From: Rex Rowan <email@example.com>
To: Alachua County birding report
Here’s a blast from the past. If you were here seventeen years ago, this description of spring 1998 from that summer’s birding newsletter may ring a bell: “As March began, the water level at Paynes Prairie was at its highest in at least the 27 years since the state purchased it, possibly since 1948 or even 1891. The outer lanes of US-441 were closed as water crept up and flowed over the edges of the asphalt to the center line of each lane. It peaked on March 11 at 61.4 feet above sea level, only 2.6 feet below the level of Alachua Lake during the 1880s when it was navigated by steamboats. The regular weekend ranger-guided walks along the La Chua Trail were replaced by ranger-guided canoe excursions! However, March’s rainfall was normal (4.45″ – average is 4.11″), and April and May’s much less than normal (combined for both months 1.29″ – average is 7.2″), so that the newspaper began reporting the effects of the ‘drought,’ which in June included severe fires around Waldo. There was not a single major front during the month of April. What rainfall there was – a brief downpour on April 19, and more extended rains on May 18 – was localized. There was no general rainfall till May 27. Consequently the water slowly ebbed away. By June 16, it had dropped far enough to allow me to step across two feet of water onto the US-441 observation deck, the first time it had been accessible since February.”
Jack and Mary Lynch, who hosted a Calliope Hummingbird last winter, now have an adult male Western Tanager visiting their yard. They’re willing to have birders come over to see it on Saturday morning (only), beginning at 8 a.m. They’re at 415 NW 9th Street in High Springs. Look for the tanager in a flock of Baltimore Orioles. Mary writes, “He is standing out brilliantly. Yellow and black with the start of the red on his head.” Park in the front yard and just walk into the back yard; don’t bother to knock. Mary asks that you “pull pretty much off the road and not past our driveway or the neighbor’s dogs will not stop barking.”
On March 1st, while practicing for the Race 4 Birds to be held in Georgia on April 26th, Sam Ewing and Steve Goodman (along with Dean Ewing, Ted Goodman, and Adam Kent) realized that they were within striking distance of the Alachua County Big Day record of 125 species set on May 1, 1971. They pushed hard and ended up tying the record, and in the course of doing so they found a very early Black-necked Stilt at the sheetflow restoration area, which Sam photographed: https://www.flickr.com/photos/121511542@N02/16074775353/ Anyway, congratulations on tying the record, guys, and good luck in the Race 4 Birds next month.
The cross-Florida migration of Common Loons is underway. Andy Kratter started his loon watch on the 9th, about a week earlier than usual, and tallied one loon that first morning. I’ve sat out in my backyard from about 8:30-9:30 twice this week, but I haven’t seen any loons (consolation prize: a breeding-plumage Laughing Gull eastbound this morning). Andy calculates that the first migrants take off close to sunrise, which is about 7:45 right now, and begin to show up over Gainesville an hour later (though I’ve once or twice seen them earlier than that). The main migratory movement occurs from mid-March to mid-April. Andy wrote about it six years ago, and will talk about it during an Alachua Audubon program meeting on the 23rd. If you’re not stuck indoors, these beautiful spring mornings are a great time to watch the sky for loons. Choose a morning that’s not overcast, and spend an hour or so (8:30-9:30) sitting in your back yard with a cup of coffee and your binoculars, watching the sky for high-flying white-bellied birds. Most of them look like this flying overhead; Ron Robinson likens them to “bowling pins flying north.” If you want to help Andy with his project, write down the time you see them, how many you see, and, if possible, whether they’re in winter plumage, breeding plumage, or transitioning from one to the other.
I mentioned in my last email that Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and Yellow-throated Vireos would be arriving soon, and they didn’t make a liar out of me. On the 6th Ron Robinson saw a Ruby-throated at his place on the west end of Gainesville, and on the 8th Yellow-throated Vireos were found by Sam and Ben Ewing in their yard near Loblolly Woods, by Howard Adams at Poe Springs, and by Felicia Lee and Elizabeth Martin at San Felasco Hammock.
If you think you hear a Great Crested Flycatcher calling during mid-March, try to get a look at it, and if possible a photo. The spring’s earliest Great Cresteds don’t usually arrive in Alachua County till the last week of March, but White-eyed Vireos are quite good at mimicking their characteristic wheep! call. I heard one doing it in my back yard on the 7th.