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.

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 54 of 67

53 March 2015 | Birder's Guide to Travel Mountain Plover was considered a prime rarity anywhere in Nebraska, and the pre- cise locations of the few known breeding sites were valuable currency in the birder's information market. Today, coinciding with this species's apparent decrease on the Colorado plains and some truly dedi- cated survey and conservation work by the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory (RMBO), Mountain Plovers are surprisingly com- mon—or at least more common than previously believed—in the southern panhandle, and dozens of nests are now routinely found each year where once just one or two pairs might have barely hung on. In what has quickly become a model of whole-landscape con- servation on the Great Plains, RMBO collaborates closely with Nebraska ranchers and land man- agers to protect and even to pro- duce plover habitat. A bird that almost no local could have named a decade or two ago is slowly gaining recognition as one of the region's true natural treasures. If Denver is the cultural lodestone for the southern panhandle, much of the ex- treme west feels itself allied to Cheyenne and Laramie. The bird life of the dry shortgrass prairie north of the North Platte River recalls Wyoming, too, with Brewer's Sparrows trilling from sagebrush and barbwire fences and Burrowing Owls bob- bing and nodding next to the holes kindly excavated by the local badger. For many birders, the genius loci here is the Rock Wren, the walker's constant companion during the warmer seasons, bowing from a yucca stalk or trilling loudly from a dis- tant anthill. Those silvery notes are the lure of a troglodytid pied piper: try, just try, not to follow these hugely charming birds in the hopes of stumbling across the neatly paved runway they construct as an approach to the nest. The listing birder will fnally tear him- self or herself away from the wrens to pay attention to the western panhandle's most important "target" bird, the McCown's Longspur. Running right along the Wyoming line from Henry to Harrison, Henry Road—known in my youth more poetically as "Last Road"—crosses over the cattail-lined Niobrara River, here barely a trickle, before entering some of the highest of Nebraska's high plains. The road surface draws great focks of Horned Larks and Lark Buntings and longspurs, which fush only reluctantly as the birder's car or the rancher's truck approaches; vehicles of any kind are rare here, and in late July, when t h e C o l o r c a t w o O b P l o m o t h a s o u o f e a c t w o n a m s e r R M N e a g e d u c e p l o v e r M o u n t a i n P l o v e r w a s c o n s i d e r e d a p r i m e a s R S Burrowing Owl. Photo © Derrald Farnsworth-Livingston Gilbert Baker Wildlife Management Area. Photo © Derrald Farnsworth-Livingston Lewis's Woodpecker. Photo © Dave Menke

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Birder's Guide - MAR 2015