I was off last Friday and Monday and took a four-day weekend birding trip to western Nebraska. The end of August and early September is one the most exciting times to go birding because migration peaks for many species, particularly passerines (songbirds). Once we move past early September, the number of species leaving our part of the world for warmer climes increases quickly . Many species like orioles, kingbirds and warblers will soon be all but summer memories. Fall migration occurs in spurts and is affected by weather. Cold fronts, in particular, influence when birds decide to take flight. However, not all cold fronts cause birds to migrate (and result in productive birding) and there are other variables affecting migration. Thus, birding is unpredictable and I seemed to have missed a big wave of migrants during my recent trip. By the end, I tallied 148 species and had a great time. I also got around. I visited two State Parks, nine State Recreation Areas, two Wildlife Management Areas, three Waterfowl Production Areas and two National Wildlife Refuges. Below, are some pictorial highlights from the trip.
This Northern Waterthrush at Lake Ogallala SRA was one of the few “migrant” passerines encountered during the trip. This species breeds in northern forests in Canada and Alaska and winters in southern Mexico and points south.
This Olive-sided Flycatcher, also at Lake Ogallala SRA, is another species that breeds in northern forests. This individual may be in South America in a few weeks. The “vested” appearance of the Olive-sided Flycatcher is distinctive.
Unsettled weather made for interesting views of wide open landscapes. The pink smartweed blooming in this playa wetland in a wheat field in Deuel County was eye catching.
Sage Thrashers are uncommon migrants in extreme western Nebraska. This bird was one of ten at Oliver Reservoir Recreation Area, Kimball County.
Rock Wrens are typically found on rocky escarpments in western Nebraska, but migrating birds can be found in atypical habitats. This Rock Wren in Kimball County was along a road in open country.
This Rufous Hummingbird was coming to a feeder at a residence in Gering.
Not long ago, Lesser Goldfinches were not found in Nebraska. They have recently become a regularly occurring species that now breeds in the Wildcat Hills.
More unsettled weather and compelling interplay between land and sky, this time in the Pine Ridge southwest of Chadron.
Mississippi Kites are also increasing in Nebraska in towns like Ogallala, North Platte and Imperial. This juvenile was found in Ogallala.
Low water levels and extensive areas of mud at lakes such as Swanson Reservoir is attractive to migrant shorebirds.
Proving my point, these Snowy Plovers at Swanson Reservoir were one of the best finds of the trip.