Sunday, March 27, 2016

Birding Blitz Videos

After 1400+ miles in 4 days, sleeping in car two of three nights, birding on average 10+ hours a day, and a memory card full of pictures to edit I am ready to go to sleep.......but before I do here are four videos and recap of my mad-dash birding extravaganza.

I left shortly after 3 am Wednesday morning hoping to see Whooping Cranes at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge around dawn. After sunup I was soon distracted by sounds coming through the open car windows, especially one that sounded like a Say's Phoebe. I stopped and looked for it but without visual confirmation I chose not to include it on my bird checklist as I have seen them before but never in Kansas. As I searched for the Phoebe this Meadowlark perched close to the car and reminded me of my daughters question from this past month "Why don't you take photos of meadowlarks?"

I turned my attention to this common species and took the video below, with a few photos, to show my daughters.  The phoebe did not appear but is often the case I hear birds I cannot identify.

I checked Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area and headed west in search of Lesser Prairie-Chickens. I was unsuccessful in my afternoon searches, so I grabbed a hotel in Dodge City and returned the next morning to Hodgeman County. Success with seeing this species for the first time....a Lifer!!  I am truly thankful for the help and suggestions of fellow birders, as a pair of males were dancing right where a few people indicated they would be. 

Lesser Prairie-Chicken

I spent a couple hours watching the scene above repeat itself.  Every so often they would fly off and strut their stuff alone, only to come back together and face-off.  I headed further southwest to Morton county and Elkhart. Within Kansas this seems to be arguably the best location for rarities in the state. While the timing of my trip was not conducive to finding rarities, I still wanted to explore the Cimarron National Grasslands and the town that so many of my friends talk about. The sun went down before I was tired, so I made a split decision to drive that night to Black Mesa Preserve in Oklahoma in search of a Ladder-Backed Woodpecker. 

The terrain at Black Mesa is quite rugged and I saw Canyon Towhees and Scaled Quail for the first time, two lifers! I contributed to the death of a quail even, as my presence flushed them which alerted a Merlin of their presence. The little bird of prey swooped down and caught one of the quail. This is a bummer knowing my action has a negative consequence. This Curve-billed Thrasher was seen on the hike as well.

Returning back to Elkhart I check the Shelter-belt once again and was fortunate to be there at that time. Two youngsters were running and playing in the same area as I intended to search for birds and their presence had the Barn Owls flying around in avoidance. I heard the owl's screech and chuckled as the youngsters loudly asked what was that. I checked a few birding hotspots and started by drive back.  

Just like the first day, I started my last day at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.  I used the car as a photo blind and parked next to a small pond with two male Redhead ducks in it.  Soon after eight more Redheads flew in and I took the video below. A Say's Phoebe called and this time flew into the open, the 300th species I've observed in Kansas. While this number does not represent much, it personally was a goal of mine for last year as an incentive to get out and explore more places in Kansas. 

I may write another blog post from this trip, but I realize I am already a bit behind on photo editing (MN Winter Birding Part 4, Summer 2015 Trip Birding, or a post about spring events that we've posted through Facebook) so if you want to see photos from the trip I would direct you to my Facebook or Flickr page.

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