Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Final Fall Trip to the Eastern Plains for Migrating Birds

October 20 to 23, 2015

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I returned to the eastern plains for another (final?) search for this fall's migration.  Reports of many uncommon birds last weekend spurred our enthusiasm. Forecasts of afternoon rains proved accurate later in the week.

October 20

A Winter Wren (Kellner, 10/17) was relocated along the west side.  Nearby a Wood Thrush hunkered below in the same bushes.  We did not relocate the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker or Blue-headed Vireo.

Fairview Cemetery at the north end of Burlington (Kit Carson) was also slow.  We did find a female Black-and-white Warbler was not the same bird (a male) we found on 10/13.

At dusk, an Eastern Screech-Owl called from the northeastern end of Hale Ponds (Yuma).

October 21

Birding was special today.  It rained most of the day.  My favorite and most successful birding seems to happen during rainy times.

Bryan and I watched a sparrow fly across Yuma County Road 2 where the road makes a sharp right then left turn east of highway 385.  It took another hour to obtain sufficient looks at the bird that kept diving into the grasses.

We knew right away that it was an "ammodramus" sparrow, but which one?  Eventually we observed the orangish eye stripe and dark lateral throat line of the Baird's Sparrow.  Grasshopper Sparrows show grayish eye lines and lack the strong throat stripe.

A Red-bellied Woodpecker was found along the gated road that runs along the south side of the old Bonny Reservoir (now almost drained of water).  Our target birds were warblers, vireos and other passerines.  We did not spend time searching for owls this trip.

Around noon, we drove to a friend's ranch to say "hi".  He rewarded us by pointing out a Varied Thrush that was first discovered two days earlier!

In the afternoon, a flock of 14 Yellow-rumped Warblers perked our interest.  A Bay-breasted Warbler was loosely associated with the flock.   It appeared to be a non-breeding male.  The flock was along the Republican River at 300 to 500 yards east of Yuma County Road LL.5.  Unfortunately, I was not carrying my camera because of the rain.

Seven Eastern Bluebirds were along the Hale Ponds Road at 200 yards west of Kansas.  An Eastern Screech-Owl called again at 0.2 miles west of Kansas.

October 22

We woke up to cloudy skies; however, the rain would return in the afternoon.  Winds were 12 mph, gusts to 19 mph by noon.

We did not find any Sprague's Pipits in a 15 minute stop at "pipit hill" below the Bonny Reservoir dam.  A brief search for the Bay-breasted Warbler was also not successful. 

We stopped at Beecher Island (Yuma) on our way north.  A Field Sparrow and two White-throated Sparrows were along the Arikaree River (Yuma).

We dropped a six pack of Dr. Pepper off at a friend's home in Wray and observed a pair of Northern Cardinals.  Then we headed to Wray Fishing Unit and Stalker Pond. 

The fishing unit has strict hours so we birded it first.  No uncommon passerines were found; one of the resident Barn Owls was the consolation sighting.

A male Northern Cardinal continued to wander around Stalker Pond.  The only shorebirds were Killdeer.  The only wren was a Marsh Wren.

Nearby Sandsage Wildlife Area again had a Harris's Sparrow and two White-throated Sparrows.  The dozens of sparrows did not include any rare ones.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker(s) found at Wray City Park (10/14) and later at Wray Community Hospital (10/15) could not be relocated.

Rain and wind cut our birding short and we continued north to Sedgwick County.  It was dusk when we passed by Sand Draw Wildlife Area (Sedgwick).  An owl flew out of the windbreak and surely was a Barn Owl.  It was too light and small for a Great Horned Owl and did not fly like a Short-eared Owl.

October 23, 2015

We woke up to fog and mist over the eastern rolling hills this morning.  Winds were 24 mph, gusts to 36 mph by 9:00 am.  It stayed windy throughout the day.

Several hours were spent driving the roads through the sand hill area of Sedgwick County.  Eventually we found two Sprague's Pipits on private property (after obtaining permission from the landowner to drive his roads).

Birds encountered at Tamarack Ranch Wildlife Area (Logan) included Nashville Warbler, five Red-bellied Woodpeckers, two Field Sparrows, one Harris's Sparrow and an Eastern Screech-Owl.

The high winds encouraged us to return to Denver early afternoon.

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