Date of this Version
“Winter Field Report, December 2004 to February 2005” from Nebraska Bird Review (March 2005) 73(1).
This winter was generally unremarkable except for the occurrence of good numbers of several species at the western edge of the state, notably Clark's Nutcracker, Pygmy Nuthatch, and Bohemian Waxwing. There were a couple of sightings of Mountain Chickadee and one of Cassin's Finch for good measure. All of the winter finches on the Nebraska list (except for Hoary Redpoll) appeared, most notably Pine Grosbeak, represented by two birds. One of these was in the southwest (Kansas had several reports) but the other was in the east, suggesting either multiple points of origin, or, as suggested by some in Kansas, northern rather than western origin. Also in good numbers were Red-breasted Nuthatches, but Harris's Sparrows were scarce. Black-capped Chickadees remained in very low numbers in southern Nebraska west of the Missouri River Valley.
Of interest was the discovery of wintering Marsh and Winter Wrens along the central Niobrara Valley; perhaps this is a regular occurrence, but who's been looking? This phenomenon may be linked to other occurrences that would be expected in a warmer winter: several species of ducks that are generally not seen in midwinter were found on the Scottsbluff and Gering Sewage Lagoons, sapsuckers were in good numbers, catbirds and Brown Thrashers put in unexpected winter appearances, and a Loggerhead Shrike was far to the north.
Notable sightings were several, ranging from huge counts to birds rare in winter but expected at other times to bona fide rarities, although the last is a matter of one's definition of rare. Best sightings in these categories were probably the 2,000,000 Snow Geese reported (half the North American population), 4 Barrow's Goldeneyes, a financially savvy Sharp-tailed Grouse, a first-documented Dec Osprey, 3rd-latest Least Sandpipers, Great Black-backed and lceland Gulls, first winter record for White-winged Dove, 9568 crows and 10,216 robins at Calamus Res, White-winged Crossbill, and, of course, 2 Pine Grosbeaks.