Me, Lauren Burke (my older sister for those who aren’t in the know), Lori Brummer and an unnamed special-friend-ditching-work went birding the other day. It was an interesting time with a tally of 91 species total. Crow Valley Campground, near Briggsdale, felt like mid-April and had the birds to prove it – Yellow-rumped, Orange-crowned Warblers and the like. Only two Bullock’s Orioles, a bunch of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Chipping and Clay-colored Sparrows. And it was freezing cold. We were able to nab a Yellow Warbler on our way out. Time to check out the prairie.
We proceeded to head out on the Pawnee Birders Loop which proved to be an interesting and rather exciting several miles. McCown’s Longspurs, Horned Larks and bunches of Lark Buntings entertained us as we slithered out way down the road. Not bad really, but when the tour goes north, we decided to keep heading west as they had a bunch of road equipment working the north section.
Some among us would say it was a bad decision. As we passed the work trucks all around the intersection, the road became very wet, very muddy & very tricky! There was no way to turn around. Stopping would’ve been utter folly. The next 2-3 miles were quite an adventure. My jeep liberty has the scars to prove it. Or maybe Lauren does. Ask her.
The funny thing was as we were slopping, sliding and grinding along praying we wouldn’t get stuck, the gals were calling out bird names! I distinctly remember my sis yelling “AVOCET! There’s an AVOCET on the bank of that puddle!” Wipers were flapping, mud and water was flying, knuckles were whitening and I was grinning. It was pretty fun, but had we gotten stuck, it would have not been fun at all. At one point the mud was 5-6 inches deep and the tracks before mine were wider so it was pretty sketchy going to keep from landing forever in a ditch. I think the skid plates underneath let us slide along the top, while the tires were bouncing in the ruts.
We had a window cleaning and life celebration party at the intersection where we got back on “improved roads” (Lori liked that term it seemed), then meandered on said roads for another hour or so looking for Chestnut-collared Longspurs and Mountain Plover – we found neither. Loggerhead Shrikes were abundant.
So we headed down to Lower Lathum & Beebe Draw and had a great time birding there. Tons of stuff around, and a very unusual Willet. This bird had an orange-buffy tail, very dark below, just strange looking. I put it out to several folks and most thought oil was a possibility. Let me know what you think of this bird!
We had 9 Whimbrels, too. Oh! We got our Chestnut-collared Longspur on CR 40, it was hanging out with the bizarre Willet. We also had great looks at a Sora – a tiny chicken like bird that lives in the marshes.
If you’re not doing much this weekend, check out the eastern plains for birds, you won’t be disappointed, but stay on the “improved roads!” Or if you’ve had an adventure similar to this, I wanna hear about it.