30 June 2009

NE Yard List

Call me silly (it wouldn't be the first time)... but a big part of living out in western Nebraska for me was my tally of birds seen/heard from my yard. Yes yes, I'm crazy. Anyway, I thought maybe I would post my final tally in remembrance of my summer days there! It totaled nearly 120 species and most noteable "misses" were:

Long-billed Curlew
Lark Bunting
Red-eyed Vireo
Ring-billed Gull

The birds are listed by family (in italics):

Goose, Snow
Goose, Canada
Swan, Trumpeter
Duck, Wood
Wigeon, American
Teal, Blue-winged
Shoveler, Northern
Pintail, Northern
Teal, Green-winged
Duck, Ring-necked
Scaup, Lesser
Merganser, Common
Merganser, Hooded
Duck, Ruddy

Pheasant, Ring-necked
Grouse, Sharp-tailed

Grebe, Eared
Grebe, Western
Grebe, Pied-billed

Pelican, American White

Cormorant, Double-crested

Bittern, American
Heron, Great Blue
Egret, Cattle
Night-Heron, Black-crowned

Ibis, White-faced

Harrier, Northern
Hawk, Cooper's
Hawk, Swainson's
Hawk, Red-tailed

Kestrel, American
Falcon, Peregine

Rail, Virginia's
Coot, American


Avocet, American

Yellowlegs, Greater
Sandpiper, Upland
Phalarope, Wilson's
Phalarope, Red-necked

Gull, Franklin's
Gull, Bonaparte's
Tern, Black
Tern, Forster's

Dove, Eurasian Collared-
Dove, Mourning

Owl, Great Horned
Owl, Long-eared

Nighthawk, Common

Kingfisher, Belted

Woodpecker, Red-headed
Woodpecker, Downy
Flicker, Northern

Pewee, Western Wood-
Flycatcher, Least
Phoebe, Say's
Flycatcher, Great Crested
Kingbird, Western
Kingbird, Eastern

Shrike, Loggerhead

Vireo, Plumbeous
Vireo, Warbling

Jay, Blue
Crow, American

Lark, Horned

Swallow, Tree
Swallow, Northern Rough-winged
Swallow, Bank
Swallow, Cliff
Swallow, Barn

Wren, House
Wren, Marsh

Kinglet, Ruby-crowned

Gnatcatcher, Blue-gray

Solitaire, Townsend's
Thrush, Swainson's
Robin, American

Mockingbird, Northern
Thrasher, Brown

Starling, European

Waxwing, Cedar

Warbler, Orange-crowned
Warbler, Yellow
Warbler, Yellow-rumped
Yellowthroat, Common

Towhee, Spotted
Sparrow, Chipping
Sparrow, Clay-colored
Sparrow, Lark
Sparrow, Song
Sparrow, White-crowned
Junco, Dark-eyed

Grosbeak, Rose-breasted
Grosbeak, Black-headed
Grosbeak, Blue
Bunting, Lazuli

Blackbird, Red-winged
Meadowlark, Western
Blackbird, Yellow-headed
Grackle, Common
Cowbird, Brown-headed
Oriole, Bullock's X Baltimore
Oriole, Orchard

Finch, House
Siskin, Pine
Goldfinch, American
Goldfinch, Lesser

Last day - 30 Jun 09

Well, the curlew season here in western Nebraska has ended for the summer. It's always amazing when they finish up, I often think "wait, they aren't DONE, are they?" but indeed, they finish very early in the season compared to other birds.

So on our way home to Iowa, we stopped at Lake MacConaughy to check for terns and plovers and weren't disappointed. Below is a LEAST TERN, one of our targets:

And secondly, PIPING PLOVERS are very common. Here is one of them:

And lastly, not too much usually happens while you're pumping gas at a gas station... but in this instance (behind the Cenex/Subway in North Platte), we heard a BELL'S VIREO singing from behind the building! A quick check confirmed this although the skulker did not reveal himself without a fight:

26 June 2009

Prairie Falcon - 26 June 09

As the season is winding down here, I figured birding was slowing down as well. However, a recent drive from town back to the refuge provided a few things to snap pictures of. First, and very uncommon during the summer, a PRAIRIE FALCON soared right over me:

A little further down the road I was treated to a flock of 20+ MARBLED GODWITS sitting along a pond edge. These recently arrived shorebirds are proof that fall migration is actually just around the corner!

I figured I would throw in a picture of one of the most common species at the refuge. ORCHARD ORIOLES are truly one of the more abundant species (where trees are present) down at Crescent Lake:

I'm not sure why, but this summer has been very slow for butterflies at the refuge. Below is a Common Checkered-Skipper:

Regarding butterflies... despite trying, the few species I see down at the refuge usually only consist of:

Common Sootywing
Cabbage White
Painted Lady
Red Admiral

Kinda boring, huh?

23 June 2009

Lightning - 23 June 09

One of the enjoyable aspects of western Nebraska (for me at least) are the amazing storms that roll through during the summer months. The other night I played around with trying to capture some lightning in a photo. Turned up with this:

Of course, there is the dangerous aspect of storms as well. In fact, we had wind gusts of over 60 mph last night at the refuge!

Although my interests usually revolve around birds and more recently butterflies, I also have enjoyed learning more about dragonflies. Here is a female Twelve-spotted Skimmer:

19 June 2009

Update - 19 June 09

Here are a few pictures from the last couple days. First is a White-tailed Jackrabbit:

One of the common breeding shorebirds here is the Wilson's Phalarope. Here is a brightly pluamaged female:

A bit out of its regular habitat of dense cattails, here is a distant American Bittern that I found stalking around in a wet field:

Who can turn down a chance to snap a quick photo of a Common Nighthawk? Not me.

Lastly (and most recent), a flock of 24 Cattle Egrets flew over my yard yesterday! They are a bit distant but here is a photo:

16 June 2009

Goldfinch - 16 June 09

A bird I've been waiting for to show up at my feeders actually DID show up a couple days ago, a LESSER GOLDFINCH.  It was only present for one day before moving on. 

At least 1 LEGO was present for a few days last summer at the refuge as well (see below photo):

12 June 2009

Funnel - 12 June 09

Nothing bird-related in this post (a shock, I'm sure).  The most interesting thing to happen over the last couple days was this storm!  The storm cell pictured before dropped a funnel cloud and became a tornado at least twice before we actually saw the storm.  However, the funnel decided to drop once more while we were there.  Very cool!

09 June 2009

Tornado - 9 June 09

Not all that much has changed here in western Nebraska in the last several days.  Honestly, work is keeping us busy and the birding has really started to slow down.  Nonetheless, there was some excitement recently when a large storm cell spawned a tornado very near the refuge!  Although I wasn't able to see the tornado, we think it came about 3-4 miles from the house.  As far as we know, nothing was damanged either.

The following is a picture of a rainbow that popped out behind the cell in the creepy, greenish light:

I think the only bird photo I have to share on this update is one of a Bobolink taken north of the refuge.  Bobolinks are actually tough to find in this part of the state.  Sorry for the wire in front of the birds head (stupid fence):

05 June 2009

Update - 5 June 09

Hello all (all 3 of you),

It's been a little while since my last post so I thought I'd give an update.  The project out here in western Nebraska is going well.  The curlews have hatched and are now struggling to make it to fledging.

But first, here are a few pictures.  The first is a Willet, one darn attractive shorebird of the prairies near the refuge:

The following pictures show the same female Long-billed Curlew wearing one of our satellite transmitters:

Ever wonder how noticeable an adult female Long-billed Curlew is on a nest?  Here is a picture showing one:

And lastly, we can't forget about the male curlews.  This is a bird wearing one of our radio-collars:

Wonder why we attach these to curlews?  Well, A) we'd like to learn where these curlews spend the winter (hence the satellite-tags) and B) we'd like to track these males back to nests next summer (hence the radio-tags). 

Another common resident (although rarely seen) is the Barn Owl.  Here is one near my house:

Lastly, the birding here at Crescent Lake has started to slow down.  Migrants are far and few between these days.  However, a couple days ago yielded a few new species for my "refuge list".  We had a lone Purple Martin but more excitingly, a MacGillivray's Warbler.  Unfortunately, couldn't manage any photos of those.

More from me later!