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FLORIDABIRDS-L  December 2008, Week 2

FLORIDABIRDS-L December 2008, Week 2

Subject:

Now It Can Be Told! Harris's Sparrow at Paynes Prairie

From:

Rex Rowan <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Rex Rowan <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 14 Dec 2008 18:49:20 -0500

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If you just want directions, scroll down to the last paragraph. It's 
such an odd story, though.

On the 5th I went to Paynes Prairie's La Chua on my lunch hour, scouting 
for an Audubon field trip I was to lead the next morning. As I walked 
out into the open, I saw a retired couple standing beside a little clump 
of trees. Both wore binoculars. The man was standing back while the 
woman crept around the weedy edge of the trees playing a tape. I asked 
the man what they were looking for.

"Harris's Sparrow," he said.

"Oh!" I said. "Do you have one in there?"

"No, we're just hoping."

I informed him that one, and only one, Harris's Sparrow had ever been 
recorded in Alachua County, way back in 1973.

It turned out that they'd read on the internet that there were Harris's 
Sparrows being seen in Louisiana, so they'd driven all the way from 
Venice, Florida, to Louisiana. They'd endured dreadful cold and wind, 
but had failed to find the sparrows. They were on their way home now. I 
birded with them for a few minutes before they decided to hit the road 
and continue home. I remember that the man's name was Tom.

The next morning the Audubon group started down La Chua. Just after the 
big oak beside Little Alachua Sink, there was a fallen tree or branch on 
the right surrounded by tall weeds. I'd found a cluster of 
White-crowneds there the day before, so we pished and three came up, but 
they were dodging around and after a minute I started to move on. Ginny 
Rose, a beginning birder, was standing behind me, and at this point she 
asked, "What's this with the black throat?" I couldn't see where she was 
looking, so I walked back to where she was - and there on a twig was a 
winter adult Harris's Sparrow. It didn't stay up for long, but Scott 
Flamand saw it and Felicia Lee and one or two other people. We waited 
around for a while, but it didn't come back up. We were about 200 feet 
from where the retired couple had been looking for the Harris's the day 
before.

The CBC compiler asked me to delay posting this to any of the 
listserves. He was afraid that the bird would be scared off by birders 
tramping through the brush trying to find it, and he wanted it to stick 
around for the CBC, which was held today. I haven't heard whether it was 
seen today, but it was seen several times in the past week, including 
yesterday. I understand that photographs have been obtained, which will 
be posted soon.

 From the center of Gainesville (Main Street and SR-26) go east on 
SR-26, cross Waldo Road (SR-24 / SR-331), and turn right onto SE 15th 
Street. Go two and a half miles, and when the road begins to make a 
90-degree turn to the left, continue straight ahead across the three-way 
intersection, through the wooden gate, and down the road to the parking 
area. Or go to http://maps.google.com/ and type "Robinson Heights, FL" 
into the search box. The parking area is on Camp Ranch Road. Once you're 
out onto the Prairie, pass Little Alachua Sink and the beginning of the 
boardwalk on your left (under construction), go under the big oak, and 
start watching on your right for the fallen tree.

And does anyone know Tom? He might want to drive back up here.

Rex Rowan
Gainesville

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