Southern Great Plains: Summer 2019

Summer 2019: 1 Jun–31 Jul

Joseph A. Grzybowski
[email protected]

W. Ross Silcock
[email protected]

Recommended citation:

Grzybowski, J. A., and W. R. Silcock.  2021.  Summer 2019: Southern Great Plains. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-ax9> ​North American Birds.

This summer was wetter than normal. However, the impact of this on wetland species was mixed. Some waterfowl may have benefited, but the suitable habitat for breeding wetland species was still too limited for broader expansions. Shorebird migrations contained the usual mid-summer muddle. Certain species—for example some hummingbirds—seemed to move earlier. Clay-colored and Baird’s sparrows were a few of the unexpected species this season that perhaps bred.

Contributors: (Sub-regional editors in boldface)

NEBRASKA:  Dina Barta, Susan Bawn (SBa), Stephen Brenner, Ed Brogie, Mark Brogie, Barbara Brown, Beverly Carrico, Colleen Childers (CCh), Colin Croft, Lauren A. Darnold, Kathy DeLara, Paul Dougherty, Boni Edwards, Larry Einemann, William Flack, Tom Gannon, Robin Harding, David Heidt, Bill F. Huser, Esa Jarvi, Jan Johnson, Joel G. Jorgensen, Ethan Kistler, Billi Krochuk, Steve Kruse, Steve Mlodinow, Ruth Morton, Jonathan Nikkila, Melissa Panella, Theresa Pella, Kelly Preheim, Cathy Prettyman, Lanny Randolph, Van Remsen, Christopher Rustay, Cheryl Samusevich (CSa), Dave Sandahl, John Schukman, W. Ross Silcock, Marie Smith, Paul Timm, David Tonnessen, Matthew & Cynthia Van Den Broeke (M&CV), Cassidy Wessel, Juanita Whittecar (JWh), Don & Marion Wiedemann (D&MW), Michael Willison, Dan Winkler, Gregory Wright.

KANSAS:  Henry Armknecht, Michael Bader (MBa), Andrew Burnett, Jeff Calhoun, Randy Carman, Kathy Carroll, Marcia Clouser, Matt Gearheart, Malcolm Gold (MGo), Pete Janzen, Mark Keller, Ray Kennedy, Chris Lake, Tony Leukering, Micky Louis, Brandon Magette (BMa), Terry & Sam Mannell (T&SM), Christi McMillen (CMc), Andrew Miller, Max Miller, Jeffrey Mollenhauer, Joseph Mosley (JMy), Chuck Otte, Diane Persons, Mike Rader, Mark Robbins (MRb), John Schukman, Abuti Sechaba, Carolyn Schwab, Sara Shane (SSh), Doug Shoffner (DSh), Will Jaremko-Wright (WJW).

Contributors (cont.)

OKLAHOMA:  David Arbour, John Ault, Chris Butler, Steve Davis, Bill Diffin, Melinda Droege, Kathy Mihm Dunning, Keith Edwards, Joseph A. Grzybowski, Sheri Harden, Donna Haynes (DHa), Tony Leukering, Brian Marra, Jason McKirahan (JMc), Karl Mechem, Steve Metz (SMe), Jeffrey Mollenhauer, Landon Neumann, Tim O’Connell (TOC), Daron Patterson (DPa), Mark Peterson (MPe), Lewis Pond, Tim & Elizabeth Pratt (T&EP), Justin Roach (JRo), Dan Robinson, Ben Sandstrom, Curtis Stewart (CSt), John Tharp (JTp), Jeff Tibbits, Sean Washington, Jimmy Woodard, Ellen Zellmer.

Abbreviations:

Cheyenne Bottoms (Cheyenne Bottoms WMA, Barton Co, KS); Hackberry Flat (Hackberry Flat W.M.A., Tillman Co, OK); Hefner (Lake Hefner, Oklahoma Co, OK); McConaughy (Lake McConaughy, Keith Co, NE); Quivira (Quivira NWR, Stafford Co, KS); Rainwater Basin: a series of playas in south-central and southeastern Nebraska; Red Slough (Red Slough WMA, McCurtain Co, OK).

Whistling-Ducks through Hummingbirds

In summer, Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks are becoming regular away from Red Slough, where more expected. This season’s scattering made it north to Douglas Co, NE 2 Jun (LAD), and west to Seward Co, KS 23 Jun (SSh). Fulvous Whistling-Duck, exciting regionally, was reported at Hackberry Flat 16 Jun (JM, photo). The southernmost of the summer vagrant geese were seven Snows in Kearny Co, KS 25 Jun (CS), a Greater White-fronted in Alfalfa Co, OK 21 Jun (SH, EZ), and a Cackling Goose in Scotts Bluff Co, NE 1 Jun (KD). At the southernmost known Nebraska breeding site for Trumpeter Swan in Buffalo Co, only one adult was present 16 Jun (WF). Noteworthy Cinnamon Teal included two, southerly, in Beaver Co, OK 27 Jun–23 Jul (JT, LN) and one in Hamilton Co, KS 30 Jun (T&SM). Other less-expected summer waterfowl in Oklahoma were five Green-winged Teal in Beaver Co, OK 12 Jun–23 Jul (JW, LN); singles were also present in Jackson Co 1 Jun (JA) and Harper Co 4 Jun (DPa), and five were at Hackberry Flat 10 Jun (BS).  Canvasback, unusual for summer, showed well in Nebraska. The third documented breeding record for the state was a brood in Cherry Co, NE 30 Jul (GW fide JGJ). At least 20 Canvasback were found in the Rainwater Basin 2 Jun–11 Jul (JGJ, LE, CCh), including five pairs in Clay Co 19 Jun (JGJ). Two Ring-necked Ducks were as far south as Neosho Co, KS 8 Jun (AB) and Beaver Co, OK 27 Jun (JT, LN). In Nebraska, there were five reports of a total of 12 Ring-neckeds in Cherry Co (fide WRS), as well as two in Scotts Bluff Co 16 Jun (SM, VR) and one in Brown Co28 Jun (JN).  Other noteworthy summer waterfowl were a female Greater Scaup in Scotts Bluff Co, NE 16 Jun (SM, VR), a Lesser Scaup at Hackberry Flat 10 Jun (BS) and two Lessers in Beaver Co, OK 27 Jun (JT, LN), a Bufflehead in Kiowa Co, KS 19–26 Jun (HA, JC), and a Common Goldeneye at McConaughy 26 Jun (JGJ). Hooded Mergansers were westerly in Kansas to Hamilton, Ford, Kiowa, Barber, and Finney Cos 11–23 Jun (fide CO). The long-staying Common Merganser was still at Hefner 23 Jun–20 Jul (BM), and three Red-breasteds were late in Ford Co, KS 4 Jun (CMc).

Eared Grebes lingered as far south as Hackberry Flat 16 Jun (JM), with two each at two Beaver Co, OK locations 21 and 27 Jun (JT, LN), and one was easterly in Jefferson Co, OK 24 Jul (BS). Inca Doves may again be expanding northward in Oklahoma; individuals were reported in Oklahoma Co 17 Jul (CB) and Greer Co 13 Jun (LN). Black-billed Cuckoo numbers were low: four were reported in eastern Nebraska 4 Jun–27 Jul (JJ, BFH, CP) and one, unexpectedly westerly, was in Sioux Co, NE 13 Jun (SM, VR); a handful were in northeastern Kansas (fide CO); and none were reported from Oklahoma (fide JAG). A Greater Roadrunner edging into west-central Kansas was in Logan Co 14 Jul (ML). The five reports of Chimney Swift from Kimball Co, NE during the season (SM, VR, CR, EJ) suggest consolidation at this western outpost. Black-chinned Hummingbirds continue to expand in the region, with several males and females north to Scotts Bluff Co, NE and one to Dawes Co, NE, 1 Jul (JWh). Other Black-chinneds were easterly in Cleveland Co, OK 6 Jun through the period (JTp) and in Oklahoma Co, OK 16 Jun–18 Jul (BM, KM, SD). Nebraska’s third Anna’s Hummingbird, surprising for both location and season, was at the Smith feeders, Scotts Bluff Co, 21 Jun (MS, photos). Other hummingbird surprises included a Broad-tailed in Scotts Bluff Co, NE 1 Jun (MS, KD); other Broad-taileds, likely early fall migrants, were in Scotts Bluff Co 22 (MS, KD) and 24 Jun (CC). A male Rufous Hummingbird in Scotts Bluff Co, NE was also early on 27 Jun (CC); another appeared in Oklahoma Co, OK at the more expected dates of 24–25 Jul (KE). Five reports of Calliope Hummingbird included singles in Scotts Bluff Co, NE—one rather early on 6 Jul (CC), with other reports on 27 and 30 Jul (KD)—and in Kimball Co, NE 30 Jul (SM), and Ford Co, KS 30 Jul (JC).

Rails through Falcons

The only King Rails reported away from Red Slough were two northerly in Saline Co, KS 3 Jul (AS). Given the abundant water in the region’s northern wetlands, there was—surprisingly—just one report of Common Gallinule, from Hamilton Co, NE 17 Jun (JGJ). Up to six were counted at an isolated location in Cheyenne Bottoms (fide eBird). A summer vagrant Sandhill Crane was in Beaver Co, OK 22 Jul (LN). Late plovers included a Black-bellied in Knox Co, NE 2 Jun (DT) and an injured American Golden in alternate plumage in Seward Co, NE 19 Jun (LE). Post-breeding Mountain Plover flocks can be large, but the 76 in Texas Co, OK 30 Jul (TL, KMD) was pleasantly impressive, given the limited numbers generally noted over recent years. A Long-billed Curlew at Hackberry Flat 12 Jul (JAG) was a little easterly. Three Hudsonian Godwits at Quivira 20 Jun (JM) were late or summer vagrants. Marbled Godwits seemed to be southbound early in Clay Co, NE (JGJ) and at Hackberry Flat, both 19 Jun (JW). A Stilt Sandpiper in Platte Co, NE 3 Jul (LE), also seemed early. There is a period of summer when it’s difficult to determine whether shorebirds are headed north or south; two Stilt Sandpipers at Hackberry Flat 17 Jun (JM) fell into this category. The last reports of northbound White-rumped Sandpiper were the three at Quivira 21 Jun (JM) and six in Barton Co, KS 4 Jul (MBa); one was also noted at Quivira 21 Jul (MRb). The 10 Semipalmated Sandpipers at Hackberry Flat 10 Jun (BS) and one in Oklahoma Co, OK 11 Jun (BD) may have been late migrants. A Lesser Yellowlegs in Rock Co, NE 13 Jun (JS), the six Greater Yellowlegs in Box Butte Co, NE 19 Jun (BK), and the 2–9 Greaters at Hackberry Flat 17–19 Jun (JM, JW) were more of those ambiguous late or early shorebirds; so were the four Wilson’s Phalaropes at Hackberry Flat 17 Jun (JM) and the female Wilson’s in Hamilton Co, KS 24 Jun (CS).

A juvenile vagrant Laughing Gull was in Lancaster Co, NE 19–22 Jul (SK, MW, TG). Summering Common Loons included an individual in non-breeding plumage in Lancaster Co, NE 5–10 Jun (TG, PT) and later in Lancaster Co, a breeding-plumaged adult (possibly same bird) 30 Jun–19 Jul (SK, m. ob.); another Common Loon was at Hefner 7–24 Jun (SD, JMc, SW). A Yellow-billed Loon—far less expected—was at Hefner 7 Jun (SD); perhaps, this individual may have gone unnoticed since last winter. A Brown Booby in Tulsa Co, OK (LP, SMe) on 4 Jul was remarkable and completely unexpected. A few Neotropic Cormorants were reported from the region, northerly to Dickinson Co, KS 7 Jun (KC, DP) and westerly to Beckham Co, OK 23 Jul (DHa). The only Anhinga reported away from Red Slough was in Johnston Co, OK 9 Jul (JRo), and a very rare Brown Pelican was in Alfalfa Co, OK 15 Jun (T&EP, DPa). Four American Bitterns were at Hackberry Flat 22 Jul (MD, BS), where they are unexpected in summer, and one in Ness Co, KS 26 Jul (JC, MGo) was also noteworthy. Only one Snowy Egret was reported in Nebraska, in Lincoln Co 25 Jun (BE). A Tricolored Heron, rare away from Red Slough, was quite far north at Cheyenne Bottoms 27 Jul (MGo); even at Red Slough, the only reports of this species were individuals on 25 Jun (a juvenile) and 30 Jul (DA). A Green Heron in Scotts Bluff Co, NE, 4 Jun (SM) was westerly. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron is an expected summer vagrant in Nebraska, but the only report this season was an immature in Hall Co 28 Jul (CCh).

Glossy Ibis was infrequent this summer: singles were noted north on 20 Jul at two locations in Sheridan Co, NE (LR, RH, KD), and then on 24 Jul in Logan Co, NE (WF). Only one hybrid Glossy x White-faced Ibis was reported, from Harper Co, OK 4 Jun (DPa). Black Vultures are expanding northwestward. The northernmost this season were two in Douglas Co, KS 6 Jun (MC). All six Osprey nests in Scotts Bluff, NE were active, although one was abandoned early and two were destroyed in storms (KD). A nest site in Keith Co, NE was also active (BE, JGJ). Two adult Mississippi Kites in Lancaster Co, NE 31 Jul–2 Aug (DB, MW) were outside the expected sites in this region, and may have nested. Northern Saw-whet Owls were reported in Nebraska during a nightjar survey in Keya Paha Co 12 Jun (SB), and another was in Brown Co 13 Jun (SB). Ladder-backed Woodpeckers outside expected range were noted in Garfield Co, OK 25 Jun (CSt) and Barber Co, KS 6 Jul (HA, JC). Peregrine Falcons at three sites in Omaha, Douglas Co, NE fledged 10 chicks, but the Lincoln, Lancaster Co, NE site was again unsuccessful. This latter pair is quite old, and nested there successfully 2005–2016 (fide WRS). A Peregrine in Stafford Co, KS 30 Jun (HA) was an unexpected summer find.

Passerines

An Acadian Flycatcher in Payne Co, OK 1 Jun (TOC) fits a westerly expansion pattern. There are few Nebraska panhandle records of Alder Flycatcher; one was in Kimball Co 1 Jun (SM). Least Flycatchers may occur occasionally in northwestern Nebraska; reports in Scotts Bluff Co 13 Jun (RM) and 6 Jul (D&MW) are noteworthy. A Dusky Flycatcher in Sioux Co, NE 14 Jun (SM, VR) was the third Nebraska record for the month, all these have occurred in the northern panhandle. A Say’s Phoebe was easterly and seasonally notable in Harper Co, OK 4 Jul (DPa). Single Say’s Phoebes in Clay Co, NE 11 and 25 Jul suggested local nesting (JGJ, SB). Black Phoebe is becoming more regular in the region, and one was reported from Cimarron Co, OK 29 Jul (SMe). The third documented Ash-throated Flycatcher in Nebraska was one in Kimball Co 29 Jun (BE). It was joined by another 5 Jul (JGJ, MP), and 1–2 were seen through 17 Jul (fide WRS, m. ob.). A White-eyed Vireo was westerly in Pratt Co, KS 1 Jul (MR, KC), as were single Yellow-throated Vireos in Buffalo Co, NE 12 Jul (BB) and in Brown Co, NE 1 Jun (DS). Plumbeous Vireo may become an established breeder in the Wildcat Hills, Scotts Bluff Co, NE; this summer, singles were reported 12 Jun (TG), 13 Jun (KP), and 17 Jul (MB, BFH, EB).

Black-billed Magpies in eastern Nebraska have struggled since the West Nile Virus, so reports of a small population persisting in Cedar Co (CW fide JGJ) are encouraging. Three Fish Crows in Reno Co, KS 2 Jul (AM) were westerly. Reports of Chihuahuan Raven in extreme southwestern Kansas included two in Stevens Co 25 Jul (JC, MGo), and a surprising eight were in Hamilton Co 31 Jul (TL). A Violet-green Swallow was in Kimball Co, NE 17 Jun (SM, VR); breeding is not known to occur in that area. Single Red-breasted Nuthatches in several locations in Lancaster Co, NE 17 Jun–1 Jul (M&CV), 27 Jul (JGJ) and 29 Jul (CSa), and in Ford Co, KS 10 Jul (CMc) suggest breeding outside the region’s expected sites. A major surprise away from known breeding areas was a Pygmy Nuthatch in Hamilton Co, KS 11 Jun (TL, VR). The small easterly, disjunct breeding population of Pygmy Nuthatch in Thomas Co, NE appears to be continuing; five were noted there 30 Jun (DW, photo). Sedge Wrens southwesterly in Reno Co, KS 8 Jun (PJ), Barber Co, KS, 6 Jul (HA, JC), and McPherson Co, KS 8 Jul (JC) continued the expected summer patterns. A Marsh Wren southerly in Leavenworth Co, KS 29 Jul (JS) suggests potential late summer breeding analogous to that of Sedge Wren. A Carolina Wren in Kimball Co, NE 14 Jul (WF) was only the second that far west. A Townsend’s Solitaire in Dawes Co, NE 16 Jun (PD) was unexpected during the summer period. A Wood Thrush was surprisingly far west in Cimarron Co, OK 16 Jun (DR); another was westerly in Rock Co, NE 13 Jun (JS). A Curve-billed Thrasher was far north in Cheyenne Co, KS 22 Jun (MK). Extralimital reports for Sage Thrasher included singles in Cheyenne Co, KS 22 Jun (MK) and nearby Kimball Co, NE 16 Jun (MB, EB, BFH). Good numbers of Red Crossbill were in the Nebraska panhandle, with a few more easterly (fide WRS); a Red Crossbill in Pottawatomie Co, KS 16 Jul (BMa) was an exceptional outlier. Pine Siskins often linger into summer, and the latest this season were 1–2 in Madison Co, NE through 26 Jun (DH). The furthest south in was in Comanche Co, KS 19 Jun (HA, JC). A Lesser Goldfinch in Riley Co, KS 7 Jul (CL) was notably easterly.

Easterly Lark Buntings included one in Knox Co, NE 2 Jun (DT) and two in Furnas Co, NE 30 Jun (TP). Clay-colored Sparrow has not yet been confirmed to breed in Nebraska; thus, two singing at separate locations in Scotts Bluff, NE 14 Jun (DS) intrigued. Unexpected summer Zonotrichia sparrows were a Harris’s in Sedgwick Co, KS 15 Jul (MM) and a White-throated in Shawnee Co, KS 7 Jul (RC). A Baird’s Sparrow, known from the region as a rare and difficult to detect migrant, was recorded singing in Sioux Co, NE 13 Jun (EK, recording eBird.org). This was a major surprise—in fact, the first documented summer record for the state (fide WRS).

SA

Pipilo towhees breed and hybridize across much of their summer range in Nebraska https://birds.outdoornebraska.gov/species–accounts/. Most summer towhees in the state are intergrades of some degree (not necessarily F1 hybrids) and demonstrate a gradation of characteristics between Spotted and Eastern, and identifications should be made carefully.

While untested by genetic evaluation, singles this season in Sowbelly Canyon, Sioux Co 13 Jun (SM) and 1–3 in Scotts Bluff Co 1 Jun–30 Jul (SM, VR, SBa; photos) appeared, phenotypically, to be first-generation hybrids. Problematic, however, were numerous reports—most without details—of Spotted Towhee in southern and eastern Nebraska, where this species is not expected during summer. Of the 18 southeasternmost reports in eBird, just eight contained identification details: of these, five had only brief written comments and three (two of which were the same bird) had photographs. None of the written comments supported a Spotted Towhee identification; of the 18 reports, the only convincing one was the male in Hall Co 14 Jun (BC, photo) that looked like a phenotypic Spotted Towhee.

Eastern Towhees are restricted to the south and east in Nebraska, and no details were provided for the 1–2 reported in Brown Co 5 and 7 Jun. Although two in Thomas Co on 30 Jun sang the classic “drink your tea” song, this alone is not conclusive for identification of this species due to extreme phenotypic (plumage, song) variation shown by introgressants. Recent work in the Nebraska panhandle by Steve Mlodinow has found that the eastern Rocky Mountains Spotted Towhee subspecies montanus (entered into eBird as “maculatus group”) occurs along the South Platte River into Nebraska, where it may inhabit a larger area than suspected. Reports were of one in Scotts Bluff Co 30 Jul (SM, photo, eBird.org), and two as far north as Dawes Co 15 Jun (SM, photo, eBird.org) were likely the same two reported there 13 Apr.

End SA

Three singing Bobolinks in Logan Co, KS 1 Jun (DSh) were well south of the breeding range, and possibly migrants. A Bronzed Cowbird continued at the Seward Co, KS site 28 Jun–25 Jul (RK), as did a male in Kenton, Cimarron Co, OK (SMe). Great-tailed Grackle has become regular in the southern Nebraska panhandle. There were multiple reports in Deuel, Cheyenne, and Kimball Cos (fide WRS). A Worm-eating Warbler in Linn Co, KS 31 Jul (MGo, JMy) was a local breeder at the edge of its range. Westerly warblers included a Kentucky in McPherson Co, KS 9 Jul (JC) and a Northern Parula in Alfalfa Co, OK 20 Jun (MPe). A Black-throated Green Warbler in Le Flore Co, OK 26 Jun (JM) was part of an unusual, disjunct breeding population there, but another, in Johnston Co, OK 29 Jul (JRo) may have been a very early fall migrant, as were two in Johnson Co, KS 28 Jul (MG). A Summer Tanager in Hall, NE 3 Jun (CCh) and a Scarlet Tanager in Scotts Bluff, NE 1 Jun (KD) were westerly. Northern Cardinals are scarce in far western Kansas; one was in Hamilton Co 30 Jun (WJW). Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were also reported quite far west this season, with singles in Scotts Bluff Co, NE 4 Jun (SM), Comanche Co, KS 19 Jun (HA, JC), Kiowa Co, KS 19 Jun (HA, JC), and Rush Co, KS 26 Jul (HA, JC, MGo). Observers were understandably cautious about field identifications of Lazuli and Indigo Buntings on the Nebraska Pine Ridge; of the season’s 35 total reports, 16 were listed as Lazuli Buntings, seven were Indigo Buntings, six were unspecified Lazuli/Indigo and six were Lazuli X Indigo hybrids (fide WRS).  Lazuli Bunting is rare in summer in western OK; singles were in Woodward Co 7 Jun (DHa) and Beaver Co 27 Jun (LN).

Report processed by Alison Világ, 05 May 2021.

Photos–Southern Great Plains: Summer 2019

Click image to view fullscreen with caption.