Date of this Version
Silcock, “Summer Field Report, June–July 2012,” from Nebraska Bird Review (September 2012) 80(3).
This summer most of Nebraska was very dry, with "Exceptional Drought" everywhere but the extreme southeast, according to the United States Department of Agriculture's Drought Monitor (http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu). Although no really striking effects were noted, several bits of evidence attested to the difficult conditions. Wetlands dried up in most cases in the Rainwater Basin, reflected by a lack of Great Egrets, Cattle Egrets, and Black-necked Stilts, and there were no stilt nests reported. However, Yellow-crowned Night-Herons surprisingly staged an incursion, perhaps continuing to disperse northward from their customary haunts in the almost equally dry Kansas and Oklahoma. Cliff Swallow colonies may have been a casualty of dried up wetlands also; flocking began about a month earlier than usual. A significant incursion of Red Crossbills and early arrival of Red-breasted Nuthatches indicated problems in their usual pinewoods habitats in the Pine Ridge and Rocky Mountains (recordings from Kansas [Jon King, pers. comm.] suggested that most if not all of the crossbills were Type 2 Ponderosa Pine specialists). Red Crossbills moved eastward to cover the state in July, the first such summer incursion in about 20 years.
Other significant observations involved nesting of 3 raptor species: both Broad-winged Hawk and Mississippi Kite nested in North Platte, and Ospreys again attempted to nest in the Panhandle but continue to be thwarted by severe weather. Black-billed Cuckoo is becoming rare; only one was reported. On the other hand, Chuck-will's-widow is doing well, expanding northwestward and increasing in numbers, and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are being reported more often westward; photos are supporting the identification of these westerly birds.
It was a quiet summer for summer resident passerines; no significant trends or phenomena were noted, except for the pinewoods residents mentioned above. Similarly, rarities were almost non-existent; Black-bellied Whistling-Duck and an easterly Broad-tailed Hummingbird were about it.