Field trip update, still more migrants

From: Rex Rowan <>
To: Alachua County birding report

Saturday’s wildflower field trip will be proceeding without its long-time leader, Dana Griffin. Dana has developed some back problems that are going to keep him off his feet for a while. He has our heartfelt wishes for a full recovery, and hopefully he’ll be back with us in the future. Meanwhile we’ll meet in the Winn-Dixie parking lot at the intersection of SW 34th Street and SW 20th Avenue at 8 a.m. and proceed to Goldhead Branch State Park (entrance fee $5 per vehicle, $4 single-passenger vehicle) on SR-21 north of Keystone Heights, where we’ll look at the native plants and wildflowers of several habitats, including sandhill, scrub, slope forest, lake edge, and seepage slope. Reportedly the state-champion longleaf pine is in the park, and if we can find it we’ll make a point of standing around and admiring it. Please join us on Saturday morning.

Nearly all the locally-nesting neotropical migrants are here now. The first Prothonotary Warbler of the spring was sighted by Sam and Ben Ewing at the Hogtown Creek Greenway on March 28th, the first Orchard Oriole of the spring by Lloyd Davis and Howard Adams at La Chua on April 2nd, the first Yellow-billed Cuckoo at San Felasco Hammock by Sidney Wade, Howard Adams, and Brad Hall on the 5th, and the first Blue Grosbeak by Howard at Chapmans Pond on the 6th (Howard is out there kicking some birdie butt!). The only spring arrivals that haven’t yet been reported are Eastern Wood-Pewee, which can go undetected because of its rarity in Alachua County, and Acadian Flycatcher.

So now it’s time to start watching for the transients, the birds that are just passing through on their way north. Some have been seen already, of course. Prairie Warblers and Louisiana Waterthrushes have been moving through since mid-March, and in fact the Louisiana Waterthrush migration seems to be over, with no observations since March 28th. Mike Manetz and Tina Greenberg saw a very early Cape May Warbler at Palm Point on April 2nd – they’re most likely during the last week of April – and I saw an American Redstart at the south edge of the Tuscawilla Prairie on the 4th. We have Indigo Buntings that nest here, of course, but northbound birds may show up at feeders this month, often in fairly respectable numbers. Watch for Painted Buntings among them.

Transient shorebirds are visiting as well. On the afternoon of the 5th I made a brief Sneaky Sunday visit to the sheetflow restoration area. My scope is in the shop, which made shorebirding a little more of a challenge,  but I saw 2 Pectoral Sandpipers, at least 1 Stilt Sandpiper (up to 5 have been seen there), 1 Spotted Sandpiper, 6 or 8 Black-necked Stilts, and several dowitchers, presumably all Long-billed, many of them molting into rich reddish-brown breeding plumage.

Also on the 5th, and also at the sheetflow restoration area, Adam Zions got a photo of a White-faced Ibis, which also seems to be molting into breeding plumage:

Lloyd Davis points out that a much more accessible shorebirding area is developing at San Felasco’s Progress Center, where Lee Pond is drying up (as it regularly does). On the 6th he found a Stilt Sandpiper there:

Lloyd also got a couple of interesting photos in his own back yard. He’s had a Tufted Titmouse visiting his feeder all winter that has some white wing feathers, patches of white on its head and body, and a bill that’s pink instead of black. Two of Lloyd’s pictures of the bird are here and here.

Last weekend, while traveling up to Georgia in the course of his Spotted Turtle research, Jonathan Mays stopped to investigate a cypress floodplain and found a young Eastern Mud Snake. This extraordinary photo shows just how un-mud-like a Mud Snake can be:

Jessica Burnett writes, “Neighborhood Nestwatch is a citizen science program founded by the Smithsonian Institution. The main goals of the program are to determine how backyard bird populations are affected by urbanization and to educate the public about wildlife and the scientific process. We are seeking participants in the Gainesville area (no more than 60 miles from downtown) who are interested in learning first-hand about the common birds found in their backyard and contributing to a multi-city study on the effects of urbanization on resident birds. On an annual basis, scientists will conduct a backyard bird-banding visit with the help of participants. Participants and their families/children will report sightings of banded birds to the Smithsonian, will monitor nests on their property, and will assist researchers during the site visit with mist-netting and nest searching. If you would like to participate, please email our team at All levels of bird watchers and enthusiasts are welcome. We will be available any day of the week beginning in late April, until July 4th. Email us now to secure a spot!”

Looniness, a profusion of siskins, and more spring arrivals

From: Rex Rowan <>
To: Alachua County birding report

I can tell it’s spring because I found three ticks crawling on me after a “Sneaky Sunday” visit to the sheetflow restoration area this morning. I mentioned this to Mike Manetz as we were leaving. “You’re a tick magnet,” he said.

Mike and I discovered that most of the ducks at the sheetflow restoration area have gone north. When I was last there, in January, I counted 18 species of ducks. This morning we saw only two, Blue-winged Teal and Black-bellied Whistling Duck. However there were a few spring arrivals: two Black-necked Stilts, a Northern Rough-winged Swallow, and, running a little early, the spring’s first Least Bitterns, three of them. The most interesting sightings otherwise included half a dozen Limpkins, 19 Long-billed Dowitchers, and a White-faced Ibis.

Pine Siskins began to show up at feeders all over Alachua County about the middle of the month. If you’ve got American Goldfinches at your place, look for a streaky bird among them with an extra-pointy bill and yellow in the wings, like this one that Sam Ewing photographed in his NW Gainesville yard on the 13th: Ron Robinson tells me that he presently has 10 to 15 siskins visiting his feeders. They can be very common some winters. Jack Connor wrote in The Crane for February 1978, “So far, 1978 has been The Year of the Pine Siskin. The little finch, which hadn’t been seen in the county since the winter of 1974-75, has been building in numbers all winter. On the Christmas Count there were eleven; by New Year’s every goldfinch flock seemed to have at least one or two siskins in its midst; by mid-January many mixed flocks were mostly siskins and groups of 20, 30, and even 50 siskins were being counted. Some kind of climax may have been reached the other day when a local birder received a call from a woman who wanted to know how to get rid of Pine Siskins – they were taking over her feeder.” That year the siskins remained well into spring, with the last being seen on May 10th. The county’s late record is June 8th.

Great Crested Flycatchers seem to be at least ten days earlier than usual this spring. Andy Kratter heard one on the 17th and Bryan Tarbox another on the 18th, and Austin Gregg saw one on the 20th, all on the UF campus. Mike Manetz had one in his yard on the 21st.

The loon migration finally got underway on the 18th. Andy Kratter had seen one loon flying over on the 9th, but nothing in the days that followed. On the 18th, however, he saw a single at 9:10, another at 9:15, and then a flock of 15 at 9:30. This is a great instance of what the Brits call “vismig,” the visible migration of birds. Did I write about this on my Gainesville Sun blog? Why yes, yes I did. Remember that Andy will give an informative talk on loon migration at 6:30 in the evening of Monday the 23rd at the Millhopper Branch Library. He’s been watching the cross-Florida loon migration for twelve years now, so it ought to be a particularly interesting program.

Speaking of loons, if you read my *other* blog post (ahem), you know that Mike Manetz and I went looking for the Pacific Loon on Lake Santa Fe, but found no evidence that it had returned for a third winter.

Jacqui Sulek of Audubon of Florida writes, “Scrub-Jay Watch training will take place on May 30th down in Marion County … just 30 (or so) minutes away from you all. We have had other volunteers from Gainesville but surprisingly little participation from Alachua Audubon. Training is half a day and takes place in the field. Surveys take place approximately June 15-July 15 for those who want to participate. Folks who want to participate should contact me at

If you’re interested in going to Cuba this September and participating in a photo contest, have I got the link for you!

Lingering rarities! Time-limited offer! Get ’em before they’re gone!

From: Rex Rowan <>
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:

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:

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:

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: 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:

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 for details on Wild Birds Unlimited’s own website.”

New birds for a new year, and a backward glance

From: Rex Rowan <>
To: Alachua County birding report

Hummingbird bander Fred Bassett will be visiting the Gainesville area next weekend. If you’ve got hummingbirds visiting your yard right now, if you’d like them banded, and if they’re coming regularly to a feeder, email me your name, your street address, and the number of hummers you’re seeing, and I’ll forward the information to Fred. Here’s a video of Fred’s mentor, the late Bob Sargent, describing his amazement at what he’s learned from hummingbird banding: And here’s Fred (from 1:00 to 2:33) and Bob banding hummers in Mississippi in 2009:

On January 3rd Matt O’Sullivan and I took a stroll down NW 65th Avenue (east of 71st Street, off Millhopper Road) in hopes of seeing a Dark-eyed Junco reported by Jim Cox. No sign of the junco, or of the Chipping Sparrows that Jim found it associating with. But Matt and I did flush a Fox Sparrow – appropriately enough, from property owned by the Fox family: Mike Manetz and I attempted to see both birds this morning, but ended up finding neither.

The adult male Bullock’s Oriole that spent the last two winters in Ted, Danusia, and Steven Goodman’s NW Gainesville neighborhood is back again, and Sam Ewing photographed it on the 3rd:

Alachua Audubon sponsored a field trip to the Sweetwater Sheetflow Restoration Area on New Year’s Day. Lots of birds were seen by lots of birders. Highlights included a Great White Heron visiting from South Florida, two or three Roseate Spoonbills ditto (John Martin photo here), two White-faced Ibises, Limpkins, a Merlin, and ten species of waterfowl, notably a Canvasback (John Martin photo here) and a large number of Gadwalls.

Rusty Blackbirds are wintering in the wetland at Magnolia Parke again, and Kathy Malone was able to photograph one on December 30th:

Roy Herrera set up a bonfire at his place north of LaCrosse on New Year’s Eve, and spotted an uninvited but very welcome guest, an Eastern Screech-Owl, in a tree overhead. He got a beautiful picture of this fairly common but seldom-seen bird:

A quick look back at 2014 before we push on into the New Year:

Adam Zions produced his annual list of candidates for Alachua County’s Bird of the Year, shown here in taxonomic order:

Greater White-fronted Goose
Ross’s Goose
Black Scoter
Pacific Loon
Buff-breasted Sandpiper
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Calliope Hummingbird
Alder Flycatcher
Gray Kingbird
Cave Swallow
Bullock’s Oriole

He asked me which of these, in my opinion, had been the most interesting bird of 2014. I thought it was probably a tie between the Calliope Hummingbird at Jack and Mary Lynch’s High Springs home from January 3rd to March 4th and the Bullock’s Oriole at the Goodmans’ house from January 4th to March 19th, with the oriole having a slight edge since it was the first documented sighting in the county. Both attracted scads of out-of-town birders. Adam pretty much agreed, writing, “I would have no qualms with a tie between those two. I think the Black-chinned and Buff-breasted would come in at 3 and 4 (no particular order), and then move on from there. How awesome were the rarities/aberrants this year, that Pacific Loon and Black Scoter get pushed down a few pegs? With no drought creating favorable conditions for shorebirds and no tropical storms/hurricanes pushing pelagics inland, I think the county had a damn fine showing this past year.”

The task of compiling and ranking individual county and state year-lists for 2014 has been rendered ridiculously easy by eBird. Whether you’re intentionally competing or not, your totals are tallied and ranked at national, state, and county levels. Here are the largest Alachua County lists – birds seen in Alachua County – amassed by Alachua County eBirders :

Rex Rowan 238
Mike Manetz 231 (Mike also ended up with a third-place 244 species in Charlotte County, where he spent much of the year on family business)
Matt O’Sullivan 231
Lloyd Davis 226
Adam Zions 225
John Hintermister 219
Sam Ewing 215
Adam Kent 210
Barbara Shea 210
Benjamin Ewing 205
Dean Ewing 199
Andrew Kratter 198
Jonathan Mays 196
Debbie Segal 196
John Martin 192
Felicia Lee 192

And here are the largest Florida year-lists – including birds seen anywhere in Florida – compiled by Alachua County’s birders:

Adam Zions 306
Lloyd Davis 300
John Hintermister 294
Mike Manetz 282
Jonathan Mays 279
Adam Kent 278
Debbie Segal 278
Rex Rowan 276
Matt O’Sullivan 269
Barbara Shea 267
Andy Kratter 257
Gina Kent 255
Sam Ewing 249
Chris Burney 244
Benjamin Ewing 241

So much for 2014. And now a new year’s birding is underway. It’s fun to watch everyone dash out of the starting gate on January 1st, trying to see, as quickly as possible, the birds that may not stick around. Get that Canvasback! It could leave any day! And there’s no guarantee of another Canvasback before the end of the year! As of the 3rd, Adam Zions is leading the pack with 107 species, followed by Andy Kratter with 91 and Howard Adams with 87. Good luck to one and all. But don’t fret about the numbers, or the competitive aspect. Just have fun. Remember Kenn Kaufman’s words of wisdom: “Birding is something that we do for enjoyment, so if you enjoy it, you are already a good birder. If you enjoy it a lot, you’re a great birder.” Here’s hoping that a lot of good birders turn into great birders in 2015!

Remember to let me know if you’ve got any hummingbirds coming to your feeders.

Christmas Bird Count results

From: Rex Rowan <>
To: Alachua County birding report

Sunday’s Christmas Bird Count tallied a spectacular 157 species – though it’s possible that some of the undocumented rarities will be struck off the list by the regional editor and we’ll end up with a smaller number. The complete list of species and numbers is below.

There were an unusually high number of rarities reported, including two species new to the Gainesville Count, Wood Thrush and Wilson’s Plover. Neither was documented with a photograph, but on the day after the Count Andy Kratter was able to relocate the Wood Thrush that had first been discovered by Harry Jones at Kanapaha Gardens, and it may yet be photographed. Birders attempting to relocate Felicia Lee’s Wilson’s Plover for a photograph were unable to do so. Other good birds included:

– Two Snow Geese in a flock of Sandhill Cranes at the Kanapaha Prairie. John Martin photo here:
– A Canvasback at Sweetwater Wetlands Park (AKA the Sheetflow Restoration Wetlands). Matt O’Sullivan photo here:
– A Greater Scaup at Sweetwater Wetlands Park.
– A Great White Heron at Sweetwater Wetlands Park. Matt O’Sullivan picture here:
– A White-faced Ibis at Sweetwater Wetlands Park.
– Two Roseate Spoonbills, one at Sweetwater Wetlands Park, one flying over Bivens Arm. Matt O’Sullivan picture of the former bird here:
– Three Purple Gallinules wintering along the La Chua Trail. Jonathan Mays photo here:
– The Whooping Crane that’s been present every day at the UF Beef Teaching Unit.
– A Spotted Sandpiper.
– Two Laughing Gulls on Newnans Lake.
– Two White-winged Doves in a yard near the Kanapaha Prairie.
– One hummingbird in the genus Archilochus, either a Ruby-throated or a Black-chinned.
– Two Least Flycatchers.
– Five Ash-throated Flycatchers at four separate spots on Paynes Prairie (not a single one of them open to the public!). Matt O’Sullivan pictures of two different birds here and here.
– A Blue-winged Warbler along Cones Dike, only the second for the Gainesville Count. Steve Collins photo here:
– Two Yellow-breasted Chats.
– Five Dark-eyed Juncos along the Lake Trail at Lake Wauberg. Not found on the following day, though at least two parties went looking for them.
– Five Painted Buntings in two separate places, a new high for the Gainesville Count.
– Eight Pine Siskins were reported, by four teams.

Our Sandhill Crane count was on the low side, with only 2,555.

Limpkins infested Newnans Lake during most of 2013-14 – John Hintermister and I counted 39 there on February 20th – but only three showed up there on the Count, while 15 were seen at Sweetwater Wetlands Park. I’m not sure what that signifies, but it’s interesting.

Big misses included Northern Pintail, Northern Bobwhite, Common Loon, and Long-billed Dowitcher.

The Ichetucknee-Santa Fe-O’Leno CBC took place on the 16th. John Martin photographed a Winter Wren along the Santa Fe River – – and the county’s first Golden-crowned Kinglets of the winter were seen in the same area. A Vermilion Flycatcher and a Black-throated Green Warbler showed up in exactly the same locations where they were seen last year, the former at a rural area in Columbia County, the latter at River Rise.

The Melrose CBC is taking place as I write this, and we’re hoping to learn that the Pacific Loon has returned for its third winter.

I’m not sure you can see this link without a Dropbox account, but Wade Kincaid got a great photo of the Whooping Crane that’s been at the Beef Teaching Unit since the 7th: A couple of inquiring minds found a web page with background information on this individual bird (including baby pictures!):

And here are the results:

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck 212
Snow Goose 2
Muscovy Duck 291
Wood Duck 149
Gadwall 108
American Wigeon 2
Mallard 7
Mottled Duck 66
Blue-winged Teal 395
Northern Shoveler 53
Green-winged Teal 232
Canvasback 1
Redhead 1
Ring-necked Duck 795
Greater Scaup 1
Lesser Scaup 50
Bufflehead 11
Hooded Merganser 198
Ruddy Duck 57
Wild Turkey 26
Pied-billed Grebe 204
Horned Grebe 1
Wood Stork 75
Double-crested Cormorant 1,022
Anhinga 202
American White Pelican 40
American Bittern 9
Great Blue Heron (including 1 Great White Heron) 149
Great Egret 176
Snowy Egret 205
Little Blue Heron 263
Tricolored Heron 45
Cattle Egret 58
Green Heron 37
Black-crowned Night-Heron 71
White Ibis 1,811
Glossy Ibis 159
White-faced Ibis 1
Roseate Spoonbill 2
Black Vulture 407
Turkey Vulture 844
Osprey 3
Northern Harrier 40
Sharp-shinned Hawk 8
Cooper’s Hawk 8
Accipiter, sp. 1
Bald Eagle 58
Red-shouldered Hawk 175
Red-tailed Hawk 41
King Rail 28
Virginia Rail 11
Sora 54
Purple Gallinule 3
Common Gallinule 280
American Coot 2,446
Limpkin 18
Sandhill Crane 2,555
Whooping Crane 1
Wilson’s Plover 1
Killdeer 459
Spotted Sandpiper 1
Greater Yellowlegs 29
Lesser Yellowlegs 1
Least Sandpiper 25
Wilson’s Snipe 189
American Woodcock 22
Bonaparte’s Gull 21
Laughing Gull 2
Ring-billed Gull 534
Herring Gull 18
Forster’s Tern 24
Rock Pigeon 58
Eurasian Collared-Dove 6
White-winged Dove 2
Mourning Dove 223
Common Ground-Dove 6
Barn Owl 1
Eastern Screech-Owl 10
Great Horned Owl 37
Barred Owl 43
Eastern Whip-poor-will 3
Archilochus, sp. 1
Belted Kingfisher 44
Red-headed Woodpecker 14
Red-bellied Woodpecker 274
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 78
Downy Woodpecker 115
Northern Flicker 43
Pileated Woodpecker 143
American Kestrel 44
Merlin 2
Least Flycatcher 2
Eastern Phoebe 410
Vermilion Flycatcher 1
Ash-throated Flycatcher 5
Loggerhead Shrike 20
White-eyed Vireo 124
Blue-headed Vireo 88
Blue Jay 399
American Crow 664
Fish Crow 109
crow, sp. 125
Tree Swallow 141
Carolina Chickadee 298
Tufted Titmouse 388
Brown-headed Nuthatch 3
House Wren 234
Sedge Wren 66
Marsh Wren 64
Carolina Wren 412
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 457
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 560
Eastern Bluebird 149
Hermit Thrush 63
Wood Thrush 1
American Robin 1,121
Gray Catbird 147
Northern Mockingbird 174
Brown Thrasher 27
European Starling 57
American Pipit 3
Cedar Waxwing 7
Ovenbird 9
Northern Waterthrush 3
Blue-winged Warbler 1
Black-and-white Warbler 99
Orange-crowned Warbler 105
Common Yellowthroat 285
Northern Parula 5
Palm Warbler 856
Pine Warbler 130
Yellow-rumped Warbler 2,438
Yellow-throated Warbler 41
Prairie Warbler 6
Yellow-breasted Chat 2
Eastern Towhee 90
Chipping Sparrow 655
Field Sparrow 8
Vesper Sparrow 28
Savannah Sparrow 229
Grasshopper Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 45
Lincoln’s Sparrow 2
Swamp Sparrow 596
White-throated Sparrow 40
White-crowned Sparrow 5
Dark-eyed Junco 5
Northern Cardinal 656
Painted Bunting 5
Red-winged Blackbird 2,753
Eastern Meadowlark 396
Common Grackle 338
Boat-tailed Grackle 984
Brown-headed Cowbird 38
Baltimore Oriole 27
House Finch 56
Pine Siskin 8
American Goldfinch 351
House Sparrow 114

Goose, goose, ducks.

From: Rex Rowan <>
To: Alachua County birding report

Debbie Segal spied a Snow Goose at the Hague Dairy at 2:45 this afternoon. Go north on NW 59th Drive (the road running along the eastern border of the dairy) about half a mile beyond the dairy entrance and look left into the field with the big rolling sprinklers in it.

In other goose-related news, the Ross’s Goose was relocated early on Saturday afternoon in the field where it was originally observed. Some people have found it and some haven’t, though it stands out like a cue ball on a billiard table; it seems to move around the field and is sometimes out of sight behind a rise.

Saturday’s field trip to the Sweetwater Restoration Wetland found the three impoundments of the treatment wetland full of birds. Among other things, we saw 13 species of waterfowl, including American Wigeon, Buffleheads, one Canvasback, and lots of Gadwalls. Soras and a couple of King Rails were calling from the marshes, we spooked a couple of American Bitterns, two Roseate Spoonbills were feeding in the shallows, and more than a dozen Limpkins were seen in Cell Three. After everyone else had left, Adam Zions and Debbie Segal took a last turn around the dikes and found a White-faced Ibis associating with three Glossy Ibis.

Samuel Ewing reported a Pine Siskin calling as it flew over his NW Gainesville home on the 22nd, by one day the earliest ever recorded in the county.

I’ve seen Pied-billed Grebes eating fish, crayfish, even a Black Swamp Snake, but I’d never seen one eating a frog until I stumbled across this Tom Tompkins photo of a particularly ambitious grebe, taken along La Chua on the 20th:

For some reason, most birders don’t trouble themselves with the scientific (Latin) names of birds, though there’s a fair bit of insight to be gained by knowing at least which genus a bird belongs to (order and family are helpful too). Some birders may be put off by the unpronounceability of the scientific name, which is why I posted a pronunciation guide online. A few nights ago I found something similar that had been worked into a photographic field guide on the BirdFellow website. For instance, go to the page on White-faced Ibis. Right next to the bird’s name is a little triangle in a circle: a “play media” symbol. Click on this, and you’ll hear a voice: “White-faced Ibis. Plih-GAY-dis CHEE-hee.” I was a little nonplussed to learn that their pronunciations don’t always agree with the ones I posted, but more than one biologist has told me that there’s no right way to pronounce a scientific name (I don’t care about the right way; I’d just like them to be standardized). Anyway, while you’re on the White-faced Ibis page, click on “Identification Photos” and look over their (enlargeable) photo gallery. They have one of those for nearly all species in the BirdFellow field guide. It’s a pretty nice resource. You should bookmark it. Evidently BirdFellow was set up by Oregon’s Dave Irons to be a place where birders could post their sightings and photos, like eBird. However, unlike eBird, it would also be a place to network with other birders, compare notes, and ask ID questions. That aspect of the website does not seem to have taken off, unfortunately, but the online field guide is still quite good.

The calendar, she does not lie

From: Rex Rowan <>
To: Alachua County birding report

Adam Kent and Ryan Butryn put their kayaks into Lake Santa Fe on the 20th and went looking for the Pacific Loon. They failed to find it, but they did see the county’s second-ever Black Scoters, two of them. Adam got a photo:

The 20th was first day of spring, and the birds have responded accordingly:

On the 20th Linda Hensley had the first Prothonotary Warbler of the spring eating grape jelly in her NW Gainesville yard.

The first Red-eyed Vireo of the spring was photographed by Matt O’Sullivan at Loblolly Woods on the 20th:

The season’s first Broad-winged Hawk was seen by Phil Laipis on the 21st, circling (the hawk, not Phil) over Newberry Road near the Oaks Mall.

John Hintermister saw the spring’s first Summer Tanager at his place north of Gainesville on the 21st.

Great Crested Flycatcher is sort of problematic. White-eyed Vireos can imitate their call, and may – I emphasize “may” – at times produce a single “wheep” that can be mistaken for a Great Crested. A series of “wheep” calls is perhaps more likely to be a Great Crested, but I always encourage birders who hear one before March 25th to track down the source of the call and make an attempt to see the bird and confirm its identity. Andy Kratter both heard and saw a Great Crested on the 21st while doing his loon watch at Pine Grove Cemetery. (White-eyed Vireos are good mimics in general. This morning Andy wrote, “Thought I had my first-of-the-season Hooded Warbler today, but it was a White-eyed Vireo.”)

Samuel and Benjamin Ewing saw the spring’s first Hooded Warbler at Loblolly Woods on the 22nd, and Dalcio Dacol saw another at San Felasco Hammock the same day.

One Least Bittern wintered near Paynes Prairie’s Cones Dike Trail, but the spring’s first arrival was one that I saw – with Lauren Day, Larry Korhnak, and biking-birding-blogger Dorian Anderson – at Kanapaha Prairie on the 22nd.

Some spring birds jumped the gun:

Tina Greenberg heard the spring’s first Chuck-will’s-widow singing outside her west Gainesville window on March 6th. I would have suspected a Whip-poor-will at that date, but she made a recording on the following night, and it was indeed a Chuck.

Prairie Warblers are a relatively early spring migrant, usually beginning their passage through the area in mid-March. Adam Zions saw two along Cones Dike on the 15th, and there have been five sightings reported to eBird since then.

Jonathan Mays saw two Chimney Swifts over the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail on the 18th, tying the early record for Alachua County.

Samuel Ewing notes that Carolina Wrens fledged their first brood at his place on the 20th, and that Northern Cardinals and Eastern Bluebirds have both produced eggs.

A few early migrants have been arriving at Cedar Key. Sally Chisholm photographed a Hooded Warbler at the museum on March 18th:  On the same day Pat Burns reported, “I saw 18 Hooded Warblers and heard the chink of others. Also noted: 7 Yellow-throated Warblers, 15 Black-and-white, 12 Northern Parula, 12 Palm, and 1 Common Yellowthroat. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were numerous. There were flocks of White-eyed Vireos, 5 Yellow-throated Vireos, and one Red-eyed Vireo. A few Barn Swallows were present. Late in the day twelve Spotted Sandpipers landed on a dock behind Nature’s Landing.” It’s not always that good, however (or maybe it’s just that we’re not Pat Burns!): Ron Robinson, Matt O’Sullivan, and I spent the day there on the 20th, but apart from a couple of Hooded Warblers (one at the cemetery, one at Black Point Swamp on the road to Shell Mound) and dozens of American Avocets we didn’t see much worth reporting.

Frank and Irina Goodwin found a locally-rare Hairy Woodpecker at Longleaf Flatwoods Reserve on the 22nd, “in a grove of tall turkey oaks just to the south of the trail that leads to the campsite. In other words, on the north end of the preserve, if you’re walking west along the graded road (toward the campsite), it was among the turkey oaks just beyond the junction where the red-blazed trail turns sharply left and the campsite road continues west.” They also heard a Bachman’s Sparrow singing.

At least one of two Canvasbacks that have been hanging out among the Ring-necked Ducks at the end of the La Chua Trail was still present on the 22nd. John Martin got a long-distance shot:

Marvin Smith and Brad Bergstrom found two White-faced Ibises at Alligator Lake in Lake City on the 19th. Marvin got a photo:

Felicia Lee told me about this eye-opening New York Times article on outdoor cats and their effects on public health not to mention wildlife:

Some kind of record

From: Rex Rowan <>
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:

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?

White-faced Ibis on La Chua

From: Rex Rowan <>
To: Alachua County birding report

Mike and Diana Manetz came across a White-faced Ibis feeding with Glossy Ibises just past the water control structure at La Chua on the 10th. Diana got a picture. I came along about an hour later, but I couldn’t find it. You’ll just have to check all the dark ibises you see for a red eye, a pink face, and pink legs.

The Bullock’s Oriole (and Ted and Steven Goodman, and Scott Flamand) made the TV 20 news on the 10th. Here’s the video:

The Bullock’s was still being seen on the 11th, by the way.

Remember the two Alachua Audubon events that are coming up: the Kids’ Christmas Bird Count on January 18th, and the Backyard Birding Tour on February 8th.

Swainson’s Hawk in Archer; plus, the rail that dare not speak its name

From: Rex Rowan <>
To: Alachua County birding report

The big news of the past week is Alachua County’s fourth-ever Swainson’s Hawk, which has been visiting a hayfield near Archer since December 8th. The initial report, documented with a photo of the bird perched on a round bale, was first posted on Facebook. No location was given, apart from “Alachua County,” but access to the property was said to be impossible. However, the reporter was urged by fellow Facebookers to submit the sighting to eBird, and when he did so on the 14th – the day before the Gainesville Christmas Bird Count – he gave us the exact location on a map: a field along the west side of US-41 two and a half miles north of Archer. Go north on 41, turn left onto SW 95th Avenue, and the field is on your right. But here the whole thing turns a little bit illegal, because the road is posted – on both sides – with big signs that say, “Private Road – Private Property – No Trespassing – Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted.”

Those signs have been there for at least 25 years, and they were originally put up by Ron Davis, the property owner. Davis, who died a few years ago, owned 7000 acres in Alachua County, including a lot of land around Archer and Watermelon Pond. He was – how shall I put this? – not a conservationist. He’s gone now, along with his individual animosity toward trespassers. But the signs remain, and should be taken seriously.

Former Gainesvillians Greg McDermott (now in Virginia) and Steve Collins (now in Texas) come home for the Christmas Bird Count every year, and I usually spend the day after the Count with one or both of them, trying to find some of the good birds turned up on the previous day. On Monday we continued this custom, but we added the Swainson’s Hawk to the list, even though it hadn’t been reported since the 8th. I thought it would be a waste of time, because the bird had certainly moved on during the intervening week, continuing its migration to South Florida wintering grounds. But everyone else – John Hintermister, Mike Manetz, and Phil Laipis joined the expedition – thought it would be worthwhile to take a look. I had additional misgivings when we arrived on SW 95th Avenue and I saw the “No Trespassing” signs, but I was overruled by bolder men than I, and we pulled onto the grassy shoulder a hundred yards or so beyond the signs. We scanned the field but saw nothing. “Good,” I thought. “We’ll leave immediately and won’t spend the night in jail.” But John thought we should wait until the vultures started soaring up on the thermals, and see if we could find the hawk among them. So we waited for an hour or more. Several cars went by. Most ignored us. One stopped, but it was driven by a friendly fellow with an even friendlier boxer dog riding shotgun. The driver was merely curious what we were looking for, and seemed to have no objection to our being there. My fear that our photos would be in the Gainesville Sun’s police mugshot gallery the next morning eased somewhat. But there was still no sign of the bird. We killed time by looking at big flocks of Killdeer, and mixed flocks of Eastern Bluebirds, Palm Warblers, and Pine Warblers. Eventually the vultures dispersed. It was approaching noon, and I thought it was well past time to go. But right about then, a hawk came gliding in from the east, parallel to the road. Its long, slender, almost falcon-like wings were held crimped like an Osprey’s, and the upperwings were two-toned, dark brown and nearly black. “That’s it!” shouted John. We watched the bird continue away from us on a beeline. It didn’t gain altitude and begin to soar around until it was a long distance away, when detail was hard to see, but we did note the distinctive white uppertail coverts. There was celebration all around, as it was a county life bird for everyone present (#325 for John). Steve took some photos, but he hasn’t yet posted them on his Flickr site.

On the following day (the 17th), Adam Zions went looking for it, prompted by eBird alerts: “I was able to see it fairly early on my stakeout, perched on a hay bale west of the pole barn, and then watched it take off. I saw it about 10:15. Thermals must’ve been picking up at that time because the Turkey Vultures were starting to show up. The way it was perched on the hay bale made it appear somewhat lanky, if that makes sense. The streaking on the chest was somewhat dark from what I could tell, and when it took off, I could make out features such as the brown upperside, tail coloration, and underwing coloration. I was hoping it would stick around or at least make another appearance, but once it took off, it never came back. I even tried to go up 41 and peek in from some of the ‘windows’ to the rest of the field, but could not re-locate it. Photos did not turn out to be useful, even for ID purposes. No one gave me a hard time. Quite a few different vehicles passed me by and never stopped. If it’s a private road, it gets more traffic than I had anticipated. Of course, I waved courteously at everyone driving by, so perhaps they figured I meant no harm. However, one guy did stop briefly and said I would have better luck if I had a firearm. Sigh. You know those types, thinking binocs means I want to shoot a bird.”

I’m not sure where this bird is spending all its time, but there’s about 2000 acres of sprayfields (partially visible from Archer Road) a mile to the south of the Davis property and another 1300 acres two and a half miles to the west, adjoining Watermelon Pond and partially visible from SW 250th Street. Good luck to those who go in search of it.

But … as Ron Popiel used to say … That’s Not All! There’s a possible Black Rail, and I do emphasize “possible,” being seen along US-441 across from the Paynes Prairie boardwalk. There’s a white sign a little to the north, a memorial for someone who was killed in a traffic accident, and Scott Flamand first saw it about ten feet to the south of that sign during the Christmas Count. However this another case in which you’ll have to violate the American Birding Association Code of Ethics, because you must climb the fence to see into the ditch. Scott got a quick glimpse of the bird during the Count, and spent the next hour playing tapes, trying unsuccessfully to lure it back out or induce it to respond with an identifying call. On the day after the Count, six of us had a similar experience. We succeeded in spooking a small bird which gave us about a quarter of a second’s look before fluttering into some marshy vegetation. Steve Collins described the sighting: “dark gray rail in bright sun with no warm tones and no white.” We brought out the iPods and smart phones and played several Black Rail vocalizations and Sora vocalizations without getting a response. Mike Manetz went back on the morning of the 17th: “I walked the edge as yesterday, and right as I got even with the memorial a rail jumped up from the wet grass and flew into the bush exactly like yesterday, except I got even less of a look. I played various rail tapes including the Black Rail growl, and got no response other than a few distant Soras.” So do with that information what you will, but don’t call me to pay your bail when you get picked up for being on the wrong side of the fence.

Monday’s birding expedition also hunted down a Red-breasted Nuthatch that Christmas Counters had seen a few blocks from Westside Park, finding it in a big feeding flock of Tufted Titmice, Carolina Chickadees, Pine, Palm, and Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Baltimore Orioles at the intersection of NW 36th Terrace and NW 12th Avenue. Look for it high in the pines. Our last stop of the day was Lake Alice, where Scott Robinson had found a Wilson’s Warbler on the Count, but we couldn’t duplicate his success.

Other notable birds recorded on Sunday’s Count were a White-faced Ibis in a restricted area of Paynes Prairie, 4 Painted Buntings in a single yard just north of Paynes Prairie, 2 Black-throated Green Warblers at Newnans Lake (one at Powers Park, one at Windsor), a Greater Scaup at Paynes Prairie, the Snow Goose at the UF Beef Teaching Unit (now accompanied by a second Snow Goose), a couple of Peregrine Falcons, an Ash-throated Flycatcher, and a couple of Least Flycatchers. The total tally was 155 species, one of our best ever.

The Ichetucknee-Santa Fe-O’Leno Christmas Bird Count was held on the 17th. It was an unusually slow day, and highlights were few: a Black-throated Green Warbler found by Dan Pearson, Christine Housel, and me in River Rise, and a Clay-colored Sparrow, a male Vermilion Flycatcher, a Canvasback, and a Redhead that Jerry Krummrich discovered in rural parts of central Columbia County.

The Melrose Christmas Bird Count will be conducted tomorrow, Thursday the 19th. Hurry up and contact Jim Swarr at if you’d like to participate.