Bird #494 — Golden-crowned Warbler

basileuterus culicivorus

Monday, May 21, 2018 — 10:15 am

Cheyenne County, Colorado — County Road 9

In the middle of the prairie/farmland of eastern Colorado, 120 miles east of Colorado Springs, a birder found this Golden-crowned Warbler in a patch of trees around a ranch. That was last Wednesday. I had no opportunity to go see it over the next three days. Saturday was rainy and cold and, quite honestly, I forgot about it. When I saw that it was found again on Sunday, I knew I had to give it a go. As it turned out, I’d already taken Monday off work to bird with Nate who’s in Colorado on vacation.

We left my house at 6:15, stopped a few places along the way, and got to the spot where the warbler was being seen a little after 10:00. We could see the trees a long way off. What we couldn’t see until we’d crested the last rise was the group of birders already there. When I got out of my car, a young guy turned and gave me a thumbs-up, then urged me to hurry. I jogged to the spot and immediately saw the bird dart through the low choke cherry bushes. Moments later, I had a full-on head view from six feet away. The warbler stayed low in the brush, occasionally jumping up after insects. I saw it briefly several other times until it disappeared. Nate got a good look at it too.

We were told that it circled around about every 45 minutes, so we stood around looking at other birds and talking with the other birders. As it turned out, this circle only took 35 minutes. It didn’t stay around as long this time. I tried to get it on video with minimal success. But as we’d both seen it and we had other birding we wanted to do, we took off. The guy who motioned me over when we got there was named Joel Adams. He’s 17 and has been birding for five years. He already has over 500 birds on his life list. He was teasing me a bit because it took him four hours to find the bird, and I saw it within 20 seconds. 

It’s normal range extends from northern Mexico south to Argentina. Eight or ten of them have been seen over the years in extreme south Texas, and one showed up in New Mexico in 2005. A couple of the birds who were there with us were calling it the rarest bird ever spotted in Colorado.

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Bird #493 — Common Poorwill

Phalaenoptilus nuttallii

Monday, May 14, 2018 —12:20 pm

Colorado Springs, Colorado — Monument Branch

The only way to see a poorwill, or so I thought, was to drive dirt back roads through open areas, watch for their eye-shine, and listen for their calls. I had already planned on doing this sometime this summer.

Or … I could just walk into the open area outside my work on a cool, windy midday and flush one not a quarter mile from my office. I was walking my usual path through the scrub oak and pines as I do nearly every weekday.

A bird flew up from the ground near the pines (on the left in my photo) and disappeared into the scrub oak (on the right). It wasn’t more than eight feet away when I first saw it. It flew off to the right, giving me good views from the side and back. It probably wasn’t in view for more than two seconds, but that was long enough for me to see it well.

My first impression was that it was an immature of some species because the rounded wings seemed far too large for the short tail. Its head was rounded and it had no noticeable neck. The wings and tail were barred with black and warm brown. The corners of its tail had white rectangles—like a terminal band that was white on the outer two sections and brown in the middle. It flew with deep, floppy wing beats.

I was not remotely expecting to see a poorwill, so it took me a couple seconds to process what I’d seen, but once I rewound the evidence in my head, the i.d. was obvious. I checked the branches of nearby trees along the creek and walked back through some arid open areas on the other side of the scrub oaks, but I didn’t spot it again.

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Quick Trip to Illinois

I had vacation days I had to use or lose, but Sally didn’t. I used five of them to drive to Illinois to accomplish three things.

  1. Visit family and friends
  2. Pick up some of Mom’s furniture that Linda has been keeping for us.
  3. Bird

I left early on Monday, May 7 and drove north to Pawnee National Grasslands. The draw was McCown’s and Chestnut-collared Longspurs, both lifers, that had been seen there regularly. In about three hours, I saw both of them and a nice collection of other birds.

I left the grasslands shortly after noon and headed east. I was cruising along I-80 near Grand Island, Nebraska around suppertime. I had my cruise set at seven over the limit when I passed a cop. I pulled off the median and turned on his lights. 

He walked up to my passenger-side window and said, “How are you this evening, sir?” He asked for my license, registration, and proof of insurance. I had them all ready. He said, “I had you going a little fast, but not 10 over. I’ll just give you a warning.” Which he did. 

I wonder if my Colorado plates were a factor. Colorado has become the chief source for illegal pot, so maybe he was looking for an excuse to search my car. But when he saw me and ran my plates, he let me go quickly. I don’t think I was stopped for 10 minutes.

Because of it, however, I decided to continue driving until I got out of the state. I stopped at a Comfort Suites in Council Bluff, Iowa. Three Common Nighthawks were flying and calling over the parking lot.

I left Council Bluffs early on Tuesday after a disgusting breakfast at the hotel. The sun was rising over a lift factory next door.

My final 40 miles in Illinois were through a construction zone on I-88 where the speed limit was 45. Since I was early, I stopped at Nelson Lake Marsh and birded for about three hours. I stopped by Linda’s to drop off my luggage and take a shower, then met Beth at a Panera in Wheaton for supper.

On Wednesday, I drove up to Cary and birded my old haunts—Moraine Hills, Baker’s Lake, and Crabtree. The birding was great. Warblers and Vireos were moving in big numbers everywhere I went. I bought a soggy bagel dog at Einstein Bros., which was disappointing after craving one for the last year and a half. Lindy called, and I saw at the tables in front of the restaurant for 20 minutes and talked with her.

In the evening, I met up with the Kauffmans and Sahlis at Slyce in Wauconda for supper.

On Thursday, I picked up Nate and we drove up to Sugar River and Rock Cut. The birding was lively again. I ended the day with 85 at those two places and another five that I saw while driving. We quit at 4:00 so I could go out to dinner with Linda. It wouldn’t have been hard to get over 100 on the day with a little more time and some targeted effort. Linda and I went to Chili’s and then visited the Wicks for an hour.

I headed back west on Friday. I stopped on a cloudy, windy evening at a marsh west of Lincoln, Nebraska, where Upland Sandpipers had been reported. I saw one, and a bunch of other cool birds. I stayed the night at a Holiday Inn Express in York.

Saturday was overcast and rainy all the way across Nebraska and into northern Colorado. It wasn’t until I got within 75 miles of Colorado Springs that the sun came out. Figures. Everywhere I went on this trip was green and wet except near home. I’d gotten off to an early start again, so I pulled off at a couple small wildlife areas and saw a smattering of birds for my Nebraska list. I also stopped in Kearney at the Archway, a western expansion museum built into an arch over I-80.

I cut south east of Denver on back roads to avoid traffic and tolls. I got home right at 4:00 pm. Here’s a list of the birds I saw on my trip by day. I ended with 155 total in the six days, including two lifers and 85 new birds for the year. That brings my year total up to 260, just two short of my all-time record.

 

Canada Goose
(1)

(1)
15 
(2)

(1)
Mute Swan
(1)
Wood Duck
(2)

(2)

(1)
Blue-winged Teal
(1)
50 
(2)
Gadwall
(1)

(1)
Mallard
(2)

(1)

(2)

(1)

(2)
Green-winged Teal
(1)
10 
(1)
Ring-necked Pheasant
(1)
Wild Turkey
(2)

(1)
Double-crested Cormorant
(1)
12 
(3)
American White Pelican
(1)
Great Blue Heron
(1)

(1)

(2)

(1)

(1)
Great Egret
(3)
Cattle Egret
(1)
Green Heron
(1)
Black-crowned Night-Heron
(1)
Turkey Vulture
(1)

(1)

(1)
Osprey
(1)
Northern Harrier
(1)
Cooper’s Hawk
(1)
Bald Eagle
(1)
Swainson’s Hawk
(3)

(1)
Red-tailed Hawk
(1)

(1)

(3)

(1)
Sandhill Crane
(1)

(2)

(1)
American Avocet
(1)
American Golden-Plover
(1)
Semipalmated Plover
(1)
Killdeer
(1)

(1)

(1)

(1)
Upland Sandpiper
(1)
Stilt Sandpiper 25 
(2)
Baird’s Sandpiper
(1)
Least Sandpiper
(1)
Pectoral Sandpiper
(1)
Semipalmated Sandpiper
(1)
Long-billed Dowitcher
(1)
Wilson’s Phalarope
(1)

(1)
Spotted Sandpiper
(1)

(1)
Solitary Sandpiper
(1)
Lesser Yellowlegs
(1)
Franklin’s Gull 250 
(2)
Ring-billed Gull
(1)
Caspian Tern 13 
(1)
Rock Pigeon
(2)
Eurasian Collared-Dove
(1)

(2)
Mourning Dove
(5)

(1)

(1)

(1)

(1)

(3)
Great Horned Owl
(1)
Burrowing Owl
(1)
Barred Owl
(1)
Common Nighthawk
(1)
Chimney Swift
(1)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
(1)
Belted Kingfisher
(2)

(1)
Red-headed Woodpecker
(1)
Red-bellied Woodpecker
(1)

(2)

(2)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
(1)
Downy Woodpecker
(1)

(1)

(1)
Hairy Woodpecker
(1)
Northern Flicker
(1)

(3)

(1)
Pileated Woodpecker
(1)
American Kestrel
(1)
Eastern Wood-Pewee
(2)
Acadian Flycatcher
(1)
Eastern Phoebe
(1)
Say’s Phoebe
(1)
Great Crested Flycatcher
(1)

(1)

(1)
Western Kingbird
(1)

(1)

(4)
Eastern Kingbird
(1)

(1)

(1)

(1)
Loggerhead Shrike
(2)
White-eyed Vireo
(1)
Yellow-throated Vireo
(2)

(2)
Blue-headed Vireo
(1)
Warbling Vireo
(2)

(1)
Red-eyed Vireo
(1)

(1)
Blue Jay
(1)

(2)

(2)
American Crow
(1)

(2)
Horned Lark 40 
(1)

(3)
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
(1)

(1)

(2)
Tree Swallow 12 
(2)

(1)
Bank Swallow
(1)
Barn Swallow
(1)

(1)

(2)

(1)

(1)

(2)
Cliff Swallow
(1)
Black-capped Chickadee
(1)

(2)

(2)
Tufted Titmouse
(1)
White-breasted Nuthatch
(1)

(3)

(1)
House Wren
(1)

(2)

(2)

(1)
Sedge Wren
(1)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
(1)

(2)
15 
(2)
Eastern Bluebird
(2)

(1)
Veery
(1)
Gray-cheeked Thrush
(1)

(1)

(1)
Swainson’s Thrush
(1)

(2)
Wood Thrush
(1)

(1)
American Robin
(1)
10 
(1)
10 
(3)
12 
(1)

(2)

(2)
Gray Catbird
(1)

(2)

(2)

(1)
Brown Thrasher
(1)

(1)
Northern Mockingbird
(1)
European Starling
(3)

(1)

(3)
Chestnut-collared Longspur
(1)
McCown’s Longspur
(1)
Louisiana Waterthrush
(1)
Northern Waterthrush
(1)

(1)

(1)
Golden-winged Warbler
(1)
Blue-winged Warbler
(1)
Black-and-white Warbler
(2)

(2)
Prothonotary Warbler
(2)
Tennessee Warbler
(3)

(2)
Nashville Warbler
(1)

(3)

(1)
Common Yellowthroat
(1)

(2)

(2)
American Redstart
(1)

(2)

(1)
Cape May Warbler
(3)

(1)
Northern Parula
(1)

(1)
Magnolia Warbler
(1)

(2)
Bay-breasted Warbler
(1)
Blackburnian Warbler
(2)
Yellow Warbler
(1)

(2)

(2)

(1)
Chestnut-sided Warbler
(1)

(2)
Blackpoll Warbler
(2)

(2)

(1)
Black-throated Blue Warbler
(1)
Palm Warbler 10 
(1)

(2)

(2)
Yellow-rumped Warbler 25 
(1)
12 
(3)
15 
(2)

(1)
Yellow-throated Warbler
(1)
Black-throated Green Warbler
(3)

(2)
Canada Warbler
(1)
Wilson’s Warbler
(1)
Grasshopper Sparrow
(1)
Chipping Sparrow 12 
(1)

(2)
Clay-colored Sparrow
(1)

(1)
Field Sparrow
(1)

(1)

(1)
Lark Sparrow
(1)

(1)
Lark Bunting 75 
(1)
15 
(2)
White-crowned Sparrow
(1)

(2)

(1)
Harris’s Sparrow
(1)
White-throated Sparrow
(1)
Vesper Sparrow
(1)
Savannah Sparrow
(1)
Song Sparrow 12 
(1)

(2)

(1)

(1)
Lincoln’s Sparrow
(1)
Swamp Sparrow
(1)
Eastern Towhee
(2)
Scarlet Tanager
(1)
Northern Cardinal
(1)

(2)

(2)

(1)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
(1)

(2)

(1)
Indigo Bunting
(1)

(1)

(1)
Dickcissel
(1)
Yellow-headed Blackbird
(1)
Bobolink
(1)
Western Meadowlark
(5)

(5)
Eastern Meadowlark
(1)
Orchard Oriole
(1)
Baltimore Oriole
(1)

(3)

(2)

(1)
Red-winged Blackbird
(3)
25 
(1)
25 
(3)

(1)

(1)

(3)
Brown-headed Cowbird
(1)

(1)
20 
(2)

(2)
Common Grackle
(5)

(1)

(2)

(1)

(2)

(5)

(1)
American Goldfinch
(1)

(1)

(2)

(1)
House Sparrow
(1)

(1)
 
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Tourism on I-80 (such as it is)

On my way back from Illinois, I made two stops. 

I’ve driven past Iowa 80 many times and figured I’d stop sometime. On Friday, my tire pressure light was on, giving me the excuse I needed. (The light meant nothing—just needed to be reset.)

There are three huge rooms inside. The first is a standard gift shop with standard gift shop stuff. The second a store where you can by any truck accoutrement you can think of, and a lot I bet you never have.

The third is a full-size food court with a variety of fast-food options.

I made it as far as York, Nebraska, on Friday. 

I stopped in Kearney to see the Archway, an ugly brown structure built over the interstate as the “Gateway to the Platte River Road.”

It cost me $12 to get in. I was handed headphones and a device so I could listen to spiels whenever I reached numbered locations. I actually did this at the first stop, then decided it was wasting my time. Inside the door, I was confronted with what I’ve heard is the tallest escalator in Nebraska.

The arch contains two levels of diorama on western history that take up maybe a third of the space. The rest is empty.

There’s a window onto the interstate with a radar camera pointed a traffic.

While in Kearney, I drove into town proper and bought two mediocre donuts at the only donut place in town.

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