alaskabirder

Its a Great Day to Bird

Month: April 2017

Show Me (Missouri) the Birds

13 April 2017

After leaving Kansas we made our way into Missouri the “Show Me” state.  Not sure what that means.  Show me what?  I will have to ask Jack, since Missouri is the state in which he was born.  For me, it is ‘show me’ the birds…

Missouri actually has a different feel to it than Kansas.  I actually like Kansas.  Can’t say much for their politics, but then I try not to talk about that in this blog.

We are camped for the night at the Schell/Osage Conservation Area.  Not a bad spot.  They have two primitive campground (north and south).  We tried the south campground first and found only one camper, but they were using a very loud generator.  We decided to check out the north campground and found, while it’s bathrooms weren’t as nice, they did have an occasional picnic table at a site.  We decided to stay here (for free) for the night — the only campers.  Tomorrow we will explore the conservation area and see what birds are around.  Here’s what we saw this evening:

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Schell/Osage Conservation Area (Missouri)

  • Canada Goose
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Great Blue Heron
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Brown Thrasher
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • American Goldfinch
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Barred Owl

And most of these birds were around the campground.

14 April 2017

Spent the morning at the Schell/Osage Conservation Area.  This conservation area was opened to the public in 1964 and contains over 1,400 acres of prairie and wetland habitat.  It is one of over 1,000 conservation areas within the state of Missouri.  Way to go Missouri!  Of course the areas are generally set aside for hunting and fishing, but bird watching and photography’s importance have been gaining ground in recent years.

Blue-winged Teal Pair

Male Blue-winged Teal (Drake)

Spotted Sandpiper

Semi-palmated Plover

Lesser Yellowleg

Pectoral Sandpiper

Red-winged Blackbird

Chipping Sparrow – sounds like a sewing machine being operated very fast

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Schell/Osage Conservation Area

  • Fish Crow
  • Blue Jay
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • American Goldfinch
  • Yellow-rumped warblers (they were everywhere)
  • Red-winged Blackbirds
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Blue-winged Teal (Jack calls them blue boys)
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Mourning Dove
  • Wood Duck
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • American Coot
  • Spotted Sandpiper
  • Bald Eagle
  • Barn Swallow
  • Gadwall
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Franklin’s Gull
  • Pectoral Sandpiper (around 30)
  • Semi-palmated Plover (5)
  • Lesser Yellowleg
  • Common Grackle
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Great Egret
  • White-faced Ibis
  • Wild Turkey
  • Red-shouldered Hawk
  • Turkey Vulture

The nice surprise were the shorebirds.  I love shorebirds and we usually get these four species (Pectoral Sandpiper, Semi-palmated Plover, Lesser Yellowleg, and Spotted Sandpiper) in and near Homer.

In Homer, Alaska, the Kachemak Bay Birders conducts annual shorebird monitoring, which started April 13th this year.  Shorebirds are monitored at about 8 different locations every five days through the last week in May.  The peak of shorebird migration is generally early May.  I won’t be participating this year, so it will be nice to see as many shorebirds as I can during our trip.

After the driving the conservation area (several roads) searching for birds – or in the case of others to fish – we drove to Knob Noster State Park for the night.  We got here early and only about 5 of the 70 campsites were occupied.  Throughout the afternoon we’ve watched the sites fill up – still more than half empty by nightfall.

Tomorrow we head to Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge.  This is rated as one of the top 10 birding locations in the state.  It will be interesting to see what birds are there this time of year.  We’ve been here before, but never at this time (April).

15 April 2017

Enjoyed our 80+ mile drive through the Missouri countryside on our way from Knob Noster State Park to Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge.  The leaves have emerged on most of the trees, and the farm fields, where vegetation is present, is a beautiful verdant green.  Ah, spring time.  My favorite time of the year.

We arrived at Swan Lake around 10:30 am, but not before stopping at the Sumner City Park to photograph the large (aka huge, giant, humongous) Canada Goose statute.   They embrace the value of having a National Wildlife Refuge nearby.   As I was walking over to take the photo I noticed a lot of bright colored plastic eggs on the ground.  We later learned the Easter egg hunt was scheduled for 11:00 am that day.

At the refuge we did the short trail near the refuge visitor center.  This area produced a lot of great birds, including both the Sora (three of them out in the open feeding on vegetation or preening) and a Virginia Rail.  I’ve never seen both in the same general area before.  I almost missed the secretive Virginia Rail and only spotted it as I was pointing out a resting snake to Jack.  Luckily the snake wasn’t interested in this particular bird.

The visitor center was supposed to open at noon, but no one showed up to open the doors.  Also the nearby restrooms were locked.  What really disappointed me was the lack of a refuge brochure or bird list outside the visitor center for visitors to take when the center is closed.  I always like to know what birds I might see while at the refuge.

They do have roads running through the refuge and I guess you could call the main route an auto tour route.  We took the main road and was stopped after several miles due to high water.  In fact, much of the refuge was under water.  We’ve been to Swan Lake NWR several times in the past, but have never seen this amount of water.  At this junction there were a lot (several hundred) of shorebirds feeding – Greater Yellowleg, Lesser Yellowleg, Pectoral Sandpiper, Dowitcher sp., one Hudsonian Godwit, Killdeer, and American Golden Plover.  We spent some time checking out the shorebirds, naturally.

We then turned around and entered from a different direction onto the refuge, hoping to see more of the refuge.  We did.  However, ,about a mile onto this road (from the Hunter’s Headquarters Building) we came across a sign letting us know the road was closed in 3.5 -miles.  I knew right where the road would be closed as there is a low area where water from Silver Lake is allowed to spill over a dam/road structure.  It was indeed under water.

When we stopped before turning around, I did see an Eastern Yellowbellied Racer (i.e., snake) in the water with only its head sticking up out of the water.  We later saw another one just off the roadway.

As we were stopped along a dike road, a car pulled up along side of us and asked if we were from Homer Alaska.  We responded yes.  The passenger mentioned he had gone on a tour with Wilderness Adventures and they visited Homer.  We asked if he went with Aaron Lang (the owner of Wilderness Birding Adventures) and he said yes and then complimented Aaron.  He told us to tell Aaron hi from the guy from Missouri.  So Aaron, have you had many clients from Missouri?  If not, then you may remember the person who stopped us.

On the way back we spotted a single Snow Goose.  The goose looked as though its right wing had been injured.  If so, I suspect it will soon become prey for the Bald Eagles that call Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge home.

Swan Lake

Pond near the visitor center

Trail near the visitor center

Sora …

… stretching its wing

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Eastern Phoebe – we’ve seen lots of Phoebes

This area is generally dry – lots of high water on the refuge this spring

American Golden Plover

Muskrat

Roadkill – Turtle. I think people intentionally run these animals over. It’s not like they move quickly so you can’t avoid them. But why? Heartless people.

Again, water where there usually isn’t any

A single Snow Goose on Silver Lake within the refuge. Right wing looks injured. Most likely future dinner for one of the Bald Eagles living within the refuge.

I think this is an Eastern Yellowbellied Racer

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Swan Lake National Wildlife Area

  • American Robin
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • American Coot
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Blue Jay
  • Song Sparrow
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Red-headed Woodpecker
  • Sora
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Swamp Sparrow
  • Virginia Rail
  • Brown Thrasher
  • Marsh Wren
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Mourning Dove
  • Eastern Meadowlark
  • Bald Eagle
  • American White Pelican
  • Canada Goose
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • Greater Yellowleg
  • Lesser Yellowleg
  • Pectoral Sandpiper
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Hudsonian Godwit
  • Dowitcher sp.
  • American Golden Plover
  • Killdeer
  • Forester’s Tern
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Bonaparte’s Gull
  • Tree Swallow
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Snow Goose
  • Common Grackle
  • Spotted Sandpiper

In addition to the birds, we also saw the Eastern Yellowbellied Racer (snake), several Muskrats, and a dead turtle.  We found it dead in the center of the road going to the refuge headquarters.  I’m sure some idiot intentionally ran it over.  Why?  Does it make them feel powerful?  I think it makes them a coward.

Tonight we are staying at Pershing State Park, just 11 miles north of the refuge.  This place is a great place to bird and we are hoping tomorrow will be worthwhile.

16 April 2017

Rained about ½ inch last night.  One of the tent campers was gone in the morning.  Maybe the rain was too much for them, or maybe they moved to higher ground.

For the past several days I’ve been hearing a Northern Parula – a warbler.  This species song sounds to me like a zipper being pulled up quickly.  A song I haven’t forgotten.  Only problem is, I haven’t been able to find the singer.  One nice thing about these warblers is they spend their time in the bottom or the middle part of the tree canopy so you don’t have to crane your neck (warbler neck) so high to try and find them.

After breakfast we walked the Locust Creek Boardwalk and Riparian Trail within the park.  This boardwalk trail has been very productive bird-wise for us in the past.  It did not disappoint this time.  To get to the trail you cross a bridge over Locust Creek.  And what do you think I heard near the bridge – you got it, the Northern Parula and this time I was able to find it.  Hooray!!!  A beautiful male warbler sporting Easter colors.

We walked the short (less than 1-mile) boardwalk trail and enjoyed the sights and sounds of bird life.  At the end of the trail a guy in a pickup truck pulls up and asked if we were from Alaska.  We said yes, and he proceeded to tell us about about all the Alaska reality shows he watches.  We get that a lot.  Personally we’ve yet to watch a single one.  Of course we don’t have TV reception (by choice).  He told us to say hi to the Kilchers from The Last Frontier.

While walking on the trail we were surprised at the number of Wood Ducks we flushed off trees.  I even captured a photograph of a male drake on a tree limb.  Beautiful, fancy ducks.

Carolina Wren

Lots of interesting fungus in the park

The boardwalk trail

Fungus covered tree

Yes, a Wood Duck on a tree limb

Eastern Phoebe

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Pershing State Park:

  • Wood Duck
  • Northern Parula
  • American Goldfinch
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • American Robin
  • Blue Jay
  • Canada Goose
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Mourning Dove
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Carolina Wren
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Brown Thrasher
  • Hermit’s Thrush
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Red-headed Woodpecker
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Orange-crowned Warbler

We then drove to the Poosey Conservation Area, near Jamesport to see what birds might be out and about.  Nothing new except for Cedar Waxwings.  We did see signs saying all trails closed from 17 April to 7 May for turkey hunting.  We had planned to come back to bird this area, but with turkey hunting going on, I think we will pass.

Eastern Bluebird

Poosey Conservation Area – bottomland forest habitat

Helmeted Guineafowl – for a minute there I thought I was back in Africa

We plan to spend the next several days visiting with Jack’s brother and wife in Jamesport, Missouri.  This is a small community with lots of Amish in the neighborhood (largest Amish Community in the state).  You can hear the clip clopping of horse hooves and see a slow moving vehicle symbol moving up and down the road in the pitch black night.

17 April 2017

A day of catch up with emails, write my blog, and do laundry.

18 April 2017

Spent the day checking out the Amish Stores around the area and a little birding at Crowder State Park.

Crowder State Park consists of 1,912 acres in the rolling green hills in Northern Missouri, with 17-miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.  Birding too.  Crowder is a great place to bird.  We’ve birded here in the past when we’ve come back to Missouri to visit Jack’s family.   Today we took the Riparian Trail – a 2-mile loop trail.  Lots of great habitat, but seeing as it was mid-afternoon, not so many birds.

Crowder Lake

Crowder Lake – view from the earthen dam

Lots of rolling hills

I like the signs for trails at Missouri Parks and Conservation Areas – the bottom sign lets you know what type of obstacles you might encounter

And this sign is very important – we’ve encountered a lot of ticks so far

Riparian Trail

Wild Blue Phlox

Yellow Swallowtail Butterfly

Hermit’s Thrush

May Apple plant

House Finch at a feeder in Jamesport

Purple Martin Condos at the Sherwood Quilt Store

I guess the purpose of this plastic Purple Martin is to attract other martins

Purple Martin

A fixer upper in Missouri

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Crowder State Park

  • Great Blue Heron
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Canada Goose
  • Turkey Vulture
  • American Robin
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Northern Parula
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Hermit’s Thrush
  • Downy Woodpecker

19 April 2017

Another lazy day catching up on my blog (takes awhile to go through all my photos and select and edit the one’s I want to include in my posts, and I don’t even use a fancy program like PhotoShop).

We also drove around the countryside in search of birds.  Nothing new seen, but we did finally hear a Northern Bobwhite, with its distinctive call “Bob White”.

20 April 2017

We got up at the crack of dawn and headed to Squaw Creek (now known as Loess Bluffs) National Wildlife Refuge.  The refuge was established in 1935 and  includes 7,440 acres of wetlands, grasslands, and forests along the eastern edge of the Missouri River floodplain.   Of the 7,440 acres, 3,400 acres are wetlands.

This refuge offers a 10-mile Wild Goose Interpretive Auto Tour.  There is also a 2.5-mile Mallard Marsh Auxiliary Loop. There are also several hiking trails on the refuge.  We drove both loop roads.

Refuge Map

Loess Bluffs NWR is one of my top 10 refuges and it did not disappoint.  We saw a total of 63 different species, with three First of Year (FOY) species: Solitary Sandpiper, Baird’s Sandpiper, and Palm Warbler.  The Palm Warblers (two of them) were a surprise.  They are only occasionally seen at the refuge.  We felt fortunate to catch a glimpse (and a bad photo) of them.

Of those 63 species, we saw 36 species while driving the  Mallard Marsh Auxillary Loop.  We’ve driven part of this road in previous visits, but not the entire road.  We will now drive all of it during any future visits.

Lots of tangled branches for a bird to hide

Male American Goldfinch

Wood Duck nest box

Prime Wood Duck habitat. The Blue-winged Teal like it too.

Turkey Vulture

(Jeremiah was a) Bullfrog

Palm Warbler

Solitary Sandpiper

There are actually two snakes here – one large and one small

Bald Eagle Nest in the tree – with a nesting Bald Eagle

Occupied Bald Eagle Nest

Barn Swallow

Belted Kingfisher

Wood Duck

Pair of Wood Ducks and a Male Wood Duck.  They are usually very skittish so was surprised they didn’t flush when we stopped to check them out.

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Loess Bluff National Wildlife Refuge

  • Spotted Sandpiper
  • Killdeer
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Greater Yellowleg
  • Lesser Yellowleg
  • American Wigeon
  • Great Blue Heron
  • American Robin
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • American Goldfinch
  • Mourning Dove
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Wood Duck
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Lincoln Sparrow
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Tree Swallow
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  • American Coot
  • Barred Owl
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Great Egret
  • Common Grackle
  • Northern Flicker
  • Harris’s Sparrow
  • Canada Goose
  • Bald Eagle
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Sora
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Dunlin
  • Pectoral Sandpiper
  • Dowitcher sp (most likely Long-billed Dowitcher)
  • Mallard
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Palm Warbler
  • House Wren
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • European Starling
  • Solitary Sandpiper
  • Brown Thrasher
  • American Avocet
  • Gadwall
  • Snow Goose
  • Song Sparrow
  • Barn Swallow
  • American White Pelican
  • Snowy Egret
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Ring-necked Pheasant
  • Great-tailed Grackle
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Baird’s Sandpiper
  • Semi-palmated Plover
  • Franklin’s Gull

We spent a total of 7 hours driving the refuge roads.  What a glorious day of birding.

Tonight we are camping at the nearby Big Lake State Park.  Surprisingly the basic campsites (no electricity) are located along the lake shore.  There are 76 sites (both electric and basic), but tonight,  only three other campers.  We enjoyed listening to the very numerous American Robins and other birds singing.

21 April 2017

Woke up to cold weather ( low 40s) and winds around 5-10 mph.  Brrrrrr.  Heard a Great Horned Owl calling in the early morning, and a Northern Bobwhite with its call of “Bob White”.  Very distinctive.  Then the American Robins started their singing – so melodical.

Park of the state park is a wetland area and we birded the wetland prior to heading back to Jamesport.  Surprisingly we had a total of 25 species at the park today.

Lark Sparrow

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Big Lake State Park

  • Great Horned Owl
  • Northern Bobwhite
  • American Robin
  • European Starling
  • Common Grackle
  • Canada Goose
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Tree Swallow
  • Blue Jay
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Mourning Dove
  • American Goldfinch
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Snow Goose (one with a broken wing)
  • Killdeer
  • Great Blue Heron
  • American White Pelican
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Great Egret
  • Blue winged Teal
  • American Coot
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Lark Sparrow

22 April 2017

Earth Day.  No planned ‘March for Science’ in the little community of Jamesport, Missouri.  Maybe I should have made a sign and put it up in the yard.  I am a believer in Climate Change.  Saying it isn’t so, isn’t going to change the consequences of it happening.  I don’t care how wealthy you are, eventually even the wealthy won’t be able to buy clean air or clean water if it doesn’t exist.  We need to protect our environment.  We need to find a way to co-exist – have jobs and a clean environment.  Our future generations are dependent upon it.  We all are.

Went to check out Dunn Ranch, a Nature Conservancy property, to check out our route as we would be arriving tomorrow morning in the dark.  The ranch has a herd of bison, and our timing was good — they were congregated near the road.  We watched the bison for a while, fascinated by their behavior.  Along our prairie route,  we saw 18 different bird species, although nothing notable.  When we got to the parking area we could see the bird blind we would be using tomorrow.  There were some large-sized birds near the blind, which we suspected were the prairie-chickens, but even with our scope we couldn’t see the birds very well – wind, haze.   Looking forward to watching the Greater Prairie Chickens on their lek tomorrow.

… Where the Buffalo (Bison) roam

This Turkey Vulture was cleaning its bill on the roof top

No hiking within the Bison enclosure

Bird Species Seen or Heard on Dunn Ranch

  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Eastern Meadowlark
  • American Robin
  • Merlin
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Barn Swallow
  • Ring-necked Pheasant
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Northern Flicker
  • Field Sparrow
  • Savannah Sparrow
  • Northern Harrier
  • Killdeer
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Song Sparrow
  • American Goldfinch

23 April 2017

I woke at 2:00 a.m. and couldn’t go back to sleep.  We left our hotel at around 4:30 am to head to the Dunn Ranch where we are scheduled to see Greater Prairie Chickens on their lek.   A lek is where the males perform their mating ritual booming in hopes of attracting a female for mating purposes.  To hear this ritual go to: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Greater_Prairie-Chicken/sounds.  There are a number of great videos on You Tube you can watch to see this mating ritual.

After arriving at the Dunn Ranch we walked about 1/2 mile to a viewing blind in the dark.  In the blind we sat and waited for the prairie chickens to come to the lek.  The males arrive about 45 minutes prior to sunrise and start their booming, and defending their territory.  We saw 18 birds total, of which 15 were males.

The Missouri Conservation Department and The Nature Conservancy offer these viewing opportunities from 30 March to 24 April.  We had to pre-register for the “free” viewing.  In mid March we called and learned that most of the time slots were already filled.  Wow, this is a popular event.

The viewing blind only has six windows up front.  We had seven people in our group so we had to take turns at the window.  Even though someone had to sit in the back, they were still able to see out and watch the display (as long as the photographers didn’t block their view).

I wasn’t sure how many birds we would see since we went the second to the last day the viewings were offered.  The leader mentioned that on April 21 there were only 12 prairie chickens on the lek.  Fifteen hopeful males strutted their stuff at the lek with only three females.  I’m wondering if there were only three females present because the rest of the females had already mated.  I did notice a male who kept booming and strutting madly next to a female.  Several times she would squat down, but the male ignored her and kept booming. I think he lost his opportunity to mate in those instances – too busy strutting his stuff; full of hormones.   For the most part, the females pretty much ignored the males.

At one point a Northern Harrier (raptor) came in and swooped down on the prairie chickens.  The birds would duck, but didn’t run for cover.

This was a very enjoyable experience and one I would recommend to everyone, whether you are a bird watcher or not.  These birds have experienced sharp declines in past years and efforts are underway to protect their habitat and increase their numbers.  Our leader said the ranch started with under 20 birds and there are now over 80 prairie chickens on Dunn Ranch.  Thank you TNC (The Nature Conservancy).

I also saw two male Ring-necked Pheasants squaring off defending their territory or fighting over a female – not sure which.

As we were leaving the ranch I did see our first (FOY – First of Year) Upland Sandpiper.  The bird was alongside the road and it flushed as we got close, flying up onto a fence post – one of their favorite perches.  I love these birds.

The Lek grounds

Viewing blind

Male Greater Prairie Chicken

The inflated air sac is what causes the “booming” sound

Defending their territory

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Dunn Ranch – The Nature Conservancy:

  • Greater Prairie Chicken
  • Horned Lark
  • Red-necked Pheasant
  • Killdeer
  • Harris’s Sparrow
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Eastern Meadowlark
  • Northern Bobwhite
  • Upland Sandpiper
  • Northern Harrier
  • American Goldfinch
  • Barn Swallow

If you ever plan to come to Missouri to bird check out the “Great Missouri Birding Trail”, which formally takes flight in May:  http://greatmissouribirdingtrail.com/Wordpress/

What’s up next?  We continue our journey to Ohio and the Biggest Week in Birding.  We plan to visit relatives and a few national wildlife refuges along the way. 

Until then …

It’s A Great Day to Bird

 

Colorado and Kansas Birding

4 April 2017

On the road again.  Just can’t wait to get on the road again.  Yes, we are continuing our adventure of 2016-2017.  I completed my duties in Sedona – a long month with only one bird trip (Page Springs/Bubbling Ponds, of course), and two hikes (thanks to my friend Jane, from Portland, Oregon, who was visiting me for a week).

Today was a day of driving.  Our destination for the night – Navajo Lake State Park in New Mexico.  Google Maps said it was 272 miles from Sedona.  I think they were off by a 100 miles or so.

Surprisingly the campground (Cottonwood) was almost half full.  The campground is along the San Juan River, a premier fishing stream so it is understandable there would be campers here.  We saw a lot of fishing poles.  Pretty along the stream.

5 April 2017

Our destination today is the Great Sand Dunes National Park near Alamosa, Colorado.  Before heading out we e did walk along the river and through the Navajo Lake State Park campground in New Mexico.  Had to check out the birds, of course.  In all we saw 17 different species.  Not too bad.

Spotted Towhee

San Juan River – New Mexico

Western Bluebird

House Finch

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Navajo Lake State Park

  • American Robin
  • Canada Goose
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Lesser Goldfinch
  • Eurasian Collared Dove
  • White-winged Dove
  • Spotted Towhee
  • House Finch
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Northern Flicker
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Western Bluebird
  • Osprey
  • Bufflehead
  • Gadwall

We headed north driving into Colorado.  Our route took us through New Mexico fracking country.  What a blight on the beautiful countryside.

We stopped in Pagosa Springs at a bakery.  Yum, yum – carrot cake muffins.  There was a really cute hand crafted art store across the street from the bakery, but unfortunately they closed that day for the upcoming two weeks.  Unfortunate for both me and the owner – I’m sure the owner lost out on several good sales, and that was based just on what I saw in the window.  Of course Jack feels lucky because the store was closed.

We climbed up and over Wolf Creek Pass.  There were Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep along side the road so despite the signs telling us not to stop, we did.  Had to get a couple of photographs.  Lucky too because about ten sheep leapt across the road just after we pulled over.

Lots of snow still on the ground going up the pass

Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep

Later we passed through the town of Monte Vista and decided since we were so close we would visit the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) today, rather than wait until tomorrow.

The 14,804 acre Monte Vista NWR was established in 1952.  The refuge , which sits at 7,800 feet in elevation, still had snow on the ground.   A 2.5-mile auto tour route is available, which we took (of course).  At first we didn’t think we would see much, but we actually saw 29 different bird species, about 100 Elk, some Mule Deer, and a muskrat.  The area had gotten some snow recently (within the last day or two) so the ground was covered in places.  Luckily the road was passable.  Near the end of the route we chased a Sage Thrasher for about a ¼ mile.  This bird is a FOY (First of Year) for me.  Didn’t think we would see one on this trip.

The refuge hosts a Sandhill Crane festival each spring (March).  Although we missed the festival we were happy that a 100 or so cranes were still hanging around during our visit.

Saw this Sandhill Crane on the way to the refuge

Still snow on the ground – they had just had a recent fresh dusting (well okay up to 18 inches in some places) of snow

Me in my pile pants and jacket – Refuge Sign

Pair of Redheads

Western Meadowlark

Canada Goose

Horned Lark

More Sandhill Cranes – not all cranes have left the barn …

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge

  • American Robin
  • Black-billed Magpie
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Eurasian Collared Dove
  • Canada Goose
  • Cinnamon Teal
  • Gadwall
  • American Coot
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Redhead
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Yellow-headed Blackbird
  • Mallard
  • Western Meadowlark
  • Northern Harrier
  • Western Bluebird
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Eared Grebe
  • Northern Pintail
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Song Sparrow
  • Sage Thrasher
  • American Kestrel
  • Sandhill Crane (about 50)
  • Great Blue Heron
  • European Starling
  • Northern Flicker
  • Say’s Phoebe

We arrived at the Great Sand Dunes National Park around 5:00 pm, and found a great campground site – in the sun (snow on the ground).  We set up camp then went for a short walk to the dunes.  Even though the sun doesn’t set until around 7:00 pm, we  didn’t feel we had time to climb the dunes.

Tonight is supposed to get down into the 20s (F) – brrrr.  And no electricity at the campground so I guess I will have to bundle up.

Sangre de Cristo Mountains (Blood of Christ)

The dunes

The Great Sand Dunes are the highest dunes in North America.   Interested?  For more information about the Great Sand Dunes National Park go to: https://www.nps.gov/grsa/index.htm    Get outdoors and have fun on the dunes.  Special sleds available for rent or purchase.  We read typical snow sleds or skis don’t work.

6 April 2017

It’s COLD this morning.  After eating a quick breakfast, we made our way to the Great Sand Dunes Visitor Center were we watched a 20-minute video on the park (very informative) and bought a few things (book, magnet) in the gift shop.  We decided not to hike up the dunes.  Dogs are allowed, but we didn’t think Doodlebug could go far and we didn’t want to push her as she aggravated her arthritis about a week earlier – limping and not putting much weight on her right front foot.  She is our (elder) baby.  Instead we went to the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge located near the town of Alamosa, Colorado.

The 12,026 acre Alamosa NWR was established in 1962, and offers two-auto tour routes.  We took both.  In addition, we hiked a short portion of the nature trail that borders the Rio Grande River.  We did the hike first, finding an American Bittern along the banks of the river.  We later told the refuge staff person about our find and she mentioned it was the first bittern reported this season.  Yay, there back.

The bad news for the day was as I was moving my fanny pack from my seat, my binoculars, which were under the fanny pack, fell to the floor of the van.  When I checked them out, I found the left optical was out-of-focus.  My binoculars were useless – essentially a monocular and difficult to use — one-eye birding.  What’s a birder to do?   Buy new binoculars.  However, that wasn’t going to happen until the next day.

We took the auto tour route near the refuge headquarters, but it yielded little in the way of birds.  We then drove to the Bluff’s Auto Tour Route and could look down on a number of ponds filled with waterfowl.  For this I could use my scope.  And we also several herds of Elk – around 100 or so in each group.  Better birding along this auto tour route.

Another refuge sign

American Bittern

Rio Grande River

Western Meadowlark

These ponds held a lot of waterfowl

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge:

  • Canada Goose
  • American Robin
  • American Coot
  • Mallard
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Cinnamon Teal
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Common Raven
  • Great Blue Heron
  • American Bittern
  • Gadwall
  • Western Meadowlark
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Canvasback
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Bufflehead
  • Redhead
  • Loggerhead Shrike

After we left the refuge we made our way back to the campground and just hung out.  A lot more campers tonight than last night.  I think a few wish they had our camp site since it accommodates big rigs – pretty hard to bring a monster RV to a national park campground.

Tomorrow Eastern Colorado and a new pair of binoculars.

7 April 2017

We got an early start today as we are taking a detour to Colorado Springs so I can purchase a new pair of binoculars.  This will add on another 150+  miles to our trip, but I can’t use my damaged binoculars.

I sent an email yesterday to my neighbor asking him if he could go over to our house and get my spare pair of Leica binoculars (old pair – heavy), pack them up, and send them to me.  I was surprised later today to find an email from him saying he had found the binoculars and already shipped them off.  Here is what he had to go through to get those binoculars for me:

Scott’s Story…

 It is snowing again, (really), and I had to shovel my driveway as the snow is so wet, the snowblower just packs up with snow (useless)…  Due to the snow storm, I had to hitch my 2 dogs to the dog sled, put on my snowshoes (I really had to use snow shoes) and mushed over to your house.  After climbing down the deep snow to your porch (this is really true), I found the binocs and put back on my snow shoes and mushed my way back thru the snow storm.  The dogs were great at mushing.  Of course you know the real truth, they just followed in my snowshoe tracks to your house and patiently waited for me to come out and followed me back, in my tracks.  I tried to walk on the previous packed trail I and Mark the moose had established, but the recent warm weather soften the snow, so I just sank up to my hips.  I figured then I had better use my snow shoes, which also sank into the snow, just not as much and just my boots.

Whatever the conditions were like, I truly appreciate Scott’s efforts at sending me my old pair of binoculars.  I will pick them up in Missouri when we arrive.

We made a few stops at a couple of reservoirs before reaching our campground for the night (John Martin Reservoir State Park).  At the Nee Noshe State Wildlife Area we did see some good birds, including a Great Horned Owl on a nest, and we flushed two Barn Owls from an old, abandnoned barn.

Long-billed Curlew

Horned Lark

Bird Species Seen or Heard at or near the Nee Noshe State Wildlife Area:

  • American White Pelican
  • Clark’s Grebe
  • American Wigeon
  • Bufflehead
  • American Crow
  • Gadwall
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Western Meadowlark
  • Northern Harrier
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • California Gull
  • Long-billed Curlew
  • European Starling
  • Horned Lark
  • American Kestrel
  • Black-billed Magpie
  • Great Horned Owl
  • Barn Owl
  • Rock Pigeon
  • Vesper Sparrow
  • Killdeer
  • Common Raven

We got to John Martin State Park around 5:00 pm.  We found a campsite and quickly unloaded our gear (camp stove, propane, etc.).  We then took a short walk along Hasty Lake, the lake upon which the campground is situated.  The evening was nice and warm, with only a slight wind.  Refreshing.  Around the park there were American Robins everywhere.  It’s breeding time.

Pelicans at Hasty Lake – John Martin Reservoir State Park

They are ready to breed – note the bump on their bill

Bird Species Seen or Heard at John Martin State Park – Hasty Lake Campground

  • Common Grackle
  • American Robin
  • Northern Flicker
  • European Starling
  • American White Pelican
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Copper’s Hawk
  • Great Blue Heron
  • House Finch
  • House Sparrow
  • Canada Goose
  • American Coot
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • White-faced Ibis
  • Brewer’s Blackbird
  • Mourning Dove
  • Eurasian Collared Dove
  • American Crow
  • Killdeer

Was nice to go to sleep without having to have lots of blankets to keep warm.  The temperatures tonight are only supposed to be in the low 50s.  Pleasant for camping in the van.

8 April 2017

We left the campground and drove around the John Martin reservoir.  Not much bird life around the reservoir.  I think most of the birds prefer the campground trees and upland surround.

We did take several roads suggested in a brochure entitled “John Martin Reservoir State Park, Discovering … Birds”.  The brochure includes seven birding sites within Bent County.  We went to all of them but one.  Not much happening at these sites.  I guess many winter birds have left and many spring migrants haven’t arrived.

We tried to find the Setchfield State Wildlife Area, but no luck.  However, along Highway 101 south of Las Animas we did see about 10 Burrowing Owls.  At first I didn’t realize they were the owls because they seemed so small.  But that is what they were.  Gun shy too.  Hopefully the locals don’t take target practice with them or the prairie dogs they co-habitate with.

Our last stop of the day was the Adobe Creek Reservoir/Blue Lakes.  This site didn’t yield much in the way of water birds, but we did see lots of Horned Lark and Western Meadowlarks.  However, the real treat, and the purpose for going to this site, was the two Mountain Plovers we observed.  We haven’t seen a Mountain Plover in almost ten years so it was nice to see these birds.

Most of the county was pretty flat “plains”

Franklin and Ring-billed Gulls (Franklins sporting the black hood)

Vesper Sparrow

Burrowing Owls – we saw at least ten today

Sunset at our campsite – Nee Noshe SWA

Bird Species Seen or Heard in Bent County, Colorado

  • Greater Roadrunner
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Eurasian Collared Dove
  • Western Meadowlark
  • Mourning Dove
  • American Robin
  • American White Pelican
  • Western Grebe
  • American Crow
  • Cliff Swallow
  • Tree Swallow
  • House Sparrow
  • Turkey Vulture
  • American Kestrel
  • Canada Goose
  • Killdeer
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Black-billed Magpie
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • Northern Harrier
  • Burrowing Owl
  • Ring-necked Pheasant
  • Great-tailed Grackle
  • Common Grackle
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Mallard
  • European Starling
  • Northern Flicker
  • Horned Lark
  • Mountain Plover
  • American Coot
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Ferruginous Hawk
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Franklin’s Gull
  • Say’s Phoebe
  • Vesper Sparrow
  • Common Raven

In all we saw 40 different bird species within Bent County, Colorado.  A good two days of birding.  We also saw lots of fat prairie dogs, and several Pronghorn Antelope.  Nice to see all kinds of wildlife.

9 April 2017

Today was another travel day essentially.  We left Nee Noshe State Wildlife Area in search of breakfast.  Never did find a restaurant until around noon in the town of Nells City, Kansas.  The towns of eastern Colorado and Western Kansas are small.  We ended up eating cake donuts, and Jack had coffee, me orange juice purchased at the Love’s Gas Station and Convenient Store in Eads, Colorado.

We did make several highway stops along the way to check out a Great Horned Owl on a nest, a Red-tailed Hawk on another nest, and two raptors that turned out to be a Dark Morph Red-tailed Hawk and a Rough-legged Hawk.  Lots of birds scattering about along the road, most of which I suspect are Horned Lark and Eastern  Meadowlarks.  The Meadowlarks seem to be doing fine in Eastern Colorado and Western Kansas.

Windy today, and more wind expected tomorrow – makes bird watching challenging and cooking a meal outside even more challenging.  For lunch we stopped for a pizza in Nells City, Kansas.  The pizza was mediocre.

Tomorrow we plan to visit the Cheyenne Bottoms State Wildlife Area (SWA) and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) so we want to stay somewhere nearby.  The closest state park is about 75+ miles away from Cheyenne Bottoms SWA.  We chose the Cedar Bluff State Park, located along a large reservoir.  The park has several campground loops.  Not much use on Sunday (camping wise, boating was popular).

Spotted this dead Ring-necked Pheasant (male) on the side of the road. One of the casualties of flying and driving

10 April 2017

Cold and windy this morning.  We made quick work of breakfast and headed out to Cheyenne Bottoms State Wildlife Area (SWA), approximately 70 miles from our campsite.

Cheyenne Bottoms SWA is 19,857 acres and was established in the 1950s.  Much of the wildlife area, which is open hunting, consists of wetlands and pools to support migrating waterfowl and shorebirds.  It is an Important Bird Area, and its claim to fame is that 45% of migrating (central flyway) shorebirds pass through this wildlife area.  The prime time for shorebird viewing is late April, so we were a little early.  We did see some shorebirds, including a large contingent of American Avocets in breeding plumage – such beautiful birds.  We also learned that the area had experienced heavy rains lately and so water levels were higher than normal.

Blue-winged Teal (male)

Great Horned Owl – it was really windy today

A male Ruddy Duck on choppy seas

Double-crested Cormorant

American Avocets in breeding plumage – loafing

This one was feeding

Semi-palmated Sandpiper and Least Sandpiper

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Cheyenne Bottoms State Wildlife Area

  • American Robin
  • American Coot
  • Wild Turkey
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Snowy Egret
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • American Wigeon
  • Greater Yellowleg
  • Great Horned Owl
  • Ring-necked Pheasant
  • Cinnamon Teal
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Tree Swallow
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  • Bonaparte’s Gull
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Killdeer
  • Eared Grebe
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • American White Pelican
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Gadwall
  • Western Meadowlark
  • Northern Harrier
  • White-faced Ibis
  • Mallard
  • Frankln’s Gull
  • Long-billed Dowitcher
  • American Avocet
  • Least Sandpiper
  • Semi-palmated Sandpiper
  • Canada Goose
  • Barn Swallow

After a brief stop in Great Bend for lunch, we drove to Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, about 40 miles away.  This is another new refuge for us.  That makes 17 new refuges on this trip (2016-2017) so far.

The 22,135 acre Quivira National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1955.  The mixed-grass prairie and wetland refuge has both an auto tour route and a wildlife drive.  We made a stop at the refuge visitor center and learned that three Whooping Cranes had been spotted in the northern portion of the refuge this morning.  Since it was extremely windy out (20+ mph) we suspected the cranes would not be moving north, and so they might still be hanging around.  We were right.  We saw the three Whoopers when we got to the northern portion of the refuge around 4:00 pm.  In fact, the majority of the birds we observed on the refuge were in the northern section.  A lot more water here — conducive to waterbirds.

The real treat for me was to see several Snowy Plovers.  When I was the Natural Resource Manager for Oregon Parks and Recreation Department we prepared a Habitat Conservation Plan for the for pacific coast population of Western Snowy Plovers (birds were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act).  The plovers in Oregon nest on the coastal sandy beaches and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department has management responsibility for the state’s beaches .  They are such cute little birds.

We also saw an American Bittern – always a treat.  We watched it for about 5 minutes as it stealthy moved through the reeds.

Many of the waterfowl observed on the refuge are birds that breed there – Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shovelers, and Ruddy Ducks.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many Blue-winged Teal in one location.  Surprisingly the birds were utilizing a salt marsh.  Not something you would equate with Kansas.

Auto tour road

Snowy Egret

The Diamondback Water Snake slithering away

Killdeer

Harris’s Sparrow

Bonaparte’s Gull

Snowy Plover

Someone lost their head – Duck decoy head

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge

  • Turkey Vulture
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Killdeer
  • Mallard
  • Canada Goose
  • Northern Pintail
  • Snowy Egret
  • American Coot
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Eastern Meadowlark
  • Tree Swallow
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Harris’s Sparrow
  • Green-winged Teal
  • White-faced Ibis
  • Greater Yellowleg
  • Lesser Yellowleg
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • American Kestrel
  • Bufflehead
  • Vesper Sparrow
  • Mourning Dove
  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • Whooping Crane
  • Black-necked Stilt
  • American Bittern
  • American Avocet
  • Bonparte’s Gull
  • Franklin’s Gull
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Forester’s Tern
  • Long-billed Dowitcher
  • Snowy Plover
  • Semi-palmated Sandpiper
  • American White Pelican
  • Eared Grebe
  • Northern Flicker
  • Northern Harrier
  • Eurasian Starling

In addition to the birds, we also observed deer and two different snake species – a Diamonback Water Snake (never heard of this snake before) and a Northern Water Snake.

Tonight we are at the Sand Hills State Park, which is essentially a bunch of campsites – in the open – circling around a small man-made lake.  Not sure why people would come here to camp.  We are here because it was the closest place to camp east of the refuge.

Tomorrow we plan on visiting the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve and Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge.

11 April 2017

Cold again this morning.  Glad we had electricity so I could plug in the little electric heater we brought on our trip.

We headed east for the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.  At one time tallgrass prairies in North America covered 170 million acres.  Today less than 4% remains, with most of that acreage located within the Flint Hills of Kansas.  Go Kansas!!!

But getting this area set aside as a National Preserve was not easy.  In the end, the National Park Service was only allowed to own up to 180 acres of land, with the majority of the preserve’s land to be held in private, non-profit ownership.  The 10,984 acre Tallgrass National Preserve was created in 1996, with the National Parks Trust holding majority of the land.  In 2005, this organization transferred its ownership in the preserve to The Nature Conservancy.  They co-manage the property with the National Park Service.

Like many places the best birding was near the parking lot and buildings.  I was happy to hear a Carolina Wren singing.  Hadn’t heard that species since Louisiana.  Doodlebug and I took a short walk on the Southwind Nature Trail.  This took us through a very small section of tallgrass prairie.  Jack wanted to check out the bison on the preserve so he hiked a portion of the Scenic Overlook Trail, indeed finding the bison.  The preserve does not offer an auto tour route, but there are plenty of hiking trails.

Now we are in Eastern Bluebird territory

American Robin

Harris’s Sparrow

Southwind Nature Trail

Violets

Where there is fire there is smoke – farmers burning their fields (big Kansas tradition)

Lark Sparrow – beautiful face pattern and colors

And now we are in Eastern Meadowlark territory

Bird Species Seen or Heard at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

  • Killdeer
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Eastern Meadowlark
  • American Robin
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Lincoln Sparrow
  • Harris’s Sparrow
  • Carolina Wren
  • Vesper Sparrow
  • House Finch
  • House Sparrow
  • Eurasian Starling
  • Larks Sparrow
  • Savannah Sparrow

Wow – 6 different sparrow species.

Our next stop is another national wildlife refuge – Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge.  Coming into the national preserve and then heading towards the refuge we encountered a number of farm fields being burned.  In fact, later we decided not to camp at the Eisenhower State Park because the fields adjacent to the park were being burned as we drove by.  Too much smoke for me.

The 18,463 acre Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1966 ” … as an “overlay project” on an U.S. Corps of Engineers flood Control reservoir to provide habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl.”  The refuge offers several trails for the general public, which are open year-round.  There are a number of roads on the refuge, but all of them were closed.  Some were under water.   We didn’t see as many birds as I had anticipated, although we did walk through some wooded areas on the Burgess Marsh Trail which afforded us the opportunity to observe some landbirds.  Most of what we’ve been seeing are waterbirds or shorebirds.  Nice to see the landbirds.

In addition to the Burgess Marsh Trail we hiked the Dove Roost Trail.  This trail was several miles away from the Burgess Marsh Trail and along the way we encountered our first Swainson’s Hawk of the year (an FOY – First of Year).  Took us a little sleuthing to figure out what bird it was because the lighting and position of the bird in a tree were bad.  Glad I had my camera which afforded me closeup views I missed with my binoculars.  On the dirt road to this trail we also saw a lot of sparrows – hadn’t seen many this trip – and a Brown-headed Cowbird.  I’m sure the bird was keeping close tabs on the sparrow so it could lay its eggs in one of the sparrow’s nests.  Nasty, clever birds.

Along the Dove Roost Trail we encountered several very loud Tufted Titmouse – Peter, Peter, Peter is their call (use your imagination), along with half a dozen Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and two Yellow-rumped Warblers.  I hadn’t seen a Yellow-rumped Warbler in awhile.  Was nice to see these birds again.

Burgess Trail boardwalk – end of the trail

Dove Roost Trail

Red-tailed Hawk – looking for dinner

Blue Jay – these birds are not easy to photograph.  Shy (and sly) creatures.

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge

  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Blue Jay
  • Song Sparrow
  • Lincoln Sparrow
  • Northern Cardinal
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • American Wigeon
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • American Coot
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Bald Eagle
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler

As I mentioned earlier, we decided not to spend the night at Eisenhower State Park because of the prairie fires (set intentionally).  Instead we drove another 20 miles to the Pomona State Park.  This park has several different campground loops, many of them with primitive sites – that means no electricity and water, but in some cases that also means no usable picnic table.  We depend upon picnic tables in our campground.  We had to check out several sites to find one with a table that was usable.  State Parks need more funding.   When state budgets are tight, recreation takes a back seat to other programs.

Tomorrow we head to several reservoir lakes near Lawrence Kansas to see what birds we might find there.

12 April 2017

When researching birding opportunities in Kansas I found information on places to bird on the Kansas Audubon website – http://www.audubon.org/news/birding-kansas.  One of the places listed is Clinton Lake, near Lawrence, Kansas.  That is our destination today.  There is also a state park for camping, although once we got here we discovered the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers also has a campground.   That is where we stayed.  We can camp there for half price.  Not a bad deal.

We did bird along portions of Clinton Lake.  At the Overlook Park we did a short walk from the parking lot to an overlook site (less than 1/2 mile one way).   Along that path and in the parking lot we had a total of 25 species and none of them were waterfowl.  In fact, we didn’t see any waterfowl on the lake at all except for several Canada Geese.  Guess they’ve all migrated north or are their nesting lakes.  Was nice to bird in wooded areas and actually see songbirds.  Only one First of Year (FOY) – the Purple Martin.  All the other birds we’ve already seen before on the trip.

After we found our campsite, we decided to check out Woodbridge Park (also COE property).  The park has a hiking trail and primitive camping (although there is a vault toilet and water available – more than at many of the primitive sites at state parks).  We decided to hike the trail, however there was no trail map or info so we didn’t know the length of the trail.  For some reason we both thought it was a short loop trail – NOT.  By short I mean a mile or less.  The trail was a little over 4 miles long, and rocky, with rolling hills.  Well we didn’t roll, but struggled over rolling hills.  And, we didn’t bring any water.  The temperature was in the mid-70s, mostly cloudy, a slight wind.  Never again.  I don’t care how short the hike is, we bring water.  Luckily there was water for Doodlebug to drink along the way, but by the end she was dragging.  Poor puppy dog.  We do love her so.

After our arduous hike we came back to camp and just hung out.  Nice to sit back a little and just relax.  There was a Northern Cardinal that sang from the tree next to our van.  I’m not sure it was happy we were here, it tried to display at the van mirror – chase of its “supposed” competition.  The American Robins are setting up their territories, which involves furiously chasing each other around and around.  Of course, that could be a male seeking a female too.  Nevertheless, fun to watch all the birds coming and going at and near our campsite.

Red-headed Woodpecker – oh so pretty

Woodbridge Park

Northern Cardinal at our campsite

Eastern Phoebe at our campsite

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Clinton Lake

  • Turkey Vulture
  • Purple Martin
  • Tree Swallow
  • Northern Cardinal
  • American Crow
  • Great Blue Heron
  • American Goldfinch
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Eastern Meadowlark
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Song Sparrow
  • Osprey
  • Mourning Dove
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Field Sparrow
  • Lincoln Sparrow
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Carolina Wren
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Blue Jay
  • Red-headed Woodpecker
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • American Robin
  • Common Grackle
  • House Finch
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Canada Goose
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Barred Owl
  • American White Pelican
  • Double-crested Cormorant

Tomorrow another national wildlife refuge – Marais des Cygnes (Marsh of  Swans).

13 April 2017

Woke to a beautiful sunrise.  Before leaving our campground we did a quick load of laundry.  Yes, the Corps campground has a laundromat of sorts; book exchange too.  If you like Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series (I do, at least the first 10 books), then you were in luck.

We drove to the the Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge, about 80 miles away.  This is another new refuge for us; our third for Kansas.  I think the only one we missed in the state was the Kirwin NWR in northern Kansas.

I do want to say one thing about Kansas before we leave the state.  I was very impressed with the cleanliness of the farms – most were well kept without a lot of old, trashy equipment around.  Also, the roads (we took mostly rural roads) were virtually devoid of trash (unlike Texas and a few other states we have visited on this trip).  Way to go Kansas.  One drawback, none of the campgrounds we stayed at (state or federal) had recycle bins.  I wonder if they recycle in this state.

So back to the refuge.  This approximately 7,500-acre refuge was established in 1992 by Congress for the protection and restoration of bottomland hardwood forests.  The refuge is adjacent to the Marais des Cygnes State Wildlife Area, which is roughly the same size as the NWR.  The state wildlife area was established in 1951, primarily for waterfowl management.  We did travel to one of the ponds on the state wildlife refuge and only saw several Lesser Scaup.  The rest of the birds observed were Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, a Bald Eagle, and American Coots.

The only waterfowl observed on the national wildlife refuge was a pair of Blue-winged Teal.  Of course since the refuge was established for the protection and restoration of bottomland hardwood forests, that is what we mostly encountered.  Luckily I’ve been wanting to see more songbirds, so it worked out well.

We did two hikes – a portion of the Carpenter Road Trail and the Root Cemetery hike.  The Root Cemetery hike starts out at the cemetery where the Root family (ma, pa, and five daughters) are all buried.  We didn’t see much on the hike, but on the drive there we did see an Eastern Kingbird – hard to miss that white-tipped tail.  This is a First of Year (FOY) bird.  In all we had 28 different species – not bad considering only one was a duck.

Lots of prairie in this bottomland forest refuge

Tree Swallows

White-throated Sparrow

Carpenter’s Trail

Root’s Cemetery Trail

This butterfly goes unnamed. Couldn’t find it on the internet. Any idea?

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Bird Species Seen or Heard at Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge/State Wildlife Area

  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Brown Thrasher
  • Tree Sparrow
  • Eastern Meadowlark
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Blue Jay
  • Eastern Towhee
  • Field Sparrow
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Wild Turkey
  • Barred Owl (heard only)
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • Eastern Kingbird
  • American Crow
  • Vesper Sparrow
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Mourning Dove
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Killdeer
  • American Coot
  • Great Egret
  • Greater Yellowleg
  • Bald Eagle

While heading to our campgsite at Schell/Osage Conservation Area in Missouri, we spotted a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher on a power line alongside the road.  Great to see another one of these special flycatchers .

Next stop – the Show Me state of Missouri, or as I lovingly call it “Misery”.  Until then …

IT’S  A GREAT DAY TO BIRD

 

 

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