a crank in the front), and here we’ve got at least half a dozen first-class rarities around town. I don’t know what we’re going to do if things ever go back to normal. We’ll have to start birding in other counties! Makes my skin crawl just thinking about it. Anyway….

The Lark Sparrow at the Hague Dairy was sighted on the 15th by Bryan Tarbox. Jonathan Mays got a photo on the 7th: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jmays/16290832548/

The Bullock’s Oriole at the Goodmans’ house was most recently reported (by Steve Goodman) on the 12th. Out-of-towner Nathan Langwald got a photo on the 7th: https://www.flickr.com/photos/soniknate/15862400884/

The Rusty Blackbirds of Magnolia Parke are still there as well. Brook Rohman saw 30 on the 14th, and Trina Anderson got a photo on the 6th: https://www.flickr.com/photos/46902575@N06/15838917233/

I saw four high-flying flocks of Sandhill Cranes totalling around 250 birds going north over my NE Gainesville home early on the afternoon of the 16th. Jonathan Mays saw about 50 at the UF Beef Teaching Unit at lunchtime on the same day, and the Whooping Crane was among them.

Lloyd Davis photographed the Le Conte’s Sparrow at Tuscawilla Prairie on the 9th: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/16553233945/ It’s been a cooperative bird, showing itself almost daily; at least a dozen birders have seen it so far. From the parking area, cross the street to the informational kiosk and then bear left, following the trail down to where the live oaks give out. But then leave the trail and walk straight out into the grass until the ground gets soggy. Turn right and walk along that soggy edge, keeping your eyes open, until off to your right, at the woods’ edge, you see “two cabbage palms with extensive trunkage, the one on the left adorned with vines, and the one on the right without” (thanks, Adam Zions!). The bird has been seen consistently along the soggy edge opposite those palms. It’s been showing well, as the Brits put it, so there’s need to stomp around in the grass and ruin its habitat in order to get a look at it.

Good birds continue to be seen at the sheetflow restoration site, generally by those with special access for one reason or another or those who sneak in the back way on Sunday, when no one is working there. Debbie Segal photographed two White-faced Ibises there on the 10th, while on the 8th Matt O’Sullivan documented a Red-breasted Merganser, rarely seen in Alachua County, and two Long-billed Dowitchers, which have been tough to find during the last two winters. (On the 5th the City Commission took actions that will probably delay opening the sheetflow restoration site until October at the earliest. Debbie Segal is trying to arrange monthly field trips through GRU until it opens permanently.)

Lloyd Davis saw three Snow Geese flying over the La Chua Trail on the 14th.

Harry Jones saw a wintering Summer Tanager along the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail on the 9th: “It was perched in a large fruiting tree in someone’s backyard on the left side of the trail (if heading towards Paynes Prairie). I believe it is the last house before the Paynes Prairie gate and the turnoff for the Sweetwater Overlook. The bird was perched at the top of the tree (something plum if I remember correctly) with a large flock of robins and yellow-rumps. I saw it fly over the trail towards Paynes Prairie.”

Spring is already here for some birds. Deena Mickelson got this photo of a Mourning Dove sitting on eggs on the UF campus on the 1st: https://www.flickr.com/photos/121307268@N08/16235049360/

The Third Thursday Retirees’ Birding Club (informally known as the Ha! Take That, You Working Stiffs! Club) is going out of town this week: “Our Third Thursday field trip for February will be to Circle B Bar Ranch in Lakeland. We will leave from the Target parking lot on Archer Road at 6:00 AM on Thursday, February 19. The drive down should take a little over two hours. Circle B Bar Reserve was jointly acquired by the Polk County Environmental Lands Program and the Southwest Florida Water Management District to protect the floodplain of Lake Hancock and to restore the Banana Creek marsh system. Oak hammock, freshwater marsh, hardwood swamp and the lakeshore are among the unique characteristics of this property. It is home to an abundant and diverse bird population. After the trip some of us are planning on having lunch at Palace Pizza in downtown Lakeland. If you’re planning on joining us for lunch, please let me know.”

If you’d like to see live owls close up, and especially if you’ve got kids who’d like to see live owls close up, you might be interested in this Saturday’s doings at Wild Birds Unlimited: “Licensed wildlife rehabilitators Nan Soistman and Dr. Dawn Miller, DVM, will host an education program on the owls of Florida at Wild Birds Unlimited on Saturday, February 21 from 11:00 am – 2:00 pm. The event is free and open to the public. Ms. Soistman and Dr. Miller will bring four of Florida’s five species of breeding owls: a Great Horned Owl, a Barred Owl, a Barn Owl, and an Eastern Screech-Owl. Each bird was rescued from some sort of life-threatening injury but deemed not to be releasable to the wild after having been given care. Alachua Audubon Society and the UF/IFAS Alachua County Master Gardeners will also have information tables at the event. All first-time, new National Audubon Society memberships will be free during the event and all new and renewing members will also receive a $5 “BirdBucks” coupon to be used in the store on the day of the event. Audubon representatives will also be present to discuss birding opportunities and environmental advocacy efforts around Gainesville. The Master Gardeners will have a rain barrel display and representative will be present to discuss water conservation efforts and other Florida-friendly gardening practices. Please see http://www.wbu.com/gainesville for details on Wild Birds Unlimited’s own website.”

The birds abide

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

Don’t forget that you can arrange carpooling for Alachua Audubon field trips, using the “Leave a Reply” function on the individual field trip pages on the web site. Here are the pages for the next three field trips:
Tall Timbers / Wade Tract, January 31 and February 1: http://www.alachuaaudubon.org/event/tall-timbers-research-station-sparrow-banding-and-the-wade-tract/?instance_id=375
La Chua, February 7: http://www.alachuaaudubon.org/event/la-chua-trail-9/?instance_id=376
Northeast Florida Coast, February 15: http://www.alachuaaudubon.org/event/northeast-florida-coast-3/?instance_id=377

Spring is creeping up on us. Though sunrise is actually one minute later than it was on the solstice, sunset is a whole half an hour later. Red maples have been blooming since mid-December, but now I’m seeing redbuds and wild plums covered with flowers, elms with drooping samaras, and early-blooming wildflowers like lyre-leafed sage and yellow jessamine. Purple Martins should be here by now, but I’ve driven past the martin houses at George’s Hardware four times in the past week or so and have yet to see one; there have been no local reports in eBird, either, though there have been plenty throughout the southern half of the state. Ospreys should also show up in the next week. A small number winter in Alachua County, but breeding birds normally arrive at their nests about the beginning of February.

The Lark Sparrow is still at the Hague Dairy. Sam Ewing saw it on the 28th: “He was singing in an oak tree when we stepped out of the car, and then flew to the ground to feed with Chipping Sparrows.” He also got a nice photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/121511542@N02/16390142895/

The Rusty Blackbirds are still being seen at Magnolia Parke. Lloyd Davis counted 66 on the 24th, and Melissa James and Dave Gagne saw two on the 28th. One of Melissa’s photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/melissa_vet/16204251218/in/photostream/

The Whooping Crane is still at the UF Beef Teaching Unit at the corner of Williston Road and SW 23rd Street. If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t delay, because all the cranes will be leaving us before much longer.

Here’s a really remarkable set of photos that I found on Google: a leucistic Red-winged Blackbird from Wisconsin, nearly all white except for a few black feathers and bright red epaulets: http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/sports/205262591.html

Speaking of really remarkable photos … You know how hard it is to find a Henslow’s Sparrow. They conceal themselves under matted grasses, usually in open fields like the one at Gum Root Park. It’s even harder to see a Henslow’s Sparrow. They flush just in front of you, fly a few yards, land in the grass, and then, out of sight, run away so that you can’t relocate them. All of this being the case, just imagine how hard it is to actually photograph a Henslow’s. And as to photographing one in flight, it’s pretty much impossible. Yet Rob Norton managed the impossible on the 17th: https://www.flickr.com/photos/73960438@N04/16114809538

On the 19th Bob Simons wrote, “I think I saw three black ducks flying at Paynes Prairie today. We were near the end of the La Chua Trail. The ducks were flying around, seemingly looking for a good place to land, and were NW of me, giving me good light to see them. They were very dark – nearly black, with much lighter heads and necks, white under the wing, and red-orange legs and feet. They ended up landing out of sight to the NW.” American Black Duck is a rare bird in Alachua County these days, so keep an eye out.

A researcher at UF has discovered that Lone Star Ticks at San Felasco Hammock, O’Leno, and Manatee Springs carry the incurable hemorrhagic fever virus: http://www.gainesville.com/article/20150126/ARTICLES/150129717?tc=cr I wonder how long that virus has been out there. I’ve been plucking Lone Star Ticks off myself for a couple of decades and haven’t had anything more serious than a suspected case of STARI. According to a table in the scientific paper itself – http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0115769#pone-0115769-t002 – two sites at Manatee Springs had populations in which, respectively, 25% and 10% of the ticks carried the virus. So you’d think the human population of northern Florida would have been decimated by hemorrhagic fever by now. And yet there have been no cases anywhere in four decades. I don’t get it.

Wildlife professor Katie Sieving has a request for those of you who live in the central part of Gainesville: “I have an undergrad, Jason Lacson, who is testing a playback attractant for raptors consisting of a platform with a 15 hour playback of titmouse or jay distress calls (from an MP3 player under the platform) and a fake cardinal model with a birdcam. The setup consists of two poles next to each other sunk in the dirt about 5 feet high, one with the cardinal and speaker and one with a bird cam to obtain photos/detections of owls and other raptors that choose to attack the cardinal model. Can you ask around for any folks willing to let Jason place a setup in their yards for a two-week period? He can run 4 at a time until late March. What he needs is the names, addresses and phone numbers of folks willing to participate, who have secure backyards that are within scooter distance of campus (so approximately 43rd Street to 6th Street and from Bivens Arm to 23rd or 39th Avenue).” If you live in the area described, and are willing to help, send me your email address and I’ll put you in touch with Katie and Jason.

Lark Sparrow still there

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

The Lark Sparrow found by Rob Norton on Friday the 9th – https://www.flickr.com/photos/73960438@N04/16241183915/ – was not found later that afternoon or on the day following. However at 11:30 on Sunday the 11th Lloyd Davis relocated it in the same area where Rob had discovered it, first perched atop the tree in front of the white building across from the grassy parking area, and later in the dry vegetation in the ditch at the back of the parking area. The ditch runs behind some service buildings, and Lloyd found the bird near some banana trees, in the company of Chipping Sparrows. Lloyd posted pictures on his Facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/lloyd.davis.399?fref=ts ), in a photo album called “Rare bird at Hague Dairy.”

Bob Carroll will be leading a Retiree Birders’ field trip to the Sweetwater Sheetflow Restoration Site on Thursday the 15th. Since construction crews will be working there at the time, four restrictions have been imposed on us: (1.) Only 25 people will be allowed, and so ONLY the first 25 who sign up can go. To sign up, email Bob at gatorbob23@yahoo.com (2.) Participants have to sign a liability release form, which Bob will forward to you. No release form, no field trip. (3.) Participants MUST wear long pants, closed-toe shoes, and a safety vest. He will try to supply vests for everyone, but that may not be possible. So if you have one, bring it. You can buy one for $10 at Lowe’s, or if you have Amazon Prime you can get a cheap one like this shipped to you before the field trip: http://www.amazon.com/41113-Industrial-Safety-Reflective-Strips/dp/B000IDSZ1U/ref=sr_1_5?s=industrial&ie=UTF8&qid=1420861703&sr=1-5&keywords=orange+vest  (That’s what I did. However it’s a little small for my 6’3″ frame; it looks as though I stole it from a ten-year-old boy.) But be sure you’re on the list before you order the vest! (4.) The group MUST enter together, stay with the trip leader, and leave together. GRU could be liable for a substantial fine if anyone wanders away from the trip leader, so we MUST stay in a group. Meeting place will be the parking lot of Bivens Arm Nature Park on South Main Street just before the intersection with Williston Road. Meeting time is 8:00 a.m. Bob adds, “Some of us are lunching at Chuy’s Mexican Restaurant after the trip. If you want to join us, let me know before Thursday.” Again, Bob’s at gatorbob23@yahoo.com

Rusty Blackbirds are being seen in large numbers at the Magnolia Parke wetlands. Lloyd Davis and Howard Adams reported 70 on the 4th, while at 9:35 this morning (the 11th) Adam Kent counted 82, “at first in tall oak on southeast corner of 39th Place and 50th Street. After about 10 minutes they flew north and disappeared into the swamp but later came back to the lawn area.” Adam posted a photo here: https://plus.google.com/photos/112734561717468647204/albums/6101004404063784193/6103154944918383458?banner=pwa&authkey=CJKJ7ay2oOCmCw&pid=6103154944918383458&oid=112734561717468647204

American Robins and (to a lesser extent) Cedar Waxwings have moved into the area. On the 3rd Matt O’Sullivan and I saw big flocks of both in the cypress swamps at San Felasco City Park, and on the 4th Mike Manetz and I found American Robins abundant at O’Leno State Park. I’ve seen flocks of robins passing overhead almost every day since.

Sidney Wade heard an unusually early Northern Cardinal singing on December 16th, which may be the earliest I’ve ever heard about. Right now, however, I’m hearing them most mornings. The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology posted an informative YouTube video about the cardinal’s songs and singing mechanics (though they don’t seem to understand that a video implies moving pictures): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9LNexIoCW0

We’ve got two apparently-wintering American Redstarts in the area. Michael Drummond saw one in his NE Gainesville yard on the 7th. Bob Carroll and I spotted another at the Hague Dairy on the 9th when we went looking for the Lark Sparrow, and it was seen by several other birders on the 10th and 11th.

Lark Sparrow at Hague Dairy

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

Robert Norton found a beautiful adult Lark Sparrow at the Hague Dairy between 1:20 and 1:30 today.

He sent me a photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/16214071556/

And also sent a map showing where it was seen (the area where we usually park): https://www.google.com/maps/place/29%C2%B046%2745.0%22N+82%C2%B025%2702.0%22W/@29.779153,-82.417227,238m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0x0

Go see it if you can! Hopefully it will stick around at least through the weekend.

Bird of the Year 2012

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

You wouldn’t have known it today, but it’s been a warm winter. Wild plum and redbud are blooming, though this isn’t early for them, but azaleas are starting to flower as well, and I think they normally peak in March. Standing around Sparrow Alley NOT seeing the Bell’s Vireo, I’ve noticed several species of butterflies, including two swallowtails, which according to local butterfly enthusiast Kathy Malone would normally be out in late February. While NOT seeing the Bell’s Vireo, I also noticed honeybees, paper wasps, and this little gem, a braconid wasp that John Killian photographed as it laid an egg on some insect inside a weed stem: http://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/8392631462/in/photostream  (I consulted David Wahl for the identification. He told me there are 50,000 to 150,000 species of braconids. When I passed that tidbit along to John, he replied, “Thanks for narrowing that down. I feel so much better. Now if only there were that many birds to chase.”)

The birds think it’s spring too. Northern Cardinal are singing, which I expect in January, but so are Northern Mockingbirds, White-eyed Vireos, and Eastern Towhees, all of which usually get underway in February. I was so impressed by the springiness of everything that I checked out the martin house at the dentist’s office just west of George’s Hardware on the 17th, but no Purple Martins were evident. Any day now…

Did I mention that I have NOT seen the Bell’s Vireo yet? Though on the 17th I got a quick glance at what desperate birders like to call a “candidate” in the spot where the vireo (which I have NOT seen) was originally discovered. I spent a total of seven hours at or near the Bell’s site on the 16th and 17th, and although I did NOT see the vireo, I did see the Groove-billed Ani and at least one, maybe two, Yellow-breasted Chats on both days, all in the field below Sweetwater Overlook. John Killian got a photo of the ani on the 16th: http://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/8392629326/in/photostream/

Ruth Palinek writes, “I lost my hat (from REI) on a birding trip on La Chua. It’s not so much the hat but it had two bird pins, one from Gus’s aunt and another antique one from a friend.” If you’ve found the hat, contact Ruth at palenik2@ufl.edu

I have (finally!) received several Bird of the Year nominations:

Samuel Ewing: “There were many great birds seen and discovered in 2012 but since the Black Scoters were the only new county bird I would call them the best birds of 2012.”

Frank Goodwin: “My vote goes to that lovely little Vermilion Flycatcher near the La Chua observation platform, partly for sappy sentimental reasons. The way she has put up for months with constant La Chua traffic and Phoebe bullying without moving on, I think she deserves special recognition. It’s as if she appreciates all the ocular attention and wants to give as many locals as possible an opportunity to see her.”

John Hintermister: “My vote goes for one I did not see – Black Scoter.”

Sharon Kuchinski: “I nominate the Black Scoter. Not because I was on the team who sighted it. Just because. Well maybe because I was on the team who sighted it….”

Greg McDermott: “I think the Black Scoters have a strong argument, though it would enhance their claim if they were not one-day wonders. Alder Flycatcher runs a strong second. Personally, I think the influx of Red-breasted Nuthatches is third. Groove-billed Ani would be in the running if there hadn’t been the very cooperative individual only two years ago. Vermilion Flycatcher doesn’t rate – they’ve been too common the past 15 years or so.”

Ron Robinson: “I nominate the Green-tailed Towhee due to the fact it stayed so long and was in an easily-reached location. I believe that despite the best efforts of many, I was the only birder who didn’t see it.”

Ignacio Rodriguez: “Favorite bird Vermilion Flycatcher. But I wish to nominate also the King Rail.”

Bob Simons: “My favorite would be the female Wilson’s Phalarope I saw from Palm Point in the spring. It was glorious and was a surprise and I was able to share it with my wife Erika and her brother and his wife from Germany. My second favorite would be the Red-breasted Nuthatch at John Killian’s house. I got great looks at both of these birds.”

Adam Zions: “Geez Rex, way to make this a difficult list. I’m not even sure how this works out to pick just a few favorites. My top 10 list for Alachua County in 2012 in no particular order:
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Sooty Tern
Magnificent Frigatebird
Black-bellied Plover
Reddish Egret
Black Scoter
Wilson’s Phalarope
Whimbrel
Franklin’s Gull
Alder Flycatcher
But I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Groove-billed Ani, Short-tailed Hawk, white morph Great Blue Heron, Western Tanager, Gull-billed Tern, Short-eared Owl, Black-billed Cuckoo, Black Skimmer. Alder Flycatcher, Vermilion Flycatcher, Connecticut Warbler, Canada Warbler, and Lark Sparrow. And I suppose we can include these two, but they were really more of 2011 birds I suppose: Sprague’s Pipit and Green-tailed Towhee. We may need a Top 25 list, like the AP/Harris/USA Today polls for college football.”

Steve Zoellner: “I reported a Wilson’s Warbler several months ago. It never reappeared in our backyard but I saw that two were seen during the Christmas Bird Count. That is my nomination for best bird of the year (even though only my wife saw it).”

If we tally up the votes, Black Scoter wins the title, with Vermilion Flycatcher coming in second, and Red-breasted Nuthatch third. If we were to decide it on the basis of rarity, The Bird of the Year 2012 standings would look something like this:
1. Black Scoter: First County Record
2. Green-tailed Towhee: First County Record (but originally discovered in 2011)
3. Townsend’s Solitaire: First County Record (seen by only one birder, not accepted by Florida Ornithological Society Records Committee)
4. Alder Flycatcher: Second County Record
5. Sprague’s Pipit: Second County Record (but originally discovered in 2011) and Third County Record (when they returned in November 2012)
6. (tie) Whimbrel: Third County Record
6. (tie) Reddish Egret: Third County Record
8. Red-throated Loon: Fourth County Record
9. Franklin’s Gull: Fifth and Sixth County Records
10. Ruddy Turnstone: Fifth County Record

Bird of the Year 2013 is off to a good start with Chris Burney’s discovery of the county’s first-ever Bell’s Vireo (which I have NOT seen).

For all you Citrus, Hernando, and SW Marion County folks on the mailing list: Keith Morin, park biologist at Crystal River Preserve is looking for volunteers: “We are going to be planting a total of 12,000 longleaf pine seedlings on January 19, and 3000 trees each day on February 7, 16, and 21, and will need a lot of help from volunteers, new Americorps members, and staff. If you can help or send help, please let me know so I can write you down for that day. We have in the past planted 3000 trees in one day with an 11-person crew, but we are looking for 12-15 people each day.” Keith can be reached at Keith.Morin@dep.state.fl.us

Debbie Segal writes, “The county’s Environmental Protection Department has developed a Hunting Business Plan that would allow hunting on Alachua County public lands. It will be presented to the County Commission on Tuesday, January 22nd, at the County Administration Building, 2nd floor. The meeting will begin at 5 pm, though it is uncertain exactly when the Hunting Business Plan will be discussed. The Plan addresses the appropriateness of allowing hunting on each tract of land owned and managed by the county, including Levy Prairie, Mill Creek, Little Hatchet Creek, Phifer Flatwoods, Prairie Creek, Watermelon Pond, and others. Hunters have asked the county to open more lands to hunting, including duck hunting at Levy Prairie, which supports nesting Sandhill Cranes. Certainly some types of hunting are appropriate on public lands, such as removal of feral hogs, but if you are concerned that many of our public lands may become off limits for bird watching, hiking, photography, and other passive types of recreation during hunting season, then plan to attend the Commission meeting and consider voicing your concern. A large and vocal group will help send the message to the Commission that we want to keep our county public lands open for the large majority of people who use these lands for passive recreation. A link to the Plan is provided here.”