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THE NIMROD, VOL.1, NO. 4 (JULY 2002)

THE NIMROD is a publication devoted to Leon County Onithology as well as
other avian matters deemed appropriate.

Other than a first occurrence northward of the BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING DUCK,
Leon's Springhill Road Sewage Treatment Facility (SRSTF) remained stage
center for notable county bird happenings, where, by 14 JUNE, the holding
ponds hosted an interesting and varied assortment of some 40 bird species
including a first summer appearance of the Glossy Ibis; said bird foraged at
SRSTF during 10-27 JUNE.  The most important event, however, was nesting
there of the Black-necked Stilt which, as with the Glossy Ibis, had
heretofore been known county-wise only as a spring/fall transient.  A Caspian
Tern on 27 JUNE, along with another such individual at the Tram Road Water
Treatment Facility (Southeast Farm) earlier on 20 JUNE (both birds in winter
plumage), were also first known June records for the county.

Vestiges of spring migration 2002 included latest-ever known county records
of a loner Stilt Sandpiper on 5 JUNE and one each of the Semipalmated Plover
and Tree Swallow on 10 JUNE.

Late lingering species were a female Blue-winged Teal on 11 JUNE, 6 or more
White-rumped Sandpipers on 3 JUNE (GEM, Keith MacVicar) and 5 Semipalmated
Sandpipers on 14 JUNE.

NORTHBOUND IS NORTHBOUND AND SOUTHBOUND IS SOUTHBOUND BUT EVER THE TWAIN CAN
MEET so it seems this time round as concerns the Greater Yellowlegs.  Since
1978 and until this June, I have sought intently, but, other than Killdeer,
have recorded no shorebirds county-wise between 11-20 JUNE and have thus
considered that 10-day span a period of demarcation for shorebird spring and
fall migration, a shorebird "Never-Never Land" (Killdeer are of course always
with us).  The above-cited Semipalmated Sandpipers on 14 JUNE are exceptional
and there are a few other shorebird records for Leon County during 11-20
JUNE.

Accordingly, I was surprised to record 5 and 7 Greater Yellowlegs on 11 and
16 JUNE respectively at SRSTF.  In fact, the species manifested its presence
there throughout June with other counts of 3-2-3 on 3, 6 and 10
Junerespectively and 4-10-6 on 25, 27 and 30 JUNE.  The 40 combined June
sightings most likely included "duplicates" and, with deference to Sibley
illustrations, I would advance that plumage of some of these birds were
juvenile, others non-breeding, none in breeding garb.

WHICH WAY WERE THEY MIGRATING - north or south!, OR did some individuals,
especially those 5 and 7 sighted during 11-20 JUNE, actually SUMMER for the
first time in Leon County as do various shorebirds on the Gulf Coast for one
reason or another?  --NB Jack Dozier's "persisting" Greater Yellowlegs at the
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge as of 26 JUNE of this year.

RE LEON COUNTY'S FIRST NESTING RECORD OF THE BLACK-NECKED STILT:  On 30 MAY I
recorded 2 Black-necked Stilts near the walkway in the southeast sector of
the easternmost holding pond at SRSTF.  I suspected that they were a bonded
pair although I could not then determine sex of either individual (the female
has a more brownish nape).  As of several days later, one or both of the
birds had repeatedly assumed a nesting posture at a certain spot where,
however, I could detect no nest or eggs per se.  On 5 JUNE Julie Duggan
pointed out to me another suspected pair of Stilts foraging in the other side
of the pond; they were to leave by 20 JUNE.

On  10 JUNE I saw 4 Stilt eggs at the above same site, the nest consisting of
only 3 sprigs in a barely distinguishable "saucer" in a strand of blackish
sludge, and I realized that the latter must have before afforded a camouflage
for the dark buffy eggs with blackish spots, keeping them hidden from sight.
By now the always vocal Stilts had become more protective and aggressive and
were to be observed driving away such as Fish Crows foraging nearby, also
several White Ibis and a Wood Stork.

By 25 JUNE, increasing rain run-off was gradually raising the water levels of
the various pools in the pond and the Stilts had compensated by elevating the
nest circumference with an approximate 3 inches of sludge reinforced with 8
or more additional sprigs and a 3-or-more inch band of white plastic, but to
no avail.  Plant employee John Morrell relates that on 26 JUNE, heavy rains
resulted in inundation of the nest despite heroic "sandbagging" efforts by
the Stilts which were never seen at SRSTF after that date.  On 27 JUNE the
nest was out of sight.

By 4 JULY the pond water levels had receded and on that day, I relocated the
nest which still contained 2 polluted eggs.  My fellow nimrods can well
understand my heart-felt disappointment as I had anticipated handing out
cigars by say the second week of July.  Nearby nesting Least Terns had known
to nest on the northern and more elevated parts of the pond, the Stilts
unfortunately not.  But I have read that such is the way of the world with
the Black-necked Stilt.

AND NEST THEY DID!  AT SRSTF, Least Terns, that is, where a count of 12
adults on 26 APRIL was to increase to 15-or-more pairs by 28 MAY spread out
in the middle of the pond, and by 27 JUNE 2 yearlings were present and
begging handouts, usually from a seeming wrong and vexed parent.

Leon County continues to be good to this threatened species, and, in addition
to at least 4 grocery mart rooftops, I have this summer seen them hovering
over just about every retention pond or lake that I have frequented.  My
impression is that their numbers have increased locally, which should be
cause for rejoicing!  And cigars are perhaps in order after all at SRSTF
which has truly evolved into a sort of birding mythical "Mandalay" (where
peeps and pipits play, and where the dawn comes up like THUNDER across the
eastmost bay), also where sunglasses are well in order!

OTHER RECORDS OF NOTE:  Just what were 2 Brown Pelicans doing at Lake
Jackson's Crowder Landing on 27 MAY as reported by Gary Sprandel.  Local
birders have learned to look for American White Pelicans in Leon's larger
lakes during fall into spring, but not those "big brown jobs"!

On 15 JUNE I recorded a Least Bittern at Faulk Drive Landing, same lake.

I seldom see Yellow-crowned Night Herons in Tallahassee, but on 19 JUNE  I
encountered 3-4 individuals at that beautiful retention pond on Maryland
Circle.  Are they nesting nearby?

Gary Sprandel recorded 45 pairs of Wood Stork at the long-established colony
near Tower Road where they have not nested the two previous seasons due to
drought conditions.

BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING DUCK:  Fide Marvin Collins, up to 6 individuals of
said species have been at a residence in northeastern Leon County since early
June, and more recently Todd Engstrom phoned me of another occurrence in a
northwestern part of the county.  A NEW species for Leon, will individuals
show up at Lake Ella, or San Luis Mission Park, or?

Purple Gallinules have been a featured bird at Little Lake Jackson where,
however, the Pickerelweed this summer has choked out the Water Lilies, the
pads of which are essential to nesting "bonnet-walkers".

I last saw a Northern Flicker in Leon County on 2 APRIL (at my pad).  Has
anyone else as of late been seeing this species in these parts?

A Hermit Thrush on 15 APRIL at the north Leon residence of Sally Jue coupled
with one she saw there on 9 MAY 1998 are the latest spring records I know of;
my latest is 5 APRIL 1997.

A Prairie Warbler at the residence of Fran Rutkovsky (Rutkovsky's Ravine) on
8 APRIL and a Prothonotary Warbler at the Jue residence on 15 APRIL were
unique in that Fran's Prairie was her first-ever spring record there, Sally's
Prothonotary her first-ever there PERIOD.

Best warbler record was that of an Ovenbird at the Bellac Road home of Jim
Cavanagh on 24 APRIL; this species has seldom been reported locally in
spring, much more so in fall.

A Louisiana Waterthrush at Rutkovsky's Ravine on 21 JUNE was probably
southbound, as were individuals she recorded there on 24 JUNE 1999 and 23
JUNE 2000.  Seems strange for a bird to undertake fall migration on the first
day of summer, but that's the way of the avian world.

I've waited years for the Boat-tailed Grackle to emigrate from its usual
county lakeshore habit to inner Tallahassee and have finally been rewarded in
encountering a family of such birds on 22 JUNE at the Lake Bradford Road
Stormwater Facility (Church's Chicken, where else?).

Keith and Dottie MacVicar report a Gray Catbird visiting their villa on Velda
Dairy Road this summer.  So do I at my pad, and I wonder how many other local
residents can not only so testify, but also boast, as I do, of having both
the latter species and a pair of American Robins frequenting their yards.
The male Robin sings for me his mellifluous medley at sunup as does the
Catbird his contrasting squeaky and wordy utterance, and I simply must share
with the reader a poetic fragment by John Hall Wheelock which I feel so well
describes insightfully the song of "Dumetella carolinensis":

       " .... He mounts the platform of the nearest tree
       And begins, almost too clearly, perhaps,
       To explain everything -------------
       His argument rips the heart of mystery."  (Yaah!)

And I hereby dub the Gray Catbird as Leon County's official bird (fide THE
ROYAL ORDER OF THE NIMROD).

FIN

The best of birding, nimrods.

--Gail E. Menk, Editor

Keith MacVicar
Tallahassee  FL
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