Alachua Audubon Society

A chapter of the National Audubon Society

May 23, 2019
by Trina Anderson
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AMERICAN KESTREL BANDING

Date: May 21, 2019 at 11:20 AM 
Subject: Ichetucknee Kestrels 

Bob,

I participated with Richard Melvin and Sam Cole in banding your kestrel chicks on Saturday.  There were 2 males and 3 females, and they were all good sized and Richard said they were a “good brood”.  By which he meant that they were calm, mainly because they were well fed.  Their parents, both, were taking very good care of them.  He also said 5 is the top number for any kestrel brood, so these birds were top notch.  I am so thrilled about this since I’ve been helping check boxes there for a while and this is the first year since 12, I believe, that there have been any eggs or chicks.
I thought you might like to see this picture of one of the chicks. I had never seen a chick before and I was delighted.
Have a great summer, Bob!

Valerie Thomas

April 1, 2019
by Trina Anderson
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KESTREL NEST BOX PHOTO UPDATE

March 28, 2019 we went to the Metzger Tract by Watermelon Pond (where the burrowing owls are) and found and photographed two boxes being used by kestrels, one with a male kestrel incubating eggs and the other with four eggs.  On last Tuesday, we went to the other side of Watermelon Pond on the Division of Forestry land and found four boxes occupied with screech owls incubating eggs.  The week before, we found eight boxes with kestrel eggs, most being incubated by female kestrels.  We still have more boxes to check, but it looks pretty good so far, and we are learning some interesting things  For instance, two boxes on utility poles in plain sight of each other and only perhaps 150 yards apart on the Shay property each had female kestrels in them incubating 5 eggs.  Kestrels arn’t supposed to nest that close together.  Attached are some of the photos we have been taking with our new pole camera.
Bob Simons

Female American Kestrel incubating eggs.

American Kestrel eggs.

Male American Kestrel incubating eggs.

Eastern Screech Owl incubating eggs.

February 2, 2019
by Trina Anderson
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SHE’S GOING “WHERE THE BOYS ARE.”

by Rex Rowan

On Wednesday, January 23rd, at the Tuscawilla Prairie, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service captured a 3½ -year-old female Whooping Crane wearing blue-over-yellow leg bands. Born in Lake County in 2015 – one of only a few Whooping Cranes hatched from a wild nest in Florida – she was about a year old when she found her way to the Evinston-Micanopy area. She remained there for the next two years, occasionally making brief forays to local crane hangouts like Paynes Prairie or the Kanapaha Prairie, and she was often seen by drivers on US-441 as she foraged among the marshy potholes of Tuscawilla. Because her chances of finding a mate there or anywhere else in North Florida were nil, it was decided to relocate her and some other unmated Florida Whooping Cranes to White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area in southwest Louisiana. There she’ll join a population of non-migratory cranes that currently numbers 59, and there, hopefully, she’ll find a mate and get down to the important work of making more Whooping Cranes. White Lake Wetlands, which is more than three times the size of Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, supported a breeding population of wild Whooping Cranes as recently as the 1940s. It seems a promising place for such a project.

Our other resident bird, identifiable by blue-over-silver leg bands and known to biologists as “1644,” was also a female. She was hatched in 2006 in Lake County by captive-reared cranes that had been released in central Florida in the 1990s – like the Tuscawilla bird, she was the product of a wild nest. She visited Alachua County for the first time in 2009, and liked it so well that she returned every year thereafter. In spring 2015 she decided to stick around. Beginning in June of that year and continuing through February 2017, she could be seen almost every day from the observation tower at the end of the La Chua Trail. In March of 2017 she relocated to Sweetwater Wetlands Park, where she spent the month thrilling visitors at very close range. And then … we don’t know. A crane was sighted near the Paynes Prairie visitor center in April and June, but its identifying leg bands could not be seen, so it might have been the Tuscawilla bird. There have been no positive sightings of 1644 since April 11, 2017. We can only hope she’s still alive somewhere.

As for Tuscawilla, we wish her many more years of life and many offspring. But it’s sad to realize that, for the first time since June 2015, Alachua County’s resident Whooping Crane population is zero.

Gainesville Sun story on crane relocation: https://www.gainesville.com/…/whooping-crane-may-be-relocat…
Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Whooping Crane page: http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/wildlife/whooping-cranes
White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area: https://en.wikipedia.org/…/White_Lake_Wetlands_Conservation…

January 12, 2019
by Trina Anderson
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NEST BOX SPY CAM!

Thanks to a grant from Florida Power and Light, Alachua Audubon is the proud owner of a new pole camera! This device, which has a lens attached to the top of the pole and a display screen attached near the bottom, allows us to peek inside the 130+ American Kestrel nest boxes that we’ve put up all across north-central Florida in order to monitor the progress of the birds nesting inside. Earlier this month an Audubon group tried out the pole camera at a tract of conservation land in Suwannee County. You can share their discoveries in the attached photos.

Read more about the kestrel nest box program on pages 14 and 15 of the January/February issue of the newsletter.

Eastern Screech Owl (red phase), often found in nest boxes.

Eastern Screech Owl (red phase), often found in nest boxes.

southern flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans)

 

December 22, 2018
by Trina Anderson
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Recognizing John Hintermister

by Debbie Segal, extracted from Rex Rowan’s History of Birding in Alachua County

The Alachua Audubon Society wishes to recognize the longest-standing member of Alachua County’s birding community.  After many decades of leading field trips for AAS, the St. Mark’s field trip in early January will be John Hintermister’s final Audubon-led field trip.

John was a trail-blazer to birding in Alachua County and his contributions to birds, birding, science, and conservation are immense.

As a young boy, John was inspired to watch birds when two women would take him on birdwatching excursions.  By the time John was 11, he was hooked on birds.  John and his brother would pedal their bikes to Lake Alice and by noon, would sometimes list 100 species.  When describing this, John said, “Now I don’t know if we identified them all correctly, but we would get 100 species.”  They may well have identified them correctly because upon seeing a bird, they would stop and read aloud the entire description from their Peterson field guide.

In January of 1960, John attended the inaugural meeting of the AAS.  Among its charter members were Oliver Austin, Marjorie Carr, J.C. Dickinson, Jr., and 16-year old John Hintermister.  Some of the first year’s field trips included River Styx, Lake Alice, the pinewoods north of the airport where Red-cockaded Woodpeckers nested, Devil’s Millhopper, Paynes Prairie, and San Felasco Hammock.  Both Paynes Prairie and San Felasco were still in private ownership.

During the 1960’s and 70’s, the National Audubon Society sponsored a series of nationally-touring nature films, and these films served as AAS’s program meetings.  John attended many of these early Audubon programs.  Roger Tory Peterson was a regular on the tour, and when he visited Gainesville every 2-3 years, the University Auditorium was booked to hold the crowds.  On one of those occasions, John remembers handing his tattered and well-used field guide to Peterson to sign, and Peterson responding, “Now this is the way I like to see the field guide.”

The first Gainesville Christmas Bird Count (CBC) began in 1957, and during its infancy, the CBC had few participants and they birded only from sunup until lunchtime.  There were no assigned territories, no team captains, and no organization of any sort.  In 1972 at the age of 29, John became the official compiler of the Gainesville CBC.  After reading in Peterson’s Book, Birds over Americaabout the methodical way in which the Bronx CBC was conducted, John sought to emulate it for the Gainesville count.  He instituted dark-to-dark counts.  He cut up a topographic map of the count circle to make territories, appointed team leaders, and assigned them important birds to find in their particular tracts.  John served first as compiler of the Gainesville CBC from 1972 – 1981 and then as co-compiler with Howard Adams from 2003 until 2014.  During the interim 21-year period from 1981 – 2003, the co-compilers were Craig Parenteau and Barbara Muschiltz.

In the mid-70’s John began teaching birding classes through SFCC.  There is no telling how many people John inspired through these birding classes, but we know that Mike Manetz and is one.   Those SFC birding classes are still taught by AAS and now are led by Charlene Leonard and Cindy Boyd.

In 1985, John became the original Alachua County coordinator of Florida’s Breeding Bird Atlas, and it was during this atlas survey that Hooded Warblers were discovered breeding in San Felasco Hammock.  He also served as president of AAS and a long-time board member.  During his almost 6 decades of involvement with AAS, he has led a countless number of field trips.

John once said, “There are birdwatchers and there are people who put their lives on hold in order to bird.”  We know which category defines John.  If there is one person who has influenced the birding culture in Alachua County more than anyone else, I think we would all agree, it is John Hintermister.

AAS is sincerely grateful to John for his dedication to all things birds, his unwavering enthusiasm as he has mentored a generation of birders, and his almost 60 years of devotion to AAS.  John has been presented with a life-time membership to AAS.

December 21, 2018
by Trina Anderson
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2018 GAINESVILLE CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT SUMMARY

by Rex Rowan

 

GAINESVILLE CBC SETS A NORTH AMERICAN RECORD! The 175 species recorded on the 61st annual Gainesville Christmas Bird Count on December 16th was the largest total ever for an inland North American CBC in the entire 119-year-history of the Count. (The actual number was 176 species, but the CBC doesn’t count introduced Whooping Cranes.)

We saw three species that had never before been recorded on the Gainesville Count (Egyptian Goose, Chuck-will’s-widow, and Snail Kite). We set new high counts for 19 (!) species.

Two species in particular deserve mention:

Though a set of Snail Kite eggs was collected in Micanopy in 1919, there were no additional local sightings until 1996, and only four between 1996 and 2017. But in 2018 they moved onto Paynes Prairie – they even nested! – and on this year’s Christmas Count, Jonathan Mays counted 29 on the roost at one time! For a bird that had never been recorded on the Gainesville Count, it was a pretty impressive debut!

The Limpkin count was even more impressive. Between our first Count in 1957 and the establishment of Sweetwater Wetlands Park, Gainesville’s highest-ever CBC total was 7 in 1987. But Sweetwater and the arrival of exotic apple snails changed everything. Last year’s total was 235, the highest CBC total ever recorded anywhere in the United States. Could we match it this year? We didn’t match it – we smashed it! We more than doubled it, counting 544 Limpkins!

Here are the results. An asterisk (*) indicates a record high count. A double asterisk (**) indicates a new species for the Count:

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck 1,340
Egyptian Goose 1**
Muscovy Duck 228
Wood Duck 654
Gadwall 17
American Wigeon 7
Mallard 6
Mottled Duck 165
Blue-winged Teal 613
Northern Shoveler 14
Northern Pintail 24
Green-winged Teal 596
Canvasback 1
Redhead 2
Ring-necked Duck 3,431*
Lesser Scaup 16
Bufflehead 48*
Common Goldeneye 2
Hooded Merganser 100
Ruddy Duck 113
Northern Bobwhite 1
Wild Turkey 34
Pied-billed Grebe 128
Horned Grebe 2
Rock Pigeon 23
Eurasian Collared-Dove 2
Common Ground-Dove 3
White-winged Dove 2
Mourning Dove 224
Chuck-will’s-widow 1**
Eastern Whip-poor-will 4
Vaux’s Swift 5
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1
King Rail 7
Virginia Rail 6
Sora 34
Purple Gallinule 10
Common Gallinule 1,318*
American Coot 3,499
Limpkin 544*
Sandhill Crane 3,281
Whooping Crane 2
Killdeer 255
Dunlin 11
Least Sandpiper 23
Long-billed Dowitcher 3
American Woodcock 2
Wilson’s Snipe 277
Spotted Sandpiper 9*
Lesser Yellowlegs 4
Greater Yellowlegs 23
Bonaparte’s Gull 26
Laughing Gull 5
Ring-billed Gull 316
Herring Gull 2
Forster’s Tern 2
Common Loon 4
Wood Stork 120
Double-crested Cormorant 857
Anhinga 592
American White Pelican 62
American Bittern 17
Least Bittern 11*
Great Blue Heron 244
Great Egret 309
Snowy Egret 475*
Little Blue Heron 493
Tricolored Heron 129
Cattle Egret 245
Green Heron 48*
Black-crowned Night-Heron 142
White Ibis 2,587
Glossy Ibis 405
Black Vulture 546
Turkey Vulture 781
Osprey 8
Northern Harrier 38
Sharp-shinned Hawk 8
Cooper’s Hawk 17
Bald Eagle 100
Snail Kite 29**
Red-shouldered Hawk 253*
Red-tailed Hawk 71
Barn Owl 2
Eastern Screech-Owl 18
Great Horned Owl 31
Barred Owl 50
Belted Kingfisher 100*
Red-headed Woodpecker 24
Red-bellied Woodpecker 408
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 115*
Downy Woodpecker 151
Northern Flicker 56
Pileated Woodpecker 130
American Kestrel 52
Merlin 4
Peregrine Falcon 1
Ash-throated Flycatcher 2
Least Flycatcher 1
Eastern Phoebe 548
Vermilion Flycatcher 1
Loggerhead Shrike 23
White-eyed Vireo 100
Blue-headed Vireo 128
Blue Jay 264
American Crow 630
Fish Crow 158
crow, sp. 42
Tree Swallow 1,294
Carolina Chickadee 351
Tufted Titmouse 450*
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
Brown-headed Nuthatch 12
House Wren 233
Sedge Wren 34
Marsh Wren 45
Carolina Wren 521*
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 723
Golden-crowned Kinglet 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 525
Eastern Bluebird 224
Hermit Thrush 42
American Robin 2,396
Gray Catbird 256
Brown Thrasher 14
Northern Mockingbird 122
European Starling 30
Cedar Waxwing 285
House Sparrow 30
American Pipit 81
House Finch 40
Purple Finch 1
Pine Siskin 7
American Goldfinch 967*
Eastern Towhee 66
Bachman’s Sparrow 1
Chipping Sparrow 1,173*
Clay-colored Sparrow 2*
Field Sparrow 4
Vesper Sparrow 31
Savannah Sparrow 138
Grasshopper Sparrow 20*
Henslow’s Sparrow 4
Fox Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 64
Lincoln’s Sparrow 1
Swamp Sparrow 266
White-throated Sparrow 21
White-crowned Sparrow 6
Yellow-breasted Chat 3*
Eastern Meadowlark 155
Baltimore Oriole 24
Red-winged Blackbird 7,266
Brown-headed Cowbird 759
Rusty Blackbird 5
Common Grackle 677
Boat-tailed Grackle 2,177
Ovenbird 6
Northern Waterthrush 7
Black-and-white Warbler 121
Tennessee Warbler 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 96
Nashville Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 259
American Redstart 3
Northern Parula 5
Palm Warbler 1,097
Pine Warbler 230
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1,810
Yellow-throated Warbler 65*
Prairie Warbler 6
Black-throated Green Warbler 1
Summer Tanager 3
Northern Cardinal 743
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 1
Indigo Bunting 2
Painted Bunting 12

November 9, 2018
by Trina Anderson
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DUCK TALES

by Rex Rowan, posted to Facebook November 1, 2018

At about lunchtime on October 30th, Rob Norton discovered a drake Eurasian Wigeon at Sweetwater Wetlands Park. He passed the word, and several local birders got to see it before the day was out – including Tom Tompkins, who took the photos below. It hasn’t positively been seen since, though a bird showing one of the field marks was briefly glimpsed the next morning, flying towards Paynes Prairie.

As the name implies, Eurasian Wigeons are native to Europe and Asia. Those that stray to eastern North America – a small number every year – are presumed to originate from a breeding population in Iceland. This was only the third in Alachua County’s history. There are stories connected with the other two.

The county’s first ever was shot by Dr. A.L. Strange at Orange Lake on December 26, 1931 and mounted by a taxidermist. Robert McClanahan, a UF undergraduate compiling an official bird list for the county, tracked down the mount in 1934 – it had lost its head by then – and secured it for the museum. Unfortunately the specimen was discarded in 1962.

The county’s second, a female, was discovered by Phil Laipis at the Hague Dairy on December 22, 2004. Puzzled – the female is nondescript – he found another birder at the dairy that morning, Pat Burns, and showed it to her. Pat suspected that it might be a Eurasian Wigeon, and she notified John Hintermister, Gainesville’s most knowledgeable and experienced birder. John drove over, examined the bird, and pronounced it either an American Wigeon or an American-Eurasian hybrid. Hearing that it was either an American Wigeon, which is common, or a hybrid, which is not countable, the local birding community stayed home in droves. Except for Steve Collins, who took several photos and circulated them among British birders. They were unanimous: it was a Eurasian Wigeon, the county’s first in 73 years! But by the time the Brits notified Steve of their conclusion, the bird had flown, so no one else got to see it. John is cheerfully unrepentant of his part in this fiasco, and when reminded of it he laughs uproariously and says, “Serves you right for not going to look at it!”

Eurasian Wigeon, courtesy of Tom Tompkins