Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Summer Flies

Where has the time gone?

I took a break from blogging (about birds, anyhow) with the intention of focusing on my paid writing assignments. The summer doldrums seemed like a good excuse. What's the point in writing about birds when there are no birds of note worthy of writing about?

But there were. Weirdly, just after our nearly warbler-less spring migration ended, all sorts of interesting things somehow ended up passing through Gainesville and surrounding areas. Late in May, a sighting of a white-morph Great Blue Heron (a.k.a. Great White Heron) brought birders from all around to Camps Canal, a tiny tributary south of Paynes Prairie State Park. When Glenn and I drove down to see it, we found it waiting for us in the shallows of the canal, right near where we parked.

Nearby was an immature Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, a bird unusual in our area.

A fairly new tradition among Gainesville-area birders, which has just started to spread to other areas, is the June Challenge. This is a friendly competition to see who can get out and bag the most birds in our county (Alachua County) during the month of June. It was designed as a fun way to keep birders motivated even during the slowest, hottest, most mosquito-plagued time of year. I wasn't feeling terribly ambitious this year (did I mention it was REALLY hot out? And mosquitos are everywhere?) so I sat it out. Officially, at least: I did go out and look for goodies that other, braver birders had previously discovered. The best thing about the June Challenge is that it is an oddly non-competitive competition: anyone who sees something interesting is supposed to report it so others can find it too. Among the interesting things discovered were a Common Loon who somehow ended up in a fountain at a busy intersection in the middle of town:

Towards the end of June, some local birders discovered a spot on the shore of Orange Lake filled with shorebirds, including numerous Roseate Spoonbills, which are locally uncommon. Even though this little point on the shore is in the painfully cute town of Macintosh, in Marion County, the lake itself is considered part of Alachua County, so birds found within are fair game for Gainesville's June Challenge. This made me wonder if one could count birds on the shore of the lake for the Alachua County June Challenge, which in turn made me glad I wasn't doing the challenge officially!

Orange Lake has proven to be a fun spot, and Glenn and I have returned several times since. This week, migrating shorebirds have started showing up there, including several Stilt Sandpipers (a life bird for me).

This week reports of southward-bound warblers have started trickling in, and this morning, I saw some: a couple of American Redstarts, a Black-and-white Warbler, and a few Prairie Warblers.

Meanwhile, the summer class I'm teaching is about to end, and students are already trickling back (however reluctantly) for fall semester--the other, bigger fall migration in Gainesville.

Where has the summer gone?