The following is posted at the request of Gail Menk 

On 24, Nov., I recorded my first American Goldfinch of the season at Faulk Drive Landing. (I never know when to anticipate this species, November? December?) Almost immediately, a common Ground-Dove called, my first record for November, despite several recent and futile trips to the Southeast Farm where said species has been almost a "sure thing." Was this past November’s unusually chilly weather a factor? The species is known to coo-and-mate throughout the year, but sur4rely such activity is limited while a November "nor-wester" holds sway.

RE RECENT DAYS OF YORE: Columbina passerina (COGD) has a times been considered a "mystery bird" in these parts. Iin the early 1900’s, Tallahassee ornithologist Robert White Williams submitted its county status as ‘Resident." Formerly abundant at all times, now, for unaccountable reasons, exceedingly rate at any time. Its total disappearance for the space of 12 months in recent years is one of the mysteries of Leon County ornithology. Lately, it has returned in very limited numbers. As of 1924, Herbert L. Stoddard attested to such rarity in nearby Grady County, Georgia, and on his one-man Xmas counts at Sherwood Plantation, he did not even list the species on the first ten counts during 1937-46. He later tallied 13 on six of ten counts during 1947-56 (Tall Timbers Research Station, 1978). 

Far fewer participants tallied 26 more individuals (84 in all) during the Tallahassee Xmas counts of 1946-55 than did those during said counts of 1989 – 98 (58 total). This more than suggests that the species was on the increase during the years of 1948 – 58 compared to a decrease during the 1990’s.

RE CAUSE AND EFFECT and speculations: would quantitative counts reveal that on colder days such counts of ground doves result in less numbers than on warmer days? Perhaps not if tallies on Xmas counts during 1946-57 with attendant colder temperatures than during 1989-98 are noted.

Is wind a factor? It is taken for granted that small birds tend to recluse themselves on windy days and become less visible for tallying. Do ground doves flock during winter as do certain other species (i.e. grackles) and thus elude birders for even days on end unless one happens to be in the right place at the right time? Ground doves typically pair up year round, so I’m informed, except on occasion as cited below. Such questions /suggested answers are fun food-for-thought for this nimrod as he wonders as he wanders.

ON THE LARGER SCALE, consensus by those-in-the-know is that ground dove numbers have declined throughout much of the southeastern United States although, according to Kenn Kaufman, "reasons are not well understood." ON THE SMALLER SCALE, such numbers may have appeared to fluctuate locally since the 1900’s, and it should always be interesting to monitor the coming and going of these doves.

VOCALIZATIONS: I have noticed that even some experienced birders do not recognize the call of the Common Ground-dove or confuse it with that of the Morning Dove. Phonetically, I prefer Chandler Robbins’ oft repeated "hooah." Anthropomorphically, the call of the ground dove is for me "optimistic," that of the Mourning Dove, pessimism of the worst kind. But that’s just me, I guess.

Faulk Drive Landing is a favored hang-out for the ground dove, and I once flushed a flock of 16 individuals there on a warm sunny winter afternoon (Top That?) Guess I was in the right place at the right time.

Gail E. Menk

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