Date of this Version
"Summer Field Report, June-July 2003," with Species Accounts, in Nebraska Bird Review (September 2003) 71(3): 106-127.
To begin on a sad note, I want to mention the passing of Roger Sharpe, senior author with Joel Jorgensen and me of Birds of Nebraska. Roger was great to work with, enthusiastic, and, of course, extremely knowledgeable in many areas. Joel and I both learned a lot from Roger, in different ways, not just ornithologically. We miss Roger.
This summer was, of course, hot and waterless. Any spot with water was a hotspot. Lake McConaughy, even more than usual, was worth a look, as were Sandhills ponds that generally fared well waterwise. Joel Jorgensen kept us posted on the generally depressing conditions in the eastern Rainwater Basin, where water conditions can change overnight with a heavy rain and quickly induce breeding by marsh-adapted species, notably Yellow-headed Blackbird and Great-tailed Grackle.
Waterfowl were generally routine, although a few species lingered into June to provide unusual mid-summer records; many of these were at L Ogallala. Shorebirds were with us virtually throughout; several late spring records were made well into June, and several species returned in good numbers in July. Passerines were rather unspectacular, although several observers submitted useful data on breeding timing. I urge observers to report dates of eggs, nestlings, fledglings, and broods so as to build our rather meager database.
Breeding records of note included a possible at Hummel Park, Omaha, for Broad-winged Hawk, a young pair of Peregrines unsuccessfully nesting on the Capitol Building in Lincoln, the 9th breeding record for Sandhill Cranes in the eastern Rainwater Basin since 1994, at least 3 pairs of Snowy Plovers fledging young at Lake McConaughy, an amazing 117 pairs of Piping Plovers there also, the first successful Black-necked Stilt nesting away from the Panhandle, and expansion of the Cordilleran Flycatcher breeding range into the Wildcat Hills.
Among the many tidbits in the report, a few are: a record fall count of Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Eurasian Collared-Doves now reported from 59 counties, a new summer site for Chuck-will's-widow, a Broad-tailed Hummingbird in Monroe Canyon June 29, Western Wood-Pewees encroaching eastward into the range of Easterns, a record Bank Swallow count, a tying record late Magnolia Warbler, and an Eastern Meadowlark southwest, in Dundy Co.
There wasn't much for rarity-seekers; I suspect most birders did some serious AC time this summer. Best were a briefly seen Tricolored Heron, Nebraska's 4th Cave Swallow, a possible Canyon Towhee (the Records Committee will review this one), and the 8th summer record for Pacific Loon. The Curve-billed Thrasher at the Frimann ranch in southeast Sioux Co is still there; Lonnie Frimann reports that it was trying to help feed robin nestlings! Perhaps the rarest of the summer was an apparent (Western) Whip-poor-will at Wind Springs Ranch in Sioux Co. The vocalizations differ markedly from those of "our" (Eastern) Whip-poor-will.