Southern Great Plains: Fall 2017

1 Aug—30 Nov

Joseph A. Grzybowski, Oklahoma
[email protected]

W. Ross Silcock, Nebraska
[email protected]

Recommended citation: Grzybowski, J. A. and Silcock, W. R. 2020. Fall 2017: Southern Great Plains. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-9cI>North American Birds.

This fall season was exceptional in several respects. Species more common further west entered the region. In the Oklahoma Panhandle, birds that typically migrate during late August-early September were delayed into early October—potentially because of limited fronts and rainfall. Nashville Warblers were prevalent in late September, and Hurricane Irma seemed to nudge some eastern species west. Finally, species more western in this region such as Lewis’s Woodpecker, Williamson’s Sapsucker, Western Scrub Jay, Steller’s Jay, Clark’s Nutcracker, Red-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatches, and Red Crossbills wandered east.

Fall represents a season when bird populations are, post-breeding, at their highest. Fall thus can purvey exceptional rarities, and this fall was exceptional—regional and state firsts, as well as numerous lower-caliber vagrants—were recorded. Mid-September through October was a particularly rich time for these; species involved included Masked Duck, Groove-billed Ani, frigatebirds, Reddish Egret, Black Vulture, Harris’ Hawk, Pacific Wren, Painted Redstart, and Hepatic Tanager.

This fall also continued the pattern of unusually high numbers of lingering migrants, with some of these exceptionally late. A variety of taxa were featured in this trend; climate change seems a likely driver of all this.

Abbreviations

Cheyenne Bottoms (Cheyenne Bottoms W.M.A., Barton, KS); Hackberry Flat (Hackberry Flat W.M.A., Tillman, OK); McConaughy (L. McConaughy Res., Keith, NE); Quivira (Quivira N.W.R., Stafford, KS); Rainwater Basin: a series of playas in south-central and southeastern NE; Red Slough (Red Slough W.M.A., McCurtain, OK).

Contributors (Sub regional editors in boldface)

NEBRASKA: Edward Allen, Noah Arthur, Wendy Becker (WBe), Elliott Bedows, Brooke Bench, Eric Bents (EBe), Aaron Brees (ABr), Ed Brogie (EBr), Mark Brogie, Matt Clark (MCk), Mary Clausen, Linda Deeds, Todd Deininger, Kathy DeLara, Carla Delucchi, Paul Dunbar, Boni Edwards, Larry Einemann, Betsy Finch, William Flack, Rita Flohr, Ryan Fuller (RFu), Andrew Furman, Karen Goetz (KGz), John Grettenberger, Robin Harding, Kadynn Hatfield, Jane Hollst (JHo), Helen K. Hughson, Aaron Hulsey, Esa Jarvi, Jan Johnson, Joel G. Jorgensen, Joe Jungers (JJu), William Kaempfer, Lynette Keeshan, Clifford & Janna Kellogg (C&JK), Clem N. Klaphake, Steve Kruse, Thomas E. Labedz, Rachel Lech, Brooke Manes (BMa), Sam Manning (SMa), Barry McEwen (BMc), Kelly McKay, Steven Mlodinow (SMl), Douglas Montgomery (DMo), Steve Morris, Jim Ochsner, Loren & Babs Padelford (L&BP), Brian Peterson, Judy Rabi (JRa), Paul Randall (PRa), Lanny Randolph, Edward Raynor, Ben Ream, Justin Rink, Gary Roberts, Tommie Rogers (TRo), Paul Roisen, Ben Sampson (BSa), Jason St. Sauver, Rick Schmid, Tyrone Shaw (TSh), W. Ross Silcock, Kent Skaggs, Marie Smith, Dave Stage (DSt), Traci Strazdas (TSt), Jim & Linda Swenson (J&LS), Brian Tinker, Carissa Wade, T. J. Walker, Don & Marion Weidemann (D&MW), Michael Willison, Elizabeth Winter.  KANSAS:  Dallas Alexander (DAx), Robert Antonio, Henry Armknecht, Will Britton, Andrew Burnett, Jeff Calhoun, Kathy Carroll, Dave & Kathy Ellis (D&KE), Corey Entriken, Tom Ewert, Michelle Folster, Matt Gearheart, Malcolm Gold (MGo), Kevin Groeneweg, Jennifer Hammett, Rick Hostetler (RHo), Pete Janzen, Barry Jones, Donnie Kazmaier (DKa), Mark Keller, Doug Kibbe, Kaleb Kroeker, D. Lamoureaux, Jonathan Lautenbach, Kevin Leonard, Tony Leukering, Matt Longabaugh, John Mallery, Caleb & Chloe Marshall (C&CM), Mick McHugh (MMH), Andrew Miller, Joseph Miller (JMi), Jo-Anne Moore (JAM), David Mootz, Carol Morgan, Sue Newland, James Nickel, Willis Ohl, Chuck Otte, Galen Pittman, Mike Rader, Travis Ratliff, Dave Rintoul, Zach Roy, Carolyn Schwab, David Seibel, Luke Seitz, Scott Seltman, Tom & Sara Shane (T&SS), Tim Smart (TSm), Paul Suchanek, Scott Thomasson, Max Thompson, Rodney Wright, John & Linda Zempel (J&LZ).  OKLAHOMA:  Linda & Bill Adams (L&BA), Danny Akers (DAk), Tracey Allen, David Arbour, James W. Arterburn, John Ault, Will Britton, John-Edd Brown (JEB), Chris Butler, Bill Carrell, Philip Chaon, Terry Collins, Laura Courser, Jeff Cox (JCo), Neva Damron, Bill Diffin, Melinda Droege, Kathy Mihm Dunning, Chad Ellis (CEl), Josh Engelbert, Joseph A. Grzybowski, Ford Hendershot, Melynda Hickman, Trevor Hinckley, Debbie Hirt, Emily Hjalmarson, Doug James, Tomasz Kuder, Nathan Kuhnert, Lindi Lagman, Bob LaVal, Erin Lehnert, Tony Leukering, Scott Loss, Charles Lyon, Laura Madden (LMa), Brian Marra, Larry Mays, Caleb McKinney (CMc), Kurt & Sharon Meisenzahl (K&SM), Ray Moranz, Daron Patterson, Mark Peterson, Zach Poland, Lewis Pond, Tim & Elizabeth Pratt (T&EP), Abbey Ramirez, Mia Revels (MRe), Paul Ribitzki (PRi), Corey Riding, Justin Roach (JRo), Brett Roberts (BRo), Larry & Carole Rose (L&CR), Jeremy Ross (JRs), Andrew Schofield, Rosemary Seidler (RSe), Sylvias Serpentine (SSe), Shane Sherwood (SSh), Jana Singletary, Tim Smart (TSm), Doug & Sue Smith (D&SS), Kimberley Smith (KSm), Terry Stuart, Brian Stufflebeam, John Tharp, Steven Thompson (STh), Jeff & Jean Trahan (J&JT), Cynthia Van Den Broeke (CV), David Wiggins (DWi), Ken Williams, Doug Wood, Jimmy Woodard, Dave Woodson (DWo), Rachel Wrenn (RWr), Mike Yough.

Whistling-Ducks through Hummingbirds

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks were found northerly to Holt, NE (8 birds) through 21 Oct (RL); a brood at a Pawnee, KS feedlot was present to 10 Sep (fide CO, m.ob.). In Oklahoma, 4 Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks were found outside Red Slough in three counties, 7 Aug—8 Sep (T&EP, TH, MH); at Red Slough, where established, 33 on 19 Sep (DA) was the high count, and some remained 28 Nov (DA). A Fulvous Whistling-Duck, a regional rarity, was photographed at Red Slough 2 Nov (DA, DJ). 7 Snow Geese in Lancaster, NE 6—12 Aug (fide WRS) were unseasonable; so was a Cackling Goose in Texas, OK 11 Sep (LM). Brant is not annual in the region; one of the hrota ssp. was shot in Burt, NE 29 Oct (fide EBe). A Trumpeter Swan in Harper, KS 22 Oct (CE) was southerly for the date. The region’s only report of Tundra Swan, a rare fall migrant, consisted of 2 in Dakota, NE 7 Nov (PR). A late Blue-winged Teal was in Woods, OK 26 Nov (STh). 2400 scaup in Payne, OK 6 Nov (SL) was a good tally. Surf Scoter (27) and White-winged Scoter (20) were notably numerous in Nebraska (fide WRS); the region recorded a total of 33 Surfs 5 Oct—25 Nov and 30 White-wingeds 6—28 Nov (fide WRS, CO, JAG). Black Scoter is less numerous in the region; 16 were reported 2—28 Nov (fide WRS, CO, JAG). Long-tailed Ducks were limited to the region’s northern reaches; 12, a good tally, were in Nebraska 7—28 Nov (fide WRS), and singles were in 3 Kansas counties 8—17 Nov (fide CO). The only Barrow’s Goldeneye, easterly, was in Wyandotte, KS 12 Nov (DK, m.ob.). 2 Red-breasted Mergansers in Lincoln, NE 16 Sep (L&BP), were unseasonably early. A mega-rarity Masked Duck found at Hackberry Flat drew a crowd of birders from 17—26 Sep (JAG, photo, m.ob.).

A rancher in southeastern Arthur, NE reported fewer Sharp-tailed Grouse and more Greater Prairie-Chickens in his area (fide TEL), possibly reflective of that area’s conversion of grassland into cropland. Red-necked Grebe is a rare migrant in the region. There were 5 reports of single birds: 16—17 Sep at McConaughy (fide WRS, m.ob.); 10 Nov in Harlan, NE (PD); 14—16 Nov in McCurtain, OK (CL, m.ob.); 19—25 Nov in Cleveland, OK (JT, RWr, m.ob.); and 22—30 Nov in Payne, OK (SL, m.ob.). 6 individual Western Grebes were both easterly and rather late in Kansas and Oklahoma 2—28 Nov (fide CO, JAG). The only regional report of Clark’s Grebe away from McConaughy this season came from Lincoln, NE 16 Sep (GR), where one was recorded with presumably migrant Western Grebes. Inca Doves, surging in the region prior to 2010’s harsh winter, are still slow to re-establish in southeastern Oklahoma. This season, singles were found in McClain, OK 2 Aug (LM) and Le Flore, OK 24 Aug (BL). A Common Ground-Dove, vagrant, was at Red Slough 10 Oct (DA, FH), a reliable site. White-winged Dove continues in the northern and eastern parts of the region; in Nebraska, 7 were in Saunders 2 Aug (JHo) and 8 were in Lincoln during the summer (fide RS); 14 were in Washington, eastern OK 24 Oct (JS). Notably late Yellow-billed Cuckoos were noted, both on 21 Oct, in Woodson, KS (PJ, m.ob.) and Linn, KS (MGo, JH). Black-billed Cuckoos have become rare and elusive in the region; birds were only reported in Lancaster, NE 15 Aug (LE), Oklahoma, OK 28 Sep (CEl), and Johnston, OK 29 Sep (BS). A Groove-billed Ani was an exceptional regional find at Hackberry Flat 30 Sep—1 Oct (JEB, m.ob.). 2 Common Poorwills were easterly in Pontotoc, OK 1 Sep (AS).

A record late White-throated Swift was in Scotts Bluff, NE 20 Oct (AH); 60 there on 2 Sep (JR, ER, MW) was an excellent count. Remarkably, an extralimital White-throated Swift was trapped 12 Oct in a University of Kansas, Douglas wastebasket near an open window; the bird was subsequently released (RA). Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were westerly at different Lincoln, NE locations 26 Sep—2 Oct (WBe) and 19 Aug (TSh), while one in Payne, OK 28 Oct (DH, SSe) was late. A Ruby-throated/Black-chinned was in Comanche, OK 13 Oct—12 Nov (K&SM fide JAG). The range of Black-chinned Hummingbirds is expanding in the region; the fifth Nebraska record came from Scotts Bluff 15 Aug (KD). Broad-tailed Hummingbirds were reported only in Scotts Bluff, NE 2—20 Aug (KD, MS). Somewhat easterly Rufous Hummingbirds were in Keith, NE 14 Aug (JO) and Garden, NE 21 Aug (MCk, KGz). Calliope Hummingbirds in Pawnee, KS 16 Aug (DKa) and Ford, KS 29 Aug (JC) were notable; the only other reports were the 5 from Scotts Bluff, NE 3 Aug—3 Sep (KD, MS, m.ob.).

Rails through Terns

Yellow Rails—regular migrants, but tough finds—were located in Neosho, KS 25 Sep (AB), Douglas, KS 6 Oct (MGo), and Sequoyah, OK 18 Oct (CB, EL);  1-2 were at Red Slough, where wintering can occur, 20 Oct—11 Nov (CB, EL, m.ob.). Hackberry Flat hosted 1-2 King Rails 4—6 Aug (SSh, T&EP). A Sora at Hackberry Flat 4 Aug (SSh) likely summered there, which is a rare occurrence. As expected, Purple Gallinules were reported only from Red Slough, where high counts were 24-27 from 1 Aug—13 Sep. They were last reported on 16 Oct (DA).  Common Gallinules, sporadic in the region outside Red Slough, were reported north to Kansas, where 8 including 5 immatures were in Jefferson 11—13 Sep (CM); one lingered to 8 Oct in Neosho (AB). Hackberry Flat and Red Slough each hosted late Common Gallinule individuals, respectively through 12 Oct (MH, JEB) and 12 Nov (DA, CB). Sandhill Cranes are unexpected during summer in Kansas; reports from Saline 10 Aug (KK, C&CM), and Ford 4 Sep (2 birds; HA) were notable. Whooping Cranes passed through the region in good numbers 19 Oct—5 Dec (fide WRS, CO, JAG), with the best count being 49 at Quivira 2 Nov (BJ).  A radio-tagged yearling Whooping Crane divulged its movements around the region: this individual—originally from the introduced White Lake, LA flock—left Louisiana in May, went north to Saskatchewan, then returned south, visiting western Nebraska just prior to its appearance in Kansas 20—21 Oct (fide JGJ).

6 Black-necked Stilts at Hackberry Flat 1 Oct (JA) were late, as were single Black-bellied Plovers in Loup, NE 6 Nov (MB) and Pawnee, KS 29 Nov (KG), and 4 American Golden-Plovers in Loup, NE 6 Nov (MB). The 4 Snowy Plovers at Quivira 4 Nov (TE) were quite late, and a Semipalmated Plover at Hackberry Flat 28 Oct (D&SS) was tardy. Mountain Plover migrates through the Oklahoma Panhandle, where an excellent tally of 76 came from Texas 3 Sep (TL); 6 on 6 Oct (CB, EL) were the last reported there this season. A Mountain Plover at Cheyenne Bottoms 12—14 Oct (BJ, RHo) was easterly. Individual Upland Sandpipers in Saline, KS 26 Sep (MR) and Payne, OK 7 Oct (SL) were late. Only 2 Long-billed Curlews were reported, one easterly in Seward, NE 1 Sep (LE), the other late in Cimarron, OK 2 Oct (TL). A Hudsonian Godwit in Saunders, NE 18 Aug (CNK), was unexpected. A Marbled Godwit was easterly in Lancaster, NE 2—3 Sep (EA, BP). The season’s only Red Knot was in Alfalfa, OK 7 Sep (CL, J&JT). A late Stilt Sandpiper was at Quivira 1 Nov (JL). Dunlin normally move through the region later in fall, so an adult in Pottawatomie, KS 7 Aug (DR) was noteworthy. 6 Baird’s Sandpipers at Quivira 17 Nov (MR) were quite late. Buff-breasted Sandpipers in Scotts Bluff, NE 7 Sep (AH photo) and McConaughy (1-3 birds) 16—17 Sep (JGJ, m.ob.) were westerly. Adding to the suite of late shorebirds were a Pectoral Sandpiper in Dodge, NE 10 Nov (LE), 2 Western Sandpipers in Platte, NE 20—28 Oct (WF, NA, LK), 2 Long-billed Dowitchers in Saunders, NE 13 Nov (LE), a Spotted Sandpiper in Burt, NE 21 Oct (SMa), and 2 Willets in Seward, NE 8 Oct (TJW).  A Wilson’s Phalarope photographed in Lincoln, NE 25 Nov (RF), was a full month later than the existing late date. Red-necked Phalarope was widely reported throughout the region 5 Aug—21 Oct (fide WRS, CO, JAG). The only Red Phalarope reported, vagrant to the region, was at Quivira 4 Oct—1 Nov (PS, photo). A Spotted Sandpiper continuing in Cleveland, OK 30 Nov (JT, RWr) may winter.

The expected passage of Sabine’s Gulls through the region occurred 4 Sep—11 Nov, with about 17 individuals (fide WRS, CO, JAG) reported. Single Bonaparte’s Gulls were early in Platte, NE 21 Aug (JJ) and Oklahoma, OK 28 Aug—10 Sep (BD). Rare though annual, Laughing Gulls were reported in Oklahoma, OK 16—18 Aug (BD) and Blaine, OK 9 Sep (ZP). The high counts of Franklin’s Gull, 30,000, were recorded at two Lancaster, NE locations 13—19 Oct (LE). Lesser Black-backed Gull has become a scarce migrant in the region. Reports this season included an immature, early, at McConaughy 6 Aug (SMa), an adult in Jefferson, KS 17 Sep (MMH), and an immature at Quivira 10 Oct (SS). Glaucous Gulls this fall included an early first-winter bird in Jefferson, KS 26 Oct (J&LZ); others were in Platte, NE 24 Nov (LR, RH), Burt, NE 27 Nov (BR) and Lancaster, NE 30 Nov (NA, LE). An adult Great Black-backed Gull was at McConaughy 17 Sep—8 Oct (NA, photo, KM), an unusually early span for the region. Surprisingly, the only Common Tern reported, in basic plumage, was in Lancaster, NE 26 Sep (SK, photo); they are normally regular, though noteworthy.

Loons through Falcons

Red-throated Loon is a rare but annual fall migrant in the region; singles were in Sarpy, NE 29 Oct—11 Nov (JGJ, m.ob.) and in Oklahoma, OK 16 Nov (JAG). There were 8 Pacific Loons, also rare but annual, reported 11—26 Nov (fide WRS, CO, JAG). Wood Storks in Oklahoma were more widespread than usual in Oklahoma; an outlier was in Washington 2 Aug (MP, MD, JE), and other noteworthy records included 6 in Choctaw 11 Sep (CL, J&JT), 22 in Johnston 21 Sep (CB), and up to 12 at Red Slough 16—19 Oct (DA, FH, CB). There were 2 reports of frigatebirds, neither identified to species: at Cheyenne Bottoms 20 Sep (ST, LS, WO), and in Cass, NE “a couple weeks” through 23 Sep (TSt, photo). Both likely resulted from Hurricane Irma, which struck the Gulf Coast around 10 Sep. A Neotropic Cormorant that summered in Lancaster, NE, stayed through at least 25 Aug (LE). A late Anhinga was at Red Slough 31 Oct (DA), and the first Nov record of Least Bittern for Nebraska came from Stanton 3 Nov (WF). An immature Little Blue Heron, a rare vagrant in Nebraska, was in Cheyenne 2 Sep (MB, EBr)—a westerly location. A Reddish Egret at Quivira 3 Aug—5 Oct (fide CO, m.ob.) was exceptional; also surprising was the individual in Alfalfa, OK 2 Sep (BC). The only report of Tricolored Heron this season was one present 8-Aug—25 Sep (DA, m.ob.), where the species is rare but regular. 3 Cattle Egrets in Arthur, NE 15 Sep (KM) were westerly, and an immature Black-crowned Night-Heron in Lancaster, NE 24 Nov (LE), was late. Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, expected to wander during summer to Nebraska, were recorded westerly to Box Butte 27 Aug (fide BT) and Holt 25 Sep (CW photo, fide JGJ).

High counts of White Ibis at Red Slough, a reliable late-summer location for the species, were 136 on 8 Aug (DA) and 108 on 3 Oct (DA). Glossy Ibises, difficult to identify in fall, were documented at Hackberry Flat 17 Sep and 7 Oct (JAG), and in Seward, NE 8 Sep (NA, photo). Glossy Ibis x White-faced Ibis hybrids were identified in Tulsa, OK 5 Oct (JWA), and at Hackberry Flat 7 Oct (2; JAG, photo). A late White-faced Ibis was in Butler, NE 5 Nov (CD, photo, fide JR). Roseate Spoonbills away from Red Slough included one in McPherson, KS 25 Aug—21 Sep (MGo, ML, D&KE, m. ob), and up to 3 in Stevens, KS 2 Sep (KC). At Red Slough, Roseate Spoonbills were present 13 Sep—7 Nov; the high count of 18 occurred on 18 Sep (DA, FH, CB). An exhausted immature Black Vulture in a Lancaster, NE yard 23 Sep was possibly a tropical storm-driven bird. It represented Nebraska’s second record since 1916, and was transferred to Raptor Recovery (DMo, photo), then released in Oklahoma 23 Nov (BF). Swallow-tailed Kite records included singles in Greenwood, KS 20 Aug (CS), Le Flore, OK 23 Aug (TS), and at Red Slough 1 Aug (DA, FH). Easterly Golden Eagles were noted in Johnson, KS 8 Oct (DM), Sarpy, NE 29 Oct (CNK, m.ob.), and Neosho, KS 13 Nov (TR). 3 of the 5 Osprey nests in Scotts Bluff, NE, had fledged young by 10 Aug (KD). An Osprey also lingered in the northern region to 28 Nov in Lancaster, NE (EJ, m.ob.). Late dates for Mississippi Kite included singles were in Loup, NE 21 Sep (KS), Haskell, KS 7 Oct (JC), Texas, OK 4 Oct (TL), and Cimarron, OK 7 Oct (LM).

There were 3 reports of Harris’s Hawk—potentially involving the same individual: first 5—9 Nov along the Niobrara River in Knox, NE (WF, photo, m.ob.), then from Saline, NE 16 Nov (TJW photo), and finally in northeastern Kansas 27—29 Nov (RW, m.ob.). Another Harris’s was at Hackberry Flat 28 Oct (D&SS). Broad-winged Hawks in the Oklahoma Panhandle were notably numerous this season, suggesting a westerly shift in their fall migration corridor: about 40 individuals were noted 26 Sep—7 Oct (fide JAG), and there were also 5 reports from western Nebraska 22 Aug—17 Sep (fide WRS). 600 Swainson’s Hawks in Texas, OK 24 Sep (DWi) was a good count. A Rough-legged Hawk photographed in Comanche, OK 19 Nov (TK) was, when considering recent trends, notably south. Snowy Owls in Nebraska were record early this season: individuals were reported in Sarpy 29—30 Oct (JGJ, m.ob.), in McPherson 30 Oct (fide TJW), and in Cherry 31 Oct (fide JGJ). As the season continued, Snowy Owls were recorded south to Garfield, OK 7 Nov (fide JAG) and Pottawatomie, KS 16 Nov (DAx). A Northern Saw-whet Owl was calling from a cedar canyon in southeastern Lincoln, NE 2 Oct (LD); several were also mist-netted in Cherokee, OK beginning 17 Oct (AR, MRe, LC). Lewis’s Woodpeckers, regionally rare, were in Morton, KS 21 Sep (JM), Greer, OK 30 Sep (CB), and Cimarron, OK 6—8 Oct (BC). A female Williamson’s Sapsucker in Lincoln 13—24 Nov (BE, WBe, photo, m.ob.) was exceptional, as was another in Cimarron, OK 26 Sep—3 Oct (TL, photo, m.ob.). Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (1-2) were westerly 15—22 Nov in Lincoln, NE (LK, m.ob.). Red-naped Sapsuckers, scarce fall migrants in the far western region, were in Cimarron, OK 7—8 Oct (BC) and 30 Nov (JCo, JWA, KW), the latter record was also a late date. A Merlin in Cimarron, OK 23 Aug (TL), was early. Prairie Falcons in Douglas, NE 13 Oct (SMa) and Butler, NE 10 Nov (LE), were easterly. The only report of Gyrfalcon, a less-than-annual winter visitor to northern Nebraska, was of a gray individual in Cherry 25 Nov (C&JK); most reports in northern Nebraska are by falconers.

Flycatchers through Nuthatches

Olive-sided Flycatchers were early in Johnson, KS 6 Aug (MG), and late in Cleveland, OK 29 Sep (2; JT) and Cimarron, OK 1 Oct (TL). Late pewees included a Western in Sheridan, NE 3 Oct (D&MW) and an Eastern in Pawnee, OK 10 Oct (PRi). A westerly Alder Flycatcher in Texas, OK 30 Aug (TL) was a rare find for the western Great Plains. Late Least Flycatchers were in Douglas, NE 3 Oct (JR) and Canadian, OK 8 Oct (BM). Rare western empids included Hammond’s Flycatchers in Cimarron, OK 3 Sep (JAG), 27 Sep (DWi), and 6 Oct (CL, J&JT); another Hammond’s 1 Nov in Texas (TL) extraordinarily late. A Gray Flycatcher, exceptional in the region, was seen in Cimarron, OK on the very late dates of 6—7 Oct (CB, EL) and 14 Oct (JEB). Dusky Flycatchers are also more frequent further west; this season they were noted in Kimball, NE 4 Sep (MW, JR, ER) and, late, on 30 Sep in Cimarron, OK (TL). A juvenile Say’s Phoebe was quite easterly in Cowley, KS 30 Sep (DS). Vermilion Flycatcher, local some years in Cimarron, OK, were located north to Phelps, NE 25 Oct (AF) and easterly to Tulsa, OK 15 Oct (TA). Late Ash-throated Flycatchers were recorded in Cimarron, OK 10 Sep (CL, J&JT, K&SM) and Jackson, OK 30 Sep (CB), and a Great Crested Flycatcher in Sioux, NE 13 Sep (BP) was also late. Cassin’s Kingbird outside their regular western Oklahoma Panhandle range were found in Wallace, KS 22 Sep (KG, JC) and Rice, KS 7 Oct (AM); up to 18 individuals in Texas and Cimarron, OK 24 Sep—8 Oct (DWi, m.ob.) were late. Also late were Western Kingbirds in Cimarron, OK 4 Oct (TL), Texas, OK 8 Oct (LM), and Douglas, NE 4 Oct (MC), as well as an Eastern Kingbird in Oklahoma, OK 28 Sep (DWo). A Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in Scotts Bluff 20 Aug (fide HKH) was west of its expected Nebraska range.

White-eyed Vireo near its northern regional limit in Lancaster, NE 26 Sep (NA) was quite late for that area; another at Red Slough 15 Nov (DA) was exceptionally late. Also tardy was a Yellow-throated Vireo in Sarpy, NE 29 Sep (EW). Cassin’s Vireo, a regular but rare migrant in the western region was found 20 Aug—4 Sep in the Nebraska Panhandle (fide WRS); they were also recorded in Cimarron, OK 10 Sep (CL, J&JT, LM) and Texas, OK 12 (TL, KMD) and 29 Sep (TL). Westerly vireo records for the region included: Blue-headed in Texas 26 Nov (TL, KMD); Philadelphia Vireos in Cimarron 10 Sep (LM) and Texas 29 Sep (JAG, TL); and Red-eyed Vireos in Cimarron 29 Aug (TL), 9 Sep (CL, J&JT, K&SM), and 29 Sep (JAG). A Philadelphia Vireo in Lancaster, NE 7 Oct (NA), was late. Steller’s Jay records hinted towards a possible influx; they were in Cimarron 7—8 Oct (3 birds; BC, CB) and 27—30 Oct (1 bird; TC), and in Morton, KS 28 Nov (1 bird; JN). 5 Woodhouse’s Scrub Jays in Morton, KS, first on 7 Oct, remained through the period (SN, fide CO). Clark’s Nutcrackers, exceptional in Oklahoma and Kansas, were in Harper, KS 12 Nov (CE) and Cimarron, OK 7 Oct (JRs). Perhaps, these records are part of a larger trend: 17 Clark’s Nutcrackers were in Dawes, NE, first on 18 Sep (JRa, m.ob.), and 21 were recorded 13 Oct (JR); 7 were in Scotts Bluff 12 Oct (AH); and 6 were in Banner/Scotts Bluff 10 Nov (fide KD). A Fish Crow wandered west to McPherson, KS 1 Aug (ZR). Chihuahuan Raven reports continue in southwestern Oklahoma with 1-2 in Harmon 30 Oct—18 Nov (JEB).

20 Bank Swallows on 1 Oct at Hackberry Flat was a good count for the late date (JAG). 4 Violet-Green Swallows in Scotts Bluff, NE 20 Sep (J&LS) and 1-6 Purple Martins in Payne, OK 17—18 Sep (MY, SL) were late, and 3 Purple Martins in Morrill, NE 5 Sep (BMc) were a Panhandle rarity. More late swallows included a Barn Swallow in Oklahoma, OK 5 Nov (L&CR) and a Cliff in Payne, OK 15 Oct (SL). Cave Swallows have established themselves in southwestern Oklahoma; outside that part of the region, records included a juvenile in Morton, KS 14 Sep (AB), 3 in Choctaw, OK 19 Aug (CL, J&JT, RSe), and 4 at Red Slough 19 Sep (DA). A Cave Swallow at Hackberry Flat 2 Oct (JS, KSm, ND) was late. Mountain Chickadees are more common further west, so 2 in Cimarron, OK 7 Oct (CL, J&JT, LM) were noteworthy. August arrivals of Red-breasted Nuthatches suggested an irruption: 4 were in Morton, KS 13 Aug (TL, TSm) and 1 was in Texas, OK 13 Aug (TL, TSm); however, these records did not lead such an event. Later concentrations only came from Nebraska, with up to 16 in Dawes 25 Nov (ABr). White-breasted Nuthatches occur only as migrants or during winter in the western Oklahoma Panhandle and are expected to be of the interior west race, nelsoni. This season, a nelsoni was in Cimarron 11 Sep (TL), but singles of the eastern subspecies carolinensis were in Cimarron 11 Sep (TL) and Texas 28 Oct (TL). Pygmy Nuthatches, normally sedentary, moved southeastward into Nebraska following an influx into the Panhandle Oct-Nov; the a high count of 60 came from Dawes 13 Oct (JR). Extralimital Pygmy Nuthatches were east to Lincoln where 1-2 were found 4—25 Nov. (JGJ, m.ob.); 8 were also in Scott , KS, where they are very rare, from 18 Nov through the period (WB, m.ob.).

Wrens through Finches

A Rock Wren in Sedgwick, KS 29 Sep (DL) was easterly. A Canyon Wren in Woodward, OK 17 Oct (CV) likely was from one of the few remaining easterly populations. Kansas’s second record of the newly-split Pacific Wren came from Scott 19 Nov—5 Dec (KG, m.ob.). Nebraska’s first record of this species was found in Dawes14 Sep (AH). Westerly wrens included a Sedge in Keith, NE 16 Sep (BP) and single Carolinas in Cimarron, OK 7 Oct and 22 Nov (BC, WB). Single Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers in Jefferson, OK 26 Nov (L&BA), and at Red Slough 28 Nov (DA) were notably late. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet in Deuel, NE 20 Aug (TD) was early. Generally, Catharus thrushes are regionally rare during fall; this season, a Veery was in Dundy, NE 31 Aug (SMl), a Gray-cheeked Thrush was in Butler, NE 2 Sep (JGJ), and Swainson’s Thrushes were in Oklahoma 6 Sep (BD), Tulsa 9 Sep (BC), and Cimarron 16 Sep (DAk) and 3 Oct (TL). During both spring and fall, migrant Hermit Thrushes on the western edge of the region occur later than elsewhere in the region. Possibly, these birds are representative of Rocky Mountains or even Pacific Northwest populations. This fall, 6 were reported in the Nebraska Panhandle from 31 Aug—1 Oct (fide WRS). Gray Catbirds in Osage, OK 19 Nov (LP) and at Red Slough 21 Nov (DA) were late. A Curve-billed Thrasher wandered to Hamilton, KS 3 Sep (HA, JC, KG).

The only reports of Evening Grosbeak were from Nebraska: a female and 1-2 immature males in Scotts Bluff 27 Aug—12 Oct (AH, m.ob.), and 2 in Sheridan 25 Oct (D&MW). The only report of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, an uncommon winter visitor to the Nebraska Panhandle, was 2 in Scotts Bluff 25 Nov (KD). Oklahoma and Kansas produced reports of Cassin’s Finch, which is less than annual. 3 were in Texas, OK 15 Oct (TL), and a female was in Shawnee, KS 26 Nov (MF photo). 9 were also reported from 3 locations in the Nebraska Panhandle 20 Sep—13 Oct (fide WRS). Good numbers of Common Redpoll were reported in Nebraska; 120 were counted in 4 flocks in Cedar 23 Nov (DSt), and 50 and 60 were at two Douglas locations 28 Nov (JR). A single Common Redpoll was exceptionally southerly in Payne, OK, 14 Nov (RM photo), and 7 reports, all of single birds, came from Kansas 30 Oct—27 Nov (fide CO).

SA

There was a spectacular invasion of Red Crossbills this fall, especially in Nebraska, with about 170 reports involving roughly 1360 individuals (fide WRS). The first Red Crossbills noted away from Nebraska’s ponderosa pine areas were 2 in Lancaster 13 Aug (JSS), and the highest Nebraska counts were 150 in Cass 1 Nov (EB), and 120 in both Dawes 13 Oct (JR) and Scotts Bluff 12 Oct (AH). The arrival of this species in Kansas was early, too, with 3 in Finney 6 Aug (T&SS) and one in Reno 7 Aug (JMi). By the end of the period there were reports from over 30 Kansas counties (fide CO). In Oklahoma, Red Crossbill was uncommon; there were scattered reports across the state. The first of these was 2 in Texas 19 Oct (TL). Several observers detailed Red Crossbill call types: Nebraska’s resident birds are Type 2, and several of this type were verified by recordings both there (ABr, SMa, AH) and also in Kansas (fide CO). Type 4 birds were also recorded at several Nebraska sites (SMa, AH).

2 White-winged Crossbills, very rare were reported in Lancaster, NE 8 Nov (BMa). Pine Siskin numbers were generally above average in Nebraska (fide WRS); 1-2 in Payne, OK 27 Aug—9 Sep (SL) were early. Even in fall, Lesser Goldfinch seems to be expanding further north; one that last year wintered notably east in Cass, NE returned 6 Nov (fide RS), with others northerly to Garfield, OK 5 Aug (ZP),  Finney, KS 11 Oct (T&SS), Sioux, NE 21 Aug (BSa), and Dawes, NE 3-4 Aug (SMa).

Longspurs through Buntings

Up to 15 Chestnut-collared Longspurs in Texas, OK 7 Oct (TL) were early. There were several reports of Snow Bunting in Nebraska, first on 27 Oct with 2 in Sheridan (D&MW), but only one report from Kansas—Kiowa, 8 Nov (JL). A Cassin’s Sparrow, unfortunately deceased from a building collision, was found in Oklahoma, OK 14 Oct (NK); it was both notably east and notably late. Tardy Spizella sparrows included a Chipping in Douglas 8 Nov (SMa photo), a Clay-colored in Lancaster 23—24 Nov (ER), and Field Sparrows westerly in Scotts Bluff 22 Nov (PRa), in Sarpy 24 Nov (RFu), and in Dakota 25 Nov (EBr, MB). 2 easterly Brewer’s Sparrows were at separate locations in Keith, NE 16 Sep (KM, WK). A “Pink-sided” Dark-eyed Junco was photographed in Lancaster 13 Nov (NA); this subspecies, while routinely reported, often goes undocumented. A Harris’s Sparrow in Oklahoma, OK 20 Aug (BM) was exceptionally early; another in Reno, KS 20 Sep (AM) was also on the early side, and so was a White-crowned Sparrow in Douglas, KS 29 Aug (KL). White-throated Sparrows in Dawes, NE 12—20 Sep (AH) and Sioux, NE 3 Oct (JR) were westerly. A LeConte’s Sparrow in Harper, KS 24 Oct (CE) was westerly, as was a Nelson’s Sparrow in Hamilton, NE 13 Oct (SM). 3 Baird’s Sparrows were noted in McPherson, NE 15 Sep (KM); this date falls inside the range of the 8 previous fall records (fide WRS).  Henslow’s Sparrow is rare in fall; 2 reports came from Lancaster, NE 27 Sep (EJ) and Red Slough 10 Nov (CB, EL, PC). In Kansas, early Lincoln’s Sparrows were recorded in Kiowa 3 Sep (JL) and Pottawatomie 7 Sep (DR). Green-tailed Towhee, a rare western migrant was found in Cimarron, OK 6 Oct (CL). Also in Cimarron, OK 6 Oct was a late Yellow-breasted Chat (LM). Lingering Baltimore Orioles were seen at a Washington, NE feeder through 29 Nov (BB fide CNK), and in Cowley, KS 23 Nov (MT). Westerly, late Baltimore Orioles were noted in Cimarron, OK 27 Sep (LM, JW; photo) and Texas, OK 29 Sep (JAG, photo). Rusty Blackbirds in Cherry, NE 1 Nov (JGJ) and Hitchcock, NE 22 Oct (MB, EBr, PR) were westerly. 20 Brewer’s Blackbirds in Douglas, KS 12 Sep (JAM) were easterly.

An Ovenbird on 27 Aug in Oklahoma, OK (NK, BD) was early; one from the same county on 5 Oct (ZP) was late. A Northern Waterthrush at Red Slough 10 Oct (DA) was late. Golden-winged Warbler is, regionally, a rare find in fall; singles were in McCurtain, OK 6 Sep (FH, photo), Sarpy, NE 26 Sep (KH, photo), and Leavenworth, KS 25 Sep (GP). A Blue-winged Warbler in Leavenworth, KS 7 Sep (GP), was also notable. A Black-and-White Warbler in Cimarron, OK 29 Sep (JAG) was westerly. The last Swainson’s Warbler record this year was 15 Sep, in McCurtain, OK (FH). Tennessee Warbler, less-than-annual in the Nebraska Panhandle, was recorded in Garden 3 Sep (MB). An Orange-crowned Warblers in Pratt, KS 21 Aug (MR) was early. An unusually yellow Orange-crowned with yellow eye arcs in Lancaster, NE 11 Oct may have been a lutescens (NA). 3 counts of Nashville Warbler, ranging from 42-60 birds, were in the range of record high; these tallies came from Lancaster, NE and nearby Sarpy, NE 17—30 Sep (ER, RS); throughout the region, this species was unusually numerous this season. Magnolia Warblers are rare in fall; one was in Payne, OK 29 Sep (CR, CMc). There were several Bay-breasted Warblers reported in Nebraska: Lancaster 1 Sep (ER, photo) and Sarpy 12 Sep (EW, photo) & 20 Sep (RS). Blackburnian Warblers in Sarpy, NE 12 Sep (EW, photo) and 20 Sep (3; RS). Late Yellow Warblers were recorded on 4 Oct both in Texas, OK (TL) and Cleveland, OK (EH, BRo). Chestnut-sided Warblers were westerly in Sioux, NE 3 Sep (ER, MW, JR), Grant, KS 3 Sep (HA, JC, KG), Johnston, OK 6 Sep (JRo), and Oklahoma, OK 17 Sep (BM). A Chestnut-sided Warbler in Sarpy, NE 17 Oct (JG) was very late. A Black-throated Blue Warbler in Adams, NE 23—24 Sep (PD) was an exceptional find. A Palm Warbler in Texas, OK 17 Sep (TL), was both early and westerly; one in Keith, NE 11 Nov (NA, video), was record late, and one in Harper, OK 11 Oct (DP) was westerly. An “Audubon’s” Yellow-rumped Warbler in Miami, KS 16 Oct (MMH) was easterly. Townsend’s Warbler is annual during fall in the western region; they were reported from Cimarron, OK 9 Sep (CL) and 7 Oct (LM). Black-throated Green Warblers in Greeley, NE 4 Oct (WF), Texas, OK 12 Sep (TL), and Cimarron, OK 28 Oct (KMD) were westerly. Kansas’s 7th Painted Redstart was in Finney 10—12 Oct (T&SS, m.ob); it bears mention that this species is yet unconfirmed in Nebraska and Oklahoma.

A Hepatic Tanager, also exceptional, was in Cimarron 6 Oct (LM, J&JT, CL). A Summer Tanager in Bryan, OK 21 Oct (DW) was late, and a Scarlet Tanager in Cimarron, OK 29 Sep (JAG) was quite westerly. A Western Tanager in Cimarron 6 Oct (CL) was another of the October lingerers. A Pyrrhuloxia was in Harmon, OK 30 Nov (JEB). A Rose-breasted Grosbeak in Texas, OK 25 Sep (TL), was westerly; a Black-headed congener in McClain, OK 26 Aug (LMa) was easterly. A female Blue Grosbeak in Lancaster, NE 14 Oct (NA) was exceptionally late; one in Cimarron, OK 3 Oct (DWi) was also on the late side. Easterly Lazuli Buntings were recorded in Harlan, NE 13 Aug (JJu) and in Cheyenne, KS 16 Aug (3 birds; MK); another in Scotts Bluff, NE 30 Sep (TRo) was late. An apparent family group of Panted Buntings was in Kiowa, KS on 18 Aug (JL) was westerly.

Report processed by Alison Világ, 31 Oct 2020.

Photos–Southern Great Plains: Fall 2017
Hover or click on each image to read the caption.