The June Challenge – 2024

I had low expectations for this year’s Challenge. After last year’s record-setting results it felt like a reset was in order – a return to normalcy, as it were – especially given our near-drought conditions, the exhausting heat, and the scarcity of lingering migrants during the latter half of May (not a single White-rumped Sandpiper, for instance). We might break 110 species, but no one would get to 120.
Our kickoff field trip on the morning of the 1st was fine, but there were no surprises. We found our target birds at Longleaf Flatwoods Reserve, got Bald Eagle but missed Laughing Gull at Owens-Illinois Park, located a known pair of Green-winged Teal at La Chua (the female flightless), and checked off a couple of tough but expected birds at Sweetwater, a King Rail and a Short-tailed Hawk. Notably absent were migratory shorebirds.
On the eve of the Challenge, on May 31st, Chris Cattau had walked out to Alachua Lake from the northeast and found some mud flats, and on those mud flats were the missing migratory shorebirds: a White-rumped Sandpiper, a Semipalmated Plover, 15 Semipalmated Sandpipers, a Least Sandpiper, a Greater Yellowlegs, and a Lesser Yellowlegs. Those who were willing to follow his example added those half-dozen species to their June Challenge lists. And on the 3rd, visiting Belgian entomologist Bert Foquet bushwhacked out the La Chua Trail to the observation platform – which we should all be able to do, Park Service! – and saw a female Bobolink, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, and Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers.
Otherwise the first couple of weeks were quiet. The usual field trips to Watermelon Pond for the Burrowing Owls, to La Chua at sundown for the county’s other four resident owl species, and to San Felasco for Hooded Warbler, Acadian Flycatcher, and Eastern Wood-Pewee, all came off as usual, and we found most of the birds we were looking for (except Orchard Oriole, which was even scarcer than usual this month and looks to be headed down the same road as Hairy Woodpecker). Four pontoon boat trips went out onto Lake Santa Fe in hopes of finding stray coastal birds, but all four of them struck out completely.
On the 15th Tim Hardin sighed, “It is SO hot. Never saw full-shade beautyberry bushes in hammocks withered from heat and dryness until the last week.” But that afternoon the first rains came. And then strong east winds began to blow, and continued to do so for several days, bringing pelagic birds to the Atlantic coast and coastal birds to Alachua County. On the 18th Lloyd Davis found a Gull-billed Tern at La Chua, while Maggie Paxson and Dottie Dreyer found a Caspian Tern at Orange Lake. By the next day the first Gull-billed had been joined by a second, and both had been joined by five Black Terns, while at the 441 causeway Bert Foquet spotted two Lesser Yellowlegs, the first of many birds that would bring birders flocking to 441. On the 22nd Tim issued an open invitation for birders to join him on the 441 observation deck, and in addition to hundreds of Wood Storks, Great Blue Herons, and Great and Snowy Egrets they managed to find both yellowlegs, a Caspian Tern, and at least two Lesser Scaup. All were at a great distance, identified through spotting scopes, so of course some birders were inspired to walk out to where those birds were, and there they discovered other species, like a Black-bellied Plover and a pair of Blue-winged Teal.
The last week of the month was more lively than we had any right to expect. On the 24th a pontoon boat trip to Newnans Lake found a Willet. On the 25th Raci Ulusoy and Pelin Karaca found a Lark Sparrow at Watermelon Pond, accurately described by Maggie Paxson as an “absolutely NUTS June bird.” On the 27th Dottie Dreyer and Tina Greenberg found a Louisiana Waterthrush at Chapmans Pond, and on the 28th Tim spotted a Common Tern off the 441 observation deck. On the morning of the 29th Lloyd Davis discovered a Yellow-crowned Night Heron at the old water-control structure at La Chua, and Mark Gorday found 2 to 4 Black-and-white Warblers at Palm Point. And on the last day of the month Tim Hardin saw Yellow-breasted Chats on Paynes Prairie east of Bolen Bluff and a Spotted Sandpiper at Palm Point.
Though it started slow, June 2024 went out with a bang, largely thanks to Alachua County birders, who weren’t discouraged by heat or slow birding, but who throughout the month swarmed over the county, tireless, endlessly excited and interested, always eager for another adventure, intent on finding every bird there was. Mike Manetz started talking about this several months ago, how Alachua County’s birding community is like a finely-woven net that lets nothing through, that catches every bird crossing the county line. An accomplished limericist, if that’s what a maker of limericks is called, Mike was inspired by this year’s June Challenge to express his admiration:

Their June Challenge plans perfected,
Alachua birders reflected.
They all did agree,
Their motto would be,
“No bird shall pass undetected.”

And no bird did. Congratulations, guys.

Remember to submit your list to the statewide June Challenge site operated by FWC’s Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail:

And here are our winners, all 38 of them. (Alphabetical order by last name in case of a tie.) This was our second-best June Challenge ever in terms of number of species. From 2004 to 2022, the winning total never exceeded 129. We beat that total last year – we beat it to death, really – and we beat it again this year. Congratulations to Tim Hardin, who has now won or tied for first place five years in a row, and congratulations likewise to Bert Foquet, who won the very first June Challenge he ever participated in. Our second- and third-place finishers, Raci Ulusoy and Eileen Ahlquist, are also relative newcomers to Alachua County birding, and have done themselves proud.

Bert Foquet and Tim Hardin tied for 1st place.
Raci Ulosoy took 2nd place.

Eileen Ahlquist took 3rd place.

Bert Foquet  135
Tim Hardin  135
Raci Ulusoy  130
Eileen Ahlquist  128
Dottie Dreyer  126
Tina Greenberg  124
Pelin Karaca  124
Ellen Frattino  120
Kristen Suggs  118
Sharon Kuchinski  117
Mark Gorday  113
Brent Henderson  110
Rene Slaw  110
Jerry Pruitt  109
Rex Rowan  108
Anne Casella  106
Pratibha Singh  104
Eric Link  102
John Martin  101
Bob Carroll  100
Jeanette Matheny  100
Maggie Paxson  99
Christine Zamora  96
Tonya Becker  95
Chris Cattau  93
George Becker  92
Becky Enneis  87
Jamielee Thompson  85
Emily Schwartz  83
Debbie Roberts  81
Debbie Segal  81
Howard Adams  77
Austin Gregg  71
Marcus Zokan  66
Linda Holt  63
Cyndi Dunphy  61
Dotty Robbins  22

Finally, here’s the complete list of bird species recorded in Alachua County during this year’s Challenge:

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Canada Goose Muscovy Duck, Wood Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Mallard, Mottled Duck, Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Northern Bobwhite, Wild Turkey, Pied-billed Grebe, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Common Ground Dove, White-winged Dove, Mourning Dove, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Common Nighthawk, Chuck-will’s-widow, Chimney Swift, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, King Rail, Common Gallinule, American Coot, Purple Gallinule, Gray-headed Swamphen, Limpkin, Sandhill Crane, Whooping Crane, Black-necked Stilt, Black-bellied Plover, Killdeer, Semipalmated Plover, Least Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Willet, Greater Yellowlegs, Laughing Gull, Least Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Caspian Tern, Black Tern, Common Tern, Forster’s Tern, Royal Tern, Wood Stork, Anhinga, Double-crested Cormorant, American White Pelican, Least Bittern, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Cattle Egret, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Swallow-tailed Kite, Cooper’s Hawk, Bald Eagle, Mississippi Kite, Snail Kite, Red-shouldered Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Barn Owl, Eastern Screech-Owl, Great Horned Owl, Burrowing Owl, Barred Owl, Red-headed Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, American Kestrel, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Loggerhead Shrike, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Purple Martin, Barn Swallow, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Carolina Wren, Brown Thrasher, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Eastern Bluebird, House Sparrow, House Finch, Bachman’s Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, Yellow-breasted Chat, Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Orchard Oriole, Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle, Louisiana Waterthrush, Black-and-white Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded Warbler, American Redstart, Northern Parula, Pine Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Summer Tanager, Northern Cardinal, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting.



Eagle Watch Registration Aug 2023

Below are the scheduled dates and times. Click the link to register for the date/time that works best for you:

Saturday Sept 9th 10am-12pm EST via Zoom 

Saturday Sept 16th 10am-12pm EST via Zoom

Tuesday Sept 19th 6pm-8pm EST via Zoom

Sunday Sept 24th 2pm-4pm EST via Zoom

Sunday Oct 1st 2pm-4pm EST via Zoom

Let me know if you have any questions or issues registering. After you submit your registration, you will receive an automated email with a link to join the training. If a conflict arises later and you need to cancel or change your registration, email me and I can change that for you.

I hope to see many of you at one of the upcoming trainings and look forward to another successful season!

Shawnlei Breeding
Audubon EagleWatch Program Manager
Shawnlei.Breeding at

Interested in an AAS Internship?

Alachua Audubon Society seeks individuals interested in conservation, education, NGO administration, fundraising and other conservation activities. Interns must be currently matriculated college students in good academic standing and be able to contribute a minimum of 5 hours per week for at least 12 weeks during a regular academic term. Intern opportunities we anticipate in Spring 2022 include design of educational materials (graphic arts), helping with field trips and birding classes for the public/kids, organizing guest speakers, mist netting / bird banding training for educational functions, and strategic social media. Interns may accrue academic credit if arranged by their institution.

 Undergraduate student, actively registered during the 2021/2 academic year
 Interested in conservation, knowledgeable or enthusiastic about birds
 Must have 5 hours per week (including weekends) for activities with AAS staff
APPLICATION: Electronic submission (PDF in email) should include:
 letter of intent,
 latest resume with contact information,
 list of 3 references who agree to be contacted (w/phone numbers) (at at least one needs to be a college professor)
all in one single PDF file.

 by Jan 7, 2022, 5 PM.
 Put AAS INTERN in the subject line.

If you have already served as an intern with us and you want to serve again – re-apply!

Presale Eagle License Plate

Eagle lovers and supporters: Here is an opportunity to support an effort by the American Eagle Foundation (AEF) to offer a specialty Bald Eagle license tag in Florida that will benefit eagle education, conservation and protection initiatives in our state. While AEF is located in Tennessee, they have been long-time funders of Audubon Florida’s EagleWatch Program and operate several eagle nest webcams here in Florida that give you an eagle’s eye view into the amazing process eagle parents go through to hatch and raise young. To purchase your presale eagle license plate tag voucher, go to In order for the eagle tag to be approved, 3,000 vouchers must be sold. If the minimum presale requirement is met, your tag order will be processed. If they fall short of the necessary presale goal, your purchase will be refunded.