Date of this Version
Silcock, “Spring Field Report, March 2012 to May 2012,” from Nebraska Bird Review (June 2012) 80(2).
This spring was a definite mixed bag ornithologically, in large part due to the mixed bag of weather conditions. Spring Beauty flowers bloomed 10–14 days early at Fontenelle Forest (RBa). Observers were decidedly mixed in their assessments of the season; veteran observers commenting on the passerine migration noted “poorest spring for passerines that I can recall” (LE) and “the sheer numbers of birds seemed ridiculously high for this early date of May 3rd” (JR). It should be noted that the 3 May date saw record counts of a few passerine species at Fontenelle Forest: 65 American Redstarts, 60 Blackpoll Warblers, and 80 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. Acadian Flycatcher was ubiquitous at Indian Cave SP. Impressive seasonal totals for rare migrants included 13 Philadelphia Vireos and 20 Gray-cheeked Thrushes. Few passerine migrants were found westward, however. Regarding waterbirds, similar mixed opinions and data came to hand; even though few ibises were seen in the Rainwater Basin, the overall numbers seemed about average, including 2 Glossy Ibis.
Perhaps of greatest interest ecologically was the earliness of the spring in several respects. Nesting began early for Cooper's Hawk and Great Blue Heron, and there were numerous record-early arrival dates, both in shorebirds and passerines in general; there were 4 record early dates for shorebirds (American Golden-Plover, Lesser Yellowlegs, Western Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper) and 3 for passerines (Yellow-rumped “Audubon’s” Warbler, Clay-colored Sparrow, Field Sparrow).
Interesting observations included the first state record for Black-chinned Hummingbird, a species that is spreading northward in the western Great Plains, an amazingly late Snowy Owl picked up alive at Big Springs 29 May, but which died soon after, and a minor incursion of White-winged Cross bill.