Southern Great Plains: Spring 2018

March through May 2018

Joseph A. Grzybowski

W. Ross Silcock

Recommended citation:

Grzybowski, J. A., and W. R. Silcock. 2021. Spring 2018: Southern Great Plains. <> North American Birds.

The region’s mid-continental location makes for interesting annual comparisons, as each year is different even if playing some of the same themes. It is often in the emphasis, and the region can play from both sides of the continent in addition to its own plains themes. Several species, such as Ross’s Goose, have shown dramatic increases over the decades; others, like Sandhill Crane, seem to ride the favors of recent years, both expressing themselves well this season. White-winged Doves are penetrating the region further and further, in similar pattern to what Great-tailed Grackles did in decades past.

Among special events this season was a very good showing of eastern wood-warblers in Nebraska.  Magpies and chickadees impacted by West Nile Virus have been slow to recover. Several finch species, most notably Red Crossbills and Pine Siskins, made a showing that suggested possible breeding, particularly in Kansas. And, in contrast to some past years, the early arrivals were subdued this spring.

Contributors (sub-regional compilers in bold):

NEBRASKA: Noah Arthur, Elaine Bachel (EBa), Tim Banks, Wendy Becker, Elliott Bedows, Scott Bradley (SBd), Anita Breckbill (ABr), Tanja Britton (TBr), Ed Brogie (EBr), Lee Brogie (LBr), Mark Brogie, Barbara Brown, Donna Brunet (DBr), John Carlini (JCa), Andrew Caven, Colleen Childers (CCh), Virginia Clark, Mary Clausen, Aidan Coohill (ACo), Jen Corman (JCo), Kelly Corman (KCo), Colin Croft (CCf), Allyson Dather, Kathy DeLara, Carla Dengler, Cheryl Dickerson (CDi), Roger Dietrich, Kathy Mihm Dunning, Alyssa Edlund, Larry Einemann, William Flack, Rita Flohr, Andrew Furman, Jim Gast, Bob Gerten, John W. Hall, Robin Harding, Greg Hartel, Kadynn Hatfield, David Heidt (DHe), Justin Hill, Frank Holmes (FHo), Eric C. Hopps, Bill F. Huser, Todd Hutch, Palma Jack (PJa), Esa Jarvi, Jan Johnson, Jenny Jo Johnson, Joel G. Jorgensen, Lynette Keeshan, Clem N. Klaphake, Landon Koth (LKo), Steve Kruse, Daniel Leger (DLe), Jim Lochlear, Robert Manning, Sharla Meester (SMe), Sam Miller (SMi), Wayne Mollhoff, Steve Morris, Jonathan Nikkila, Jim Ochsner (JOc), Loren & Babs Padelford (L&BP)

Contributors (cont.)

Melissa Panella (MPa), Barry Parkin, Theresa Pella, Jim Petersen (JPe), Mark Peterson (MPe), Phillip Power, Susan Quinn, Lanny Randolph, Shannon Regan, Justin Rink, Gary Roberts, Paul Roisen, Shari Schwartz (SSc), Ken Shuster (KSh), W. Ross Silcock, Matthew Sittel, Kent Skaggs (KSk), Joshua Smith (JSm), Seena Spencer (SSp), David Stage (DSt), Ruthie Stearns (RSt), Scott Stolz (SSt), Caleb Strand (CSt), Jim & Linda Swenson (J&LS), Matthew & Cynthia Van Den Broeke (M&CV), Glen Walbek, Evan Ward, Don & Marion Wiedemann (D&MW), Denise Wiese (DWs), Michael Willison, Rick Wright, Donna Yates. KANSAS: Henry Armknecht, Aaron Batterbee (ABa), Peter Burked, Roger Boyd, Melissa Bruce (MBc), Andrew Burnett, Doris Burnett, Ted Cable, Jeff Calhoun, Kathy Carroll, Glenn Caspers, Walter Cochran, Devon DeRaad (DDR), Jared Engelbert, Corey Entriken, Tom Ewert, Joelle Feight, Gregg Friesen, Matt Gearheart, Allison Godek, Malcolm Gold (MGo), Byron Grauerholz (BGr), Kevin Groeneweg, Sam Guy, Jennifer Hammett (JHa), Mary Herold, Steve Hofhine, David Hollie, Pete Janzen, Lowell Johnson, Barry Jones, William Kaempfer, David Kirsch (DKh), William Kirsch (WKh), Dave Klema, Kaleb Kroeker, Mark Land, Dan Larson, Nancy Leo, Matt Longabaugh (MLo), Jim Malcom, John Mallery (JMy), Terry Mannell, Frank Mayer, Steve McDaniel (SMD), Kathy McDowell (KMc), Debbie McKee (DMK), Don Merz, Andrew Miller, Lynette Mueller, Atcha Nolen, Mark Nolen, Chuck Otte, Jaye Otte, Marie Plinsky (MPl), Mike Rader, Dave Rintoul, John Row (JRo), John Schukman, Roger Schultz, Carolyn Schwab, David Seibel, Scott Seltman, Tom & Sara Shane (T&SS), Faith Shapley-Queen (FSQ), Dylan Smith (DSm), Joshua Smith (JSm), Terry Swope, Max Thompson, David Tonnessen, Mike Umscheid, John Vanderpoel, Rodney Wedel (RWd), David Wiggins, Scott Wilson, Sarah Winnicki (SWi), Jeff Witters. OKLAHOMA: Justin Agan (JAg), Meg Andrews, David Arbour, Doris Arterburn (DAr), James W. Arterburn, John Ault, Cynthia Berg (CBe), Sandy Berger, Matthew Bowman (MBo), Valerie Bradshaw, Matt Brady (MBr), Eli Bridge (EBg), Will Britton (WBr), Chris Butler (CBu), Bill Carrell, Cheryl Childers, Paula Cimprich, Bill Diffin, Zach Dufran, Kathy Mihm Dunning, Bob Ellis, Joseph A. Grzybowski, Richard Hasegawa (RHa), Ford Hendershot, Emily Hjalmarson, Bob Laval, Erin Lehnert, Amber Lemons, Tony Leukering, Scott Loss, Jo Loyd (JLo), Mike & Merry Ludewig (M&ML), Chris Lynch, Brian Marra, Larry Mays (LMa), Michael McCloy, Deanne McKinney (DMc), Terry Mitchell (TMi), Jojo Morelli (JMo), Christopher Moser-Purdy (CMP), Roy Neher, Rishi Palit (RPa), Rachel Perash, James Petersen, Mark Peterson, Mary Peterson (MyP), Zach Poland, Ariel Richter, Brett Roberts, Dan Robinson (DRo), Jeremy Ross (JRs), Ben Sandstrom, Jana Singletary (JSi), Benjamon Singleton (BSi), Jennifer Smith (JSh), Joshua Smith (JSm), Caleb Strand (CSt), John Tharp, David Tonnessen, Lou and Mary Truex (L&MT), Nadine Varner, Patricia Velte, Lora Weber, David Wiggins, Ken Williams (KWi), Kevin Wistrom, Doug Wood (DWo), Jimmy Woodard (JWo), Rachel Wrenn (RWr).


Cheyenne Bottoms (Cheyenne Bottoms W.M.A., Barton, KS); Hackberry Flat (Hackberry Flat W.M.A., Tillman, OK); Hefner (Lake Hefner, Oklahoma, OK); McConaughy (Lake 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).

Whistling-Duck through Hummingbirds

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks continue to spread away from Red Slough, with at least 15 statewide in Kansas from 24 Mar (fide CO) and about 32 in Oklahoma (fide JAG). Fulvous Whistling-Duck remains a regional “zootie;” the only report was of one at Hackberry Flat 14 May (BS, JA). The northward routes taken by Snow Geese in Nebraska has varied over the last 20 years or so; a peak count of 400,960 was in Lancaster (LE), and large numbers have been along the Missouri River at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge rather than in the Rainwater Basin as in recent years. An estimated 50,000 Ross’s Geese in Hall, NE 13 Mar (with 250,000 Snow Geese; TH) is a new high count for the state, representative of increasing numbers in the past 40 years when three-digit high counts were exceptional. A hybrid Snow x Ross’s Goose was in Grady, OK 11 Mar (JAG).

The best tally of Greater White-fronted Geese was 20,000 in Hall, NE 13 Mar (AE); an injured straggler was at Hackberry Flat 17 May (ZP). A Tundra Swan wintering in Douglas, NE with Trumpeters was last reported 1 Mar (PP). Easterly Cinnamon Teal were at Red Slough 5–29 Mar (one to two; DA) and in Sequoyah, OK 24 Mar (one; CC fide SB). The best count of Redheads was 3,000 in Cedar, NE 14 Mar (RD), and 3,000 Lesser Scaup were in the same area 23 Mar–10 Apr (BP, SSt, RD). Quite late were single Greater Scaup at Hackberry Flat 22 May (L&MT) and in Pawnee, OK 26 May (JAg). Scoters are generally noteworthy; Surfs were at three Kansas locations 7–30 Apr (one to two; JW, MN, FSQ), White-wingeds in Jefferson, OK 11 Mar (CBu, AR) and Wabaunsee, KS 4–27 Apr (KMc, CS), and Blacks at Hefner through 6 Apr (fide JAG) and in Sedgwick, KS 28 Apr (TE). Two Long-tailed Ducks were in Jefferson, OK 7–11 Mar (BE, CBu, AR), with singles in Lancaster, NE through 2 Mar (EJ, GR, JJJ) and both Cedar and Knox, NE 29 Mar (MB, EBr). Remaining late in Pawnee, OK were a Bufflehead 21 May (JAg) and one to four Common Goldeneyes 21–23 May (JAg). Hooded Merganser is a rare breeder along the eastern edge of the region; possible candidates were singles in Creek, OK 24–31 May (LW) and Canadian, OK 25–27 May (JAG, BS). A Common Merganser at Hefner during May was a “vagrant” (fide JAG). Among lingering Red-breasted Mergansers were singles in Dawes, NE 21 May (WM) and Tulsa, OK 19–22 May (TMi, m.ob.). Regionally rare, a Red-necked Grebe wintering at Hefner remained until 30 Mar (JWo, NV, m.ob.), with others 25 Apr in Sedgwick, KS (SH) and 18 May in Garden, NE (MW). McConaughy is a staging area for Western Grebe in both spring and fall; a record spring total 30,000 was estimated there 30 Apr (MB, m.ob.). In Oklahoma, there were seven Westerns in Cimarron 15 May (BC) and singles in Johnston 25 Apr (BSi) and Woodward 14 Apr (TMi).

Nebraska’s fourth Band-tailed Pigeon was at a Hall feeder 18–23 May (DWs, m.ob.). Inca Doves appeared to be expanding in the aught years from their southern regional edge, then receded; this season, one made it to Crawford, KS 8 May (DH); another was in Cleveland, OK 31 Mar (JRs, EBg). White-winged Doves are now summer visitors in Nebraska; arrival dates for the first 4 of 12 were 2–5 May (BG, GH, WB). There were five reports of the now much rarer Black-billed Cuckoo in Nebraska, all in the east, beginning 21 May (m.ob.). Greater Roadrunner continues northerly in Kansas; one east of the expected locations was found in Ellsworth 18 Mar (RS, DK). A Lesser Nighthawk in Cimarron, OK (DRo, DW) was a genuine regional “zootie.” Early Whip-poor-wills were one in Osage, OK 4 Apr (MP) and another, a window-strike that survived, in Lancaster, NE 13 Apr (EBa; photo). A Black-chinned Hummingbird was early 24 Mar in Comanche (L&MT); the species continues to make inroads into central Oklahoma with five single extralimitals reported in Cleveland 12 Apr (ZD, LMa), Logan 20 Apr–6 May (ZP), Oklahoma 25 Apr (BS), and Cleveland 8–31 May (JT, RWr). Still seldom noted in Oklahoma and much rarer during spring, a Broad-tailed Hummingbird was found in Cimarron 12–14 May (MBr).

Rails through Terns

The odd King Rail away from Red Slough was found only at Hackberry Flat 12 Apr through the period (MA, m.ob.). A Sora wintering in Bryan, OK was still present 7 Mar (DWo); two in Clay, NE 5 Apr (EW, JH) were early. Common Gallinule occurs, like King Rail, rarely away from Red Slough; one was at Hackberry Flat 16 Apr–8 May (L&MT), and one at Red Slough 21 Mar (DA, FH) was early. Three Yellow Rails were reported, one to two in Lancaster, NE 21 & 24 May (JGJ, LE) and one in Douglas, KS 30 Apr (RB), within the date window of previous occurrences (fide WRS). Sandhill Crane peak counts are getting larger, with 598,000 estimated in the Central Platte Valley, NE on 24 Mar (AC). Easterly Sandhills in Kansas were 30 in Atchison 7 Mar (DM), three in Douglas 11 Mar (DB), and one in Shawnee 26 Apr (DL); six over Hodgeman 6 May (GC, GF, RWd) were late to depart, as was one over Ellsworth 16 May (MR). Whooping Cranes moved through 22 Mar–19 Apr (fide JAG, CO, WRS), with an early single in Hall, NE 4 Mar (BB); best counts were 29 in Alfalfa, OK 19 Apr (fide JAG) and 35 in the Central Platte Valley, NE 5 Apr (JGJ).

There was an easterly push of Black-necked Stilts in Nebraska, with birds at six locations 2–18 May (fide WRS), mirrored in Kansas with one in Neosho 12 May (AB) and in Oklahoma with singles in Cleveland 25 Apr (JT, RWr) and at Red Slough 22 May (DA). Early were two American Avocets at Quivira 9 Mar (JRo), a Black-bellied Plover in Oklahoma, OK 17 Apr (BM), and a Semipalmated Plover at Hackberry Flat 5 Apr (JWo, LMa, VB). First Piping Plovers to arrive were in Lancaster, NE 14 Apr (SK), Johnson, KS 18 Apr (ABa, WC, SMD), and Tulsa, OK 16 Apr (MP). Early Snowy Plovers were two at Hackberry Flat 10 Mar (JAG) and one at Quivira 14 Mar (SS); another was easterly in Neosho, KS 19 Apr (AB). Whimbrels move through mostly in May; so five in Alfalfa, OK 12 Apr (CBe), two at Hackberry Flat 16 Apr (L&MT), and eight at McConaughy 30 Apr (CSt) were early. There were eight additional regional reports of Whimbrel 2–20 May (fide JAG, WRS). A not unprecedented but still amazing aggregation of Long-billed Curlews was the 521 in Grant, KS 25 Mar (T&SS); another was easterly in Elk, KS 17 Apr (KG). One of very few regional records, a very “zootie” Ruff was at Hackberry Flat 20 Apr (JAG; photo). An early Sanderling was in Bryan, OK 18 Apr (DWo). Five Dunlin that likely wintered were found at Hackberry Flat 12 Mar (BD), and singles were at Cheyenne Bottoms 3 Mar (JE) and in Adams, NE 2 Apr (GW). Early sandpipers were a Baird’s at Hackberry Flat 7 Mar (JWo, LMa), two Buff-breasted in Canadian, OK 16 Apr (BS), and one Pectoral at Cheyenne Bottoms 3 Mar (JE) and four in Neosho, KS 4 Mar (AB). Rare westerly, single Short-billed Dowitchers were at Hackberry Flat 2, 7, & 27 May (L&MT, JAG) and Republic, KS 23 Apr (JF), with four in Scotts Bluff, NE 4 May (KD). Two Long-billed Dowitchers were early in Neosho, KS 4 Mar (AB), and excellent counts in Oklahoma were the 639 on 13 Mar and 1,450 on 16 Apr at Hackberry Flat (L&MT). The best count of Wilson’s Phalaropes in Nebraska was 2,700 at Crescent Lake N.W.R., Garden 5 May (SMi, CD); numbers may be declining, since spring high counts for the state were 6,550–10,000. Single Red-necked Phalaropes in Nebraska were early in Buffalo 27 Apr (AF) and easterly in Lancaster 26 May (MW). A Red Phalarope, a regional rarity, especially in spring, was at Quivira 4–10 May (AG, DKh, WKh).

A rare spring occurrence, a Black-legged Kittiwake continued in Douglas, KS through 8 Mar (CE). A subadult Little Gull, a regional rarity, was in Canadian, OK 28 Mar–3 Apr (BD, BM, m.ob.). Not unexpected but still noteworthy, single Laughing Gulls were in Payne, OK 3 May (SL), Alfalfa, OK 5 May (DT, JSm, CSt), and Kingman, KS 13 Mar (SS). Rare in spring, two Mew Gulls, both adults, were in Lancaster, NE 11 Mar (NA, MW) and at McConaughy 21 Apr (NA). Rare easterly, a “near-adult” California Gull was in Seward, NE 27 May (RF, photo). Numerous Iceland (Thayer’s) Gulls remained in Nebraska beyond winter; last dates were 21 Apr with five at McConaughy and 12 Apr with six in Lancaster (fide WRS). Apparent Iceland (Kumlien’s) Gulls were pale first-cycle birds at McConaughy 20 Mar (FHo) and in Douglas, NE 30 Mar (JR, NA). A total of 17 Lesser Black-backed Gulls were reported in the region through 2 May, with 13 in Nebraska (fide WRS); this species is now a regular migrant through the region, wintering in the south. Up to three immature Glaucous Gulls at McConaughy through 30 Apr (NA, MB, m.ob.) loath to depart. An amazing count of Caspian Terns was the 600–700 in Wagoner, OK 4 May (JWA, KWi). Common Tern is a rare migrant in spring; one was in Wagoner, OK 4 May (JWA, KWi), but up to five were surprising at McConaughy 30 Apr–21 May (MB, WRS, PJa).

Loons through Falcons

Rare loons in Nebraska were a Red-throated in Lancaster 17 Mar (MW) and a Pacific in Saunders 5 Apr (GR). A Yellow-billed Loon in Cherokee, OK 10 Apr (JWA, DAr) was at the loon mecca—Lake Tenkiller. An adult male Anhinga was early at Red Slough 5–6 Mar (DA). There were at least 15 reports of Neotropic Cormorant away from Red Slough in Oklahoma and Kansas involving at least 22 birds (fide JAG, CO); at least two reached Nebraska, possibly the same bird in Lancaster 29 Mar (SSc) and 13 May (SSc, JCa), with another in Douglas 11–13 Apr (JR, m.ob.). An American Bittern at Red Slough 19 Mar (DA) was early. Up to three Least Bitterns were westerly at Hackberry Flat 6–7 May (DT, JSm, CSt); others included one northwesterly in Sheridan, NE 30 May (SM) and five in Knox, NE 25 May (MB, EBr, PR). A staggering influx of Great Egrets into Nebraska yielded around 598 individuals in the 414 reports (previous high count was 43 [fide WRS]), with individuals westerly in Scotts Bluff 20 May (two to four; EB, KH) and one at McConaughy 4 May (LK). Little Blue Heron is uncommon in Nebraska; the four reports were of three adults and a “calico” immature 10 Apr–15 May (fide WRS). Tricolored Heron is rare in the region even at Red Slough, where an adult was present 30 Apr (DA); unexpected elsewhere were singles in Oklahoma, OK 12 Apr (JWo) and 11 May (PV) and in Alfalfa, OK 25 May (JAG). An early Cattle Egret was at Red Slough 13 Mar (DA). A Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was early in Tulsa, OK 10 Mar (JLo et al.); rare during spring in Nebraska, there were three reports—singles westerly in Lincoln 20 May (VC), Hall 29 Apr (fide JGJ), and Burt 24 May (ECH, EBr). Glossy Ibis continues to be found when searched for among White-faced Ibises, with at least four in Nebraska at two locations in Garden 18 May (MW) and 21 May (LE) and two locations in Sheridan 20 May (JR, SMe, JJ). Singles in Oklahoma were at Tulsa 27 Apr (MP) and Alfalfa 28 Apr (MP, MyP), with one to two at Hackberry Flat 30 Apr–22 May (L&MT). A dark ibis in Platte, NE 21 May (LK; photo) was a hybrid, although others were likely in the region.

A Black Vulture was westerly in Cowley, KS 12 Mar (FSQ), and a Turkey Vulture was early in Sarpy, NE 1 Mar (L&BP). Nesting Ospreys continued at known Nebraska sites in Scotts Bluff and Keith (fide WRS); an early date for incubation was established by one of the Scotts Bluff pairs 27 Mar (KD). A migrant Osprey was early in Comanche, OK 3 Mar (BM), and another there was late 30 May (KW). A clear surprise was a Swallow-tailed Kite in Lyon, KS 22 Apr (DMK). Immatures Golden Eagles were eastward to Douglas, KS 3 Mar (DDR) and Riley, KS 10 Apr (DR), the latter quite late, as was an adult male at Red Slough 6 Mar (DA). A rare southerly immature Northern Goshawk was in Shawnee, KS 27 Mar (SW; photo). A Mississippi Kite was early in Oklahoma, OK 12 Apr (DMc). Up to three Broad-winged Hawks were westerly in Texas, OK 21 Apr–10 May (TL, JAG), and one lingered in Sheridan, NE 26 Apr–22 May (D&MW). Late “Western” Red-tailed Hawks (B.j. calurus) were at McConaughy 30 Apr (MB, m.ob.) and in Custer, NE 20 May (EBr, MB), likely non-breeding immatures, and a Rough-legged Hawk in Sioux, NE 20 May (RSt) was quite late. Documentation of Ferruginous Hawk in eastern Nebraska has been lacking. However, a light morph immature was photographed in Lancaster 15 Apr (MW), another immature was easterly in Linn, KS 21 Apr (NL), and one was late in Cleveland, OK 25 Mar (EH, BR).

Following a good winter showing of Snowy Owls in the northern region, a surprising four lingered in Kansas at Cheyenne Bottoms 3 Mar (JE), in Nemaha 10 Mar (MLo), in Logan 15 Mar (FM), and as late as 4 Apr in Mitchell (KMc, CS, MPl). A Burrowing Owl in Webster, NE 25 Apr (MPe) was easterly. Barred Owl continues its westward expansion in Nebraska, with singles in Lincoln 17 Apr (WB) and Hall 14 Mar (GR) and two calling in Frontier, NE 5 May (WF). Nesting Long-eared Owls were noted in Garfield, NE 20 Apr (TP); three in Jefferson, OK lingered to 11 Mar (CBu, AR). Recent data suggests Northern Saw-whet Owl is likely more common than detected; among those detected this season was one in Shawnee, KS 9 Mar (PJ, KG), with five Nebraska reports of calling birds, most in the north (fide WRS). A set of four Saw-whet eggs in a nest box in southeastern Garden, NE was abandoned 18 Apr (WM). A Lewis’s Woodpecker in Choctaw, OK 19–24 Apr (CL) was extralimital. Westerly pioneering Red-bellied Woodpeckers were in Box Butte, NE 15 May (WF), and one in Sheridan 24 Mar, continued there (D&MW). Good finds were single migrant Red-naped Sapsuckers in Cimarron, OK 29 Mar (TL) and 16 Apr (JWo). Pileated Woodpeckers expanding northeast included individuals in Dixon 18 Mar (EBr, LBr) and Dakota 21 Apr (BFH). A Crested Caracara in Comanche, OK 14 May (CMP, JP, PC) was yet another regional “zootie.” A Merlin in Payne, OK 6 May (SL) overstayed the usual departure date.

Flycatchers through Pipits

A spring record 60 Least Flycatchers were counted in Sarpy, NE 12 May (JR, SMe, SBd). Quite early was a Dusky Flycatcher at McConaughy 30 Apr (MB, m.ob.). Say’s Phoebes were early in Morton, KS 3 Mar (KC, JHa) and Harlan, NE 17 Mar (TB) and easterly in Lancaster, NE 15 Apr (M&CV) and Riley, KS 4 Apr (LM). Vagrant Vermilion Flycatchers were north to Buffalo, NE 11 Apr (female; WF), with other extralimital singles in Comanche, OK 18 Apr (fide eBird) and Harper, OK 21 Apr (BC). An Ash-throated Flycatcher was early in Jackson, OK 6 Apr (JA) where expected; extralimital was one northeasterly at Quivira 5 May (PB, WK, JV). A Great Crested Flycatcher was westerly in Morrill, NE 20 May (SSp). Very early Scissor-tailed Flycatchers were in Cleveland, OK 4 Mar (JT) and Cherokee, OK 5 Mar (RP). Westerly were White-eyed Vireos in Morton, KS 4 May (MG), Clark, KS 5 May (DT, JSm), and Finney, KS 8 May (T&SS). Westerly Yellow-throated Vireos were in Garden, NE 18 May (TBr) and Roger Mills, OK 13 Apr (WBr, JMo); another was early in McCurtain, OK 19 Mar (DA). A westerly Blue-headed Vireo was in Hall, NE 11 May (SM). Cassin’s Vireo is quite rare in spring; one was in Texas, OK 7 May (TL). Plumbeous Vireo is a low-density migrant through the western edge of the region; singles were in Cimarron, OK 4 May (TL) and Morton, KS 5 May (DW). Westerly Philadelphia Vireos were in Gray, KS 6 May (fide CO), Pratt, KS 15 May (MR), and Buffalo, NE 13 May (LE). Early Red-eyed Vireos were in Murray, OK 2 Apr (BS) and at Red Slough 4 Apr (DA).

Continuing regional rarities in Morton, KS were a Steller’s Jay through 4 May (JM) and a Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay until 4 Mar (JM). A Clark’s Nutcracker over Scotts Bluff, NE 23 May (RW) was unexpected. Fish Crows arrived early in Pottawatomie, KS 1 Mar (SWi, DSm) and Cowley, KS 3 Mar (DS). Chihuahuan Raven is re-colonizing former haunts in southwestern Oklahoma; one was in Jackson 29 Mar (JA) and two were in Tillman 17 & 24 Apr (L&MT et al.). A Tree Swallow was a bit early in Douglas, KS 2 Mar (RB), as was a Purple Martin in Neosho, KS 3 Mar (AB); another Purple Martin was outside expected Nebraska range limits in Sheridan 27 May (D&MW). An early Cliff Swallow was with other swallows in Pratt, KS 26 Mar (MR). A group of 10 Violet-green Swallows were east of the expected migration corridor over Grant, NE 4 May (ACo). West Nile Virus recovery by central Nebraska Black-capped Chickadees has been slow; one in Kearney 4 Mar was the “first there for several years” (LR, RH). A Verdin in Tillman, OK 16 Apr (L&MT) was fringing the edge of its expected range. Lingering Red-breasted Nuthatches in Madison, NE 31 May (DHe) and Lancaster, NE 27 May (RSt) were potential extralimital breeders. A Brown-headed Nuthatch in Latimer, OK 10 Mar (DA) was at the northwest of its expected but local range.

A Rock Wren in Webster, NE 11 Apr (GW) was easterly. A real surprise was a Canyon Wren that strayed east to Stevens, KS 12 May (HA, JC). A House Wren recorded in Wayne, NE 14 Mar (EBr) was record early or overwintering. Westerly was Winter Wren in Dawes, NE 18 Mar (JR, SBd; recording), only the fourth Nebraska Panhandle record. Early and westerly were Eastern Bluebirds on 18 Mar in Garden and Sioux, NE (KMD, JR, SBd), with four at McConaughy 3 Mar (SMe). A late Townsend’s Solitaire was in Woodward, OK 15 Apr (JWo) and another lingered until 26 Apr in Jefferson, KS (TM). Veeries westerly were in Hall, NE 20 May (SM) and Alfalfa, OK 25 Apr (JAG). A gray-flanked, grayish overall Hermit Thrush ascribed to the Rocky Mountains subspecies auduboni was easterly in Antelope, NE 8 May (MB, photo), whereas a Wood Thrush in Cimarron, OK 13 May (DRo) was far westerly. Curve-billed Thrashers penetrated further than usual into central Kansas; singles were in Rush 16 Apr (DL), Ford 16 Apr (MU), and Hodgeman 27 Apr (JC). American Pipits arriving early in Nebraska were the 8–12 in Lancaster 1 Mar (earliest; LE, JGJ), with 10 more reports by 9 Mar (fide WRS). A late American Pipit was still in Cimarron, OK 19 May (EH, BR).

Finches through Icterids

Evening Grosbeak put on a good showing region-wide, south in numbers even to Oklahoma, where 10 were in Woodward 14 Apr (TMi, CBe), one in Le Flore 30 Apr (BL), and 18 in Cimarron 2 May (DW). In Nebraska, one was easterly in Cass 2 May (fide CNK), and in Kansas, singles were in Shawnee 11 Mar (GC) and Jefferson 1 Apr (TM). A Common Redpoll in Seward, NE 23 Apr (CDi) was quite late. Red Crossbill also put on a region-wide showing; records in Oklahoma including counts of 32 in Texas 2 May (TL), 30 in Latimer 8–10 Mar (reported as Type 2; DA), and 23 in Oklahoma 4 Apr (m.ob.). There were four reports of the much rarer White-winged Crossbill: two in Keith, NE 27 Mar (JOc), one in Dakota, NE 20 Apr–4 May (BFH), one continuing to 1 Mar in Pawnee, KS (DK, MR), and one in Ellsworth, KS 25 Mar–21 Apr (MR). Amazingly, a green-backed male Lesser Goldfinch that appeared at an eastern Nebraska feeder in Cass for the second consecutive winter on 6 Nov was seen there again 7 May (GH, photo). Other Lesser Goldfinches penetrating the Plains were easterly to Cowley, KS 7 Apr (MT), Geary, KS 8 Apr (JO, CO), Johnson, KS 24 Apr (ML), and very early in Comanche, OK 9 Mar (L&MT). A surprise of surprises was the Lawrence’s Goldfinch that remained in Comanche, OK 9–28 Mar (L&MT, m.ob.), the first documented for the region.

A careful estimate of 11,000 Lapland Longspurs in Seward, NE 7 Mar (JH) was a record count for the state. A late-migrating Chestnut-collared Longspur was in Washita, OK 5 May (MM). The last Snow Bunting reported, after a low year, was a very late bird in Platte, NE 25 Apr (LK). Three Lark Buntings in Cedar, NE 12 May (DSt) were easterly, as was another in Webster, NE 25 May (MPe). A good tally of Clay-colored Sparrows was the 750 in Rock, NE 13 May (JJ). Fox Sparrow was plentiful in Leavenworth, KS, where 75 were counted 18 Mar (JS, HA); late singles were in Pratt, KS 19 Apr (MR) and Saline, KS 27 Apr (BGr, KK). American Tree Sparrow in southerly Oklahoma locations, where scarce in recent years, included three in Jackson 8 Mar (BD) and one in Washita 12 Mar (BS). A Dark-eyed (Pink-sided) Junco was late in Cimarron, OK 11 May (MBr), and a Dark-eyed (Gray-headed) in Sioux, NE 19 May (JGJ, MPa) was unexpected there. Late to depart was a White-crowned Sparrow in Oklahoma, OK 27 May (BM).

A Golden-crowned Sparrow continued its third consecutive winter stay in Cleveland, OK through 12 Apr (RN). Also quite late was a Harris’s Sparrow in Oklahoma, OK 26 May (BM, BD); one in Sheridan, NE 3 May (WF) was westerly. Early were single Le Conte’s Sparrows in Saunders, NE 18 Mar (DY) and Buffalo, NE 23 Mar (DBr, JG), and late was another at Red Slough 8 May (DA, MBo). The only Nelson’s Sparrow reported was in Lancaster, NE 15 May (LKo), and the only Baird’s Sparrow reported was in Sioux, NE 24 Apr (CNK), somewhat early. An odd record was of two Henslow’s Sparrows banded in Choctaw, OK 9 Mar (CBu, EL, AL) that probably wintered. Record early for Nebraska was a Savannah Sparrow in Kearney, NE 3 Mar (JN); strangely, four more were in Saunders, NE the same day (J&LS). There were four reports of late Song Sparrows in Oklahoma: singles in Tulsa 25 Apr (BC), in Cleveland 28 Apr (EH, BR), at Red Slough 30 Apr (DA), and in Oklahoma 2 May (BM). Early sparrows in Nebraska were two Lincoln’s in Merrick 17 Mar (SM), two in Keith the same day (JR, SBd), and a Swamp in Buffalo 17 Mar (SR). A Rufous-crowned Sparrow in Morton, KS 22 May (MR, TC, SS) was a rare find there. Most surprising were the second and third state records of Scott’s Oriole, each of a pair at two separate locations in Cimarron, OK 28 Apr (DRo, JAG; photos). A Bronzed Cowbird in Cimarron, OK 28 May (RPa) adds to a recent collection in the western part of that county.

Wood-Warblers through Dickcissel

An Ovenbird was westerly in Stevens, KS 7 May (KG). Worm-eating Warblers, rare in Nebraska, were at different Sarpy locations 8 May (MC, L&BP) and 11 May (KSk) and in Douglas 8 May (JL). An early Louisiana Waterthrush was in Riley, KS 18 Mar (LJ). Reports of Golden-winged Warbler have increased in recent years; a near-record 27 were in Nebraska (fide WRS); best single-person count was the five in Sarpy 12 May (JR). A westerly Golden-winged was in Haskell, KS 11 May (HA, JC). In contrast to Golden-wingeds, only one Blue-winged Warbler was reported in Nebraska, in Sarpy 13 May (MS), but with others westerly in Cimarron, OK 12 May (MBr), Ellsworth, KS 2 May (DK, RS), Stevens, KS 7 May (KG), Russell, KS 9 May (DK), and at Quivira 12 May (BJ). Other eastern warblers westerly were a single Black-and-white Warbler in Saline, NE 23 Apr (SQ) and one to two in Texas, OK 29 Apr–10 May (TL). Single Prothonotary Warblers were early at Red Slough 29 Mar (DA) and westerly in Stevens, KS 7 May (KG). Swainson’s Warblers pushing range limits were one in Lancaster, NE 15 May (RSt, photo, recording; m.ob.), Nebraska’s first, and another in Johnson, northeast KS, also 15 May (TS).

Three Tennessee Warblers were westerly in Nebraska: singles in two Sheridan locations 9 May (D&MW) and 20 May (GR) and Dawes 20 May (JWH). An early Nashville Warbler was at Red Slough 29 Mar (DA). More Connecticut Warblers than usual were detected, with one in Johnson, KS 15 May (MGo, MBc, KC) and three in Nebraska: Douglas 12 May (RM), Lancaster 13 May (MW), and Sarpy 16 May (MC, EB). MacGillivray’s Warblers, rare western-edge migrants, were in Stevens, KS 7 May (KG) and Greeley, KS 8 May (KG). The Runoff Ponds in Stevens, KS yielded yet more eastern warblers westerly, including a Mourning Warbler 7 May (KG) and a Kentucky Warbler 8 May (JMy). Another Kentucky was northerly in Dodge, NE 15 May (KSh, GR). Hooded Warblers reported away from southeastern Oklahoma were westerly to Hamilton, KS 8 May (KG), Dawes, NE 20 May (GR), and Sioux, NE 20 May (RW, m.ob.), with several more northerly at different Lancaster locations 12 May (LE, DLe), 13 May (ABr), and 22–23 May (MW, m.ob.).

Nebraska clearly yielded a good showing among several other eastern warblers, including at least nine of the usually quite rare Cape May Warbler 3–15 May (fide WRS), westerly to Hall 3 May (CCh); 135 Magnolia Warblers, 19 Bay-breasted Warbler 11–16 May, more than normal; 101 reported Chestnut-sided Warblers; and 143 Palm Warblers (fide WRS). Westerly were Magnolia Warblers in Oklahoma, OK, two on 3 May (fide JAG) and one on 22 May (ZP); single Blackburnian Warblers in Loup, NE 15 May (KSk) and Payne, OK 21–22 May (SL); and single Chestnut-sided Warblers in Texas, OK 7 May (TL, KMD) and Loup, NE 15 May (KSk). An early or possibly overwintering Palm Warbler was at Red Slough 13 Mar (DA, CL); another was late in Tulsa, OK 15 May (BC). Singles were westerly in Comanche, OK 17 Apr (MM) and Stevens, KS 7 May (KG) and very westerly in Cimarron, OK 13 May (DRo). Easterly Yellow-rumped (Audubon’s) Warblers were in Brown, NE 5 May (JCo, KCo, AD), Tulsa, OK 24 Apr (BC), and Comanche, OK 6 May (DT, JSm, CSt); one in Cimarron, OK 27 May (RHa) was quite late. Prairie Warblers westerly were singles at McConaughy 30 Apr (CSt, JSm) and in Reno, KS 25 Apr (SS). Finally, westerly Black-throated Green Warblers were in Texas, OK 28 Apr (TL) and Cimarron, OK 25 May (L&MT).

Out-of-range Summer Tanagers were single immatures in Garfield, NE 23 May (BG) and Wayne, NE 2 May (EBr, LBr). Westerly Scarlet Tanagers were in Custer, NE 21 May (M&CV) and Cleveland, OK 16 May (JT), with one far westerly in Cimarron, OK 11 May (DRo). A Western Tanager was easterly in Reno, KS 5 May (AM). A Northern Cardinal in Grant, northwestern KS 5 May (SG) was pushing western range limits. A Pyrrhuloxia wintering in Harper, KS continued through 15 Mar (MH). Westerly phenotypic Rose-breasted Grosbeaks west of Nebraska’s “hybrid zone” with Black-headed Grosbeak were in Scotts Bluff 12 May (CCf) and Kimball 14 May (WRS); in Oklahoma, westerly Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were in Texas 29 Apr (TL, JAG, DW) and Cimarron 19 May (EH, BR) and 24 May (L&MT). An easterly Black-headed Grosbeak was in Pottawatomie, OK 7 May (JSh). In Oklahoma, an early second-year male Lazuli Bunting was in Pontotoc 14 Apr (DWo), and single more easterly Lazulis were in McCurtain 26 Apr (FH), Le Flore 28 Apr (DA), and Tulsa 30 Apr (JSi). Usually rare in the Nebraska Panhandle, at least seven Indigo Buntings were reported there 17–21 May (fide WRS). An early Painted Bunting was in Atoka, OK 18 Apr (M&ML), and one was westerly in Edwards, KS 4 May (AN, CS). Dickcissels usually arrive in June in the Nebraska Panhandle, but at least nine were reported 17–20 May (fide WRS), including one northerly in Box Butte 11 May (SQ).

Photos–Southern Great Plains: Spring 2018

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