Southern Great Plains: Fall 2021 - American Birding Association (2023)

Fall has higher populations of birds after the breeding season, so opportunity for more exceptional vagrants. These included the first Kansas record for Royal Tern, promptly reported to eBird, and causing a “stampede of birders flocking to Marion County,” and a 2nd Kansas record for Brown-headed Nuthatch, discovered in an even more unexpected westerly Finney County yard during mid-October. Also in Kansas was its 4th state record Broad-billed Hummingbird appearing in a Riley County yard during November and observed for over a week. A Pomarine Jaeger in Oklahoma was that state’s first in 20+ years. Common Black-Hawk had only a single record in Oklahoma (2019) prior to 2021; this summer and fall saw three more from separate locations, the last two during August.

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

Whistling-Ducks through Mergansers

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck is increasing in the region. Numbers at Red Slough, its regional stronghold, reached 180 on 12 Oct (David Arbour). Six were at two Nebraska locations 19–22 Aug (Paul Dunbar, Steve Morris, Sam Manning), and nine at two other Oklahoma locations 18 Aug–3 Oct (Curtis Stewart, Doug Wood, m. ob.); at least 30 were scattered among several locations in Kansas (m. ob.) including one lingering in Sedgwick Co until 26 Nov (Corey Entriken). A Nebraska fall record 32,900 Cackling Geese were in Scotts Bluff Co 29 Nov (Steven Mlodinow). Two sub-adult Mute Swans of unknown provenance were first reported during Jun in Cedar Co, NE and apparently were the same two seen there subsequently and at several nearby locations in Dakota and Dixon Cos through the period (Bill Huser, m. ob.). Tundra Swan reports were of adults, two in Cherry Co, NE 12 Nov (Sam Manning) and another in Pawnee Co, NE 28 Nov (Sam Manning); however up to 38 accumulated at Quivira beginning in early November (fide eBird; m. ob.). Tallies of 3000 Gadwall and 1000 American Wigeon at Maverick Lake, Garden Co, NE 5 Aug (Steven Mlodinow) were intriguing for the early date; American Wigeon is not known to breed in Nebraska, and so the influx may have been of failed breeders. Surprisingly far west was a hybrid Mallard x American Black Duck photographed at Scotts Bluff Co 2 Nov (Steven Mlodinow). A regional rarity Mottled Duck was in Linn Co, KS 3–11 Aug (Malcolm Gold, Mick McHugh). Summering single male Redhead and Ring-necked Ducks were at a Douglas Co, NE marsh at least through Aug (Sam Manning); Ring-necked Ducks were in Dakota Co, NE 2–14 Aug (Jerry Probst, Bill Huser, m. ob.) and at Red Slough 4 Aug (David Arbour). The 164 Greater Scaup in Knox Co, NE 4 Nov (Caleb Strand, m. ob.) was a record fall count for the state. A female Lesser Scaup summered in Douglas Co, NE through 23 Aug (Sam Manning).

Surf Scoters showed well in Nebraska and Kansas; however, none were noted in Oklahoma this season. Best counts of White-winged Scoters in Nebraska were eight in Knox Co 30 Oct (Mark Brogie) and seven in Dakota Co 3 Nov (Bill Huser, m. ob.); singles in Oklahoma Co, OK 11–30 Nov (Braden Farris, m. ob.) and Canadian Co, OK 26 Nov (Geoff Butcher) were the only other reports. Six Black Scoters were in Knox Co, NE 4 Nov (Caleb Strand, m. ob.), one (or two) were in Payne Co, OK 11 and 23 Nov (Scott Loss, Mike Yough), and one to three were in Reno, KS 18–26 Nov (Barbara Peterson, m. ob.), where rare. Seven Long-tailed Ducks were at four Nebraska locations 29 Oct–22 Nov (Boni Edwards, m. ob), and up to six were in Jefferson Co, KS 14–28 Nov (Malcolm Gold, J. C. Avena, m. ob.); none were located in Oklahoma. Nebraska has only one confirmed breeding record for Bufflehead, and so of interest was a group of 14 in Garden Co 5 Aug, one of which “still had some down” (Steven Mlodinow). Likely a summer vagrant was a Bufflehead in Oklahoma Co, OK 1 and 30 Sep (Braden Farris, Devin Bosler). Early Oklahoma Common Goldeneyes were at two sites in Oklahoma Co 25 Oct (Brian Marra) and 3 Nov (Bill Diffin) and in Tulsa Co 5 Nov (Nathan Moses). The only Barrow’s Goldeneye reported was an early female in Scotts Bluff Co, NE 29 Nov (Steven Mlodinow, Stephen Brenner). Red-breasted Merganser is rare westward in the northern region, although a surprising 18 were in the Nebraska Panhandle 2–29 Oct, 13 of these at Lake Minatare, Scotts Bluff Co 20 Nov (Steven Mlodinow, m. ob.).

Bobwhite through Hummingbirds

A Northern Bobwhite was northwesterly in Grant Co, NE 4 Sep (Lisa Viviano). Gray Partridge hangs on in its far north regional outpost; the only report was of two in Knox Co, NE 17 Nov (Mark Brogie). Third earliest for fall in Nebraska were two Horned Grebes in Lancaster Co 8 Sep (Matthew and Cynthia Van Den Broeke). Red-necked Grebe is a regional rarity; singles were in Keith Co, NE 30 Sep (Brandon Percival) and Knox Co, NE 4 Nov (Caleb Strand, m. ob.). An early Eared Grebe was as far south as Hackberry Flat 17 Aug (Joe Grzybowski) as was a Western Grebe there 9 Aug–14 Oct (Lou and Mary Truex, m. ob.). A tardy Clark’s Grebe was in Cherry Co, NE 12–13 Nov (Sam Manning). White-winged Dove is becoming a year-round resident in Nebraska; best tally among the several reports was 10 in Chase Co 18 Nov (Mark Brogie). Quite late were Yellow-billed Cuckoos at three different places in Lancaster Co, NE 27 Sep–1 Oct (Jason St. Sauver, John F. Gatchett); the 27 Sep sighting was of three birds (Michael Willison, Eric and Andrew Pratt). A Black-billed Cuckoo in Washington Co, OK 6 Oct (Melinda Droege) was quite late and the only for Oklahoma this season. A good count of tardy Common Nighthawks was the 60 over Dodge Co 10 Oct (Gary Roberts). Eastern Whip-poor-wills are known to resume calling in fall prior to departure; calls were recorded in Sarpy Co, NE 29 Sep–3 Oct (Sharla Meester, Dave Stage), and include the only documented Oct dates for the state. An Eastern Whip-poor-will in Payne Co, OK 15 Oct (Scott Loss, m. ob.) was a late-season record, but may be part of a pattern for this species, difficult to detect in late fall; there are several Oct records in eastern parts of Kansas and Oklahoma (eBird.org) and single Nov records in Kansas and extreme northern Texas.

Counts of presumed migrant Chimney Swifts using a church chimney in Lincoln, Lancaster Co, NE peaked at 875 on 24 Sep; last seen were 315 there 8 Oct (Shari Schwartz, John Carlini). Tardy Chimney Swifts were 10 in Douglas Co, KS 24 Oct (Kaelan Cameron). Westerly Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were singles in Scotts Bluff Co, NE 10 Aug (Steven Mlodinow) and 5 Sep (Mark Brogie, Paul Pearson, Kathy DeLara) and in western Kansas counties, “where a novelty” (Chuck Otte), Gove Co 28 Aug “well into” Sep (Christopher Frick), Lane Co 3 Sep (Henry Armknecht), and Ford Co 15 Oct (Christie McMillen). Late Ruby-throated reports were 29 Oct in Johnson Co, KS (Terry Swope) and Comanche Co, OK through Nov (Kurt and Sharon Meisenzahl). Black-chinned Hummingbirds are reported regularly in the western region as far north as the Nebraska Panhandle, although singles were easterly in Lancaster Co, NE 30 Jun–17 Aug (Liz Garcia, Michael Willison) and Cowley Co, KS 20 Aug (Eugene Young). Additional Black-chinned reports were of singles at different sites in Scotts Bluff Co, NE 3–25 Aug (Colin Croft) and 10–13 Aug (Marie Smith, m. ob.). Calliope Hummingbirds showed well in the west, most notably up to five at a Scotts Bluff Co, NE site 10–27 Aug (Marie Smith, m. ob.). Elsewhere, single Calliopes were in Scotts Bluff Co, NE 3 Aug (Kathy DeLara), Finney Co, KS 15 Aug (Sara Shane), Cimarron Co, OK 17 Aug (Steve Metz, m. ob.), and Scotts Bluff Co, NE 15–24 Aug (Colin Croft). Easterly Rufous Hummingbirds were singles in Pottawatomie Co, KS 17 Aug (Dave Rintoul) and Seward Co, NE 19 Aug (Liz Garcia). Broad-tailed Hummingbirds were reported as expected 3–23 Aug in Scotts Bluff Co, NE (Kathy DeLara, Marie Smith, m. ob.). A most exciting regional mega-rarity was a female Broad-billed Hummingbird at a feeder in Pottawatomie Co, KS 19–27 Nov (Doris Burnett, m. ob.), the 4th record for the state.

Rails through Western Sandpiper

King Rail is a regional rarity away from Red Slough, even currently in Oklahoma; the only report was of one at Hackberry Flat 11 Nov (Brian Marra, Grace Huffman, Elizabeth Hacker). Tardy Soras were one in Lancaster Co, NE 2 Nov (Jason St. Sauver) and a surprising five as late as 15 Nov in Kingfisher Co, OK (Brian Marra, Grace Huffman, Elizabeth Hacker). Single Common Gallinules were rare westerly at Hackberry Flat 22 Sep (Brian Marra, Grace Huffman, Elizabeth Hacker) and quite late at Red Slough 23 Nov (David Arbour). An excellent tally of Purple Gallinules was the 72 adults and juveniles at Red Slough 31 Aug (David Arbour). Perhaps linked were the unusually numerous sightings of Sandhill Cranes in eastern and southeastern Kansas (Chuck Otte) along with a notable fall count of 10,000 in Hall Co, NE 16 Nov (Chuck Seniawski). Good numbers of Whooping Cranes were reported, including a “banner year” total of 93 in the Central Platte River Valley, NE (Joel Jorgensen); 64 were in one group there 4–10 Nov (Brice Krohn) and 38 in Hall Co 5 Nov (Rita Flohr). Further south in the migration corridor were up to 28 Whooping Cranes at Salt Plains 4–17 Nov (Glen Hensley, m. ob.). Unexpected was a westerly Whooping Crane with Sandhill Cranes in Stevens Co, KS 23 Oct (Debra McKee, Mark Pheasant).

Piping Plover is a rare migrant in the region; the only reports away from breeding areas were of singles in Atchison Co, KS 12 Aug (Greg Scott), Finney Co, KS 29 Aug (Sara Shane), and Saunders Co, NE 16 Sep (Larry Einemann). Quite remarkable was an easterly Mountain Plover at Salt Plains 20 Sep (Joe Grzybowski, Glen Hensley); no others were reported. Single Long-billed Curlews were tardy in Keith Co, NE 5–6 Sep (David Tonnessen, Will Anderson, Barbara Brown) and in Scotts Bluff Co, NE 4 Sep (Sam Manning); one was easterly in Sumner Co, KS 20 Sep (S. Queen). A Ruddy Turnstone in Cherry Co, NE 9 Oct (Lisa Viviano) was Nebraska’s 2nd latest on record. Red Knots have been rare fall migrants recently; one to two were at the Salt Plains 31 Aug–8 Sep (Glen Hensley, m. ob.), one was at Lake Oolagah, Rogers Co, OK 6–9 Sep, two juveniles were there 23 Sep (Jim Arterburn, Ken Williams), and one was in Reno Co, KS 10 Sep (Mark Nolen). By far a record fall count of Stilt Sandpipers for Nebraska was the 1300 at McConaughy 5 Sep (David Tonnessen, Will Anderson, Nathan Pieplow). Adult Dunlin are rare during late summer before juveniles migrate; only the 5th Nebraska record prior to Oct was one in Keith Co 3 Sep (Steven Mlodinow). Near record late for Nebraska were a Dunlin in Platte Co, NE 30 Nov (Joel Jorgensen) and a Least Sandpiper at the same location 26 Nov (Joel Jorgensen). Best counts of Buff-breasted Sandpipers were 217 in Sedgwick Co, KS 15 Aug (Kevin Groeneweg) and 178 in Garfield Co, OK 20 Aug (Curtis Stewart). Westerly Buff-breasted Sandpipers were two and three at different locations in Deuel Co, NE 6 Sep (Sam Manning); two in Tulsa Co, OK 11 Oct (Jana Singletary) were about two weeks late. Tardy was a Semipalmated Sandpiper at Salt Plains 4 Nov (Brandon Percival, Mark Peterson), and another was near record late for Nebraska in Lancaster Co 17 Oct (David Hage). Tardy Western Sandpipers were singles at Cheyenne Bottoms 6–7 Nov (Logan Smith, Mark Robbins, Tom Nagel), Quivira 6 Nov (Ann Tanner), and Garfield Co, OK 6 Nov (Curtis Stewart, Adrianh Martinez Orozco).

Dowitchers through Gulls

Short-billed Dowitcher is a rare fall migrant in the region; westerly was one in Kimball Co, NE 19 Aug (Steven Mlodinow). Others were in Oklahoma, three in Washington Co 7 Aug (Mark Peterson, Melinda Droege), singles in Payne Co 4 Sep (Landon, Neumann, Mike Yough) and at Salt Plains 10 Sep (Joe Grzybowski, Glen Hensley). Tardy were two to four Long-billed Dowitchers in Lincoln Co, NE 4–6 Nov (Steven Mlodinow, Boni Edwards). Reports from eastern Nebraska had notable numbers of Solitary Sandpipers, including a high count of 31 in Lancaster Co, NE 16 Aug (Larry Einemann); a few lingered late at three different Lancaster Co, NE sites 8–14 Oct (Larry Einemann, Steve Kruse) as well as in Sequoyah Co OK 4 Nov (Jacob Crissup) and Carter Co, OK 6 Nov (Don Pearson). The record high fall tally of Lesser Yellowlegs for Nebraska was the 800 at McConaughy 5 Sep (David Tonnessen, Nathan Pieplow, Will Anderson). Three Greater Yellowlegs were tardy in Lincoln Co, NE 19 Nov (Boni Edwards), and quite late were single Wilson’s Phalaropes in northeastern Cherry Co, NE 14 Oct (Laurie Hodges) and in Garden Co, NE 9 Oct (Sam Manning). A record fall count of Red-necked Phalaropes for Nebraska was the 155 at Crescent Lake NWR, Garden Co 11 Sep (Steven Mlodinow, Nick Moore), while easterly were singles in Linn Co, KS 7 Aug (Debra McKee, Mark Pheasant), Anderson Co, KS 5 Sep (Malcolm Gold, Mickey Louis), Payne Co, OK 4 Sep (Landon Neumann, m. ob.) and in Oklahoma Co, OK 20 Oct (Bill Diffin, m. ob.). Any jaeger is a regional “zootie;” A Pomarine Jaeger, Oklahoma’s first in 25 years, was in Payne Co 16–17 Oct (Scott Loss, m. ob.), and a Long-tailed Jaeger was at Cheyenne Bottoms 6 Sep (Anthony Miller). A third jaeger, reported as jaeger sp., was at Salt Plains 20 Sep (Joe Grzybowski, Glen Hensley).

Our “Where’s Waldo” Black-legged Kittiwakes were a surprising adult in Cedar and Knox Cos, NE 16 Nov (Mark Brogie, Paul Roisen) and an immature, the expected age class in the region, at Cheyenne Bottoms 13 Nov (Bryan White). Around 23 Sabine’s Gulls were reported for the region 31 Aug–24 Oct (Steven Mlodinow, m. ob.). The three Little Gulls were in Kansas: singles in Osage Co 7 Sep (Mark Land), at Cheyenne Bottoms 17 Sep (Marlo Kauffman) and an adult in Douglas Co 10 Nov (Kathy McDowell). Laughing Gull is annual but rare in the region, mostly during summer; at least one first-winter bird was at Lake Hefner, Oklahoma Co, OK 13 Sep–17 Oct (Bill Diffin, m. ob.), probably a different bird was there as late as 15 Nov (Bill Diffin), and one was in Cleveland Co, OK 18 Oct (Joe Grzybowski). Steven Mlodinow estimated flyover Franklin’s Gulls in Harlan Co at 100,000 on 3 Oct. The two reports of Short-billed Gull were an earlier-than-normal single in Scotts Bluff Co, NE 22 Oct (Steven Mlodinow) and another in Kansas about a month earlier but without a photograph. Away from McConaughy, there were five reports of California Gulls, single immature Californias were in Lancaster Co, NE 26 Sep (Kirill Belashchenko), at Cheyenne Bottoms 6 Nov (Tom Nagel, Mark Robbins), and in Oklahoma Co, OK 24 Nov (Brian Marra, m. ob.); adults were in Cowley Co, KS 23 Nov (S. Queen, Max Thompson) and Johnson Co, KS 24 Nov (Aaron Batterbee). An adult Herring Gull was record early for that age class in Nebraska at McConaughy 16 Aug (Carla Barbaro, Wendy Becker). An early immature Iceland (Thayer’s) Gull was in Cedar and Knox Cos, NE 30 Oct through around 15 Nov (Greg Pavelka, m. ob.); five were present by 19 Nov (Greg Pavelka). Lesser Black-backed Gull is hardly notable any more in the region; about 30 were reported during the period beginning with two at McConaughy 8 Aug (Sam Manning). A regional rarity Great Black-backed Gull was a seasonally early adult at McConaughy 20–22 Aug (Danny Tipton, m. ob.).

About 23 Common Terns were reported 14 Aug–15 Oct (Lisa Hoffman, Randy Soto, Joe Grzybowski, m. ob.). Undoubtedly a candidate for bird of the season was a Royal Tern in Marion Co, KS 14 Aug that was present only on the day of its discovery; prompt reporting by finder Lisa Hoffman allowed it to be seen and photographed by about 20 timely birders.

Loons through Mississippi Kite

Single Red-throated Loons were in Knox Co, NE 7 Nov (Mark Brogie, Ed Brogie) and Cherokee Co, OK 14 Nov (Joe Neal, Vivek Govind Kumar). About eight Pacific Loons were reported beginning with one 20 Oct, early, at Lake Tenkiller, OK (Joe Neal, m. ob.). Reports of summering non-breeding Common Loons came from six region-wide locations (m. ob.). Wood Storks at Red Slough peaked 15–28 Sep at 59–64 individuals, but numbers quickly declined; only a juvenile was present 6 Oct (David Arbour, Caden Williams, Randy Soto). Neotropic Cormorants north of Oklahoma included two continuing from summer through 27 Aug in Lancaster Co, NE (Larry Einemann, m. ob.) and 17 Sep in Lincoln Co, NE (Kathy DeLara, m. ob.); one was in Marion Co, KS 15 Aug (Mike Rader). The five American Bitterns reported 7 Aug–8 Sep, at least one in each state, were in potential breeding locations (m. ob.). The 15,000 Cattle Egrets at Red Slough 31 Aug (David Arbour), quite a spectacle, have been the norm in recent years; tardy was one hanging out with domestic ducks in Lincoln, Lancaster Co 12–17 Nov (Wen Hu). A Green Heron was northwesterly in Morrill Co, NE 6 Sep (Sam Manning), and northerly Yellow-crowned Night-Herons were in Saunders Co, NE through 1 Aug (Mary Clausen) and Lancaster Co, NE 12–13 Aug (Larry Einemann, m. ob.). White Ibis is rare away from Red Slough; the three reports were in Oklahoma: a juvenile in Sequoyah Co 20 Aug (Sandy Berger), 7–8 in Bryan Co 24 Aug–5 Sep (Doug Wood), and one in Tulsa Co 31 Aug (Josh Smith, Jana Singletary). Fall departure of Glossy Ibis is difficult to detect as plumage features fade, although three were documented: singles in Garden Co, NE 5–7 Aug (Steven Mlodinow), Seward Co, NE 13 Aug (Larry Einemann), and Sumner Co, KS 6 Aug (Max Thompson, Eugene Young). A Glossy x White-faced hybrid was documented in Garden Co, NE 7 Aug (Sam Manning). Several White-faced Ibises were tardy, notably three in Clay Co, NE 18 Oct (Rita Flohr), eight in Cleveland Co, OK 11 Nov (Randy Soto); eight were reported as Plegadis sp. in Kingfisher Co, OK 6 Nov (Nancy Vicars).

Black Vulture is expanding its range northwestward in the region; edge-of-range this fall were singles in Leavenworth Co, KS 1 Oct (Galen Pittman) and Rice Co, KS 22 Aug (Dave Minnich), and two in Blaine Co, OK 24 Oct (Curtis Stewart). A Turkey Vulture was late in Lancaster Co, NE 2–3 Nov (Theresa Pella, Joan Junkin), and an Osprey likewise in Washington Co, NE 23–28 Nov (Cathy Prettyman). An encouraging influx of Swallow-tailed Kites in eastern Kansas was detected; presumably the same two were spotted in Riley and Pottawatomie Cos 31 Aug–7 Sep (Marla Shoemaker, Dave Rintoul, m. ob.), and singles were in Linn Co 28 Aug (Mickey Louis) and Wyandotte Co 13–20 Sep (Michael Gaume, m. ob.). One Swallow-tailed was in McCurtain Co, OK 12 Sep (Caleb O’Rear). Rare in the eastern region, single Golden Eagles were in Coffey Co, KS 4 Nov (Eric Decker), Cherokee Co, OK 5 Nov (Patrick Doran), and Tulsa Co, OK 7 Nov (Bill Carrell). Northern Goshawks barely reached the northern edge of the region during the period; single juveniles were documented in Cherry Co, NE 13 Nov (Sam Manning) and Sioux Co, NE 26 Nov (Carlos Grande). Mississippi Kite continues to add or consolidate new breeding locations in southern and eastern Nebraska; nesting occurred for the second time in Lincoln, Lancaster Co when a nest with two fledged juveniles beside it was photographed 9 Sep (Dina Barta), and nesting occurred for the first time in McCook, Red Willow Co, NE (Charles Krysel). Tardy Mississippi Kites were one in Lancaster Co, NE 17 Sep (Joel Jorgensen) and three in Lincoln Co, NE the same day (Christine Nelson).

Buteos through Falcons

Common Black Hawk caused a stir in Oklahoma where reports at three locations provided the 2nd–4th state records continuing from Jun; others this season were in Cimarron Co 7 Aug (Bill Carrell), and Garfield Co 18–21 Aug (Larry Mays, m. ob.; ph.). A northerly Harris Hawk in Gray Co, KS 21 Oct (Tony Leukering) was only about the 4th for the state. Following a trend westward in recent years, Broad-winged Hawk is near annual in the Nebraska Panhandle; there were four reports, including a group of nine in Kimball Co 18 Sep (Steven Mlodinow, Mary Clausen), and eight over northeastern Cherry Co 17 Sep (Renee Tressler). A Swainson’s Hawk in Barton Co, KS 6 Nov (Mark Robbins) was tardy. Exciting was the continuing presence since late Apr in the Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma’s first state record Zone-tailed Hawk and a successful nesting with two adults and a juvenile reported 13 Aug–22 Sep (m. ob.); begging was heard 10 Sep (Esther Key) and a juvenile was photographed with an adult 15 Aug (Chase Moxley). A Red-tailed (Harlan’s) Hawk was record early for the region in Johnson Co, NE 12 Sep (Sam Manning, photo). Red-tailed (Northern) Hawks (abieticola) continue to be widely reported in the northern region, fewer in Oklahoma; 14 were reported at four Nebraska locations beginning 23 Oct (Sam Manning, photos; m. ob.) and 2-4 in northeastern Kansas 25 Oct (Mark Robbins, Mark Land). A Rough-legged Hawk in Grant Co, NE 23 Sep (Doug Grimm) was quite early.

Rare in northeastern Nebraska was a Barn Owl in Antelope Co 5 Nov (Mark Brogie). Snowy Owls arrived in the northern region late in the period: singles were in three eastern Nebraska counties 22–30 Nov (Emily Brhel, Lucas Negus, Brian Peterson). A nice count of Burrowing Owls for the period was the 28 in Garden Co, NE 7 Aug (Sam Manning). A banding study and surveys for Northern Saw-whet Owl in eastern Nebraska indicate peak migration there in early Nov, with five banded in Lancaster Co 2 Nov (Joel Jorgensen, Stephen Brenner) and 11 detected at five stops in Antelope Co 3 Nov (Mark Brogie, Caleb Strand, Andrew Pearson). A Saw-whet was calling in Scott Co, KS 9 Oct (Christie McMillen). The only regular regional site for Lewis’s Woodpecker is in Sioux Co, NE, where four were tallied 12–18 Aug (Mary Clausen, m. ob.). A northerly Red-headed Woodpecker was tardy in Boone Co, NE 16 Oct (Lynette Keeshan). Red-naped Sapsucker showed well along the western edge of the region with seven reported in the short window 18 Sep–1 Oct (m. ob.); unexpected eastward in Oklahoma were singles, possibly the same bird, in Payne Co 1–4 Oct (Scott Loss, m. ob.) and 17 Nov (Scott Loss), and another in Oklahoma Co 21 Oct (Sara Miller). A Ladder-backed Woodpecker edging northeasterly was in Garfield Co, OK 24 Oct (Brian Marra, Grace Huffman, Elizabeth Hacker). Reports of Pileated Woodpecker continue at the northern extent of its regional range in Dixon Co, NE, where at least four were present 21 Aug–17 Sep (Ed Brogie, m. ob.). Crested Caracara occurs rarely in extreme southern OK; one was in Bryan Co 5 Sep (Doug Wood) and two were in Jackson Co 15 Sep (John Ault). An early “Taiga” Merlin (columbarius) was in Lancaster Co, NE 4 Sep (Steve Kruse). Gyrfalcon is a regional “zootie;” one was photographed 25 Nov in extreme northeastern Cherry Co, NE (Carlos Grande). Single early Prairie Falcons were in eastern Cherry Co, NE 30 Aug (Phil Thorpe), Rogers Co, OK 9 Sep (Jim Arterburn), and Shawnee Co, KS 15 Sep (Atcha Nolan, Carolyn Schwab).

Flycatchers through Swallows

Olive-sided Flycatchers in Lancaster Co, NE 1 Oct (Joan Junkin, photo) and Cimarron Co, OK 2 Oct (Joe Grzybowski) were tardy. One of the Western Wood-Pewees that nested at Scott SP, Scott Co, Kansas was still present 2 Aug (Sara Shane); a good tally was 35 at Sowbelly Canyon, Sioux Co, NE 13 Aug (Steven Mlodinow). A westerly Eastern Wood-Pewee was in Sherman Co, KS 3 Sep (Tom Ewert, Kevin Groeneweg, Pete Janzen); another was tardy in Douglas Co, KS 13 Oct (Noah Strycker, Cheryl Rosenfeld). A Yellow-bellied Flycatcher was westerly in Morton Co, KS 4 Sep (Mark Nolen). Western Empidonax flycatchers edging the region were an early Hammond’s Flycatcher in Kimball Co, NE 19 Aug (Steven Mlodinow), the rarer Gray Flycatcher in Kimball Co, NE 24 Aug and 6 Sep (Steven Mlodinow) and in Cimarron Co, OK 26–29 Aug (Joel Jorgensen, m. ob.), and a Dusky Flycatcher in Morton Co, KS 5 Sep (Mark Nolen). An intriguing report was of a Cordilleran Flycatcher at a streamside cliff habitat in a remote area of Fort Niobrara NWR, Cherry Co, NE 1 and 3 Aug (Renee Tressler); this location is at least 100 miles east of the species’ known breeding locations on the Nebraska Pine Ridge.

Rare anywhere in the region, an adult male Vermilion Flycatcher was in Johnson Co, NE 17 Aug–8 Sep (Marcia Gilliam, m. ob.). One or two Ash-throated Flycatchers were tardy in Cimarron Co, OK 29 Aug–11 Sep (Melinda Droege, Braden Farris). A report of a potential first Kansas Couch’s Kingbird in Lyon Co 27–30 Nov (Elizabeth Walker, m. ob.) caused much excitement; however, based on the physical evidence and discussions with experienced ornithologists, the data presented were inconclusive, and the possibility of the bird being a hybrid could not be ruled out. Easterly Cassin’s Kingbirds were in Keith Co, NE 17 Sep (Amy West, Sarah Le) and Logan Co, KS 1 Oct (Henry Armknecht, Dan Larson); one was tardy in Cimarron Co, OK 6 Oct (Joe Grzybowski). Two Western Kingbirds at Cheyenne Bottoms 25 Oct (William Kaempfer, Nancy McClelland) were late, as was an Eastern Kingbird in Sarpy Co, NE 29 Sep (Gabriel Rivera). The only reports for Nebraska of Scissor-tailed Flycatcher were of an apparent family group of 2-3 in Dodge Co, NE 13–24 Aug (John and Robert Manning); another was late in Douglas Co, KS 4 Nov (Dan Broers).

Very tardy was a White-eyed Vireo in Johnston Co, OK 29 Nov (Justin Roach). Several vireo species were notably late in Nebraska: a Yellow-throated in Lancaster Co 26 Sep (Ruth Stearns), 2nd-latest on record Blue-headed in Lancaster Co 1 Nov (Joel Jorgensen), a Plumbeous in Dawes Co 18 Sep (Tom Ewert), a Philadelphia in Knox Co 7 Oct (Mark Brogie, Caleb Strand), a Warbling (presumed “eastern” gilvus) in Knox Co 9 Oct (Bill Huser), a Warbling (presumed “western” brewsteri) record late in Dawes Co 1 Oct (Colleen Childers, Boni Edwards), and a Red-eyed in Lancaster Co 23 Oct (Joel Jorgensen). Northern Shrike is rare as far south as Oklahoma and so surprises were an adult and an immature in Garfield Co 6–28 Nov (Curtis Stewart, Adrianh Martinez Orozco, m. ob.) and a single in Oklahoma Co 30 Nov (Brian Marra). A Northern Shrike was record early in Lancaster Co, NE 11 Oct (David Cunningham). Pinyon Jays were reported only in Sioux Co, NE 12 Aug–13 Nov (May Clausen, Jay Watson), including 24 at Smiley Canyon 28 Aug (Stephen Brenner, Olivia DaRugna). Steller’s Jay is an irregular winter visitor in northwestern Cimarron Co, OK; one was early on 15 Oct (Todd Deininger), the only regional report. A strong southward movement of Blue Jays was detected in Nebraska; best tally was 200 in Lancaster Co 11 Sep (Michael Willison).

Tardy Fish Crows in eastern Kansas were one in Douglas Co 25 Oct–7 Nov (Lucas DeCicco) and three in Cowley Co 8 Nov (Eugene Young). Chihuahuan Ravens on a regional edge of their range were in Jackson Co, OK where 1–2 were at each of three locations 8 Oct–26 Nov (John Ault). Single Common Ravens noted during summer at a Sioux Co, NE site were still present 23 Oct (Colin Croft) and 27 Nov (Carlos Grande). A Carolina Chickadee was at the northwestern edge of its range in Reno Co, KS 11 Sep (Micky Louis, Jennifer Hammett). Only one Mountain Chickadee was observed this season; it was in Sioux Co, NE 22 Oct (Steven Mlodinow). Tardy swallows included a Bank at Quivira 22 Oct (Mark Miller), 25 Trees in Jefferson Co, KS 4 Nov (Logan Smith), a Purple Martin in Lancaster Co, NE 30 Sep (Larry Einemann), and a Barn Swallow record late for Nebraska in Lancaster Co 6 Nov (Linda Sullivan). Northerly Cave Swallows were two adults and a juvenile at Slate Creek Wetlands, Sumner Co, KS 2 Aug (Max Thompson), a regular late summer location since about 2016. Three Cave Swallows quite late in Tillman Co, OK 14 Oct (Joe Grzybowski) were flushed from a known breeding culvert.

Kinglets through Finches

A late and northerly Ruby-crowned Kinglet was in Antelope Co, NE 5 Nov (Scott Buss). Up to four Red-breasted Nuthatches at a Madison Co, NE feeder through 22 Aug (Dave Heidt) suggested local breeding, a potential 3rd site for 2021 in eastern Nebraska. Red-breasted Nuthatches usually appear in the northern region during Aug; one was in Ford Co, KS 2 Aug–7 Sep (Christie McMillen). A White-breasted Nuthatch in Garden Co, NE 21 Aug (Kate Frost, Betty Glass) opens speculation on breeding status or post-season dispersal of eastern and western subspecies. A record count of 21 Pygmy Nuthatches at the outlying site in Thomas Co, NE was considered “spectacular” (Sam Manning) since first found there in 2014; another good fall count of Pygmy Nuthatches was 31 in Sioux Co 13 Aug (Steven Mlodinow). Outstanding was Kansas’s 2nd Brown-headed Nuthatch that arrived at a feeder in westerly Finney Co, KS 14 Oct and continued through the period (Sara and Tom Shane, m. ob.); at first it was assumed to be a Pygmy Nuthatch due to the far westerly location (Chuck Otte).

A Rock Wren easterly in Keya Paha Co, NE 1 Aug (Charles Thornton-Kolbe) was suggestive of extralimital breeding; far easterly was another in Johnson Co, KS 12 Oct (Patty Heil). A Carolina Wren wandered north as far as Dixon Co, NE 5 Sep (Scott Buss). One or two Marsh Wrens in Kimball Co, NE 20–29 Nov (Steven Mlodinow, Nick Moore) were tardy or possibly wintering. Edge-of-range Curve-billed Thrashers were in Finney Co, KS 9 Oct (Kurtis Meier) and at two locations in Jackson Co, OK 14 Aug and 22 Nov (John Ault). Easterly were single Sage Thrashers at Quivira 2 Oct (Thomas Martin) and in Garfield Co, OK 24 Oct–14 Nov (Adrianh Martinez, Orozco, m. ob.). A Northern Mockingbird in Dawes Co, NE 26 Sep (Jason Thiele) was indeed northerly. Latest Mountain Bluebird on record for Nebraska was one in Scotts Bluff Co 29 Nov (Steven Mlodinow). Single Townsend’s Solitaires arrived early 31 Aug in Kimball Co, NE (Steven Mlodinow) and 1 Sep in Sioux Co, NE (Steven Mlodinow). Catharus thrushes, generally much less common in the region during fall, were a Veery in Lancaster Co 4 Sep (Michael Willison, photo), and Swainson’s Thrushes in Payne Co, OK 8 Sep (Landon Neumann), Tulsa Co, OK 23 Sep (Jana Singletary) and Garfield Co, OK 26 Sep (Curtis Stewart). A late Swainson’s Thrush was in Hayes Co, NE 19 Oct (William Flack). Quite early were Hermit Thrushes in Cheyenne Co, NE 30 Aug (Steven Mlodinow), two in Kimball Co, NE 14 Sep, one of which was of the early migrating Rocky Mountains subspecies auduboni (Steven Mlodinow), and one in Comanche Co, OK 22 Sep (Pia Alexander). A late Hermit Thrush was in Scotts Bluff Co, NE 29 Nov (Steven Mlodinow).

Best count of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches was 30–40 in western Sioux Co, NE 20 Nov (Kathy DeLara). Purple Finch was present in only moderate numbers but present throughout the eastern region. Early signs suggest this might be a good year for Common Redpoll; reports began in Nebraska during early Nov, with 20 in Dixon Co 8–9 Nov (Bill Huser, Jan Johnson) and a best count for fall of 95 in Sioux Co 20 Nov (Steven Mlodinow, Nick Moore). Common Redpolls penetrated south in western Kansas to Ford Co, two on 18 Nov (Tony Leukering), and Scott Co, one on 26 Nov (Joseph Miller). Red Crossbills were in low numbers in Nebraska, although one was easterly in Lancaster Co 4 Nov (Joan Junkin). The only report of the much rarer White-winged Crossbill was in Sheridan Co, NE 12 Nov (Sam Manning). Reports of Pine Siskin numbers were low to moderate region wide. Lesser Goldfinches are lingering later in the region; last dates by state were 2 Oct in Scotts Bluff Co, NE (Vicki Morgan), 19 Oct in Finney Co, KS (Sara Shane), and in Oklahoma, late and easterly in Payne Co, OK 30 Oct (Mike Yough) and in Oklahoma Co, OK 28 Nov (Brent Barnes).

Longspurs through Blackbirds

Smith’s Longspurs in Dakota Co, NE 7 Nov (Bill Huser, Jerry Probst, m. ob.) and in Lancaster Co, NE 14 Nov (Michael Willison, Bruce Pratt) were tardy for the state. Only about 20 Snow Buntings were noted in Nebraska by the end of the period, first an early single in Kimball Co 2 Nov (Steven Mlodinow); surprising so far south for the date were singles in Shawnee Co, KS 14 Nov (Dallas Alexander) and in Barton Co, KS the same day (Mark Pheasant, Debra McKee). Easterly Lark Buntings were one in Kearney Co, NE 21 Aug (Barbara Brown) and five in Garfield Co, OK 13 Nov (Mike Yough). A Brewer’s Sparrow was easterly in Dundy Co, NE 29 Aug (Steven Mlodinow). Singles of Dark-eyed (Cassiar; cismontanus) Juncos in Knox Co, NE 9 Oct (Bill Huser) and Deuel Co, NE 10 Oct (Sam Manning) may be establishing arrival dates for that form. A “Pink-sided” (mearnsi) was early in Garden Co, NE 11 Sep (Steven Mlodinow, Nick Moore). Dark-eyed (White-winged; aikeni) Junco is rare in Oklahoma; one was in Cimarron, Co 17 Nov (David Wiggins). Individuals appearing as intergrades of Dark-eyed (White-winged) and Dark-eyed (Pink-sided) Juncos are of interest in speculating gene flow between these forms; one was in Scotts Bluff Co, NE 29 Nov (Steven Mlodinow, eBird.org) with cautionary tales for assessing such. White-crowned Sparrow has a zone of intergradation in central Canada between pale-lored gambelii and eastern breeding dark-lored leucophrys; a presumed example of this intergrade was photographed 18 Oct in Lancaster Co, NE (Stephen Brenner).

Two Golden-crowned Sparrows, quite rare in the region, made it easterly to northeastern Cherry Co, NE 15–18 Sep (Renee Tressler) and in Finney Co, KS 4 Oct (Tom Shane). A Harris’s Sparrow in Scotts Bluff Co 29 Nov (Steven Mlodinow) was tardy for western Nebraska. White-throated Sparrows arrived early; one was in Garden Co, NE 11 Sep (Nick Moore, Steven Mlodinow) and another in Tulsa Co, OK 22 Sep (Nathan Moses). A Nelson’s Sparrow was early in Lancaster Co, NE 27 Sep (Michael Willison, Andrew and Eric Pratt). Henslow’s Sparrow is local in eastern Nebraska; a favored location in Pawnee Co still hosted 12 on 30 Aug (Susan Quinn). Possibly breeding was a Savannah Sparrow in Garden Co, NE 5 Aug (Steven Mlodinow); small groups of breeders are scattered across the northern Panhandle of Nebraska. A Swamp Sparrow in Nance Co, NE 23 Nov (Cole Wild) was tardy, possibly attempting to winter there. A regular regional site, albeit rarely, for Canyon Towhee is Morton Co, KS; one was there 25 Oct (Henry Armknecht). Green-tailed Towhee is a regionally rare western-edge migrant; early and late respectively in Cimarron Co, OK were two on 26 Aug (Jacob and Katie Crissup) and one on 2 Oct (Joe Grzybowski). Reports of Spotted Towhee x Eastern Towhee hybrids were mostly in the east-central Nebraska “overlap zone” as expected.

A record fall Nebraska tally of Yellow-headed Blackbirds was the 4800 in Dawes Co 1 Sep (Steven Mlodinow). A near-record fall count of Bobolinks for Nebraska was the 110 in Antelope Co 17 Aug (Mark Brogie); a late single was northerly for the date in Dixon Co, NE 27 Sep (Mark Haas). An Eastern Meadowlark in Kimball Co, NE 10 Aug (Steven Mlodinow) was west of the expected Nebraska summer range. Tardy was an Orchard Oriole in Douglas Co, KS 16 Oct (Peter Grund). Rusty Blackbird is rare westerly; one was in Deuel Co, NE 4 Oct (Doug Kibbe, Mackenzie Goldthwait), two were in Scotts Bluff Co 5 Nov (Del Nelson), and one in Kimball Co 29 Nov (Steven Mlodinow). A Brewer’s Blackbird was late in Scotts Bluff Co, NE 6 Nov (Carla Kjellander). The latest date on record for Common Grackle in northern and western Nebraska was one in Antelope Co 19 Nov (Jason Thiele).

Warblers through Grosbeaks

Rare in central Oklahoma, an Ovenbird was in Oklahoma Co 16 Sep (Brian Marra). Following the discovery of outlying summering Louisiana Waterthrushes at two locations in northeastern Cherry Co, NE, a third location in the same area was discovered 17 Aug (Renee Tressler). An apparent juvenile Louisiana Waterthrush was tardy in Cass Co, NE 23 Aug (Elizabeth Winter), and a Northern Waterthrush was early in Kimball Co, NE 19 Aug (Steven Mlodinow). Less than annual during fall, there were four reports of Golden-winged Warbler from Nebraska and Kansas 1–4 Sep (Mary Clausen, Joel Jorgensen, Ruthie Stearns, Molly Zahn) with another a bit later in Douglas Co, KS 21 Sep (Linda Zempel). Blue-winged Warbler has become quite rare in the region; singles were reported in Payne Co, OK, westerly, 3 Aug (Scott Loss), in Riley Co, KS 11 Sep (Lowell Johnson), and in Canadian Co, OK 12 Sep (Brian Marra). Quite early and quite late respectively were single Black-and-white Warblers in Madison Co, NE 14 Aug (Holden Green) and Kimball Co, NE 2 Nov (Steven Mlodinow). Similarly, quite early and quite late Orange-crowned Warblers in Nebraska were in Kimball Co 19 Aug (Steven Mlodinow) and Lancaster Co 10 Nov (Joel Jorgensen). Amazing was the Nashville Warbler count of 200+ along a trail in McPherson Co, KS 11 Oct (Robert Kruger), considered a “classic fallout” (Chuck Otte). A late Nashville was in Tulsa Co, OK 7 Nov (Zach Poland). MacGillivray’s Warblers occur routinely as migrants along the western edge of the region although exceptional was one easterly in the central strip of the region in McPherson Co, KS 11 Sep (Linda Zempel). Rare westerly in Nebraska, single Mourning Warblers were in Kimball Co 31 Aug (Steven Mlodinow) and Keith Co 3 Sep (Steven Mlodinow).

Unexpected were Hooded Warblers, both male, slightly north and west of the expected Oklahoma summer range in Cherokee Co 12 Aug (Jim Arterburn, Ken Williams) and Tulsa Co 19–22 Aug (Zach Poland). An early migrant American Redstart was in Hall Co, NE 12 Aug (Colleen Childers). Cape May Warbler is less than annual during fall in the region; singles were in Knox Co, NE 31 Aug (Mark Brogie), Lancaster Co, NE 3 Sep (Steve Kruse), and Miami Co, KS 19 Sep (Melissa Yates-Bruce). Single Northern Parulas were quite late and quite far west in Cimarron Co, OK 15 Oct (Greg Swick) and Dundy Co, NE 7 Nov (Steven Mlodinow). Among less common warblers during fall were Magnolia Warblers in Tulsa Co, OK 12–19 Sep (Terry Mitchell, Zach Poland, Jana Singletary), westerly in Comanche Co, KS 1 Oct (Christie McMillen), and very late in Douglas Co, KS 3 Nov (Rebecca Flood, J. Braun). Another warbler quite rare in Oklahoma during fall is Blackburnian; one was westerly in Pittsburg Co 23 Sep (Jacob Crissup). Quite tardy was Yellow Warbler in Sioux Co, NE 22 Oct (Steven Mlodinow). Blackpoll Warblers migrate east of the region during fall, making fall records quite exceptional: singles were in Dundy Co, NE 29 Aug (Steven Mlodinow), Kimball Co, NE 6 Sep (Steven Mlodinow), two locations in Garden Co, NE 11 Sep (Steven Mlodinow, Nick Moore), Lancaster Co, NE 12 Sep (Steve Kruse), and Grant Co, KS 18 Sep (Henry Armknecht, Jeff Calhoun). Black-throated Blue Warbler is a regional “zootie” and so the six reports were surprising: in Douglas Co 1–10 Sep (Susan Estep, m. ob.), Gage Co, NE 25 Sep (Joel Jorgensen, Carlos Grande), Sarpy Co, NE 2 Oct (Phil Swanson), Miami Co, KS 2 Oct (Malcolm Gold et al.), far westerly in Cimarron Co, OK 18 Sep (Bill Carrell), and Dawes Co, NE 26 Sep (Jason Thiele). A Palm Warbler was westerly in Kimball Co, NE 21 Sep (Steven Mlodinow). Early Yellow-rumped “Myrtle” Warblers were one in Scotts Bluff Co 31 Aug (Steven Mlodinow) and another was quite early in Deuel Co 6 Sep (Sam Manning). Easterly was a Yellow-rumped “Audubon’s” Warbler in Douglas Co, NE 18 Sep (Sam Manning). A Prairie Warbler in Payne Co, OK 8 Sep (Scott Loss) is one of few fall reports; it was once more regular west to central Oklahoma. Surprisingly, two Black-throated Gray Warblers were reported; amazing for the location was one in Knox Co, NE 14 Sep (Mark Brogie), Nebraska’s 8th, and another was in Cimarron Co, OK 22 Sep (Steve Metz). Among early fall arrivals was a Townsend’s Warbler in Sioux Co 13 Aug (Steven Mlodinow); the only one reported this fall for Oklahoma was in Cimarron Co 15 Sep (Joe Grzybowski). Also quite early was a Black-throated Green Warbler in Johnson Co, KS 4 Aug (Brad Biggerstaff), and quite late was another in Sarpy Co 1–5 Nov (Phil Swanson); westerly was one in Cheyenne Co, KS 4 Sep (Pete Janzen, Kevin Groeneweg, Tom Ewert). Westerly Canada Warblers were in Kimball Co, NE, only the 2nd Nebraska Panhandle record, 19 Aug (Steven Mlodinow), Dundy Co, NE 29 Aug (Steven Mlodinow), and two in Oklahoma Co, OK 10–18 Sep (Jerry Vanbebber, Steve Stone, m. ob.).

A Summer Tanager in Sarpy Co, NE 10 Oct (Allen Reyer) was late. A westerly Scarlet Tanager was in Kimball Co, NE 18 Sep (Steve Mlodinow). Conversely, a Western Tanager was easterly in Lancaster Co, NE 13 Sep (Steve Kruse). At northwesterly locations in Nebraska where Northern Cardinal numbers have been increasing slowly in recent years, singles were in Dawes Co 2 Sep (Steven Mlodinow), and in Box Butte Co 3 Sep (Sam Manning). A very late female Rose-breasted Grosbeak was in Sedgwick Co, KS 20 Nov (Mark Nolen). A Black-headed Grosbeak was easterly in Lancaster Co, NE 13 Sep (Tyson & Marielle Kahler, Edward Allen). Westerly were single Indigo Buntings in Dawes Co, NE 28 Aug (Olivia DaRugna, Stephen Brenner) and near Chadron, Dawes Co, NE 2 Sep (Steven Mlodinow).

Report processed by Andrew Keaveney, 05 Apr 2023.

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