Summary of the John Hintermister Gainesville CBC

by Andy Kratter

December 16 at 4:45 PM

Quick summary of the John Hintermister, Gainesville CBC on Sunday 15 December:
170 species, second highest ever (175 last year).
12 new record high counts: Black-bellied Whistling Duck (an amazing 6872, previous high was 2110!), Sandhill Crane (7965), Anhinga (632), Barred Owl (67), Pileated Woodpecker (182), House Wren (325), Orange-crowned Warbler (a mind blowing 168, previous high was 105), Yellow-throated Warbler (66), American Redstart (8), Summer Tanager (5), Indigo Bunting (9), and Painted Bunting (26).
New species for the count: Short-tailed Hawk 1, Scaly-breasted Munia 1 (likely won’t count though).
Great birds: Fulvous Whistling –Duck 1, Gray-headed Swamphen 1, Western Sandpipers 7, Least Bittern 4, Roeseate Spoonbills 4, an astonishing 99 Snail Kites, Peregrine Falcons 3, Brown-crested Flycatcher 1, Wood Thrush 1, Ash-throated Flycatcher, 1 Short-tailed Hawk 1; Winter Wren 2, Whooping Crane 1 (won’t count toward total), Scaly-breasted Munia 1, Canada Goose 7, White –winged Dove 2, Vaux’s Swift 1, Least Flycatcher 1, Louisiana Waterthrush 1, Western Tanager, Blue Grosbeak 1


by Rex Rowan

The 2019 June Challenge wrapped up with a party at the home of Becky Enneis, who founded the contest in 2004. Winners were announced, prizes were given, good food was eaten, conversation was enjoyed, and we finished the evening with a slide show, photos of birds, birders, and scenery taking during the Challenge. So that’s it for this year. See you on June 1, 2020!

Click here for a list of all the species seen.

Here’s the complete list of those who participated:
Sam Ewing 115
Chris Cattau 113
Ben Ewing 112
Tina Greenberg 110
Rex Rowan 110
Deena Mickelson 109
Howard Adams 108
Pratibha Singh 108
Anne Casella 104
Tim Hardin 103
Bob Carroll 102
Brad Hall 102
Jerry Pruitt 101
Barbara Shea 101
Bob Simons 93
Becky Enneis 91
Debbie Segal 91
Erika Simons 88
Dean Ewing 84
Geoff Parks 79
Nora Parks-Church 79
Barbara Woodmansee 79
Tom Wronski 77
Owen Parks-Church 76
Linda Holt 73
Josh Watson 73
John Martin 71
Rob Norton 71
Liam Watson 70
Danny Rohan 51
Bob Knight 48
Cayley Buckner 39


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


by Rex Rowan

Leigh Larson found an Egyptian Goose at Sweetwater Wetlands Park this morning. It’s Alachua County’s first-ever sighting of this introduced species, which originally established itself as a resident breeding bird in South Florida and has slowly been expanding its range north. Locally, it was first observed in southern Marion County in 2012 and didn’t move from that area – Summerfield and The Villages – until this May, when four turned up at Tuscawilla Park in northern Ocala. Get out there to Sweetwater if you can and have a look. It’s mainly been in the long channel on the distant side of Cells 1 and 2. While you’re there, keep an eye out for the Caspian Tern, present for its second day now.

A problem I have; plus, Louisiana Waterthrush

I’ve been trying to pin something down, but I lack the information to do it. There’s a clutch of Snail Kite eggs in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History that was supposedly collected in Micanopy by H.H. Simpson on December 4, 1919. There are a lot of these old egg sets out there; in the days before binoculars, egg-collecting was one of the forms that “birding” took. This particular egg set would constitute the only other breeding record for Snail Kite in Alachua County, and – if it’s a valid record – it would suggest that this year’s nesting may be a temporary extension of the nesting range, rare but normal, rather than an indicator of long-range environmental changes.

But is it a valid record? That’s what I’m trying to pin down. Snail Kites normally begin nesting in March in Central Florida, and in 1919 they would presumably have nested in March or April here – not in December. So that’s one doubtful thing about it. Another is that a lot of these late 19th- and early 20th-century egg collectors, rather than listing the nest location on the specimen cards that accompanied the egg sets in their collections, listed their own hometowns instead. So how can I confirm Micanopy as the actual site of the nest from which the eggs were taken? The specimen tag in the Carnegie Museum wasn’t any help. So I contacted Paul Sykes, the Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who did a historical survey of kite nesting in Florida, and asked what he could tell me about the Micanopy record. He referred me to H.K. Swann’s “Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus Ridgway, Northern Everglade Kite” in volume 12 of “A monograph of the birds of prey,” published in 1934. It turns out to be an elusive book. The UF science library had one in its catalog, but now describes it as “missing.” And even if the library tracks it down, maybe it won’t tell me anything new. I’m looking for something along the lines of, “H.H. Simpson’s notes read, ‘Nest located in a willow tree at the center of the Tuscawilla Prairie, eggs collected on Dec. 4th.'” But I’m unlikely to find anything that helpful.

I rarely do find anything that helpful, in looking at old records. This is at least partly excusable, since early birders probably couldn’t imagine all the scrutiny their sightings would undergo in the decades to come. Robert McClanahan saw a Kirtland’s Warbler in 1934, or at least he said that he did: “Rare migrant. One record, a bird observed at Bivens Arm, April 26, 1934.” He didn’t try to convince us. He made no allowance for skeptics in the future. He just asserted it: “I saw this.” Yeah, maybe you did and maybe you didn’t.

Anyway, the frustration provoked by such unconfirmed and forever-unconfirmable reports has made me more thoughtful about my own birding records. When I go out now, I imagine the future sort of looking over my shoulder. “What would you want to know about this?” I ask. “What information will you wish I had recorded?”

I took a walk on Camps Canal early this morning in hopes of seeing Yellow-crowned Night-Heron and an early-migrant Louisiana Waterthrush. No luck with the night-heron. But I found the waterthrush – though putting it that way gives me too much credit. I walked right past it, but after I’d gone about a hundred feet it started calling, that hard, clinky, recognizably-waterthrushy chip note, so I turned back. It was in the slough, the shallow body of water that’s on your left as you near the Prairie. It flew up into view, slowly bobbed its tail a couple of times while I noted the long white supercilium and tea-stained flanks, moved to another branch a few yards away, and then flew across the trail and out of sight, down to the canal. I followed, and spished, and it appeared at the base of a cypress tree on the near bank. I focused on its throat, which was immaculate (Northerns have a streaked throat, though it’s too early for Northerns anyway), and then, almost immediately, it flew away. A nervous bird. I put two dead branches in the middle of the trail at that point, in the form of an X, and if you get out there today you might be able to relocate it.

Another exciting find, non-bird-related: as I was scaling the slope toward the canal, I saw a huge insect that I first took for a crane fly. But then it landed on a tree trunk and I realized that it was one of the giant ichneumon wasps of the genus Megarhyssa, the first I’ve ever seen in the wild and a real beauty. It looked something like this: Bugs otherwise were not bad. A few mosquitoes, barely noticeable. Camps Canal can be miserable with mosquitoes in the late summer, but right now it’s fine.

As I was driving home, I passed a family of Wild Turkeys grazing in a grassy lot along County Road 234. They were new for my June list too, and I think they were the last new birds I’ll get for the Challenge. They put me at 103. That should be easy to beat! Send me your totals by midnight tonight. And please list any unusual birds that you saw during the Challenge. I like to make a complete list of all the birds recorded during June.

The June Challenge party will be held at Becky Enneis’s place, 14806 NW 147th Avenue in Alachua, on Sunday, July 8th, beginning at 6:00 p.m. Bring something to rest your sit-upon upon. Bring some food to share. Soft drinks and water will be provided, but if you want beer or wine, bring your own. For a map that shows Becky’s place, click here. Becky’s is marked with the inverted red teardrop; click on the teardrop for driving directions. You can zoom the map in or out as needed.

Winter is coming

The days are getting shorter again. We’ve already lost a minute and three seconds of daylight! I can feel the Seasonal Affective Disorder starting to take hold. Sigh.

Gina Kent of Gainesville’s own Avian Research and Conservation Institute has a request: “In the past you’ve helped locate Mississippi Kite nests for orphan chicks. Do you know of any active territories this year? Whether you’ve located the actual nest or not, it’s super helpful to know where birds are being seen regularly. Some chicks may be flighted and able to release with/near foraging adults and recent fledglings. Thanks for any help you can give. Folks can email me at with info.”

This may be the last email before the June Challenge ends on Saturday at midnight. So remember to send me your totals by then. We’re not counting Black Swan, Swan Goose, Greylag Goose, Indian Peafowl (peacock), or Helmeted Guineafowl this year (but Whooping Crane, Mallard of any description, and Muscovy Duck are all okay). So no need to worry about separating ABA countables from uncountables. We’ll be having our June Challenge party on Sunday the 8th. Details later.

Bob Carroll hiked out Longleaf Flatwoods Reserve yesterday morning and found the ever-elusive Hairy Woodpecker “about half way along the Red Trail on the western edge of the property, maybe about opposite the entrance.” I think Bob’s the only Alachua County birder who’s found one this June. Here’s a trail map for reference (with the Red Trail marked R):

There have been a few sightings of Yellow-crowned Night-Heron at Sweetwater Wetlands Park lately. Cindy Boyd saw it most recently, at 8:15 on the evening of the 25th, from the roofed shelter on the back side of Cell 2, looking at the opening in the trees where Sweetwater Canal used to be. Adam Zions had seen one at Sweetwater on the previoius evening.

Cindy also sighted a Broad-winged Hawk at San Felasco’s Millhopper Road parking lot on the 27th, and sent this great email: “Just as I was almost off the trail, about 50 yards east of the kiosk on the yellow trail, I heard the Broad-winged calling. I looked up and couldn’t see it. It sounded just a little north of me. So I whipped out my phone and played the call a couple of times. Within 30 seconds it was soaring right overhead. I’m so glad I fell in love with birds!”

Two Kings (-fisher and rail), plus an exciting new AOU Check-List Supplement! I mean AOS, sorry, I guess I just live in the past.

Less than a week to go!

Chris Cattau saw a Belted Kingfisher from the La Chua Trail at about 8 p.m. on the 22nd. It flew from the direction of the old horse barn, traveled around Alachua Sink, then continued flying out La Chua in the direction of the observation platform: “I guess it was probably going to have to roost somewhere fairly soon after I saw it so maybe there’s hope for a resight?” This may be the same individual that Tom Wronski photographed at Sweetwater Wetlands Park on the 7th.

Barbara Woodmansee reports that the Canada Geese were still on County Road 346A half a mile from Williston Road as of the 24th. She first saw them on the 10th. She writes, “They are always in the exact same place. I only see them in the late PM, never in the morning – and I’ve been looking hard every morning for them. I think there may be 4 or 5 of them. They sit down low in the tall grass, so only their heads/necks are showing. They’re usually under the same tree just south of the ‘lake’ (flooded pasture), almost directly across from the Misty Oaks sign.” I’d forgotten this, but Jerry Pruitt found two in that very spot in July 2016.

Colleen Cowdery, leading the busy life of a medical student, showed the value of patience and persistence in an email on the 24th: “Today was actually the first day in all of June that I was able to get outside and go birding, horror of horrors. Since I had no hope of catching up with the rest of the pack, I decided to go for quality over quantity and get myself a life bird today. I spent three hours trying to get a good look at a King Rail at Watermelon Pond. About two hours in, I had more or less given up and was heading back to the car when an incoming boat startled the bird into calling. I knew where it was, so I just sat and waited, having a nice conversation with it via recorded birdcall – recording, rail, recording, rail, back and forth. Finally, it came flying out and landed on the grass by the boat ramp. Success!” Success, too, in obtaining the only sharp photo of a King Rail that I’ve seen this month!

On the morning of the 22nd Geoff Parks spotted “a roost of a dozen or so Swallow-tailed kites in a tall dead pine on the south side of NW 8th Avenue” in the mile east of NW 34th Street. There’s a fairly good chance that it’s a regular overnight roost for these birds. Geoff saw them while driving, so they should be a cinch to see from the road or sidewalk.

Those mischievous fellers at the American Ornithological Society (formerly the AOU) released their annual Check-List Supplement last week. They changed a couple of English names, neither of which affected birds we see in Alachua County: Gray Jay went back to being Canada Jay; and White-collared Seedeater was split into Morelet’s Seedeater (found from South Texas to Panama, the one most of us have on our life lists) and Cinnamon-rumped Seedeater (found in western Mexico).

They did make some interesting taxonomic changes, however:

  • They reorganized the sparrows of the genus Ammodramus – Grasshopper, Henslow’s, LeConte’s, Baird’s, Nelson’s, Saltmarsh, and Seaside – by spreading them out over three genera as follows: Grasshopper remains in Ammodramus, Henslow’s and Baird’s go into Centronyx, and LeConte’s, Saltmarsh, Nelson’s, and Seaside go into Ammospiza. (Editorial note: I don’t like this one, just as a practical matter. Until now, if you were walking through a grassy field and a sparrow popped up a couple of inches from the toe of your boot, flew weakly for a few yards, and dived back into the grass, you could call out, “Hey, I’ve got an Ammodramus over here!” Now you’ll have to say, “I’ve got an Ammodramus! … or a Centronyx! … or possibly even an Ammospiza!”)
  • They moved most of the woodpeckers of the genus Picoides – Downy, Hairy, Red-cockaded, Nuttall’s, Strickland’s, Ladder-backed, Arizona, and White-headed – into the genus Dryobates, leaving only American Three-toed and Black-backed Woodpeckers in Picoides.
  • Finally, the kites were split up into three subfamilies. For the past few years the family Accipitridae has included the eagles, the hawks, the harriers, and the kites – one big happy family with no subdivisions among them. But now DNA analysis has shown that the kites are not that closely related to each other, so the Accipitridae has been split into three subfamilies to accommodate these newly-understood relationships: the White-tailed Kite and Pearl Kite have the subfamily Elaninae to themselves; the Swallow-tailed Kite, the Hook-billed Kite, and the Gray-headed Kite are given their own subfamily, Gypaetinae; while the Mississippi Kite and the Snail Kite, along with all the other hawks, eagles, and harriers, will be in the subfamily Accipitrinae (families have the -dae suffix, subfamilies the -nae). Interesting to think that the Mississippi Kite is more closely related to the Bald Eagle than to the Swallow-tailed Kite. (Speaking of kites, did you know that the paper kite that we fly on a string is named after the bird, and not the other way around? The bird was well-known to 8th-century Anglo-Saxons, who called it the cyta, while the paper kite didn’t arrive in Europe till the 13th century and the first reference to it in English dates from the 17th century.)

Anyway, you can see the whole supplement here. And you can see the updated Alachua County checklist here.

During some years we see fall migrants during the final days of The June Challenge. We’ve had Louisiana Waterthrushes several times (three years since 2013), Black-and-white Warblers on a couple of occasions, and a handful of shorebirds. These last few days of June can make a difference, so don’t waste them.

Not Alachua County, but pretty interesting nonetheless. J.W. Callis of Tallahassee recently photographed this pre-migratory congregation of Purple Martins at Cedar Key.