Nebraska Ornithologists' Union


Date of this Version



Silcock, "Spring Field Report, March to May 1998," from Nebraska Bird Review (June 1998) 66(2): 30-55.


Copyright 1998, Nebraska Ornithologists' Union. Used by permission.


In most respects, this was a routine spring. While a few rarities and several interesting reports appeared, perhaps most interesting was the arrival of the electronic age. Foremost was the start-up of "NEBIRDS," the Nebraska Birding Listserver set up and operated by Robert Price at Kearney. This resource should greatly enhance communication and collective learning amongst birders in the state. We have culled several reports from observations submitted to NEBIRDS, and several reporters now contact us by email. We urge observers to forward their email addresses; if we have questions on their reports, communication would be easy! Submit reports and comments to Ross Silcock by email at We also gather sightings reported to the Nebraska Birdline, operated by Loren and Babs Padelford at Bellevue; these reports are placed on the Internet through BIRDCNTR, a service of the National Bird Hotline Cooperative. We should note here that this report contains unverified observations as well as documented observations.

And now to the birds! Considerable discussion has taken place about a very "slow" warbler migration, "slow" for birders, meaning low numbers of birds, While this is true, most species were indeed found, although very low numbers were found of Magnolia, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, and Wilson's Warblers, and those that were reported occurred rather late in the migration period. Usually when we do not see many migrating warblers it means they have made long, non-stop flights with beneficial tailwinds right over us to their breeding ranges. Much has been made of the scarcity of migrant warblers this spring in the eastern United States, with blame allocated to habitat loss in the tropical wintering ranges, to forest fragmentation in the breeding ranges (in particular with the result of allowing cowbird access to deep-woods birds), and to extensive smoke encountered while crossing the Gulf of Mexico. The smoke, from major fires in Mexico, may have contributed to a slower migration for some species, but we will have to be patient (a human generation or two?) to see what if anything is actually happening.

Joel Jorgensen, who did weekly surveys of the eastern Rainwater Basin in April and May, gathered important shorebird data. These data are presented in the relevant shorebird species accounts. Although few early and late dates were set, a few amazing high counts occurred during the report period: for example, 39 Clark's Grebes, 236 Horned Grebes, and 1,732 McCown's Longspurs. Some interesting waterfowl appeared in the Rainwater Basin this spring, suggesting that scrutiny of the immense flocks can yield exciting discoveries: 2nd state Bean Goose, 2nd state Garganey, and even a Barnacle Goose, probably not a wild bird. Additional rarities of note included a 1st documented spring Red-throated Loon, 5th and 6th state Neotropic Cormorants, 4th nesting record White-faced Ibis, 3 Eurasian Wigeon, a 3rd documented spring Surf Scoter, 4th state Ruff, 1st state Short-billed Dowitcher of the eastern subspecies Limnodromus griseus griseus, 10th and 11th individual Mew Gulls for the state, 1st May Glaucous Gull, nesting Eurasian Collared-Doves, a possible nesting population of Monk Parakeets, 6th southeast Nebraska Say's Phoebe, documented nesting Pinyon Jays south of Redington, at least 13 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers in the Panhandle, 2nd state Virginia's Warbler, 10th spring Townsend's Warbler, 2nd spring Panhandle Prothonotary Warbler, 2 Hooded Warblers, the lingering of an Omaha Black-throated Sparrow until 12 April, a photographed Baird's Sparrow in York Co, and the 2nd Panhandle breeding record for Great-tailed Grackle.