No, birds just can’t get enough of the beautiful La Chua Trail!

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

Hey, all you eBirders, it’s time for the eBird tip of the week! Here it is: Don’t be like me! Read the instructions! I’ve been entering sightings into eBird for years, but only yesterday did I learn that if you walk out the La Chua Trail – about a mile and a half – and then walk back – another mile and a half – you DON’T record your distance as 3 miles. Any time you retrace your steps, record only the one-way distance. So here are the aforementioned instructions (read them!). And browse through the links on the right side of the page for more useful stuff: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/about/how-to-make-your-checklists-more-meaningful

Lots of good birds have been reported from La Chua as recently as yesterday – White-faced Ibis, Groove-billed Ani, Peregrine Falcon, and Whooping Crane. The White-faced Ibis, seen yesterday by Matt Kalinowski, Jane Sender, and John Killian, seen today by Mike Manetz, and photographed by Jonathan Mays on the 9th, is hanging around the observation platform. So are the Peregrine (“watched it perched, then as it dove and killed and ate duck,” commented visiting Massachusetts birder Jane Sender) and the Whooping Crane (“far off east of observation platform,” wrote Matt Kalinoswki). Along Sparrow Alley, John Killian saw the Yellow-breasted Chat yesterday (also photographed on the 9th by Jonathan Mays), while Kim Stringer got this nice shot of the Groove-billed Ani.

Mike Manetz walked out La Chua this afternoon and wrote, “During my after-lunch nap I dreamed I saw a male Cinnamon Teal from the platform at La Chua, so I jumped out of bed and ran down there. No Cinnamon, but plenty of ducks still there, including a couple dozen Gadwall and onesies of Wigeon, Mallard, and Shoveler. Most important, the White-faced Ibis is still there in the same spot. He must have poked a million holes in a three square yard area. Also nine Forster’s Terns and Black-necked Stilt [first of the spring!] at the sink, and over 100 Snowy Egrets.”

More spring arrivals: Debbie Segal found a dead Chuck-will’s-widow along Sweetwater Dike on the 8th (“recently killed; in the process of being plucked”). More happily, Dean Ewing heard one singing in the early morning of March 11 near Watermelon Pond. Yellow-throated Vireos are checking in: Charlene Leonard found one at La Chua on the 5th, while Mike Manetz saw another along the Chacala Pond Trail on the 10th. John Hintermister saw two Pectoral Sandpipers at the Tuscawilla Prairie on the 11th; he “walked out to the western edge of the prairie where there is a small patch of open water.” They’re always very early for migrant shorebirds; I think our early-arrival record is late February. Northern Rough-winged Swallows haven’t been reported yet, but they should be here already, and Red-eyed Vireos should be arriving any day now. Summer Tanagers and Great Crested Flycatchers should get here in about two weeks.

Speaking of spring migration, Loonacy begins on Friday! For those of you who are relatively new to this mailing list, one of our most interesting spring phenomena is the almost-daily flight of Common Loons over Gainesville. They’re bound from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean, thence due north to their nesting grounds. Departing the Cedar Key area around daybreak, they appear over Gainesville about an hour later, flying northeast singly or in widely-spaced flocks ranging in size from 2-4 (usually) to 40+. They’re white below, with trailing legs, and often with black heads, like this; Ron Robinson says they look like flying bowling pins. Occasionally, especially during March, you might see a Red-throated Loon mixed in with the Commons. You can watch for them at any location with a wide view of the western sky. I like the US-441 observation platform. Andy Kratter, who’s been keeping track of these flights from March 15th through April 10th for several years, says the peak of the migration is usually from March 27th to April 4th. Andy – more formally known as Dr. Andrew W. Kratter of the Florida Museum of Natural History – would be interested in hearing about any loon sightings you make this spring: “Please note for each group of loons observed,  the date, your exact location, the time of observation, the number of birds, and the directions of travel.” Email him at kratter@flmnh.ufl.edu

Mike Manetz and Ron Robinson experienced what Mike called “instant gratification” on the 5th: “Ron and I installed the new martin house at the old George’s Hardware spot, now Sunflower. As I stood on the roof of the building tightening the bolts that hold the house to the pole a pair of Purple Martins appeared out of nowhere and started circling around my head at arm’s length, trying to land on the house and chirping happily the whole time. It was wonderful. There are still martins just across the creek at the dentist office house too. In all we saw four males and two females, and Ron thinks that most martins haven’t shown up yet.”

Kathy Malone of the local chapter of the North American Butterfly Association (NABA) reminds us that there’s a meeting tonight (March 12th): “Cindy and Kirby Pringle from Illinois will be showing a special film they produced, ‘The Plight of the Monarch.’ Really hope you can join us for a 6:15 p.m. potluck, and the program at 7 p.m. (You may come to the program only.) We meet on the second floor of the Florida Museum of Natural History in the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity conference room. Enter in the lobby of the museum.” You can see all the local NABA chapter’s planned activities here: http://www.naba.org/chapters/nabancf/Events.htm

The Hague Dairy will hold Family Day on Saturday, March 16th: “See how milk is produced locally, and learn how University of Florida research supports more efficient, affordable and sustainable milk production. Take a leisurely tour and enjoy butter making, a hay ride, calf petting, a milking machine, visiting the cows in their barn, see the health care area, the milking parlor and lots more! The event is free, and there is plenty of parking for everyone. It’s sure to be a fun and informative day for all.” Take your binoculars and look at a few birds while you’re there!

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.

Scoters no, ani yes

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

Several of us were at Lake Wauberg shortly after the park opened on Monday morning, but the Black Scoters had already left. You can at least enjoy Greg McDermott’s photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/8285468295/in/photostream

Having failed at Lake Wauberg, we went on to the La Chua Trail to look for the Groove-billed Ani, but missed it too. However the bird was simply feeling antisocial on Monday and was relocated on Tuesday morning. Mike Manetz wrote: “I went to check for the Ani again today and had no luck until I ran into Lloyd Davis, who had seen it earlier this morning. He showed me the spot and we got it to respond vocally to a recording, and finally it popped up briefly. It seemed very shy. Going west on Pasture Trail (aka Sparrow Alley, aka Service Road), it was in the first large blackberry patch on the right after passing Sweetwater Overlook.” The fenceline trail / Pasture Trail / Sparrow Alley is at the beginning of La Chua. Right after you exit the old barn and go through the gate, cut back in front of the barn and walk along the fence toward the powerlines. You’ll have the fenceline on your right and wild plums and weeds and grass on your left. Oh the heck with it, here’s a map: https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=203358630947857947932.0004d12c9cb58d35a96dd&msa=0&ll=29.609264,-82.305901&spn=0.009962,0.013797

Jonathan Mays, who first found the ani, posted photos of it – as well as some other birds he saw during the Christmas Count, such as LeConte’s Sparrow, Ash-throated Flycatcher, and Vermilion Flycatcher – on his Flickr page here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jmays/sets/72157632269055398/

I’d add that, if you go looking for the ani, keep an eye out for a Nashville Warbler first seen by Dalcio Dacol in the shrubby habitat along the fenceline trail below Sweetwater Overlook on November 23rd. I think I glimpsed it while trying to find the ani on Monday morning, but it was a very quick look and I couldn’t coax it into view again.

Searching for the Canvasback found on the Count, Mike Manetz had scoped Newnans Lake from Palm Point and Powers Park without luck. On his way home, he pulled into the crew team parking lot, where East University Avenue dead-ends at Newnans Lake, and found “a huge raft of ducks within viewing range. Mostly Ring-necked Ducks and Lesser Scaup, there were also four or five Redheads, a hen Northern Shoveler, and sticking out like a sore thumb, a drake Canvasback.” It was Mike’s 255th Alachua County bird in 2012. This may be like Barry Bonds’s 73-home-run season, a record never to be broken. But it raises the question – has Mike been using steroids? I think a congressional inquiry into the use of steroids in birding has long been overdue.

You may have heard that there’s been a huge invasion of Razorbills on both coasts of Florida, mainly the Atlantic side but recently a few places on the Gulf as well. To see a Razorbill you’d normally have to travel to Maine and take a boat to one of the rocky islands where they nest. The few previous Florida records involved beached birds that were dying or already dead. That’s certainly not the case this year. A large percentage of the Razorbills being seen in Florida right now are flying – often in flocks! – and feeding actively, such as the bird in this remarkable video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEthm_8SPuM  Someone on the video comments that it resembles a penguin as it flies around underwater. It’s an apt comparison; the word “penguin” was first applied (in the 16th century) to the Razorbill’s larger cousin, the now-extinct Great Auk, and was adopted for the Antarctic birds because of their resemblance to auks.

St. Johns River Water Management District made its recommendations on the disposal of its properties (or sections thereof), which in Alachua County included Longleaf Flatwoods Reserve, Lochloosa Conservation Area, and the Hatchet Creek Tract of the Newnans Lake Conservation Area. You can see links to maps here: http://floridaswater.com/landassessment/Alachua/

More Nuthatchery

Red-breasted Nuthatches are still around. Linda McMahon saw one at her SW Gainesville home on the 11th and 12th. Effie Smith saw “several” at the Cedar Key museum and cemetery on the 13th, which should make Saturday’s Cedar Key field trip interesting. Field trip schedule: http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/aud/calendar.htm

Jonathan Mays and I birded Watermelon Pond on the morning of the 13th. Jonathan heard two Red-breasted Nuthatches from the little park at the south end of SW 250th Avenue, and we spished one of them into a small tree just over our heads. We also saw two Merlins chasing around, and a few ducks: four Ring-neckeds, three Northern Shovelers, and an American Wigeon. Farther north on 250th we walked a short distance into the Watermelon Pond Wildlife and Environmental Area and came across a big mixed flock of Chipping Sparrows, Pine Warblers, Palm Warblers (including a lot of Yellow Palms), and Eastern Bluebirds feeding on the ground.

Watch your hummingbird feeders. Ron Robinson of NW Gainesville has had a Selasphorus (Rufous or Allen’s) on and off since the 8th, and Bob Wallace had two Selasphorus at his place on the 10th. Ron’s got a lingering Ruby-throated as well.

In case you haven’t heard, Elliott Schunke found a Red-necked Grebe in Tallahassee on the 13th. It’s a real rarity for Florida. Here’s a map: http://goo.gl/maps/f1t43

I called your attention to Bob Carroll’s blog recently, because he’s in Texas. But he’s not the only one – David and Kim Stringer have been looking at birds and butterflies in south Texas over the past week: http://memorystringer.com/memorystringer.com/Blog/Entries/2012/11/12_Entry_1.html  (when you reach the bottom of the page, click on “previous”).

The eBird web site suggests that late fall birding could get verrrrry interesting: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/news/november-bird-movements

The 4th Annual Ichetucknee/O’Leno/Santa Fe Christmas Bird Count will be held on Tuesday, December 18th (two days after the Gainesville Count). If you’re interested in participating, contact Ginger Morgan at Ginger.Morgan@dep.state.fl.us