November 10, 2008 [LINK / comment]

Fall birding on the Great Plains

During my recent visit to the Great Plains of South Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska, I took advantage of the intermittent nice weather and went for a few birding treks through the countryside. Over the course of my trip, I was fortunate to spot two life birds: a Harris's Sparrow (several of them, actually) and a LeConte's Sparrow. I also saw quite a few winter birds that arrive in that region a couple weeks earlier than they typically arrive here in Virginia. The summary report below is roughly organized according to geographical location.

Harris's Sparrow, House Sparrow

Harris's Sparrow (immature, lacking black face) on the left, and an all-too-common House Sparrow (female) on the right.

New York, Oct. 3

At Yankee Stadium, I saw a fast-flying raptor that was probably a Peregrine falcon. Late in the afternoon, as our train headed up the Hudson Valley, I saw:

South Dakota, Oct. 8-27

One thing that astonished me was the enormous number of Robins that were seen in various places in and around Vermillion. During some evenings I saw flocks passing overhead numbering well over 500, possibly more than a thousand. They seem to spend their days in the woods along the bluff that marks the north edge of the Missouri River valley, and then roost in wooded areas in town during the evening. I was amazed by the virtual absence of crows. Most of the birds listed below were seen in or near Vermillion. (Because so many unique birds were seen at Spirit Mound, which is in South Dakota, I put them in a separate list.)

Spirit Mound, Oct. 18

Ponca State Park, Nebraska, Oct. 25

Iowa, Oct. 30

(FOS) = first of season
(X) = not seen in Eastern U.S.A.