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Hey everyone,
Wow, what a month!  I had even more fun than last year, and I didn't think that was possible!  I ended the month with 103 countable species for Orange County, smashing my 2010 June Challenge total of 95 species.  Ten birds on this year's list were missed last year, while two species I got in 2010 went unseen: Eastern Kingbird and Northern Rough-Winged Swallow.  A bird I've tried for both years and missed is Chuck-Wills-Widow.  Didn't even hear one this year!  I'll try even harder for that one next year, for sure!  Also, not having access to Lake Apopka Restoration Area (something I'm going to work on for next year, maybe just for one day?) prevented me from getting Fulvous Whistling-Duck.  I'm not the super-competitive type, so thankfully not being in a coastal county eliminates me from the pressure of trying to see the most species statewide during June Challenge.  However, I was a little comforted to see that I got a few birds that folks in Pinellas and Miami-Dade didn't! ;)
I will post the bird list on the next e-mail, but I thought I'd share a few memorable observation highlights and experiences during the month:
- Newly-fledged young of many species, following mom or dad and begging for food: Anhinga, Purple Gallinule, Common Moorhen, Limpkin, Red-Bellied and Downy Woodpeckers, Blue Jay, Cliff and Barn Swallows, Tufted Titmouse, Northern Mockingbird, Pine Warbler, Bachman's Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, etc.
- A Cooper's Hawk catching a Purple Martin at a nest house
- A Great Blue Heron struggling with, but eventually swallowing an impressive Greater Siren
- A tree breaking in half and crashing to the ground just a few dozen feet from the path when there was no wind at Wekiva Springs State Park; yes, a tree really does make a sound when it falls in the woods - my first thought when it started was a bear running through the woods
- A breathtaking thunderstorm from underneath the Orlando Wetlands Park picnic shelter
Speaking of bears, my list of Orange County mammals spotted during June Challenge is as follows (no bear, unfortunately):
Virginia OpossomEastern CottontailMarsh RabbitEastern Gray SquirrelSherman's Fox SquirrelCoyote (1)RaccoonRiver OtterBobcat (2)White-Tailed Deer
Also, several common herp species were seen, but I have to get better at ID-ing many of those!  Something else I will work on for next year!  I know the easy ones: Oak Toad, American Alligator, Gopher Tortoise, Florida Softshell, Green Anole, Six-Lined Racerunner, Black Racer, etc.
Anyway, please pardon the digression, but I just want to make clear that even though I'm very happy with the 103 bird species I was able to see, June Challenge is about so much more than just seeing birds.  It's about exploring new areas of the county I've never been to.  It's about enjoying the other sights and sounds along the way.  Quite simply, I think the initiators of the June Challenge put it correctly: it's about not letting a little heat and humidity bring you down and GETTING OUT THERE!
Finally, I would like to say that I REALLY like the seen only rule.  There's a reason why June Challenge is challenging.  Sure, one could argue that learning all the songs and calls of the various species is challenging enough, but for people who have been birding for years like myself and who can bird by ear very well, it's second nature.  Anyone can go to Orlando Wetlands and hear a King Rail.  But can anyone see one?  THAT'S where the challenge comes in!  Even with the new addition of my MP3 player this year, some birds were tough to see!  Plus, the seen-only rule really levels the playing field for the more-beginner and expert birders a bit.  Just because I know what it is when I hear it doesn't mean I can count it (well, not for June Challenge, anyway!).
Again, I'll post my Orange County list of 103 species in the next e-mail, everyone!  Congrats to all on a splendid June!  I'm looking forward to next year already.  For the next couple weeks I'll likely be catching up on other aspects of life before those southbound shorebirds and early warblers start showing up!
Good birding, everyone!
John ThomtonOrlando, Orange Co. 		 	   		  
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