“Truly I was in an ornithologist’s paradise.”—Frank Chapman, 1886
Gainesville is an ideal spot for the visiting birder. Its extensive green spaces are home to an abundant and varied bird life – over 350 species have been recorded here – and it boasts one of the liveliest (and friendliest) birding communities in the state.
Each season has its own attractions. Fall is invariably exciting, as birders search the area’s many hardwood forests, vying to find unusual migrants or to achieve a 20-warbler day.
Many regard winter as the high point of the birding year. Our Christmas Bird Count tallies regularly exceed 150 species. Thousands of Sandhill Cranes congregate on Paynes Prairie, Bald Eagles patrol the local lakes, the marshes and fields are busy with sparrows, wrens, and warblers, and there’s always some rarity that brings everybody running.
Spring begins early in Florida. By February the morning chorus of resident birds is well underway and the first migrants are arriving. In March and April we’re treated to a daily flyover of migrating Common Loons in transit from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. And most of us make at least one spring visit to Cedar Key, an hour to the west, for saltwater birds and, if we’re lucky, a fallout of migrants.
Even in summer, considered by some to be the least interesting season of the birding year, we keep busy with The June Challenge, a friendly competition to see who can find the most species within the county’s borders during the month of June.
For more information on birding in Alachua County, including a frequently-updated birding report, see the Alachua Audubon Society web site.
Contributed by Rex Rowan – Past President, Alachua Audubon Society and co-author, A Birdwatcher’s Guide to Alachua County, Florida.