Some kind of record

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

If you haven’t seen the Bullock’s Oriole and you plan to, let me ever-so-gently remind you of something I wrote in an earlier post: “Dotty Robbins told me that she went north from the Goodmans’ and around the corner, and from the street was able to see the bird in a tree in the back yard of the yellow house at 3736 NW 65th Place. If you go looking, please stay on the street and don’t disturb the residents of the house, as the wife works at night.” Evidently some birders read those sentences and took in the address, but not the part where I wrote, “please stay on the street and don’t disturb the residents of the house,” because they did, in fact, disturb the residents of the house, who were consequently upset. So don’t do that.

Fred Bassett’s visit on the 18th and 19th revealed that things around here are even crazier than we thought. While capturing and banding 14 hummingbirds, Fred discovered that, in addition to the Calliope in High Springs, in addition to the expected Rufouses (Fred banded 8) and Ruby-throateds (3) scattered here and there, that there’s a SECOND Calliope in town, at Alan and Ellen Shapiro’s house, and that Hilda Bellot is hosting a Black-chinned! That’s (consults fingers) four hummingbird species at once!

Glenn Price captured a nice video of the Calliope, which you can watch here. Calliope is a Florida Ornithological Society “review species,” so if you get to see it, please complete the rare bird form at the FOS web site: http://fosbirds.org/content/fos-bird-records-species-documentation

Hilda Bellot has given permission for birders to peer into her yard to see the Black-chinned Hummingbird. She lives near the big hill on NW 8th Avenue. From 8th turn south onto NW 21st Street. Go almost two blocks and pull to the right, onto the shoulder, just before you reach NW 7th Lane. Ms. Bellot’s house will be on your left (corner of 21st and 7th Lane), and right there, in the side yard, probably in view before you even get out of your car, is an arbor with two hummingbird feeders dangling from it. The Black-chinned has been coming to these feeders. Please stand in the street to wait for the bird; there’s not much traffic. If you want to see the purple gorget feathers you might try to visit in the afternoon to get the sun in your favor, but Fred dabbed a spot of bright pink dye on its crown, so you’re not likely to mistake it for the Rufous Hummingbird that’s also visiting the yard.

On the morning of the 17th Mike Manetz found a Hairy Woodpecker at Longleaf Flatwoods Reserve. It’s frequenting the longleaf pine / turkey oak sandhill at the western end of the “red blaze trail,” marked R on the map here.

Okay, let’s review. These birds are all present in Alachua County right now:

1.   Bullock’s Oriole (please re-read the first paragraph of this report)
2.   Western Tanager (and maybe a second in Alachua!)
3.   Calliope Hummingbird (2 of them)
4.   Black-chinned Hummingbird
5.   Red-breasted Nuthatch
6.   Fox Sparrow (2)
7.   Snow Goose (3)
8.   White-faced Ibis
9.   Vermilion Flycatcher
10. Wilson’s Warbler
11. Painted Bunting (10!)
12. Common Goldeneye (2?)
13. Pine Siskin
14. Least Flycatcher
15. Rusty Blackbird (flock)
16. Hairy Woodpecker

There have been other remarkable sightings. A Summer Tanager is spending the winter at Adam and Gina Kent’s for the second or third year in a row. Frank and Irina Goodwin found a Blue Grosbeak along the Levy Lake Loop on the 12th. On the 17th Lloyd Davis found two Painted Buntings, a male and a female, in the weedy canal behind the parking area at the Hague dairy, and I know of at least eight others coming to local feeders. And on the 19th Adam Kent’s team found four Northern Waterthrushes along Cones Dike on the kids’ CBC. In case you are not inferring what I’m implying, it’s a really good winter to be a birdwatcher in Alachua County, maybe The Best Ever! Why are you sitting indoors at your computer, reading this?

On the 18th Adam Zions had one of the best days I’ve ever heard of at Cedar Key: “It was low tide as I arrived, and I figured the area should be popping with shore and wading birds. So I began at Bridge No. 4, as it’s always a good place to begin. A few groups of Bufflehead (everywhere in Cedar Key – I don’t think there was one spot I went to which didn’t at least have 2) were great to see. I was walking back along the north side of the bridge trying for either Clapper Rail or Nelson’s or Seaside Sparrows, but to no avail. Since it was peak low tide, I decided to go off the bridge and walk around some of the saltmarsh cordgrass and into the marsh not too far from where the bridge begins. After scaring up a Sedge Wren, I continued on and flushed a Yellow Rail!!! I almost stepped on the damn thing, as it flew up and nearly gave me a heart attack. There was no mistaking it. Short, stubby yellow bill, white wing patches, a smidge smaller than a Sora, and a mix of beige/dark brown scaled/barred plumage. It flew and landed only a few feet away, so I headed over to the spot quickly to see if I could relocate it and possible get a photo of it. Apparently the rail had other plans and I couldn’t flush it again. I tried playing some call recordings, but it didn’t want to respond to it. So the day was already off to a banging start. I pretty much checked most of the areas out to see what was there. Other highlights included a trifecta of scoters at the pier (Black, White-winged, and 7 Surf), 2 Nelson’s Sparrows (one at the airport and the other at Shell Mound), 7 Roseate Spoonbills, and 25+ American Avocets at Shell Mound.”

Fred Bassett is coming back through town on the 22nd. If you’ve got a hummingbird visiting your feeder regularly and you’d like him to band it, let me know and I’ll pass your request along to Fred.

Have you got your tickets to the Backyard Birding Tour yet? Well dang, what’s the matter with you? http://www.alachuaaudubon.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Backyard-Bird-Tour-Flyer-2014.pdf

You are what you eat

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

People are always asking me, “What’s your favorite bird?” This is the one day in the year when I can answer that question without a moment’s hesitation: my favorite bird is the one in the oven.

The UF Beef Unit goose found on the 27th and identified by Samuel Ewing as a Ross’s Goose appears to be … just what Samuel said it was, a Ross’s Goose. John Hintermister went to look at it on the 27th and Rob Norton saw it on the 28th (this morning), and both agree that it’s a Ross’s and that it shows no signs of being a hybrid. John Martin got a nice video of the bird on the 27th.

Speaking of waterfowl, Adam Zions counted 177 Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks at the Red Lobster Pond on the 23rd. They seem to congregate there in big numbers during the cold months – more than 500 a couple of years ago!

Mike Manetz had a Selasphorus hummingbird in his NW Gainesville yard on the 23rd. Several Ruby-throateds are still hanging around as well; Ron Robinson has two of them at his place in west Gainesville. He’s been in touch with Fred Dietrich, a hummingbird bander in Tallahassee, so if you’ve got a hummingbird in your yard and you’d like it identified and banded, let me know and I’ll pass the information along.

Upon hearing that John Killian had found a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher on the 22nd, Kathy Malone grabbed her camera and ran right out to see it and take a few pictures, and it’s good that she did – when she returned on the following day it was gone. But one of her pictures was a definite keeper.

Pat Burns has had some good luck at Cedar Key lately. On the 27th she wrote to one of the listservs, “A Western Kingbird has been present since 11/17/13 in the vicinity of a cell tower on the right side of CR-347 approximately 4.2 miles north of SR- 24. I saw 8 Red Knots, 87 Marbled Godwits,7 Black Scoters plus hundreds of shorebirds, gulls & terns from the beach, Sanspit Park & the pier in downtown Cedar Key.”

I’ve linked to this video a couple of times before. It’s primitive and perhaps a bit juvenile, but I think it communicates the fun and cameraderie of birding very well in its two minutes. I especially enjoy the bit, from 0:31 to 0:36, in which a birder fails to produce a promised rarity for his friends and pays the price: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4u-IONrDmUY

Hope that never happens to you. Happy Thanksgiving from the Alachua County birding report!

White-faced Ibis at La Chua

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

Okay, here’s one of those short birding reports that some of you asked for.

Four good birder-photographers from the mid-Atlantic region, Tom Johnson, Doug Gochfeld, Scott Whittle, and Samuel Paul Galick, found a White-faced Ibis at the end of the La Chua Trail on March 8th: “Studied and photographed at close range; immature bird with red eye, pink facial skin, and red-tinged legs; we saw no reasons to suspect that this was a hybrid with Glossy.”

The first Ruby-throated Hummingbirds of the spring have shown up in Alachua County. Ron Robinson and Bill Buckley saw one at Bill’s NW Gainesville residence on the 7th, and Mary and Samuel Ewing saw one in Newberry on the 8th.

You might enjoy competing in Audubon’s “2013 Great American Arctic Birding Challenge” this spring. The prizes are, as those crazy kids would say, totally lame, but details are here: http://ak.audubon.org/2013-great-american-arctic-birding-challenge

There’s an interesting debate/discussion about playback (including special guest appearance by David Sibley) at the American Birding Association blog. Be sure to read the comments for both sides of the story: http://blog.aba.org/2013/02/open-mic-rage-against-the-machines-the-case-against-pressing-play-to-tick.html#c6a00e5505da1178834017c374329bd970b

First Swallow-tailed Kites, and other spring arrivals

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

(Those of you who asked for shorter birding reports – and surprisingly (to me, anyway) you were in the minority – will be deeply disheartened at the length of this one. I’ll try to mix it up a little more in the future, but there have been a lot of birds in the last ten days.)

Although the earliest Swallow-tailed Kite ever reported from Alachua County was seen on February 6, 1954, I think only one other February sighting has been recorded since then; mostly they show up in March. This year is different: they’ve been early all over the state, Alachua County included. Ron Robinson saw one over his place at the west end of Gainesville on the 21st, Dave Beatty saw one over Jonesville on the 24th, and Samuel, Caleb, and Dean Ewing saw two north of Watermelon Pond on the 26th. Samuel got a picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/74215662@N04/8513760414/in/photostream

Sharon Fronk of Old Town (Dixie County) had the area’s first Ruby-throated Hummingbird of the spring visit her feeder on the 25th. There have so far been no spring arrivals here in Alachua County, though at least a couple of Ruby-throateds spent the winter.

Barn Swallows are customarily early arrivals; in most years, someone makes the initial sighting during the first week of March. But this year they were even earlier: Stephen McCullers saw three at Chapmans Pond on the 28th, and on the same day Dean Ewing spotted two flying with Tree Swallows at Watermelon Pond.

Swallow-tailed Kites, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, and Barn Swallows all nest locally, but on the 28th Stephen McCullers reported the spring’s first transient, a bird that’s just passing through on its way north: a Solitary Sandpiper in one of the ponds behind the Harn Museum. This ties the early-arrival date for the species in Alachua County, set fifteen years ago by Mike Manetz. Solitaries winter here on rare occasions, but these ponds have been visited frequently through the winter by birders seeking a Common Goldeneye present there from December 1st to February 24th (but not since), and no one reported a Solitary.

Since there have been so many early birds, let me mention a possible source of confusion. White-eyed Vireos are perfectly capable of mimicking the wheep of a Great Crested Flycatcher and the picky-tucky-tuck of a Summer Tanager, so if you hear one of those species calling before the last week of March, check it out and try to get visual confirmation.

Despite all the spring arrivals, it’s still winter, so let’s run down the more interesting winter birds that are still being reported.

John Hintermister and Adam Zions located the Pacific Loon on Lake Santa Fe on the 22nd, and Adam got a photo. Coincidentally, another was reported off the fishing pier at Cedar Key, first by Darcy Love of Spring Hill on the 18th and then by our own Steven Goodman on the 24th. I talked to Hernando County birder Murray Gardler this week, and he said the bird was present in the same location last winter.

Red-breasted Nuthatches are still around. In the past three weeks, Dean, Benjamin, and Samuel Ewing saw one near Archer on the 24th (and Samuel got a photo), Adam Zions found one along the Hatchet Creek Tract on the 17th (photo) and Mike Manetz relocated it on the 22nd, Felicia Lee saw one at her SW Gainesville home on the 15th, and Jonathan Mays spotted one along the perimeter trail at Morningside Nature Center on the 8th.

Mike Manetz and John Killian saw an Ash-throated Flycatcher along the Cones Dike Trail on the 27th.

The Fox Sparrow behind Pine Grove Cemetery was seen on the 19th by visiting birders from the Tampa Bay area and on the 20th by Andy Kratter. Last winter it wasn’t seen after March 7th, or after March 4th the year before, so if you want to get a look at it you’d better hurry.

As usually happens in late February, the American Goldfinches have grown weary of their inane flirtation with wild foods and have returned, chastened, to the feeders. Ron Robinson writes, “The last five days have been jam packed with Goldfinches. I have at least one hundred, and the feed is flying out of the feeders.”

Keep your eyes open, because sometimes Pine Siskins will join flocks of goldfinches. Chuck Curry noticed two on his NW Gainesville feeder on the 23rd.

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are normally seen here in spring and fall migrations, but there are a small number of winter records, including two this winter: Caleb Gordon and Allison Costello found one at Loblolly Woods on January 20th, and on the 18th of this month Shirley Lasseter photographed one at her feeder. Another migrant for which winter sightings have been recorded – an increasing number in this case, so that it’s become an annual winter visitor in small numbers – is Northern Waterthrush. The Christmas Count team assigned to the Cones Dike Trail found six on December 16th. More recently, a pair of visiting ornithologists found two along Sweetwater Dike (off the La Chua Trail) on the 24th.

Speaking of wintering warblers, Frank and Irina Goodwin saw an American Redstart along the Levy Lake loop trail on the 22nd. This is the second redstart of the winter: a group from Citrus County saw one near the La Chua parking lot on the 11th.

The Groove-billed Ani is still around. Gerald White and Lloyd Davis saw it on the 27th, and visiting birder Alex Lamoreaux saw it (and one of the two Yellow-breasted Chats that’s been hanging around the same field) on the 1st.

On the 19th the ani was the trigger for some embarrassing behavior on my part. An out of town birder who’d come to see the ani posted this message on a statewide listserver: “There is a man currently bushhogging the field where the Ani has been seen. It was not seen today prior to his mowing.” Interpreting this to mean that the entire field was being mowed – it wasn’t – I immediately sent an irate message to Prairie biologist Andi Christman, asking who the heck was managing this stuff. I don’t think I used the term “you people,” but it was implied. Andi wrote back: “I suppose you could say that I ‘manage this stuff’. We have the opportunity to conduct a prescribed burn in the area near where the ani has been and in order to do so, need to establish containment lines. That is the mowing that was being conducted. As I’m sure you know, in the absence of flood, fire is the next most appropriate tool to manage hardwood encroachment into the basin marsh. Unfortunately, this may sometimes affect the opportunites for park visitors to view specific wildlife in certain areas, but in the long term, it is the best way to ensure quality habitat for the majority of species. As a rule, the Florida Park Service is not a single species management agency, but rather focuses on habitat management for the broad range of species associated with a natural community. I hope for the sake of the interested birders that the ani stays in the area, but our window of opportunity for conducting prescribed burns in the prairie basin is a short one, and we have to take advantage of the opportunitites that present themselves if we are to manage the natural communities in the most sound way possible. Thank you for your interest and commitment. I appreciate it.” A more civil answer than I merited. I actually *want* habitat management at the Prairie, but the second they start managing it, I start screaming bloody murder. Anyway, I apologized.

The Florida Ornithological Society has announced the details for its spring meeting: http://fosbirds.org/sites/default/files/Meetings/FOSSpring2013MeetingAnnouncement-4.pdf

Last of all, here’s a thoughtful take on the 2011 movie, “The Big Year,” by one of the very best American birders, Ned Brinkley, author of the National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Birds of North America and the editor of North American Birds magazine. Here’s a quote from the review (and you should know that “antivenin” is the correct name for “anti-venom”): “The chief elements that fuel American mass-cultural products are mostly absent in birding. Indeed, birding—as I see people doing it, all over the world—may be an antivenin to the sex/violence/capital nexus that seems to be at the heart of so much popular culture. To a culture enslaved to such a golden calf, how can it not seem ridiculous, even pathetic, for a person to shed a tear at the first Chestnut-sided Warbler of spring? What is profitable, hedonistic, transgressive, ironic, or cool in that, or for that matter in our many fascinations—habitats, identifications, distributions, behaviors, not to mention butterflies, dragonflies, reptiles, and more?  American pop culture urges consumption and physical pleasure; our lives are defined differently, by growing knowledge, study, connection, fascination.” Read the whole thing: http://blog.aba.org/2011/11/yet-another-big-year-review.html

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