By Rex Rowan, July 2020
The 2020 June Challenge was … well, I’ll defer to Mitch Walters, who posted this on the Alachua County Birding Facebook page: “The year 2020 hasn’t been the best year, in fact, it’s been the literal worst. But June 2020 was arguably the best month of birding I’ve ever experienced in my six or seven years in Gainesville. It’s been so much fun participating in the June Challenge, not only because of all the birds I’ve seen, but also because of all the lovely people I’ve connected with along the way. Whether it’s slogging through 200 yards of wet, gator-growling prairie to see a Yellow-breasted Chat or spotlighting four different species of owl one evening at La Chua, it’s been quite the adventure and the perfect escape from all the craziness enveloping our country. Congrats to the winners and thank you ALL for making this month a bright spot in a year full of darkness. Stay safe and keep birding!”
Possibly because it offered an enjoyable alternative to the COVID-19 lockdown, this year’s June Challenge seemed to inspire extra enthusiasm. We had 51 participants, the most ever, and nearly half of them saw 100 or more species. Our two winners, Tim Hardin and Jacob Ewert, aimed at setting a new record. They would have done it, too, if Mother Nature had cooperated, if there’d been a tropical storm to blow in a few more coastal species or a drought that encouraged shorebirds to linger. As it was, they saw 124 species, which amounted to 97% of the cumulative total reported during the month. Chris Cattau was just a few steps behind them with 121 species, which would have been the winning total during thirteen of the sixteen previous Challenges. We had only two entries from younger birders this year, from Nora Parks-Church and Owen Parks-Church (who are obviously being raised right!), so they’re the winners in the Youth part of the contest. All five winners will receive gift certificates, and Tim and Jacob will each get to take home the June Challenge trophy for half of the coming year.
Our Challengers found 128 species of birds, including a few late spring migrants (including American Redstart and Bank Swallow on June 3rd), the earliest southbound Louisiana Waterthrush ever recorded in the county on June 19th, and a selection of coastal strays, including two different Brown Pelicans and Caspian, Forster’s, and Sandwich Terns. Our only Big Misses this time were Hairy Woodpecker, which is always hard to find, and Wood Thrush, which hasn’t been recorded on the Challenge since 2012 and may no longer be resident in Alachua County.
Here’s the complete list of participants and their totals: Jacob Ewert 124; Tim Hardin 124; Chris Cattau 121; Ben Fick 113; Marie Zeglen 113; Jason O’Connor 112; Tina Greenberg 111; Jerry Pruitt 111; Darrell Hartman 110; Sue Hartman 110; Mitch Walters 110; Anne Casella 109; Rex Rowan 109; Howard Adams 107; Craig Parenteau 107; Ship Mallard 104; Bob Carroll 103; Ben Ewing 103; Sam Ewing 103; Danny Shehee 103; Pratibha Singh 102; Phil Laipis 101; Alicia Conrad 100; Christopher Esposito 100; Erin Kalinowski 99; Cat Lippi 99; Rob Norton 96; Barbara Woodmansee 96; Becky Enneis 95; Frank Goodwin 91; Matt Bruce 90; Debbie Segal 90; Carol Ward 88; Dean Ewing 87; Brad Hall 86; Barbara Shea 85; Paul Kroeger 84; Tom Wronski 83; Min Zhao 83; John Martin 82; Bob Knight 80; Austin Gregg 77; Geoff Parks 67; Jennifer Donsky 66; Glenn Israel 62; Emily Schwartz 59; Nora Parks-Church 52; Owen Parks-Church 43; Bill Enneis 42; Sue Ann Enneis 42; Jon Graham 42.