Now that Anna and I have finally made it to Gainesville, and Anna will be living and working here till July, we wanted to go out birding around the city today and try and familiarize ourselves with a few of the local birding hotspots as well as try and pick up some more new year birds. Our first stop of the day was to the observation tower at Paynes Prairie State Park to search for the Green-tailed Towhee that has been seen there since early December – we couldn’t find it and the high winds didn’t help our cause. Next we visited Earl P. Powers Park to see what might be out on Newnan’s Lake. This turned out to be one of our most productive stops of the day with 45 species seen! Highlights here were some flyover Sandhill Cranes, close-up looks at Wood Storks, many waterfowl species, and some beautiful Bonaparte’s Gulls.
Our next stop was to the Gainesville Hawthorne Bike Trail. This is where a Fox Sparrow has been seen coming in to some bird seed, for the third year in a row! Sadly, we also missed out on seeing that bird….although other species made up for it. We were able to find 30 species along the trail including Orange-crowned Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, both subspecies of Palm Warbler, Pine Warbler, and one of my favorite Florida birds – a beautiful adult male Yellow-throated Warbler. By far the best find of the day, and simultaneously my worst photo of the day, was a stunning adult male Summer Tanager that I spotted perched near a mixed-species flock of passerines. Summer Tanagers typically winter much farther south in Florida, so this was an exceptionally good find! Additionally Blue-headed Vireo, White-throated and Chipping Sparrows, and House Finch were new year birds for us.
After grabbing some lunch, Anna and I drove over to Lake Alice where I had seen on eBird that a Limpkin was recently reported. As soon as we walked up to the lake, I spotted the juvenile Limpkin foraging nearby! This Florida endemic is a must for any birding visit to Florida, so I was really happy we were able to get it so easily.
Altogether, we were able to add 15 species to our year list’s today, bringing us both up to 125! I am excited to see what we can find tomorrow…..somehow we still don’t have some easy species like House Sparrow, Cooper’s Hawk, or Great Horned Owl and we are going to be trying to some more interesting species like the Green-tailed Towhee, Sora, Virginia Rail, and Sedge Wren.