Southern Great Plains: Summer 2018

Summer 2018 : 1 Jun–31 Jul

Joseph A. Grzybowski

W. Ross Silcock

Recommended citation:

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

The summer season brought out an array of isolated, out-of-place species across a series of taxa and across the region, some caused by good local water conditions, as in the Oklahoma Panhandle and western Kansas; some of these real surprises.  Vagrant gulf-states marsh-birds made a good showing, with more of some heron species (Great Egrets and Yellow-crowned Night-Herons), even a Reddish Egret, penetrating north into Nebraska.  Reports of Pine Siskins and Red Crossbills added speculation on their potential breeding.

Shorebirds produced a modest crossing of spring and fall migrants and odd vagrants.  It appears Bronzed Cowbird has penetrated the western Oklahoma Panhandle, with the first documented occurrence of this species in southwestern Kansas being of more than just a few birds.  And, some exceptional rarities were noted this season—why we bird, even in the summer.


Cheyenne Bottoms (Cheyenne Bottoms W.M.A., Barton, KS); Hackberry Flat (Hackberry Flat W.M.A., Tillman, OK); Hefner (L. Hefner, Oklahoma, 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); Salt Plains (Salt Plains N.W.R., Alfalfa, OK).

Contributors (sub-regional compilers in bold)

NEBRASKA:  Stephanie Aguillon, Elliott Bedows, Ed Brogie (EBr), Mark Brogie, Tayler Brooks, Barbara Brown, Mary Clausen (MCl), Kelly & Jen Corman (K&JC), Colin Croft, Kathy DeLara, Curtis Dykstra, Larry Einemann, Tom Gannon (TGa), Justin Haag, Greg Hartel (GHa), Matt Haugen, Weldon & Paula Hoppe (W&PH), Bill F. Huser, Will Jaremko-Wright (WJW), Jan Johnson, Joel G. Jorgensen, Alice Kenitz, Ethan Kistler, Augie Kramer (AKr), Bill Krochuk, Steve Kruse, Kathy Kuyper (KKu), Bill & Nancy LaFramboise (B&NL), Sharla Meester, Andrew Meiborg, Jeffrey Mollenhauer (JMo), Wayne Mollhoff, Jonathan Nikkila, Carlton Noll, David Olsen

Contributors (cont.)

Loren & Babs Padelford (L&BP), Andrew Pierson, Edward Raynor, Vanya Rohwer, Paul Roisen, Dave Sandahl, Rick Schmid, Matt Shurtliff (MSh), W. Ross Silcock, Marie Smith, Ruthie Stearns (RSt), Simon Tolzmann, Matthew & Cynthia Van Den Broeke (M&CV), Bruce White, Don & Marion Wiedemann (D&MW).  KANSAS:  Henry Armknecht, Andrew Burnett, Jeff Calhoun, Randy Carman, Kathy Carroll, Marcia Clouser, Andy George, Tyler Griffith, Lisa Hoffman, Will Jaremko-Wright (WJW), Barry Jones, Ethan Kistler, Bill Krochuk, Kaleb Kroeker, Mark Land, Mick McHugh (MMH), Christi McMillen (CMM), Joseph Miller, Alan Neal, Chuck Otte, Daron Patterson (DPa), Diane Persons, Mike Rader, Mark Robbins (MRo), John Row, Kim Sain, Scott Seltman, Sara Shane (SSh), Faith Shapley-Queen (FSQ), Ric Westman (RWs), Austin Young.  OKLAHOMA:  Justin Agan, David Arbour, Bill Carrell, Steve Davis, Nicholas DeMaio, Bill Diffin, John Edd-Brown (JEB), Carol Enwall, Anna Fasoli, Joseph A. Grzybowski, Glen Hensley, Matthew Jung, Esther Key (EKe), Alan Krakauer (AKk), Bob & Nancy Laval (B&NL), Tony Leukering, Scott Loss, Brian Marra, Kurt Meisenzahl, Steve Metz (SMe), Tim O’Connell, Zach Poland, Paul & Laurie Ribitzki (P&LR), John Tharp, Lou & Mary Truex (L&MT), Lora Weber, Doug Wood, Rachel Wrenn, Hal Yocum, Mike Yough.

Waterfowl through Hummingbirds

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks continued to infiltrate the northern region, with seven reports in Kansas and Nebraska, north to Holt, NE 19–23 Jun (one to three; fide JGJ, EBr, MB), with best count of 11 in Crawford, KS 9 Jun (AG). Still sparse in Oklahoma away from Red Slough, five were in Love 19 Jun (ND). Nebraska’s first record of Fulvous Whistling-Duck was a group of four in Lancaster 5–24 Jun (MH, m.ob.). Vagrant arctic-nesting geese this summer were two Snow Geese, one possibly injured, in Sheridan, NE 15 Jun (KD), a Greater White-fronted Goose, also apparently injured, in Lincoln, NE 1–3 Jul (BB, BW), and single Cackling Geese in Buffalo, NE 5 Jul (JN) and Texas, OK 24–31 Jul (TL), with two Cacklings in Cimarron, OK 30 Jul (TL). Southerly at a playa lake in Texas, OK were Cinnamon Teal, one 1 Jul (TL) and up to eight 24–31 Jul (TL), and one to two Green-winged Teal 24–31 Jul (TL); as many as nine Green-wingeds were in Cimarron, OK 12–18 Jul (TL).  A Ring-necked Duck summered south at Hefner 13 (MJ) & 28 Jul (BD), with another in Butler, NE 14 Jul (JGJ); the species does not breed in the region. Quite rare during summer, a Greater Scaup was in Lancaster, NE 6–26 Jun (L&BP, M&CV), and Buffleheads were in Garden, NE, one 4 Jun (K&JC) and three 27 Jun (MSh). A summer vagrant Common Goldeneye was in Pawnee, OK 6–20 Jun (JA). Probably nesting, 14 Hooded Mergansers were at Red Slough 11 Jun (DA). A static Common Merganser was at Hefner through the period (fide JAG), with southerly vagrants in Pawnee, OK 11 Jun (JA) and Jefferson, KS 4 Jul (KC, DP). Two Eared Grebes in Texas, OK 25 Jul (TL) were likely there in response to water in playa lakes this season. Quite unexpected was a Western Grebe southerly in Sumner, KS 28 Jun (FSQ).  Rare away from southern Oklahoma, an Inca Dove in Reno, KS 6 Jul (JM) was an excellent find. White-winged Dove numbers continue to increase in Nebraska; 16 birds were at 12 locations during the period (fide WRS). Struggling somewhat as a summer bird in Nebraska, seven Black-billed Cuckoos were reported during the period (fide WRS). Pushing easterly were two White-throated Swifts in Sheridan, NE 6 Jun (D&MW). A Ruby-throated Hummingbird crept into the Nebraska Panhandle in Scotts Bluff 14 Jun (MB, photo). Black-chinned Hummingbird continues its push northward on the western Great Plains, with individuals at two different Scotts Bluff feeders 14 Jul (CC) and 25–26 Jul (MS); the recent extension into central Oklahoma included five individuals in Oklahoma 10–20 Jun (BM, HY) and a single in Cleveland through the period (JT, RW, CE, EKe). A wandering or late Broad-tailed Hummingbird was photographed in Scotts Bluff, NE 9 Jun (CC). An adult male Rufous Hummingbird photographed in Scotts Bluff, NE 29 Jun (CC) may have been a very early migrant. There were five reports of the rare western-edge migrant Calliope Hummingbird, two in western Kansas 20 & 29 Jul (SSh, JC) and three in western Nebraska 19–30 Jul (fide WRS), including a peak count of five at a Scotts Bluff feeder 27–30 Jul (MS).

Shorebirds through Falcons

Shorebirds during summer create an interesting array of late spring and early fall migrants and various levels of vagrancy.  Easterly for the season were a Black-necked Stilt in Antelope, NE 9 Jun (MB) and one to two in Canadian, OK 7–25 Jun (BD).  A rare migrant in Oklahoma, a Piping Plover at the Salt Plain 24 Jul (JAG, GH) was the first for the season.  Certainly much less common than historically, the only report of Mountain Plover this season was of one in Texas, OK 25 Jul (TL), barely within the summer range. A Whimbrel lingered at Quivira until 11 Jun (DP). Early fall migrant Long-billed Curlews were singles in Oklahoma, OK 28 Jun (BD) and Reno, KS 17 Jun (JM). Marbled Godwits also move early in fall, but six at Quivira 20 Jun (BJ) and one in Sumner, KS 28 Jun (FSQ) were hasty migrants. Also early was an alternate-plumaged Ruddy Turnstone in Dakota, NE 21–22 Jul (BFH, PR).  A Pectoral Sandpiper was early or a vagrant at Hackberry Flat 29 Jun (JAG). White-rumped Sandpipers are late spring migrants, and a “couple dozen” were still at Quivira 20 Jun, seven there 30 Jun, and one as late as 12 Jul (BJ). Probably late spring migrants were Semipalmated Sandpipers in Oklahoma, OK 18 Jun (ZP) and Butler, NE 17 Jun (CD). Western Sandpipers may stage at the Salt Plains, a species hotspot, where 82 were tallied 24 Jul (GH, JAG). Normally an early if rare fall migrant, a Short-billed Dowitcher was noted calling at Cheyenne Bottoms 6 Jul (MR); other migrants were observed in Nebraska (LE, JGJ) and Kansas (MR, ML) 12–14 Jul. An unexpected summer record was of a Wilson’s Snipe in Lancaster, NE 20 Jun (PR). A Spotted Sandpiper in Oklahoma, OK 8 Jun (SD) was a late spring migrant, while a Solitary Sandpiper in Scotts Bluff, NE 27 Jun (KD) was early. Mid-June reports of some migrant shorebirds are perplexing, most likely 1-year-olds that do not complete migration. Lesser Yellowlegs in this category were one in Garden, NE 17 Jun (JMo), two in Lancaster, NE 18 Jun (SK), two in Butler, NE 18 Jun (CD), and one in Comanche, KS 18 Jun (DPa). A Lesser Yellowlegs at Hackberry Flat 29 Jun (JAG) was probably an early fall migrant. Early fall Willets were singles in Trego, KS 20 Jun (AN) and, easterly for fall, in Douglas, KS 1 Jul (MC). Also early were 11 Greater Yellowlegs at Hackberry Flat 21 Jun (L&MT, KM) and one in Trego, KS 20 Jun (AN).  Likely a summer “vagrant” was a Wilson’s Phalarope at Hackberry Flat 29 Jun (JAG). Two Red-necked Phalaropes in Texas, OK 24 Jul (TL) were early. Any jaeger in the region qualifies as a “holy-cow” find, and more so in the summer period; such was a surprise second-summer Long-tailed Jaeger at the Salt Plains 24 Jul (JAG, GH).   The eight Common Terns in Dakota, NE 28 Jul (BFH) were early. Summering Common Loons are more regular; the scatter this season included two in Crawford, KS 1 Jul (AG) and singles in Jefferson, KS 7–31 Jul (RC) and through the period in Tulsa, OK (BC).  A clear “zootie” was a Magnificent Frigatebird in Payne, OK 20 Jun (SL, TO, MY), the result of uncertain storm systems.  Neotropic Cormorant now trickles regularly as far north as Nebraska; one in Lancaster in spring was present through at least 28 Jun (LE, m.ob.).

Least Bitterns, somewhat ephemeral breeders in wet-year cycles, were found at several Nebraska locations north to Knox, there 8 Jun (MB). Great Egret is rare in western Nebraska most years; this season, 25 were westerly, including three in the Panhandle (fide WRS).  A Tricolored Heron, rare at Red Slough, and quite rare away, was in Neosho, KS 21 Jul (AB); at Red Slough, one to two were present 26 Jun–25 Jul (DA).  A southern heron surprise far north of expected range was a Reddish Egret in Hall, Nebraska’s third, 23–26 Jun (MSh, JN, JGJ, m.ob.). Vagrant juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Herons reached southeastern Nebraska, with three reports 24 Jun–27 Jul (fide WRS); as many as five wandered westerly in Texas, OK 1–25 Jul (TL).  Yet another southern straggler north was an immature White Ibis in Douglas, KS 12–23 Jul (RWs, m.ob.). Tracking occurrences of Glossy Ibis penetration into the region, two were at the Salt Plains 21 Jun (JAG). Another gulf vagrant north was a Roseate Spoonbill in Sedgwick, KS 2 Jul (TG); one was also a surprise in Creek, OK 28–29 Jul (LW, BM).  Wandering more westerly was a Black Vulture in Finney, KS 14 Jul (fide CO). Good news, the five Osprey nest sites in Scotts Bluff, NE were all active with young as of 22 Jul (KD). A single Osprey, likely a nonbreeding immature, was over Saline, KS 2 Jun (KK). A possibly late Sharp-shinned Hawk was in Sarpy, NE 2 Jun (EB).  Reports of immature Swainson’s Hawks on the eastern fringe of their range came from southeastern Nebraska 16 Jun–8 Jul (BB, ST, CN).  A Pileated Woodpecker was westerly in Kingman, KS 26 Jul (JC, HA). A Peregrine Falcon in Texas, OK 31 Jul (TL) was the first for fall, and a Prairie Falcon was easterly for summer in Lincoln, NE 4 Jul (BW).

Flycatchers through Cardinal

Eastern Wood-Pewees edging westerly included seven in Cherry, NE 4 Jun (AM), one in Thomas, NE 26 Jun (B&NL), and one in Scott, KS 27 Jul (SS). A Willow Flycatcher in Marion, KS 3 Jul (LH) was at the western edge of the summer range. Rare in summer in the Nebraska Panhandle, one to two Bell’s Vireos were in Dawes 19–20 Jun (ER, BK, EK).  West of their Niobrara River Valley summer range were Yellow-throated Vireos in Brown, NE 3 Jun (DS) and Cherry, NE 4 Jun (AM). Reports this season of Plumbeous Vireos in the Nebraska Wildcat Hills suggest that there may be an establishing or previously overlooked population; one was found in Scotts Bluff (TGa) 12 Jun, and three were in Banner 24 Jun (WJW). Warbling Vireos at separate locations in Texas, OK 20 & 29 Jun (AF, TL) were in no-man’s-land between eastern and western breeding populations. Two Violet-green Swallows of uncertain status in Kimball, NE 4 Jul (DO) were easterly.  Two juvenile Cave Swallows at Red Slough 18 Jul (DA) were post-breeding vagrants. Unexplained Red-breasted Nuthatches were in Buffalo, NE 10 Jul (BB), Sarpy, NE 26 Jul (MCl), and Ford, KS 28 Jul (CMM), with two in Lancaster, NE 5 Jul (RSt). Also an oddball was a Brown Creeper in Scott, southwestern KS 21 Jun (WJW). A Wood Thrush pushing the historical margins of its former range in the Platte River Valley was in Garden, NE 12 Jun (SA, VR, AKr, TB). A Curve-billed Thrasher was at the edge of its summer range in Harmon, OK 20 Jun (JEB). Also pushing the edge was a lone Sage Thrasher in Banner, NE 30 Jun (WM, KD, AK). Probably late was a Cedar Waxwing at Red Slough 15 Jun (DA). With Red Crossbills, you never know; a male and female were in Washington, NE 3 Jun (RS), and at least one was calling in Douglas, KS 9 Jun (MRo). Pine Siskins also lingered south and east of the expected summer range. Several siskins in Kansas were possibly breeding (fide CO); one in LeFlore, OK 3 Jun (B&NL) and three in eastern Nebraska 3–9 Jun (GHa, W&PH, JJ) were likely lingering, with a single easterly in Cuming, NE 12 Jul (LE) less assignable.  Lesser Goldfinch continues to expand both northward and eastward; only the third record for Nebraska, all since 2016, were four in Dawes 8 Jun (JH). One Lesser was in Pawnee, OK 11 Jun (P&LR). Northerly Nebraska Cassin’s Sparrows were “way more numerous this year” in Sioux (AP); singles were in Dawes, NE 21 Jun (BK) and easterly in Osage, OK 2 Jun (AKk).  A surprise vagrant White-crowned Sparrow was in Douglas, KS 16 Jun (KS), while an even more surprising extralimital Golden-crowned Sparrow was in Geary, KS 3 Jun (JR). A juvenile Rufous-crowned Sparrow was easterly in Cleveland, OK 24–29 Jun (JT, RW), suggesting local breeding. The eight Eastern Towhees at Red Slough 19 Jul (DA) were an excellent tally for this local group. Rare in southwestern Nebraska during summer was a Bobolink in Chase 19 Jun (EK).  Bronzed Cowbird is making inroads into southwestern Kansas and the nearby western Oklahoma Panhandle; a first accepted state record for Kansas was of a pair in Seward, KS 2 Jun (EK, BK), followed amazingly by as many as seven there through 25 Jul (fide CO), with one noted in Cimarron, OK 2–9 Jul (DW, SMe). Brewer’s Blackbird is expanding its summer range into southwestern Nebraska (fide WRS), with two males and a female near Logan, northwest KS 18 Jun (AY). Reports of Ovenbird at potential range-expanding locations included one in Linn, KS 23 Jun (MMH), up to three in Thomas, NE 12 Jun–9 Jul (JN, KKu, B&NL), and one in Nuckolls, NE 9 Jul (JJ). An adult male American Redstart was out of place for the date in Logan, KS 5 Jun (AY), as was a Prairie Warbler in Russell, KS 2–12 Jun (MR). A Summer Tanager was westerly in Cherry, NE 4 Jun (AM). Northern Cardinal continues to establish slowly on the Nebraska Pine Ridge; three reports this summer were at different locations in Dawes 2 Jun (SM), 21 Jun (BK, EK), and 23 Jun (BK).

Photos–Southern Great Plains: Summer 2018

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