Nebraska: Platte River, Sandhill Cranes & Prairie Grouse Mar 10—17, 2018

Posted by Rick Wright

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Rick Wright

Rick Wright, a native of southeast Nebraska, studied French, German, philosophy, and life sciences at the University of Nebraska, where he worked in the bird collections of...

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Birders are often accused of being obsessed with the singular, the unusual, the rare. Our short March week in Nebraska offered us plenty of that. Most notable, perhaps, was an early-arriving Whooping Crane, which we were fortunate enough to see not once but twice, first on a field with its gray cousins on our arrival along the central Platte River on the second day of the tour, and then, thanks to Danny’s eagle eye, at roost on our last day among the tens of thousands of Sandhill Cranes in the shallows of the river just upstream from the famous Alda Bridge.

Sandhill Cranes and Whooping Crane

Sandhill Cranes and Whooping Crane— Photo: Rick Wright

 

Nearly as exciting by regional standards was the adult Lesser Black-backed Gull in the massive gull roost at Lake Manawa on our first evening together, and the three dramatically dark Harlan’s Hawks we found on our way west later in the week were desirable birds by anyone’s measure, as was the spectacular dark-morph Ferruginous Hawk that let us clamber out of our van to enjoy amazing close-range scope views of this scarce prairie buteo. 

Occupying an even more restricted range on its southern Great Plains wintering grounds, dashing Harris’s Sparrows also performed well this year, with one at a Carter Lake feeder among the very first birds we saw; the shelterbelts along the saline marshes of the Ceresco Flats offered good views of a half dozen or more, and the single adult we found in the town of Mullen was a real rarity at that westerly location. 

Two other species, though each globally abundant, occupied the pinnacle of rarity for this tour: both the three Mountain Bluebirds we saw in the lower reaches of Cottonwood Canyon and the startling seven Common Redpolls in the Hyannis Cemetery were entirely new for the tour’s now quite lengthy cumulative list. 

Read Rick’s full report in his Field Report.