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.”

Purple Finches at O’Leno

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

eBird users! Have you wondered why you’re asked for additional details about certain sightings, and what exactly those additional details should be? Are you curious about how your reports are evaluated once you send those details in (or don’t)? If so, follow the links at the top of this page, especially the first one, and, when you get to the bottom, view and/or download the official eBird reviewers’ “Review Tool and Filter Instructions,” now visible to the public for the first time. Understanding the review process will help you make your submissions more valuable. (Also, you can learn about the dreaded “Blacklist” on page 15!)

This morning Mike Manetz and I went out in search of a Winter Wren. Our first stop, at the Santa Fe River, produced nothing. We had no more success at our next stop, O’Leno State Park. However, we spotted a couple of American Goldfinches in a sweetgum tree and when we looked more carefully we found a handful of Pine Siskins among them. Retracing our steps along the trail, we found an elm tree in which goldfinches were feeding on the samaras. I noted that there were some siskins among them, and Mike said, “I’m looking at a bird with a white supercilium.” It was a female Purple Finch, only the second that Mike had ever seen in Alachua County. While he notified John Hintermister by phone, I found a second female Purple Finch. The siskins moved on, but the finches continued feeding on the samaras. Mike and I moved on too, to River Rise, for one more shot at Winter Wren. We struck out here as well, but along the river we lucked into a feeding flock that contained two Golden-crowned Kinglets. So it was a pretty good morning. If you’re interested in looking for the siskins and finches, go to O’Leno, cross the hanging bridge, and then follow the trail to the right. Watch the treetops for flocks of goldfinches, and if you find one pick through it to see if the goldfinches have any friends with them.

Sandhill Crane migration seems to have started early this year. A little after nine in the morning on the 25th Glenn Israel saw 90 over Magnolia Parke going northwest, and about two hours later Chip Deutsch saw 75 going over in two flocks. On the 1st I saw a flock of 78 northbound at high altitude over NE Gainesville while Sam Ewing, about three miles to my west, noted, “There are a lot more cranes moving north today. I’ve been hearing them throughout the day, and have seen a couple flocks.” It seems to me that the earliest migration I’d previously witnessed began on January 29th, and this tops that by four days.

Carmine Lanciani saw the spring’s first Purple Martin on the 1st, “at 11:15 a.m., flying over a nest-box area. This location is just west of NW 98th Street near its intersection with NW 39th Avenue.”

Ospreys are arriving as well. While doing a hawk watch from his NW Gainesville yard on the 29th, Sam Ewing saw one fly over, and on the 31st Steve Hofstetter saw one near the nest platform at NW 6th Street and 8th Avenue.

Barbara Shea found this interesting page that explains how to tell Rusty Blackbirds from other blackbird species like Common Grackles, Brewer’s Blackbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Brown-headed Cowbirds: http://rustyblackbird.org/wp-content/uploads/Rusty-Blackbird-Identification-Guide.pdf

The National Audubon Society has a new web site that includes an online field guide illustrated by excellent photos, David Sibley illustrations, and Kenn Kaufman text. You can read about the new site here: http://www.audubon.org/news/welcome-new-audubonorg

On Thursday the 5th the Gainesville City Commission will decide whether to open the sheetflow restoration site to the public seven days a week or just on weekends once it’s completed in May. This has the potential to become one of the best birding sites in Alachua County, if not THE best. If a lot of people show up to support opening the site seven days a week, and if a good percentage of those people are willing to volunteer at the site on a regular basis so the city won’t have to pay staff, our chances are much better. The meeting begins at 3:00. If you can’t attend, please email the commissioners who haven’t yet made up their minds:
Lauren Poe poelb@cityofgainesville.org
Yvonne Hinson-Rawls rawlsyh@cityofgainesville.org
Todd Chase chasetn@cityofgainesville.org
Randy Wells WellsRM@cityofgainesville.org

Red-throated Loon at Newnans Lake

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

On the morning of Saturday the 15th Andy Kratter was scanning Newnans Lake from the Windsor boat ramp when he spied a Red-throated Loon. He wrote, “Watched for 40 min. Thin bill pointed above horizontal entire time. Whiter face and thinner neck than Common Loon. Nape paler than back. Indistinct contrast between nape and white throat.”

More waterfowl are showing up: Buck Snelson saw a hen Canvasback at the sheetflow restoration area on the 7th, by eleven days a new early record; and Geoff Parks saw the fall’s first Snow Goose along the La Chua Trail on the 9th. On the 14th Barbara Shea and Steve Nesbitt saw an American Wigeon and a flock of Northern Pintails along the La Chua Trail.

More sparrows are showing up too. Adam Kent reported three Henslow’s Sparrows “in the far field” at Gum Root Park on the 12th.

And Gainesville’s favorite migrants, the Sandhill Cranes, are beginning to arrive as well. Barbara Shea and Steve Nesbitt saw “obviously migrating” Sandhills over La Chua on the 14th, and at about 8:30 that same evening Austin Gregg heard a “large flock” flying over his Duck Pond neighborhood.

Matt O’Sulllivan found some excellent birds during a walk along the Cones Dike Trail on the 12th: a Clay-colored Sparrow, a Nashville Warbler, a Least Flycatcher, and a lingering migrant Swainson’s Thrush. He photographed all of them, and you can see the pictures on his Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/118053703@N02/

Some nice birds have visited Cedar Key during the last week and a half. John Hintermister and Debbie Segal found one Scissor-tailed Flycatcher at the airfield on the 4th, and Pat Burns found a second near downtown on the 9th. Geoff Parks found a Bronzed Cowbird at the park adjoining the beach on the 11th. However I led a Clearwater Audubon field trip to Cedar Key on the 15th and we found none of these birds, though we did see a Reddish Egret roosting in a mangrove near the airfield.

If you’d like to visit the sheetflow restoration area, you’ll be interested in this invitation from Debbie Segal: “GRU has given Alachua Audubon special permission to conduct a birding field trip at the Paynes Prairie Sheetflow Wetland on Saturday, Nov. 22nd at 8 a.m. The Sheetflow Wetland is still undergoing final construction activities and is expected to open on a limited basis sometime in January. Because the area is an active construction site, we are required to adhere to the following: visitors have to stay in a group and cannot venture around on their own, and all visitors are required to sign in and sign a liability release. The field trip attendance will be limited to 40 people. We will divide into three smaller groups and have three field trip leaders. If you are interested in attending this field trip, please confirm with Debbie Segal (debbie.segal@gmail.com) so she can sign you up and send you the liability release and directions to the meeting location. The field trip is estimated to last approximately three hours. Since the gate will be locked while we are on the field trip, it will be difficult to accommodate those who arrive late or need to leave early.

Ash-throated Flycatcher at Sparrow Alley

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

On the 14th an Ash-throated Flycatcher was discovered near La Chua. Dalcio Dacol writes, “John Starkey and I saw a Myiarchus sp. this morning at Sparrow Alley (in the pasture just after the powerline where people go around to avoid the large puddle covering the jeep track. Most of the back of the bird was grayish rather than brownish, it had strong rufous edgings to the folded wings, just a light tinge of lemon yelow to the lower parts. The bird had a strong response when I played Ash-throated Flycatcher calls, coming very close to us but remaining silent. There was a lot of bird activity, with about 500 or so flyover Sandhill Cranes, Common Yellowthroats singing, etc. We didn’t see any of the other interesting birds that had been reported (Yellow-breasted Chat, Wilson’s Warbler). There were a few sparrow around but not a whole lot. Among those we found two Song Sparrows.” Dalcio got several photos of the bird, including one that shows the diagnostic undertail pattern: https://www.flickr.com/photos/100282778@N02/sets/72157640984497103

Andy Kratter recorded the season’s first Louisiana Waterthrush on the 14th: “This afternoon on my bike ride home I heard a waterthrush chinking on the bridge on the Gainesville-Hawthorne bike path over Sweetwater Branch just east of SE 4th street, north of Williston Road. It was more liquid and less metallic than typical for Northern. I pished and the bird came in from upstream (north). It had  clear white underparts streaked dark with a unmarked throat. The supercilium was bright white, clearly widening behind the eye. It chinked and pumped its tail, while I tried to record its call notes (audible on my iPhone but pretty distant). It then must have disappeared back upstream.” That’s a new early record by almost two weeks.

Steve Zoellner reports that the Red-breasted Nuthatch is still visiting his place west of Westside Park. If you’d like to see it, let me know and I’ll give you his address.

Mike Manetz saw American Woodcocks flying out over the Tuscawilla Prairie on the evening of the 11th: “I got out there at 6:15. The first Woodcock appeared at 6:42, followed immediately by probably a second, though I never got my bins on in. A third flew out at 6:45. I saw all three flew out going south but then veered a little east before they set down. One veered east and continued well past me as I stood facing south watching it from my right to left.” On the morning of the 14th I checked out the American Woodcock situation at Gum Root Park, where they were reliably found a few winters ago, but though I got to the big field by 6:10 and waited until it was light, I never saw or heard any sign of one. The din from County Road 222 was really appalling, especially at that hour of the morning.

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.

Bye bye, birdie. Bye bye.

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

Let me clarify something from the last birding report. Jessica Burnett’s House Sparrow project does NOT require you to have House Sparrows in your yard. In fact, I’m aware of only one yard in Gainesville that DOES have House Sparrows. Jessica is trying to document their ABSENCE from (most) residential areas. So if you DON’T have House Sparrows at your place, if you just have the usual run of feeder birds, then YES, your yard is ideal for the House Sparrow study. Of course it’s also ideal if you DO have House Sparrows. Please contact Jessica either way, at jburnett9@ufl.edu

(MY, BUT THAT’S A LOT OF CAPITAL LETTERS! I ALMOST FEEL AS IF I SHOULD BE COMMENTING ON A YOUTUBE VIDEO! AND USING LOTS OF EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!)

Spring has been slow in arriving this year. Since mid-January I’ve been cruising past the martin houses at the old George’s Hardware at 34th and University, just knowing I’d see the spring’s first male perched outside a nest hole, but no. And no Ospreys yet, either, on the three nests I pass regularly. And I’ve seen no big flocks of robins flying over in the afternoons, bound for their roosts in the flatwoods. But I was working in the yard this morning, and I had just thought to myself, “It’s a beautiful spring day after a spell of cold weather, and there’s a south wind…” and right on cue I heard the Sandhill Cranes. Between eleven and noon I counted over 700 birds heading north, and heard others I couldn’t see. So they’re leaving us. There was also a flight of over 30 Tree Swallows headed north, a trio of Red-shouldered Hawks circling overhead screaming at each other, and a handful of Yellow-rumped Warblers flycatching from the oaks, zooming out, flaring their white-spotted tails as they snapped up their prey, and flying back.

But even though I haven’t seen Purple Martins, others have been luckier. The first of the spring were three birds reported by Marianne McDowell on January 24th, and there have been three reports since.

Lloyd Davis found a Clay-colored Sparrow while “walking around the abandoned shack just south of the sewage lagoon” at the Hague Dairy on the 30th. He also saw 5 female Painted Buntings and (a surprisingly big number) 12 Common Ground-Doves.

Matt O’Sullivan and I walked the Cones Dike Trail on the 31st and had a great morning. The largest number of unusual birds were near the big bend in the trail (about two and a half miles from the visitor center, where it changes from north-south to east-west), and included a Prairie Warbler, a Least Flycatcher that eluded us on the way out but put on a show for us as we were walking back, 3 or 4 Northern Waterthrushes, and, most surprising of all, a Least Bittern, one of only a dozen winter reports in the county’s history. We saw 60 species overall.

Dave Byrd notifies us of a spectacle at Lake Alice: “Two Red-tailed Hawks feeding heavily on bats at the Bat Tower. Be there at 5:50 to insure catching  the action around sunset. Pretty awesome sight.”

Mike Manetz pointed out to me that fourteen eBirders saw over 100 species in Alachua County during the month of January. Either we live in a really great place, or we’ve got some really good birders, or both.

Do you have your ticket for this weekend’s Backyard Birding Tour? Time’s a wasting! http://www.alachuaaudubon.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Backyard-Bird-Tour-Flyer-2014.pdf

I’ve got to end with some extremely sad news. Courtney Tye, a member of this mailing list for several years, died in childbirth this weekend. She’s survived by her husband Barry and newborn son Carter. Courtney had been working with private landowners on behalf of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. I ran into her at the post office one day, and chatted with her for twenty minutes, and I can believe she was very good at that job. She was an intelligent and charming person, and it’s a great sorrow that her son will never know her. Rest in peace.

Possible Ross’s Goose at UF Beef Unit

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

This morning Dean and Samuel Ewing called to report a Ross’s Goose at the UF Beef Unit (AKA Sandhill Station, on the corner of Williston Road and SW 23rd Street). Samuel described it in his eBird checklist: ” Seen well, feeding out in fields with Sandhill Cranes. The bill was much to small for it to be a Snow Goose. Carefully studied through binocs and scope at close range. At one point all the cranes got spooked and the goose flew off too. They landed in one of the cow fields just a little farther north though. At first they were almost viewable from Williston Road, then they flew to one of the Beef Teaching Unit’s northernmost fields.” Samuel’s photos are here and here.

While waiting for the photos I called Mike Manetz, who was out birding, and he ran over to the Beef Unit and got a picture of his own. At first Mike was uncertain whether the bird was a Ross’s or a hybrid Ross’s x Snow Goose, but he eventually decided it must be a Ross’s. “When it took off,” he said, “it looked like a gull.” By which he meant that it was petite and that its wingbeats were lighter than those of a Snow Goose. But looking at the photos, I can see why Mike was a little dubious. Ross’s has a rather steep forehead, with a relatively abrupt angle at the juncture with the bill (see here and here), while this bird seems to have a more evenly sloping forehead. It does, however, show the minimal grin patch, purple area at the base of the bill, and vertical demarcation between the bill and the face that are right for Ross’s.

I’d say this bird needs a little more close-range study, if possible. It may stick around; the four or five previous Ross’s have stayed as briefly as one day and as long as several weeks.

As Samuel noted in his eBird description, Sandhill Cranes are arriving. Several inbound flocks were noted last Saturday afternoon and were even heard calling after dark (nocturnal migration has been described in the past).

 

ANOTHER Scissor-tailed Flycatcher!

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

At noon today John Killian found a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher on County Road 241 about 1.5 miles north of the point where Millhopper Road (County Road 232) dead-ends. He got four really nice pictures, of which this is the fourth:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnhusbdadfrndteach/10996795465/

Mike Manetz and I visited several spots in southern Alachua County this morning – Tuscawilla Prairie, Orange Lake at three locations (Sportsmans Cove, Heagy-Burry, and Sampsons Point), the back side of George’s Pond, and Powers Park – but didn’t find anything out of the ordinary. I heard a lot of Sandhill Cranes calling to the south of Heagy-Burry, which makes me think that some migrants have finally arrived. We saw only a few ducks, all of them at Newnans Lake, but among those few were a pair of Northern Pintails that flew past the Powers Park pier. And we were disappointed to find that water levels in Orange Lake had risen to the point that hip boots would be needed to walk out from Sportsmans Cove, so we have nothing to report from there. The best part of the morning was helping a pair of birders from Winnipeg, Manitoba, to see their life Limpkin at Powers Park.

Nelson’s Sparrow at La Chua!

Adam Zions found the county’s third-ever Nelson’s Sparrow along the La Chua Trail on the 20th. He describes the location as “about halfway between the ‘s’ curve before it straightens out for the last bit before the platform. If you go looking for it, you’ll notice the more open water on your right as you first take the bend (where they placed the extra soil), then another smaller patch of somewhat open water on your right a little further ahead. Go past this to the third, and smallest patch of somewhat open water on your right, which should be about halfway or slightly past halfway along the ‘s’ curve, and that’s where I observed it foraging on grass seeds.” Nelson’s Sparrow is a saltmarsh species in Florida and is pretty common along the Gulf Coast, but it nests in freshwater marshes on the Great Plains – Minnesota, North Dakota, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta – and some of the birds get slightly disoriented during fall migration. Not many of them, though; inland sightings in Florida are very scarce. Adam’s eBird checklist, which includes five photos of the bird, can be seen here.

At least two Yellow-headed Blackbirds are still slumming at the Hague Dairy. I got there a little after eleven on the 20th, just as a flock of two or three thousand blackbirds swarmed up and disappeared to the west. I hung around for another hour and a half, but the birds never came back, so I went home. Just an hour after I left (naturally!) Brad Bergstrom and Margaret Harper of Valdosta State University showed up and saw “two Yellow-headed Blackbirds atop the transformer pole near the Admin. bldg. (where visitors sign in) from 2-3 pm. While I was signing in, Margaret was standing right next to the car looking at the two birds. When I walked  back out of the office, at first I thought she was joking about seeing the blackbirds. That was a years-long nemesis bird for her; it’s not supposed to be that easy!” On the 16th Jonathan Mays got a photo of THREE Yellow-headeds feeding together, but no one else has been that lucky; I think it may be the largest number ever recorded here during a single fall, and he had them all in his viewfinder at once! Two Bronzed Cowbirds were also seen at the dairy by Adam Zions on the 14th and by several observers on the 15th, but on the 16th Jonathan found only one. Both species may yet be present. By the way, Bob Carroll related his own search for the Yellow-headed in characteristically amusing style on his blog.

There’s a new sign on the door of the dairy office: “Attention all birdwatchers: Please park in the designated areas and walk. Do not block the roadways or gates. Do not cross any fences. Do not go through any gates. Do not interfere with dairy operations.” I’m not sure what occasioned this, but please observe their rules conscientiously. I think the dairy employees find us odd but harmless, and that’s how we want to keep it. The designated parking area is here. I asked one of the employees in the office about the “Do not go through the gates” rule, and he told me that this applied only to closed gates.

Sometimes the best place to go birding is your back yard. Becky Enneis has been proving that point this fall. There’s a huge sprawling live oak in her back yard, and she’s set up a water drip under one of the lowest limbs. It always gets a lot of birds, but this week has been particularly exciting, with a Chestnut-sided Warbler on the 20th, a Bay-breasted Warbler on the 18th, and on the 17th a Swamp Sparrow, one of the earliest of the fall and not exactly a typical backyard bird. And over in rural Columbia County on the 19th Jerry Krummrich enjoyed a varied and highly entertaining few minutes of backyard birding: “At the mister right outside my window in a river birch tree, in the space of 15 minutes, I had furious activity and 17 species of birds. Pine, Palm, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Green, and Black-and-white Warblers – several of some species, including a male of each species, Red-eyed and White-eyed Vireos, Scarlet Tanager, immature male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Northern Cardinals (about 10), Tufted Titmice, Carolina Chickadees, Northern Flicker, Mourning Dove, Brown Thrasher, and Northern Mockingbird.”

Bachman’s Sparrows used to be resident at Morningside Nature Center, but during the past twenty or so years their occurrence at the park has been unpredictable. John Martin found one there on February 10th and got a video, but as far as I know there weren’t any additional encounters until Geoff Parks heard one singing on October 18th: “As I was going past an area we burned back in May, near the north end of Sandhill Road, I heard some sparrow-like ‘seet’ calls so I stopped for a few moments to see if anything interesting was around. To my surprise, from out of the grasses nearby I heard a Bachman’s Sparrow giving a whisper song. It did it several times over a few minutes; it sounded exactly like the normal song, just very quiet. I didn’t try to coax it into the open and never managed to see the bird, but I’m certain that’s what it was. Maybe this one will stick around until spring. Mysterious little critters!”

I got a very nice trip report from Adam Zions about Alachua Audubon’s Levy Lake field trip on Saturday the 20th: “A hearty troop of 11 intrepid explorers and one half-witted trip leader set out at 8 a.m. along the Levy Lake loop trail at Barr Hammock. Several Gainesville birders and a few out-of-towners from Chiefland, Inverness, and Cape Canaveral set out to see what the trail had to offer. An Eastern Phoebe and an adult Red-shouldered Hawk greeted everyone at the parking lot, a precursor of what would follow. Even though week-long winds from the north, combined with a lack of a front from the south, seemed to push most migrants onward to Central America and the Caribbean, the group tallied a total of 50 different species, including 9 different warbler species, The favorites being an Orange-crowned Warbler (first of the season for everyone) and a Tennessee. Strong numbers of wintering species were noted, especially Eastern Phoebe, Palm Warbler, and Gray Catbird. Highlights of the day included close observations of 4 incredibly-obliging American Bitterns, a flock of 8, late Northern Rough-winged Swallows, an adult Bald Eagle getting chased by a Red-shouldered Hawk, a few Sandhill Cranes, sizeable numbers of Indigo Buntings, and many first-of-the-season birds for most participants (e.g., Savannah Sparrow, Marsh Wren, and Northern Flicker). Non-avian highlights included a White-tailed doe, Striped Mud Turtle, a mother American Alligator and several of her offspring, and a 4′-4.5′ Cottonmouth shed. The feathered remains of a Red-shouldered Hawk were noted as well. Sunny, yet cool weather obliged for the majority of the trip, until the last mile of the trip when an unexpected storm front poured buckets and soaked everyone. Everyone stayed in good spirits, but made due haste to the parking lot. It was a very lively and engaging crew, and made for an excellent first AAS trip out to the Levy Lake portion of Barr Hammock. Group eBird checklist link: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S15444710

Barn Owl? We got yer Barn Owl right here

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

I hadn’t heard of anyone staking out the US-441 observation platform for Barn Owls this month, so at 7:30 Wednesday evening Ron Robinson and I met there to see what would fly by as the sun went down. There wasn’t much to look at – a couple of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, half a dozen Sandhill Cranes (including a couple of full-grown juveniles), a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, a bunch of Red-winged Blackbirds – and as it got darker and darker I was afraid we were going to be skunked. But at 8:50 we spotted a Barn Owl flying around, and at 8:55 a Black-crowned Night-Heron popped up from the willows south of the platform. Both were new June Challenge birds for us.

Ron and Greg Hart and I visited a bunch of birding spots on Tuesday morning. We started at the Newberry cemetery, which I’d never visited before. The Eastern Wood-Pewee was singing as we opened the car door, and within thirty seconds we had it in view. Northern Flicker and White-winged Dove were almost as easy to find. Then we headed east to north Gainesville, where Ron had found a family of Pied-billed Grebes on Monday. He was driving past a retention pond at the intersection of NE 35th Avenue and NE 4th Street (which, despite the “NE,” is actually a block west of Main Street) when he spotted the birds in the water, an adult and eight almost-grown chicks. From there we went all the way to the southeastern end of the county, to see if anything unusual was at River Styx or Lake Lochloosa. We got a Prothonotary Warbler at River Styx and a Bald Eagle at Lochloosa, but nothing else of note. Then it was back to Gainesville, to check Lake Alice for a Belted Kingfisher that Frank and Irina Goodwin had seen there on Sunday. We waited for fifteen minutes, and though we saw a Swallow-tailed Kite we never saw the kingfisher (which doesn’t mean it’s not there). Our last stop was Possum Creek Park, where we found a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron in a shady recess of a buttonbush thicket.

Frank Goodwin and I splashed into Gum Root Swamp on Monday morning in search of Prothonotary Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo, and Barred Owl. The vireos, a pair of them, were right there in the parking lot. The Barred Owl was perched over the creek just beyond the first bridge. But to get to the warbler we had to get our feet wet – all the way up to mid-thigh. It turned out to be a really lovely experience. The mosquitoes had been bothering us in the uplands, but when we entered the water we left them behind. The air was cool. And our surroundings were green and beautiful. When we got out to the edge of the lake we found our Prothonotary, who sang unceasingly and came close enough for Frank to get a picture. And there were a couple of surprises. We discovered the hot-pink egg clusters of the exotic Island Apple Snail in Hatchet Creek for the first time ever and, not coincidentally, discovered their chief predator shortly thereafter – a bird that’s becoming fairly common at Newnans Lake because of the snails’ exploding population. And when I idly kicked at a knot on a rotten cypress tree lying on the ground, I uncovered the one and only Rough Earthsnake I’ve seen in my life. Sure, it’s small and nondescript, but it was the most exciting moment of the day for me. I submitted Frank’s photo to the museum’s herpetology department as an “image voucher,” because – and this will give you some idea how uncommonly they’re found – they have only one specimen collected since 1970.

On Tuesday, Becky Enneis found Black-bellied Whisting-Ducks and an American Coot at Home Depot Pond, off Tower Road just south of Newberry Road. And as long as you’re in that neighborhood, don’t forget the Graylag Geese at Red Lobster Pond. And once you’ve seen them, head over to the Duck Pond for the Black Swans. The geese and swans aren’t really countable, but they belong on your June Challenge list. Why? Because, just because. I’ll tell you when you’re older.

Danny Shehee writes, “I was birding around the wetland area at Magnolia Park just beyond the open field. I met a young woman looking for her Quaker Parrot [Monk Parakeet] named Rio, he`s a small parrot. She said he would come if he heard his name called. Her name is Lilia and her number is 352-870-2711. I thought the birding community might just happen to see him.”