Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dorothy, you are almost in Kansas

As you can see from the 2 photos above I am no longer in Florida, and Oklahoma is next to Kansas, so the title of this post. I flew into Oklahoma City yesterday afternoon, and I immediately drove down to Norman to look for some smith's longspurs in a field next to the local airport. My birding contact here in Oklahoma had told me exactly where to search, and after 45 minutes of sloshing thru a very wet field, I flushed about 20 smith's longspurs. I was concerned about being able to find this bird since I tried last year in mid March without any success. Having found it so quickly makes the rest of my 2 days here much more relaxing.

Today I visited early in the day the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. It was quite chilly (under 30 degrees), but sunny. Not many birds were moving. I saw one group of longspurs flying briefly, but not long enough to ID. I then headed down to Hackberry Flat WMA, another place recommended by my local contact. I spent 2+ hours slowly checking out this excellent birding spot. I found a new bird for the year--greater white fronted geese. They were mixed in with 1000's of snow and canada geese.

I then headed towards Elk City where I am spending the night. I stopped at a second location suggested by my local guy to look for more longspurs. I traipsed thru a muddy pasture full of longhorn cattle to get to a hilly spot where as predicted a good sized flock of McCown's longspurs were flitting about. You may be getting that finding longspurs is not all that easy. And once you find some, identifying them can be very challenging since they either hide in the grass or constantly fly up to move on. Since they are all in winter plumage right now, they are even harder to ID. The key is generally the tail feather pattern. They have similar but distinctive tail feather coloring that when flying you try to pick up on.

So after another full day of birding today, plus yesterday late afternoon, the week's bird count is up to 111. 3 new birds have been added to the YTD total bringing that number to 322. The smith's longspur is also a life bird for me, raising that number to 10 for the year. Tomorrow I will be spending the morning at the Washita Nat'l Wildlife Refuge, looking for a few more key birds. Will more longspurs be in the offing? Stay tuned.

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