Monday, February 12, 2018

Last of the winter birds

I have not managed to find any real rarities, other than a difficult (for me) rusty blackbird. The picture is not terrific, so we will just post here the winter range:

It comes from the Canadian bogs and marshes, with some trees, to winter here. Omaha is certainly in the common area on the map, but here in Lincoln we are starting to be at the end of the range.

I am not great at finding horned larks in fields while sitting in a car. It gets a little easier with snow, and sometimes you find them right at the road side.

I did find a brown creeper. They need a little bit of a forest, a few back yard trees are not enough to keep them all winter. By spring they are gone.

I rarely find Longspurs so here are the only pictures I have of a Lapland Longspur from a  year ago:

Monday, January 29, 2018

Winter Hawks

Doing a Christmas bird count we found a Red-shouldered Hawk at Branched Oak. others have found it there as well. The bird seems to have wintered here. This was unusual before and the bird is never found West of Lincoln.

In various places in Lancaster county in Dec and Jan you can find rough legged hawks:

Other rough leggeds are quite dark. The upper side has some white spotting but the white spot on the rump is not always there:

Today I found an odd hawk that does not quite fit rough legged. The head is very light, most our redtails have brownish heads. The heavy streaking on the upper breast is not typical. I left it unassigned.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Branched Oak lake

This man made lake, made for fishing and boating, turns out to have enough habitat to be the best birding site in the state, just by a few birds. A larger lake (McConaughy/Ogallala) out West has just a few birds less. At Brached Oak in December and January you can see Bald Eagles.

The lake freezes for a short time but starts to melt in spring and we see more birds travel through from February on.

The levee on the East end offers views of what might be on the lake that day, such as masses of gulls or snow geese. Both ends of the levee have parking lots if you want to use a spotting scope. Going North you take the main entrance (it goes directly to the Marina (part of area 11) and has some indoor toilets part of the year) and you can get to these areas from the Marina to Area 10, mostly by gravel road:

Gulls and shore birds are here. Area 10 has some woods but is fenced off from time to time for grazing cattle in the North end. Area 10 far left parking lot gives views of gulls, ducks, mergansers, cormorants in that NW bay.

Going around the lake you can get to the Western half. Area 8 at the end of a gravel road has brushy areas. I've found Bell's Vireos in the bushes there every year. A sevice road goes North from Area 8, go on foot and avoid getting in private lands to the West. At area 8 some views of the same bay as from Area 10 are available.

Returning to Branched Oak Rd you can get to areas 5 and 6 and Lieber's Point which has offered good views of gulls, grebes and loons for me. It also gives views of ducks in the very middle of the lake. Birders often end up driving between Lieber's point and the Marrina to view the same bird in the middle.

On the South end there are three spots to view the lake. Multi-purpose trails (yes, horse poop found) give some woodland birds in May. You can start from a couple of parking lots just for hikers. Area 14 has a picnic shelter and you can walk fields in October to look for sparrows.

I happened to be doing the area Christmas count with another local birder and we had pretty good luck for December, with one hawk still to be assigned:

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Target Birds

we birders use an online database for keeping lists. There is a smart phone app as well. See

I keep seeing the same birds over and over, and yet some rather common birds have become "nemesis birds". Such as purple finch. I have found the more difficult common redpoll, of birds that show up in winter. The solution is just to go to slightly wooded areas or find bird feeders to follow in winter. It was an easy bird every winter in Wisconsin.

My Lancaster county target list. The 19 and 20 slots are an owl and red shouldered hawk.

Going state wide, a few fairly easy birds appear such as magpie. I have that from Colorado next door in my eBird list.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Winter is coming

An irruption is happening: red crossbills (above) have left their normal areas and are appearing South and East of it.

More waterfowl arrive, these for a month or two till the lakes freeze. A female bufflehead.

Some more winter birds: pine siskins:

Another female crossbill:

Harris's sparrows stay all winter:

Waxwings eating cedar "berries":

A Western grebe:

And a few cormorants may stay as late as possible. They do not mind cold but do need to dive long distances for fish, so the whole lake needs to be ice free. It is drying its wings here.

Even a kingfisher. We have salty creeks where they can fish into December.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Fall sparrows are starting to come through Lincoln. Nelson's with orange head, hard to find Henslow's and some regulars.

Yellow-rumped warbler and a merlin

All through late Sep and Oct the Franklin's gulls migrate

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Various odd pictures

Green heron

Prairie yields sparrowlike birds but also ibises

Ibises took off