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May is for birding

Over the last few days, millions of individuals have invaded our state.  If you’ve been outside recently, perhaps you’ve noticed it.  In fact, it may have been difficult to miss.  Since this blog is about birds and birding, you probably have guessed I am referring to birds.   Spring migration commenced all the way back in late February when waterfowl, Sandhill Cranes and Bald Eagles began moving into the state and it slowly gained momentum through March and April.  However, May is the month when overall bird migration peaks, particularly from the standpoint of species’ diversity.  Many of the new arrivals are Neotropical migrant, birds which winter in the tropics and breed in North America.  Neotropical migrants include birds such as kingbirds, warblers, vireos, orioles, bunting, grosbeaks and some species of shorebird.  Many of these bird species have shown up in our state in just the past few days.   With so many birds on the move this time of year, May is arguably best month of the year to get up and go birding.  Since I am not up for any arguments, particularly with myself, birding is exactly what I did over the first weekend in May.   I took a three day birding trip in southern Nebraska, starting at Flathead Wildlife Management Area in Jefferson County and going as far west as Rock Creek State Recreation Area in Dundy County.  I tallied 160 species and had a few rarities.   Below are a few photographic highlights from my foray.

Eastern Kingbird
Eastern Kingbirds are common summer residents throughout Nebraska. Their return at the end of April and early May is a welcome sight and sound.
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warblers are by far the most common warbler species to migrate through Nebraska in spring and fall.
Cinnamon Teal
Cinnamon Teal are never common, but are more likely to be found in western Nebraska than in the east. This drake Cinnamon Teal, with Blue-winged Teal, was at Rock Creek State Recreation Area on 2 May.
Barn Owl
This “hole in the wall” of a roadcut in Red Willow County was home to one of our nocturnal summer residents. If you look closely in the shadow, you can see the heart-shaped face of a Barn Owl.
Swainson's Hawk
Swainson’s Hawks winter in South America and arrive in Nebraska in April. This hawk breeds in prairie habitats in central and western Nebraska.
Whimbrels are a species of curlew that is a rare migrant in Nebraska.  Finding these two at Enders Reservoir, Chase County, was one of several highlights of my trip.  These two individuals may have wintered on a beach in central America and they could be on the North Slope of Alaska in a couple week.  Birds are amazing.
White-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrows are often ubiquitous in western Nebraska this time of year.  Yep, they were all over the place and it was just fine by me.
Nebraska wide open spaces
While not focusing on birds, it was also nice to take in the scenery.

All-in-all, another good birding trip in Nebraska.  May is indeed a great time for birding and there is plenty of birding going on this month.  Fortunately, colleagues Lindsay Rogers and Dave Titterington have assembled THIS SITE with all sorts of information to celebrate International Migratory Birding Month here in Nebraska.  The site includes information about birding events which you can participate.  I say, get out there and just do it.

May is here and that means, Good Birding!

Nongame Bird Blog

About Joel Jorgensen

Joel Jorgensen is a Nebraska native and he has been interested in birds just about as long as he has been breathing. He has been NGPC’s Nongame Bird Program Manager for eight years and he works on a array of monitoring, research, regulatory and conservation issues. Nongame birds are the 400 or so species that are not hunted and include the Whooping Crane, Least Tern, Piping Plover, Bald Eagle, and Peregrine Falcon. When not working, he enjoys birding.

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