Birder's Guide

MAR 2015

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 53 of 67

Nebraska 52 Birder's Guide to Travel | March 2015 the south by Colorado, and to the west by Wyoming. On the edge of the Great Plains, "out where the West begins", the pan- handle seems to have more in common culturally and ecological- ly with its bordering states than with its own. Tellingly, it is more than six hours' drive from Omaha to Scottsbluff, the panhandle's largest city, and barely half that from Denver. The drive north from Denver into Nebraska's westernmost west takes the traveling birder through mile after mile of the re- gion's dominant habitats, shortgrass and mixed-grass prairies. To the non-naturalist passenger, little could be more tedious, but birders and other wildlife watchers know that these high plains, covered with buffalo grass, grama, and prickly pear, are the home of some of the continent's most charismatic an- imals. Everyone's dream is to see the rare swift fox, but the area's specialty birds are more con- spicuous and more obliging. Swainson's Hawks are abundant and obvious on the roadsides from April through September, perched quietly on fence posts and telephone poles; in June or July, a lone tree is likely to be occupied by a messy twig nest full of equally unkempt young. Ferruginous Hawks are even less demanding, happily perching on the ground as they hunt black-tailed prairie-dogs and other rodents to feed their young in the lee of rock outcrops and low buttes. These sparsely vegetated prairies, especially when they have been heavily grazed by cattle or mule deer, are also home to a much-sought-after shorebird. As recently as 20 years ago, p e a r , a r e t h e h o m e - f t - s s y r a g . g , n t o d l o w b u t t e s . t h e s o u t h b y C o l o r a d o a n d t o t h e w e s t b y W y o m i n g O n t h e Map © Rad Smith Chimney Rock National Historic Site. Photo © Allen Stutheit

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