Sunday, March 21, 2010
Oh Yea--Another Red Letter Day
Yesterday I picked up my sis in Dallas at 8:30 AM and we hustled up the road 200 miles into southwestern Oklahoma to a place called Hackberry Flats. I visited here for the 1st time in late February, and really liked it, so I wanted to check it out again. It was very windy, and the snow was blowing horizontally, but we were birding from my truck so we were ok. We spent 3 hours driving the refuge roads and having a great time seeing things like American and sprague's* pipits, snowy* and American golden* plover, vesper and savannah sparrows, baird's* and least sandpipers, lapland longspur*, and lots of northern harriers. The 5 birds with asterisks were all new YTD birds. I was particularly happy to track down the lapland longspur since I had missed it back in Feb. The day ended with us seeing 44 new birds for this week.
We then drove 2 hours to have dinner at a place outside of Elk City, OK called Simon's Catch. It specializes in all you can eat fried catfish, and steak from Oklahoma. We had some of both and left very pleased. I had found this place last March when I came thru Oklahoma on my way to Alamos in Sonora, Mexico. It has no sign on the building, but the locals know where it is so it is generally full.
We spent the night at the 14,000 acre Selman Ranch near Buffalo, OK so this morning we would be near a lesser prairie chicken lek on the ranch. Sue, the ranch owner and 3rd generation of the family, led us out to the lek site just at dawn. It was quite chilly, and a bit windy, but 4 male LPC's were doing their dance, hoping to attract some females. We moved a bit too close and flushed them, but they returned 10 minutes later. We got very good looks at them, but they seemed quite nervous, and with no females around, they flew away after 5 minutes. On our way back to the ranch house we found a flock of about 100 cedar waxwings.
After a nice home made scrambled egg, bacon, home fries and toast breakfast at Sue's, we headed north for Nebraska. It was a fine sunny day, and we saw lots of raptors including the Krider's and Harlan's forms of the red-tailed hawk. We also saw rough-legged hawks. We stopped in Hays, Kansas to have lunch at Al's chickenette (photo above). Al's as the sign says features fried chicken. Back home in NC we have a place called Mama Dip's that makes better fried chicken, but Al's was right good.
After lunch, we checked out the Kirwin NWR up near the Nebraska border, but it was pretty sleepy there today, so we drove on to North Platte, NE. We came here to see the spectacle of 500,000 sandhill cranes gathering along the Platte River to feed in the corn fields before heading further north to breed.
Last Thursday a rare common crane from Eurasia was found here with the sandhills. We went to the area where it was last reported on Friday, and after searching a few groups of sandhills we found the common crane. This was a great ending to the past 2 days of excellent birding. Today we added 20 more birds for the week, 3 of which were new birds for the year (lesser prairie chicken, ring-necked pheasant, and common crane). The crane also was a life bird for me, thus the primary reason for the red letter day designation.
The YTD total is now at 402. Also, the map at the top is now updated thru today. Tomorrow we will be up early to spend some time with the sandhills on their roost in the river, and then we head into Colorado. Stay tuned!