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8876Migration? We don't need no stinkin' migration! We've got The June Challenge!

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  • Rex Rowan
    May 26, 2014
      The June Challenge begins on Sunday. This will be the fifth statewide (the eleventh for Alachua County). For those new to the list I'll give a quick summary:

      The June Challenge is a friendly competition designed to keep us birding through the summer heat rather than cowering indoors like a bunch of, pardon my French, non-birders. The aim of the competition is to see as many species as possible within the boundaries of your county between June 1st and June 30th. The rules were laid down in 2004 by Alachua's Becky Enneis, who originated the Challenge:
      1. Count only birds found within a single county, ideally the one you live in. Explore your home turf and find some new birding spots. (Doing more than one county is permissible, but each must be reported separately.)
      2. Each bird on your list must be seen, not just heard. There have been complaints in the past about the no-heard-birds rule. The most substantial objection involved the possibility that secretive birds would be harassed until they came into view. To this I'll simply say: Respect the birds. Use tapes judiciously and avoid harassment. Rely on patience and birding skill.
      3. You'll be competing with birders in your own county to see who can amass the longest individual list, but let the others know if you find something good so they can go out and look for it. It is, after all, a *friendly* competition. (A word about the individual competition. Some birders don't like it, but it's crucial to the Challenge. Counties with spirited competition make the most exciting discoveries, because the birders are always out looking for something new to beat their competitors. So the competition is both (a.) beside the point and (b.) absolutely essential. Both.)
      4. Any free-flying bird is countable for the purposes of the Challenge, but keep track of how many ABA-countable and non-countable species are on your list. Report them in this format: "Total number seen (number that are ABA countable / number that are not)," e.g., 115 (112 / 3). If your local population of an exotic species is recognized as established by the ABA, then any member of that population is an ABA-countable bird. Otherwise put it on your non-countable list. For instance, a bird belonging to an established population of Monk Parakeets would be ABA-countable. An escaped Monk Parakeet, or a Mute Swan in a city park, would not be.
      5. Send your list to me for the final compilation by midnight on Sunday, July 1st.
      Last year we had 127 submissions from 29 Florida counties, plus submissions from counties in California (1), Colorado (4), Delaware (4), Georgia (2), New Mexico (1), and Texas (17), as well as one from Norfolk, England. The results were reported here:


      Hints for new Challengers: Bird as much as you can during the first and last weeks of the month, to get late spring and early fall migrants. Those of you in landlocked counties, check your big lakes for coastal strays like gulls, terns, and pelicans.

      Here in Gainesville, we always kick off the Challenge with a field trip on June 1st, visiting several areas in the course of the morning to get people started on their lists, and occasionally we'll organize a second trip to another spot. If you've got a local organization, this might be a good way to encourage participation, especially among people who are nervous about birding alone.

      And remember! The deadline for results is midnight on Sunday, July 1st. We had a couple of high totals that didn't make it into the compilation last year because I didn't hear from the birders involved until I'd already sent out the results.

      Rex Rowan