Miscellaneous, including local birding update

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

I’m a sort of village idiot, fascinated by simple things. I always figured, for instance, that the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, would by definition have the latest sunrise and the earliest sunset. But no! The sun continues to rise later and later after the December 21st solstice, reaching its latest (7:26) from January 8th to January 12th. And the earliest sunset (5:30) occurs well before the solstice, from November 25th to December 8th. Although we’ve gained 50 minutes of daylight since the solstice, it’s all been at one end of the day; sunrise is only 9 minutes earlier, while sunset is 41 minutes later. Why does everything have to be so complicated?

With nesting season approaching, and already underway for a few species, Audubon Florida (formerly Florida Audubon Society, Audubon of Florida, etc.) has produced a short video called Tips for Successful Wildlife Photography.

Speaking of videos, Peru’s Birding Rally Challenge, in which our own Adam Kent participated this past December, is the subject of a Birding Adventures TV episode. Dan Lane, an LSU ornithologist of some reputation, is one of the other contestants. If you want to see Adam, he shows up at 1:11, 13:41, 18:47, and 20:32: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDnbyiI4x98&sns=em

The Sandhill Cranes are departing in big numbers. On the 10th Mercedes Panqueva saw migrating flocks over San Felasco’s Progress Center: “Tallied 1,613 by Lee Pond. Observation was between 1:04 and 4:04 PM. Most were large flocks (50-180) flying high but still catching thermals. At 2:43, as part of, but on the very edge of a flock of 184, one white crane that can only be a Whooping.” On the 11th John Erickson reported “at least 8,000″ flying north over the US-441 observation platform. Mike Manetz saw 1500 in a pasture a mile north of the platform this morning: “They may disperse in the area but given the weather I think we will have a lot of cranes grounded here for the next couple of days.”

The Rusty Blackbirds are still present at Magnolia Park: Matt O’Sullivan saw 11 on the 10th, and Samuel Ewing saw two and photographed one on the 12th. The Calliope Hummingbird was still present in High Springs on the 9th. The Bullock’s Oriole was still at the Goodmans’ place on the same day. Also on the 9th, Mike Manetz and Matt O’Sullivan found two Lincoln’s Sparrows at La Chua (one beside the big pine near the entrance to Sparrow Alley, one at the end of the boardwalk at Alachua Sink), and Glenn Israel relocated the Northern Rough-winged Swallow and saw four Painted Buntings at the Hague Dairy. Hilda Bellot told me that she saw the Black-chinned Hummingbird at her NW Gainesville home on the morning of the 9th, but no one has reported it since; Matt O’Sullivan has gone looking for it twice without success.

Just ducky

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

At 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, February 2nd, Alachua County Forever will officially open the Levy Prairie portion of the Barr Hammock Preserve to the public. Everyone is welcome.

This winter’s sunset was at its earliest (5:30) from November 26th to December 9th, and sunrise was at its latest (7:26) from January 7th to January 13th. Today’s sunrise was at 7:23 and today’s sunset will be at 6:01. We’ve gained 23 minutes of daylight since the solstice, nearly all of it in the afternoon.

I haven’t received too many birding reports lately, which sort of surprises me, given that the La Chua Trail has been overrun with rarities during the past three weeks: Whooping Crane (last reported by Bryan Tarbox on the 21st), Vermilion Flycatcher (ditto), Groove-billed Ani (ditto), Ash-throated Flycatcher (ditto), Lincoln’s Sparrow (ditto), Peregrine Falcon (me, on the 22nd), two Yellow-breasted Chats (ditto), plus the Bell’s Vireo, Nashville Warbler, and Clay-colored and Fox Sparrows seen between the 8th and the 12th. Most of those birds, if not all, are still out there. Go get ‘em!

It’s been a good winter for Fox Sparrows. One was at Cones Dike on December 7th, one at Camps Canal on December 11th, four at Persimmon Point on the Christmas Bird Count, one at Sparrow Alley on January 8, and most recently Mike Manetz found one at Mill Creek Preserve on the 23rd, a new species for Mill Creek. (Mike characterized his morning at Mill Creek as “opposite day”: “as many Fox Sparrows (1) as Cardinals (1), more Bluebirds (3) than Blue Jays (0), more Orange-crowned Warblers (5) than Titmice (4), and more Black-and-white Warblers (2) than Yellow-rumps (0). Also, no chickadees, and only five Carolina Wrens.”)

During his brief swing through north-central Florida, Fred Bassett banded three hummingbirds in the Gainesville area: a Rufous at Alan and Ellen Shapiro’s house in SW Gainesville, a second Rufous at Deb Werner’s place in Alachua, and a third Rufous at Greg Hart’s place in Alachua. He also banded a Rufous at Tom Green’s feeder in Ocala. Other hummingbirds were seen but could not be captured.

American birding lost one of its greats last month:
http://birdingwithkennandkim.blogspot.com/2012/12/so-long-rich.html
http://creagrus.home.montereybay.com/CAwhoRS.html

The following is mainly for eBirders, but it may be of general interest as well. Renne Leatto, who lives in the Orlando area, raised waterfowl for years and is probably as knowledgeable about them as anyone in the state. Some time ago she took it on herself to correct some misconceptions about Muscovies and Mallards that were circulating on the Birdbrains listserv (and continue to circulate among eBirders and birders at large). The words in bold face are the questions and comments to which she was replying, the other words are hers.

Is it possible that we still have a few full-blooded Muscovies out there, or are they all Muscovy-Mallard hybrids?
The question ought to be: Do we really have any significant numbers of Mallard/Muscovy hybrids out there at all? The answer is NO. I know people seem to be on the lookout for them all the time, and if you keep looking you MIGHT eventually find one. But the chances are somewhere between getting 5 out of 6 numbers on lotto and spotting Bigfoot. I have seen hundreds of pics of suspected Mallard/Muscovy crosses, from the Birdbrains listserv and many other sources, and have only seen two that were really that. The others were either full-bred specimens of one of the many Mallard-derived domestic duck breeds, a cross between those breeds, or a 100% Muscovy. Yes, you can Google “Muscovy Mallard hybrid,” click “images” and get pages and pages of so-called hybrids. And I can tell you which domestic breed, or mix of domestic breeds, each one really is, and which are just 100% Muscovy. I found NO HYBRIDS in the search I did. Some people had even posted domestic geese and labeled them Muscovy hybrids, and my two favorites, a  male Ruddy Duck and a Coot! THE TRUTH – Mallards and their derivative domestic breeds RARELY cross with Muscovies. They are not the same species and prefer their own. Even confined to a barnyard together, they will almost never interbreed, even if you keep only females of one species and males of the other. And even when they DO cross, they produce only sterile “mules” (like a horse and donkey cross) which cannot reproduce themselves.

I have been watching these ducks regularly and can’t see any hybrid color to them.
Not sure what you mean by “hybrid color” but there is no such thing. Muscovies can be any color or any combination of colors and so can mixtures of domestic Mallard-derived breeds.

They even have all black feet.
This occurs in both Muscovies and some breeds of domestic duck.

Have attached photo of a Muscovy Duck that we have in Leesburg. Wanted some opinions of how close this duck is to being the true Muscovy and not a hybrid.
Keep in mind that you can’t answer your original question by the bird’s color, but only by the bird’s shape and the presence of the red facial skin.  Your bird looks like an immature male or large female 100% Muscovy, but I would only know for sure after seeing a closer shot of the face.  There are a few domestic breeds that can have a shape similar to the female Muscovy’s.

Who the heck am I and how do know all this? I am a former duck farmer. For years, I raised a dozen-plus fancy Mallard-derived duck breeds, including Domestic Mallards, Blue Swedish, Crested Ducks, Indian Runner Ducks, Buff Ducks, White Pekin, Rouen, Black Cayugas, Khaki Campbells, Blue and Black Swedish Ducks, Buff Orpington, and Call Ducks (miniature ducks). I also raised Muscovies. I sold them to people who showed them at poultry shows and fairs, 4H kids and adults. My birds won top awards at many shows, especially my Black Cayugas.

Why did I write all this? Because even on this wonderful Birdbrains listserv, which is made up of so many scientists and amateur scientists, and so careful to meticulously split hairs in order to correctly ID each wild bird, this mythology about some prevalence of Muscovy hybrids not only continues, but grows. I’m here to say, IT AIN’T TRUE. If we want to ID ducks accurately and with more ease, we need to change our paradigm of thinking about Muscovies and their phantom hybrids, because for the most part the latter DO NOT EXIST.

That’s the end of Renne’s email. As I say, it’s mostly for eBirders, in hopes of reducing the number of Mallard x Muscovy hybrids in the database. If you’re not presently an eBirder, why not give it a try? It’s easy, it’s actually sort of fun, and in keeping track of the birds you see at your feeder, or on your weekend walks, you help to build a national database that serves as a resource for both ornithologists and birders. In fact, eBird has a page that explains why it’s a good idea to start eBirding (note that it’s become a verb now: I eBird, you eBird, he, she, it eBirds, we are eBirding…): http://ebird.org/content/ebird/about/why-ebird  Here’s a tutorial: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/about/tutorial  And here’s a Quick Start Guide: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/about/ebird-quick-start-guide

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.

Christmas Count highlights

I’m not sure, but I think the 161 or 162 species seen on today’s CBC is a record for the Count. Highlights in brief:

BLACK SCOTER: First county record. Six on Lake Wauberg. Be there first thing Monday morning!

Groove-billed Ani: One along the fenceline trail that cuts back toward the powerlines after you’ve walked through the barn at the beginning of the La Chua Trail. The bird was where the powerline cut intersects the fenceline trail.

Sprague’s Pipit: Two on Kanapaha Prairie, exactly where they were on the last CBC.

Ash-throated Flycatcher: TEN on Paynes Prairie, scattered among four territories. (TEN!)

Least Flycatcher: Four on Paynes Prairie.

Red-breasted Nuthatch: One in Micanopy, three in one tree (!) near the Kanapaha Prairie.

Canvasback: Five on Newnans Lake.

The rest in taxonomic order: Red-breasted Merganser 4, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 1, Roseate Spoonbill 1, Limpkin 5, Spotted Sandpiper 1, Laughing Gull 1, Winter Wren 1, Northern Parula 1, Wilson’s Warbler 1, Yellow-breasted Chat 2, Le Conte’s Sparrow 6, Lincoln’s Sparrow 6, Summer Tanager 4, Indigo Bunting 2, Painted Bunting 1.

Major birdage

The last week has produced a few really remarkable days of birding.

You may remember that Dalcio Dacol saw a possible Ash-throated Flycatcher near the La Chua observation platform on the 29th. No one was able to relocate it, but on December 2nd Jonathan Mays photographed a definite Ash-throated at the end of the Bolen Bluff Trail. One might assume that it was the same bird as Dalcio’s – simply because, after all, how many Ash-throated Flycatchers could we possibly have on the Prairie at once? They’re a rare bird, right? So anyway, on December 4th John Hintermister, Howard Adams, Mike Manetz, and Jonathan Mays did a little Christmas Count scouting. They started at Persimmon Point, where they found … an Ash-throated Flycatcher. Then they went on to Cones Dike, and in the very spot frequented by two Alder Flycatchers in September, they found three … count ‘em, three … Ash-throateds IN THE SAME TREE. And not just in the same tree, IN THE SAME BINOCULAR FIELD. So that’s four separate sightings, and five or six separate Ash-throateds, between November 29th and December 4th. (Other good birds seen on the same day included a Lincoln’s Sparrow at Persimmon Point and a Yellow-breasted Chat on Cones Dike. Normally these would be the stars of the show, but not on a Four Ash-throated Flycatcher Day).

A party consisting of Mike Manetz, Jonathan Mays, Adam Kent, Frank Goodwin, and Julia Willmott returned to Cones Dike on the 7th, and Jonathan was able to get a picture of two Ash-throateds perched in the same tree. The group also found a Least Flycatcher, a Virginia Rail, and a Fox Sparrow. (All three Ash-throateds were still present on Cones Dike on the 8th, according to Adam Zions and Sidney Wade.)

Frank Goodwin must be wearing American Birding Association aftershave laced with sparrow pheromones, because he’s been finding sparrows like no one’s business. On the 2nd he photographed a Henslow’s Sparrow in the big field at Gum Root Park, a traditional place to look for them. On the 8th he and his wife Irina had a ten-sparrow day along the fenceline trail near the beginning of La Chua, including three relative rarities: two Lincoln’s Sparrows, a Clay-colored, and a Fox. Irina also saw a female Painted Bunting at the beginning of the trail. All of this in about a quarter of a mile. Frank remarks that the fenceline trail is “fast becoming my very favorite winter birding walk in all of Alachua County (if not the entire U.S.).”

Red-breasted Nuthatches are still around, as witnessed by three birds on successive days this week: I saw one at San Felasco Hammock on the 3rd, Geoff Parks heard one near Blues Creek on the 4th, and one visited Pat Lanzillotti’s NW Gainesville feeder on the 5th.

On the 6th Andy Kratter saw a Limpkin at Lake Alice. One was seen there multiple times early this year, but no one could find it after April. It may have been in the vicinity, keeping to the extensive swamp east of the main lake. Anyway, John Hintermister visited Lake Alice on the 8th and got a picture of it.

The female Vermilion Flycatcher is still being seen at La Chua, most recently by Jason Fidorra on the 7th. Greg Stephens photographed it on the 5th.

The goldeneye behind the Butterfly Rainforest exhibit appeared to have a yellow bill in the original photo that I received. Barrow’s Goldeneye has a yellow bill. But later photos showed that it had a dark bill, typical for a Common Goldeneye.

I remember Tom Webber saying that he expects to hear Northern Cardinals singing right about the time of the winter solstice. I always thought they started later than that, maybe a week or so after New Year’s Day. But I’ve heard them singing in my back yard each morning since December 1st. What with this and the early arrival of Cedar Waxwings and American Robins, it’s a strangely advanced winter in some ways.

According to the American Birding Association, Nanday Parakeet AKA Black-hooded Parakeet is now countable in Florida (be sure to read the comments): http://blog.aba.org/2012/12/52-bird-species-added-to-aba-checklist.html

John Winn has a cousin who runs a bird rehab facility in Maine, and every December she compiles her favorite photos from the preceding year. You should look at these if only to see the downy American Woodcock chicks: http://www.avianhaven.org/avianhavenslides2012.pdf

Shirley Lasseter made me aware that the Duck Pond, where Muscovy Ducks formerly reigned supreme, is now the domain of Black Swans. They’ve been there about three weeks and haven’t killed anyone yet, and I understand that’s pretty good for Black Swans.

There are three local Christmas Bird Counts coming up after the Gainesville Count. All could use your help:
Tuesday, December 18: Ichetucknee  / O’Leno. Contact Ginger Morgan  Ginger.Morgan@dep.state.fl.us
Thursday, December 20: Hamilton County. Contact Jacqui Sulek  jsulek@audubon.org
Thursday, December 27: Lake City. Contact Valerie Thomas  v.thomas57@gmail.com

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

Vermilion Flycatcher, early waxwings, and other good birds

(Sorry for the delay on some of these reports. This week I’ve been house-sitting for a friend who doesn’t have internet access.)

John Hintermister found a female Vermilion Flycatcher near the La Chua Trail observation platform on the 8th. It was one of three great birds he found on his walk (59 species overall). The others were a Lincoln’s Sparrow “just southwest of the barn” and a Clay-colored Sparrow “on Sweetwater Dike just past the first turn going west and before the big cypress tree.” If you go looking for these, keep an eye out for a first-fall male Yellow-headed Blackbird seen by Irina Goodwin along Sweetwater Dike on the 4th.

John Martin found some great birds at the Hague Dairy on the 4th. He scared up a Henslow’s Sparrow near the “twin ponds” south of the main driveway, and he got an extended video of a gorgeous male Yellow-headed Blackbird among the Brown-headed Cowbirds on the roof of one of the animal buildings (click on the little gear-looking icon that says “Change quality” and choose “Original,” then select “Full screen” to see this at its best).

Neither of these birds was found during Alachua Audubon’s field trip to the dairy on the 3rd, but Mike Manetz reported, “Got good scope looks at Vesper, Savannah, and Swamp Sparrows, plus Sedge Wren. Best was Merlin perched for several minutes in scope for lots of oohs and aahs, especially from me!” (The Merlin was #251 in Alachua County this year for Mike. If you want to see how that stands compared to previous Big Years for Alachua County, go here.)

Cedar Waxwings usually start showing up in Gainesville during the second half of December. It’s rare to see them before that. But this year there have been several sightings already. Adam and Gina Kent saw the first one at their SE Gainesville home on the 3rd. On the 4th they visited the wetland behind the Magnolia Parke commercial complex and found a flock of 30, while Felicia Lee recorded 5 at the La Chua Trail.

Gina Kent saw a Pine Siskin at her feeder on the 7th; it could be the harbinger of an irruption, or it could be lost. American Goldfinches are starting to arrive as well. On the 5th Gina saw one her feeder, Jonathan Mays saw one at Paynes Prairie, and Bob Wallace saw one at his place south of Alachua, and there have been a handful of reports almost every day since then.

Common Loons are also starting to show up, pretty much on schedule. Dean Ewing saw the first of the fall in a retention pond near Chiefland on the 29th, Samuel Ewing saw three over Newberry on the 5th, and county biologist Susie Hetrick and I saw one (plus three Ruddy Ducks) on Lake Alto on the 9th.

Last June, Bob Carroll retired from a distinguished and successful 40-year career as an educator. Not long afterward he received an advertisement in the mail for the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival. Since he had never been birding in Texas, it struck him that registering for the festival would make a darned good retirement gift to himself. He left early this week, and you can accompany him on his adventure through The Magical Power of the Inter-Net, because he’s described three of his adventures on his blog at http://bobsgonebirding.blogspot.com/

The field trip on the 10th goes to the Hamilton County phosphate mines, the one on the 17th goes to Cedar Key. According to Dale Henderson, Cedar Key is a veritable hotbed of Red-breasted Nuthatches this fall. She writes that she is “seeing and hearing Red-breasted Nuthatches daily. There may be a dozen or more. Near the air strip, cemetery, and down closer to my house, and also in the museum and vicinity.” In addition, Dale saw a flock of 25 Snow Geese and had a Pine Siskin at her feeder. Field trip schedule: http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/aud/calendar.htm

The Cedar Key Christmas Bird Count will be held on Thursday, January 3rd (not December 27th as “The Crane” says). If you’re interested in participating, email Ron Christen at ronrun@embarqmail.com or call him at 850-567-0490. The Gainesville CBC will be held on Sunday, December 16th, and if you want to join us you should contact John Hintermister at jhintermister@gmail.com