Thursday, June 28, 2012

June Challenge

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Brown-headed Nuthatch
Econ River Wilderness Area
June is hot in Florida, and sometimes it takes a lot to endure outdoors in the heat of the summer. So to combat the tendency to stay indoors, we have in Florida the "June Challenge." It's a friendly competition among Florida birders. To participate in the challenge, you pick a county, preferably your own, and count how many birds you can find (you have to see it, not just hear it) within that county during the entire month.

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Black-bellied Whistling Ducks
Central Winds Park
I don't bird much in Seminole County where I live.  I tend to go to surrounding counties, and often the same places over and over. I confess, I've been in a birding rut.  So this challenge seemed like just the right thing for me.  Throughout the month, I have visited several places I've never been to before, and often I came away feeling like I've been neglecting a piece of heaven in my own back yard.  So far, I've counted 11 species that I've never seen in Seminole County before: Crested Caracara, Eastern Meadowlark, Purple Gallinule, Roseate Spoonbill, Common Ground-dove, Carolina Chickadee, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Northern Bobwhite, Eastern Towhee, Least Tern, and a Florida lifer, Brown-headed Nuthatch. I have two more days left, so I'm hoping to add a Yellow-throated Vireo to this list before the end of June.  I'm coming away from the challenge with a new enthusiasm and respect for the habitats that are right next door to my home.
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Limpkin
Cameron Wight Park
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Eastern Bluebird
Geneva Wilderness Area
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Pine Warbler
Econ River Wilderness Area
(I've never been so close to a Pine Warbler before)
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Eastern Towhee
Econ River Wilderness Area
Whether or not there is a state-wide competition, though, there are many ways we can challenge ourselves to get out of our birding ruts to do something, new and different, to expand our birding horizons or to delve more deeply into some aspect of birding. Here are some potential challenges you might enjoy.
  1. Once a Day. Decide for a period of time that you will do at least some birding every day, even if all you can do is 10 minutes in your back yard. 
  2. Patch Birding. Choose a local patch and document the birds that you see there. I do this in my office parking lot, of all places. The parking lot is bordered by a lake and a recreational park, so it's been fun to get to work 30 minutes early just to see what's there. 
  3. Habitats. Decide to visit only one habitat for a period of time; conversely, decide not to visit the same habitat twice during a period of time. I seem to spend most of my birding time near water--lakes, wetlands, marsh, etc. So lately I've been looking for dryer places, like pine forest, sand hill, and scrub habitats. 
  4. Locations. Choose a county or other region to concentrate on. Or decide to avoid your favorite location for a while to see what you've been missing elsewhere.
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Bachman's Sparrow
Wekiwa Springs State Park
I found this Bachman's Sparrow at Wekiwa Springs State Park earlier this month (unfortunately, this is in Orange County, so I can't count this for my June Challenge).  This was my reward for visiting a new habitat in the park--this bird was a lifer for me. 

Anyone have any other challenges worth trying? Please share your ideas below.

Scott Simmons

15 comments:

  1. You photographs are terrific, as always! Congratulations on the nuthatch and sparrow lifers!

    I think you have great advice, Scott. I just recently visited a new bird habitat and I was fortunate to spot two life birds (Yellow-breasted Chat and Dickcissel. I can't wait to visit again.

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  2. Great photography Scott! What a fun idea for the June Challenge. I really like the idea of county and patch birding too. Nice tips!

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    1. Thanks, Robert! Now I need a challenge for July...

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    2. eBird numbers tend to go down in July. Challenging local birders to submit at least one eBird checklist per day would be a great challenge.

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  3. I used to participate in the June Challenge in Florida when I lived there (I birded Pinellas County) and I miss it. Or maybe I miss the birds and the people I communicated with during (and after) the challenge. Wonderful post & images Scott.

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    1. This is my first year doing it, and I suspect I'll be doing it every June from now on. Thank, Mia.

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  4. Hi Scott,
    Wow these are fantastic capture. All of them are beautiful! The whistling ducks and the pine warbler are my favs!

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  5. Fantastic captures, Scott. Your right, Florida in the summertime can be a challenge all it's own. We live in Palm Bch Co. and look for new birding places close to home.

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  6. Congrats, Scott, on the lifer. And so many new species! Terrific photos!

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  7. That photo of the Limpkin is beautiful, thanks Scott.

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  8. I am curious about the visual requirement. With birds nesting, it seems like the best time of the year to allow versus discourage audio only identifications. No need to risk disturbing nesting birds.

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    1. Yea, if I were making the rules, I think I would allow "heard only" as well. Not only does it remove the temptation to approach a nest, but it also encourages birders to learn calls and songs.

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