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Notable Avian Records in the Big Bend March through July - a Gail Menk Posting

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  • Marvin Collins
    Re: Notable Avian Records in the Big Bend March through July On 29 MAR, John Murphy reported a Red-throated Loon off Franklin County s Alligator Point,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 28, 2008
      Re: Notable Avian Records in the Big Bend March through July

      On 29 MAR, John Murphy reported a Red-throated Loon off Franklin County's Alligator Point, Marvin Collins, et al. an Eared Grebe in breeding plumage at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge (SMNWR) on 28 APR. Report of as many as 11 American Bitterns at Lake Miccosukee, Jefferson County by Michael Hill on 28 APR can lead one to speculate that said number included a temporary "cluster" of north bound migrating individuals.(?)

      Several duck species were lingering atypically into the summer season, i.e. a pair of Blue-winged Teal seen by Keith MacVicar and Yours Truly on 12 JUNE at Leon County's Springhill Road Sewage Treatment Facility (SRSTF), a male Blue-winged by Melissa Forehand at SMNWR on 16 JUNE, a male Redhead at Leon's Tram Road Water Treatment Facility (TRWTF) on 2 JULY (GEM) and a male Lesser Scaup seen at SRSTF by Marvin Collins and GEM on 7 JULY. Also in Leon County, two Black-bellied Whistling Ducks recorded by GEM at Lake Jackson's Rhoden Cove on 1 JUNE and 2 others at Tall Timbers Research Station on 16 JUNE by C.K. Bork were further evidence of residential status county-wise (becoming "old hat"?).

      A Limpkin heard by M. Collins and GEM near Leon's Lake Munson on 30 JUNE was another welcomed report of the species. Another more established site for that bird is Jefferson County's Wacissa Springs where Harry Hooper, et al. perhaps may wish to kayak the river there and count individuals. As of May, Glossy Ibis were conspicuous at Leon's south Lake Jackson. Three individuals were reported by Rodney Cassidy off Crowder Landing on 3 MAY and I counted 9 in the more general area during 1-5 JUNE. An individual was also seen in the pond on Rhoden Cove Road by Harry Hooper on 25 JUNE.

      Wood Storks were absent from their breeding site of past years near the Ochloconee River; however, at least 80 individuals were gestimated (chicks included) at another site about 2 miles east.

      Atypically, I know of only 2 reports of large flocks of kites in the Big Bend - 25 Swallow-tale's at Franklin County's Bald Point on 5 APR (Andy Lantz) and 33 Mississippi's at Leon's Miccosuckee Greenway by Tracee Strohman on 17 MAY.

      Somewhat rare but regular locally, individual Black-necked Stilts were at SRSTF on 3 APR (A. Lantz, GEM), and 2 were at TRWTF (J. Cavanaugh) on 19 MAY.

      The American Avocet remains an uncommon year round resident on the nearby Gulf Coast. Four individuals were listed by Brad Bergstrom and Betty Derreck at SMNWR on 13 MAR, 1 there by Don Morrow on 25 APR; and 2 more seen by Donna Legare at St. Vincent Island on 28 APR.

      A Long-billed Curlew found by John Murphy on 23 MAR at Indian Pass, Franklin County, was considered "the same individual submitted on his winter report" and his sighting of an American Woodcock with 2 chicks at Franklin's Tate's Hell on 30 MAR was the first known nesting record of the species in these parts in many a year. That's great, J.M.! Jack Dozier would have been delighted. A first breeding record for Franklin County? Only "possible" or "probable" nesting was assessed there during Florida's Breeding Bird Atlas Project of 1986/1991.

      A White-rumped Sandpiper at SRSTF on 1 MAY (GEM) was Leon's earliest-ever known record for the Big Bend and was followed by 8+ individuals at TRWTF on 15 MAY (GEM), 4 at St. George Island on 19 MAY (R. Cassidy) and 8 at SRSTF on 22 MAY (GEM). Pectoral Sandpipers remain rare in the Big Bend during spring. I saw 1 at SRSTF on 27 MAR, 2 at TRWTF on 2 MAY. My record of only 1 Stilt Sandpiper at SRSTF was also "skimpy."

      By far the best record inland was a probable Reeve (female Ruff) found at TRWTF on 1 MAY by Jim Cavanagh, who has submitted multiple convincing photos and description of said bird, only the 2nd known record for Gulf Coast Florida since Gary and Sandra Hampton found a male at SRSTF on 23 MAR 2000.

      Rare Gulls were a Lesser Black-backed Gull in adult plumage at SMNWR (Brad Bergstrom) on 14 MAR and on 29 APR, Jim Cavanagh photographed and submitted details of an immature Glaucous Gull at St. George Island.

      TERNS: Six Least Terns were observed hovering over a former grocery mart in north Tallahassee on 9 JUNE (GEM, K. MacVicar), the only known evidence of roof-top nesting locally since summer of 2006. Most important ornithological find, however, was a pair of Sooty Terns with a chick at Franklin County's old St. George Island Causeway by J. Murphy and A. Knothe on 39 MAR, the latter providing beautiful photos of the adult birds and the chick. Traditionally, the species has nested some 450 miles south in the Dry Tortugas.

      Reports of 16 Long-billed Dowitchers at SRSTF (GEM) on 3 APR and a Wilson's Phalarope at SMNWR by C.K. Borg on 19 APR contributed to a most interesting springtime migration in the Big Bend.

      RE COMINGS AND GOINGS OF REGIONAL SHOREBIRDS: By June most shorebirds at SRSTF had migrated north with the exception of app. 30 and 2 Semipalmated Sandpipers on 2 and 3 JUNE plus a White-rumped on 2 JUNE. Excepting Killdeer, the middle part of June is sort of a "no-man's land" for shorebirds. Towards the end of June, a few south bound individuals may arrive there as was the case with 3 Lesser Yellowlegs recorded by M. Collins and GEM on 30 JUNE which made for a lapse of only 26 days between northbound and southbound shorebird movement.

      An inland rarity was a Willet at SRSTF on 7 JULY (M. Collins, GEM), only the 3rd known record at the facility. Between MAR 1960 and JULY 1999 there have been only 9 confirmed occurrences of the species countywise, an average of 1 bird per every 5 years. Last record, however, was roughly 9 years ago by Paul Conover at Crowder Landing on 19 JULY 1999.

      As of 2006, Rodney Cassidy and spouse seem to have a lease on reports of Gray Kingbirds in Leon County. This year, RC monitored an individual from 30 APR - 8 MAY near the south end of SRSTF, while wife Lydia Eblen reported another at the same site where one was seen during 29 APR to 7 MAY 2006 (near Edinburg Estates). Fran Rutovsky has dutifully referred to the Stevenson/Anderson Birdlife of Florida and posted 3 previous records county-wise. Inexplicably, one such record by Jim Cavanagh is not cited in S&A. A modern-day update of county records is as follows:

      1960 11 MAY H.M. Stevenson

      1971 29 APR Gail Menk

      1978 15 SEPT Jim Cavanagh

      1991 19 JUNE Eddie White

      2006 27 APR - 7 MAY Rodney Cassidy

      2008 30 APR -8 MAY Rodney Cassidy

      2008 16 MAY-23 MAY Lydia Eblen

      I also know of a letter from Francis Weston of Pensacola dated 14 JUNE 1925 which acknowledges report of a Gray Kingbird by Tallahassee ornithologist Robert White Williams near his home - no exact date of said report, however.

      Rare at SMNWR were a Philadelphia Vireo on 5 MAY (Rodney Cassidy) and (especially rare) a Bills Vireo on 26 APR (Fritz Davis).

      A Bank Swallow at Bald Point, Franklin County on 8 MAR was extremely early (John Murphy's earliest ever) and a "Mexican" version of a Cave Swallow there on 9 MAR (J. Murphy) was another rare but now regular occurrence in both inland and coastal parts of the Big Bend.

      A Sprague's Pipit listed by John Murphy at Apalachicola (Franklin County) on 15 MAR was, fide JM, 1 of 2 individuals reported there last winter.

      WARBLERS: A male Golden-winged at SMNWR on 19 APR (C.K.Borg) was a welcomed rarity and a well described male Canada there on 4 MAY (Rodney Cassidy) was most unusual as past Big Bend reports of the species traditionally have been during September. A Prairie Warbler in the backyard of Fran Rutkovsky on 18 MAR was somewhat early and in atypical habitat. FR has never before listed the species there during spring season. Single Wilson's Warblers were reported at SMNWR on 19 APR by Dottie Robbins and J. Murphy, another by R. Cassidy on 27 APR.

      This writer was delighted to see a 2nd singing Scarlet Tanager this spring on 7 MAY at San Luis Mission Park. F. Rutovsky's male Western Tanager was last seen at her residence on 22 APR. A wintering female Bullock's Oriole there remained until 28 MAR while a male Bullock's reported by Alex Kleinbard at her Tallahassee residence on 24 APR was the first known such report in many-a-year locally.

      John Murphy's report of a White-crowned Sparrow at Franklin County's Alligator Pt. on 6 APR was the only known report Big Bend-wise, and a male American Goldfinch in Wakulla County on 22 MAY (Lynn Reynolds) was perhaps "problematical" in that the species is not known to breed in Florida.

      RECENT BREAKING NEWS: A clean-up crew at Jefferson County's Wacissa River gestimated presence of 6 Limpkins there on 13 JULY (fide M. Collins). Also heard there were 2 singing Swainson's Warblers. Limpins and Swainson's - a nice "combo"!

      First reports of a Greater Yellowlegs, a Solitary Sandpiper, and ca. 30 Least Sandpipers at SRSTF (GEM, M. Collins) on 17 JULY added to arrival there of a total of 5 shorebird species as of 30 JUNE. Also of interest on 17 JULY was bonding of a female Lesser Scaup with that summering male Lesser Scaup at said facility. Where has she been all this summer? Migrant Lessers are not expected in this part of Florida until the end of October.

      Most of the above reports have been submitted for inclusion in The Florida Field Naturalist, organ of the Florida Ornithological Society. Since a good number of the reports were not posted on the North Florida Birds internet, I, FOS regional reporter, thought that the reader might be interested in such reports.

      Enjoy the Fall Season

      (Mr. ) Gail Menk

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