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.”

Your weekend: places to go, birds to see

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

Anne Kendall got a hot tip a couple of days ago: “I ran into Howard Adams and Barbara Mollison on the La Chua Trail on Wednesday and they told me they had found Eastern Wood-Pewee, Northern Flicker, and White-winged Dove in the Newberry Cemetery, so I went out there this morning and easily got all three – I’ve been to Northeast Park five times looking for the flicker with no luck, so was happy to get it in Newberry.” All three can be tough to get in June, so this is very helpful information. To get to the cemetery, take Newberry Road west to, you guessed it, Newberry, turn left onto US-41/27, go 0.5 mile to SW 15th Avenue, turn right, and go 0.6 mile to the T, where you turn left into the cemetery.

Samuel Ewing found a Greater Yellowlegs at Powers Park today. I think that’s only the third June record for the county. Here’s a link to Samuel’s eBird checklist, which is illustrated with a few nice photos: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S14418030

Mike Manetz told me on Wednesday that he was going to try for the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron at Possum Creek Park, and asked if I was interested. I picked him up and we headed to the park, which is on NW 53rd Avenue just east of NW 43rd Street – opposite Trinity United Methodist Church. We parked at the west end of the property, near the skate park, and then walked southeast across the open field to the gate at the back corner, where a trail leads down a wooded slope to Possum Creek and a little pond grown with buttonbush, home to a heron rookery (mostly Little Blue Herons, with one or two pairs of Green Herons and Snowy Egrets). Adam Zions was there ahead of us, and we spent two hours standing around, waiting for the Yellow-crowned to show itself. Glenn Israel arrived at 8:10, but his wife was waiting for him in the parking lot, so he left at about 8:15 – approximately sixty seconds before the Yellow-crowned flew in from the north and landed in the buttonbush thicket. A minute later it emerged, flew across the pond, and landed in a dead tree just a few yards to our right. Be sure not to mention this to Glenn.

I still haven’t seen a Black-crowned Night-Heron in June, but Anne Kendall tells me she saw one at River Styx, along with a Prothonotary Warbler.

Mike Manetz saw a Broad-winged Hawk in the neighborhood of Ring Park on the 11th.

Conrad Burkholder birded La Chua on the 13th and found a couple of lingering rarities: a pair of Blue-winged Teal and one or maybe two Great White Herons. However he saw no Roseate Spoonbills or Whooping Cranes.

If you’re still looking for Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, Jonathan Colburn found a pair in town, at the Shands UF helicopter pad.

One last little bit of June Challenge business. Phil Laipis has used Excel to create a self-counting June Challenge checklist. Just enter the date you saw it – enter anything, really, the numeral “1″ will suffice – and the checklist will tally your birds for you. There are also spaces to record where you saw it first, and whether you’ve seen it again.

It’s Friday afternoon, a good time for a virtual vacation to Maine courtesy of Jonathan Mays, who just returned from leading field trips for the Acadia Birding Festival:

Yikes: http://www.takepart.com/article/2013/05/10/killer-gulls

The second weekend of the June Challenge, or, Tern Tern Tern

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

Ted and Steven Goodman and Felicia Lee found a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron at Possum Creek Park on the 9th, “off the trail in the extreme SE corner of the park in the sinkhole wetland where there are a few egret nests. The heron was in a maple tree with lots of moss.”

Tropical Storm Andrea brought us nothing whatsoever on Thursday evening, apart from some glorious weather. A few of us were at Palm Point on Friday morning as well, but there was little evidence that Andrea had ever existed. We saw one distant Least Tern, which probably would have been there storm or not, since they often visit Newnans Lake in June. And we saw a mid-sized tern that was probably a Forster’s, though we couldn’t positively identify it. That was all. Otherwise the same Laughing Gulls and American White Pelicans that have been there since June 1st.

I spent Saturday in Georgia on family matters, so I missed Jonathan Mays’s notification that he’d found a Caspian Tern at Newnans Lake in the morning. I don’t think it’s been seen since then.

Jonathan also found a Gray Catbird on the 7th, in the remote area of Paynes Prairie where he’s working. Anyone else seeing catbirds in the county? That’s a tough one to get in summer. They’ve nested here on a few occasions, but they don’t normally breed in Alachua County.

A Yellow-breasted Chat has been seen twice along Sparrow Alley, on the 2nd by Adam Zions and on the 9th by Jonathan Mays.

Ignacio Rodriguez and Francisco Jimenez saw 2 Whooping Cranes and 2 lingering Blue-winged Teal from the La Chua observation platform on the 9th.

Two Roseate Spoonbills were sighted on the 9th, one at Paynes Prairie by Jonathan Mays and one near Watermelon Pond by Samuel Ewing.

If you need American Kestrel for The June Challenge, they’ve been seen at Cellon Creek Boulevard and on County Road 232 just a quarter mile west of County Road 241.

Go ahead and add those exotics to your list: Graylag Geese at Red Lobster Pond, Graylag Geese and Black Swans at the Duck Pond. And don’t forget the parrot, a Blue-fronted Amazon, that has been visiting Scott Flamand’s feeder at 9312 NW 15th Place since January. Scott writes, “We would love to have people come by. It shows up virtually every day. However, it visits sporadically. When it shows up it is always on the tray feeder on the pole system in the front yard. It is usually not very shy. Nobody needs to email but I’m at flamans@gm.sbac.edu if they have any questions. I will let the neighbors know there may be people stopping by during June.”

The amusing title of Katherine Edison’s latest blog post belies its serious subject matter: http://earthteachme.blogspot.com/2013/06/thoughts-on-stepping-in-cat-poo-while.html

Christmas Bird Count results

From: Rex Rowan [rexrowan@gmail.com]
Subject: Alachua County birding report

Hey, make a note if you’re planning to join the January 5th field trip to Alligator Lake: the driving directions on the Alachua Audubon web site are wrong. Here’s what they should say: “From I-75 take US-90 east through Lake City and turn south on Old Country Club Road (also known as SE Avalon Avenue or County Road 133). Entrance to parking area is 1.5 miles south on the right side of the road.” Thanks to Tom Camarata for pointing out the mistakes to me.

We’ve got some gifted photographers around here, and some of you may be interested in the 2013 Wildlife and Nature Photography Contest being held by Audubon of Martin County. They’ve put together a video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcd38dEvbAs

Speaking of photographers, Adam Zions found and photographed some uncommon birds in the conservation lands north of Newnans Lake on the 30th. He started at Gum Root Park, where he saw two Henslow’s Sparrows in the big field, then drove a couple of miles east on State Road 26 to the Hatchet Creek Tract, where he found a Red-breasted Nuthatch (not to mention a Brown-headed Nuthatch, which is resident at Hatchet Creek but can be hard to find).

I haven’t heard of any definite sightings of the Groove-billed Ani recently, though visiting Tennessee birder David Kirschke and his daughter thought they heard it on the 27th, “about half way between the Sweetwater Overlook turn off and the next bend in the trail.” If you see it, please let me know. The last positive sightings were by Lloyd Davis and Adam Zions on the 23rd, when Adam got a picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/76166204@N08/8302688762/in/photostream

Mike Manetz found a big flock of ducks off the crew team parking lot on the 18th, and Andy Kratter saw them in the same place on the 23rd: “300+ Ring-necked, 25 or so Lesser Scaup, 8 Redhead, 5 Canvasbacks, and a bunch of American Coots. Four Red-breasted Mergansers were quite far offshore, as were 2 Horned Grebes.” I found most of the same birds still present in the late afternoon of the 24th, but by the 30th they’d dispersed and their place had been taken by Ruddy Ducks and Bonaparte’s Gulls, plus one hunting decoy.

Here finally are the results of the December 16th Gainesville CBC:

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  207
Muscovy Duck  90
Wood Duck  821
Gadwall  34
American Wigeon  6
Mallard  29
Mottled Duck  89
Blue-winged Teal  81
Northern Shoveler  14
Northern Pintail  64
Green-winged Teal  1
Canvasback  5
Ring-necked Duck  252
Lesser Scaup  312
Black Scoter  6
Bufflehead  4
Common Goldeneye  1
Hooded Merganser  125
Red-breasted Merganser  4
Ruddy Duck  500
Northern Bobwhite  13
Wild Turkey  46
Common Loon  3
Pied-billed Grebe  74
Wood Stork  28
Double-crested Cormorant  772
Anhinga  187
American White Pelican  137
American Bittern  12
Great Blue Heron  134
Great Egret  206
Snowy Egret  177
Little Blue Heron  163
Tricolored Heron  77
Cattle Egret  211
Green Heron  17
Black-crowned Night-Heron  79
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron  1
White Ibis  2,013
Glossy Ibis  528
Roseate Spoonbill  1
Black Vulture  343
Turkey Vulture  1,144
Osprey  8
Bald Eagle  82
Northern Harrier  42
Sharp-shinned Hawk  12
Cooper’s Hawk  12
Red-shouldered Hawk  164
Red-tailed Hawk  64
King Rail  2
Virginia Rail  5
Sora  252
Common Gallinule  82
American Coot  883
Limpkin  6
Sandhill Crane  3,009
Killdeer  247
Spotted Sandpiper  1
Greater Yellowlegs  54
Lesser Yellowlegs  55
Least Sandpiper  2
Wilson’s Snipe  398
American Woodcock  7
Bonaparte’s Gull  30
Laughing Gull  1
Ring-billed Gull  330
Herring Gull  2
Forster’s Tern  30
Rock Pigeon  70
Eurasian Collared-Dove  9
Mourning Dove  495
Common Ground-Dove  7
Groove-billed Ani  1
Barn Owl  5
Eastern Screech-Owl  16
Great Horned Owl  55
Barred Owl  64
Eastern Whip-poor-will  2
Selasphorus, sp. (probably Rufous Hummingbird)  1
Belted Kingfisher  38
Red-headed Woodpecker  32
Red-bellied Woodpecker  284
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  61
Downy Woodpecker  118
Northern Flicker  38
Pileated Woodpecker  129
American Kestrel  56
Merlin  3
Least Flycatcher  4
Eastern Phoebe  580
Vermilion Flycatcher  1
Ash-throated Flycatcher  10
Loggerhead Shrike  38
White-eyed Vireo  203
Blue-headed Vireo  44
Blue Jay  276
American Crow  621
Fish Crow  297
crow, sp.  45
Tree Swallow  6
Carolina Chickadee  204
Tufted Titmouse  248
Red-breasted Nuthatch  4
Brown-headed Nuthatch  4
House Wren  236
Winter Wren  1
Sedge Wren  52
Marsh Wren  129
Carolina Wren  420
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  387
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  405
Eastern Bluebird  173
Hermit Thrush  27
American Robin  2,583
Gray Catbird  205
Northern Mockingbird  180
Brown Thrasher  15
European Starling  43
American Pipit  124
Sprague’s Pipit  2
Cedar Waxwing  54
Ovenbird  2
Northern Waterthrush  6
Black-and-white Warbler  69
Orange-crowned Warbler  105
Common Yellowthroat  292
Northern Parula  3
Palm Warbler  830
Pine Warbler  204
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1,910
Yellow-throated Warbler  28
Prairie Warbler  8
Wilson’s Warbler  2
Yellow-breasted Chat  2
Eastern Towhee  187
Chipping Sparrow  488
Field Sparrow  20
Vesper Sparrow  57
Savannah Sparrow  515
Grasshopper Sparrow  20
Henslow’s Sparrow  2
Le Conte’s Sparrow  6
Fox Sparrow  4
Song Sparrow  74
Lincoln’s Sparrow  6
Swamp Sparrow  455
White-throated Sparrow  62
White-crowned Sparrow  35
Summer Tanager  4
Northern Cardinal  832
Indigo Bunting  2
Painted Bunting  1
Red-winged Blackbird  9,915
Eastern Meadowlark  382
Common Grackle  585
Boat-tailed Grackle  727
Brown-headed Cowbird  12,798
Baltimore Oriole  29
House Finch  72
American Goldfinch  372
House Sparrow  11

We’ve gained two minutes of daylight since the solstice! Two minutes! Yes! And the first Purple Martins should be back within three weeks, maybe four. So it’s nearly spring. Watch your feeders for Pine Siskins and Purple Finches, which tend to show up after January 1st.

The management and staff of the Alachua County Birding Report, Inc., TM, LLC, LOL, ROTFLMAO, would like to take this opportunity to wish you and yours a Happy New Year.

Christmas Count highlights

I’m not sure, but I think the 161 or 162 species seen on today’s CBC is a record for the Count. Highlights in brief:

BLACK SCOTER: First county record. Six on Lake Wauberg. Be there first thing Monday morning!

Groove-billed Ani: One along the fenceline trail that cuts back toward the powerlines after you’ve walked through the barn at the beginning of the La Chua Trail. The bird was where the powerline cut intersects the fenceline trail.

Sprague’s Pipit: Two on Kanapaha Prairie, exactly where they were on the last CBC.

Ash-throated Flycatcher: TEN on Paynes Prairie, scattered among four territories. (TEN!)

Least Flycatcher: Four on Paynes Prairie.

Red-breasted Nuthatch: One in Micanopy, three in one tree (!) near the Kanapaha Prairie.

Canvasback: Five on Newnans Lake.

The rest in taxonomic order: Red-breasted Merganser 4, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 1, Roseate Spoonbill 1, Limpkin 5, Spotted Sandpiper 1, Laughing Gull 1, Winter Wren 1, Northern Parula 1, Wilson’s Warbler 1, Yellow-breasted Chat 2, Le Conte’s Sparrow 6, Lincoln’s Sparrow 6, Summer Tanager 4, Indigo Bunting 2, Painted Bunting 1.