This past week I paid a short visit back to my home state of Nebraska and time with close relatives. While there I was able to squeeze in one day of birding. Surprisingly, my family did not laugh at me or poke fun at me and my birding obsession, but in fact, some of them actually joined in I think they had a good time in the process. The first excursion was with my niece, Trina, who drove me out to Hugh Butler Lake north of McCook, Nebraska which is located in the southwest corner of the state near the Kansas and Colorado borders. The water level at the lake is currently very low due to some repair work being down to the dam itself. We went to the marina area and found several small inlets overgrown with vegetation. This proved to be prime habitat for birds. Although it was cool, overcast and windy with sprinkles in the air, the birds did not disappoint. One of the most exciting first finds was a pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers. I have not seen them for years and had forgotten how stunning they really are. Perhaps the mot attractive woodpecker in North America. Not only did we find a pair, but we also discovered they had a fledgling following them around.
Red-headed Woodpecker with Cicada
Red-headed Woodpecker with Fledgling
We also discovered several Indigo Buntings in the area. Unfortunately we were not able to get too close to them for great photos, but what a bright addition to the green surroundings. This is the bird that really peaked my interest when I was very young in Nebraska.
We also observed a Great-horned Owl that was flying from tree to tree and in the process landed in a tree with an American Kestrel that was very distraught with the owl in such close proximity. Was not able to capture a photo of the owl, but did manage to capture a very fuzzy photo of the kestrel in flight.
We made our way down to a beach and sat on a couple of stumps and watched and waited as birds flew in around us, including a very bright male American Goldfinch which came down to the water's edge for a drink.
Also while sitting on those stumps, a pair of Gray Catbirds made an appearance on a pile of tree limbs. This was quite a surprise as they tend to be a bit secretive.
The picnic areas were full of American Robins who stoically hop around and spend more time stopped and standing still, but I finally got a photo of a robin in motion, or guess you could call it 'in the middle of a hop'.
When we were near the Marina itself, we happened to find a couple of Northern Flickers and these were the 'Yellow-shafted' form instead of the 'Red-shadfted' form. You can see the hint of yellow on the edges of the primary feathers.
Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker
One of the local residents saw us birding and invited us to come to their home and see the birds that were feeding on the bird seed that they occasionally tossed out on the road. We had a White-breasted Nuthatch come in along with some House Finches and one of the males was about the brightest red House Finch I have ever seen. Also had another American Goldfinch pay a visit and the photo below captured him discarding the hull of a black oil sunflower seed. In fact all 3 of these birds were enjoying the black oil sunflower seeds, worth taking note of this for those of you wanting to feed birds.
Near the road entrance to the marina area, we found a couple of juvenile Red-tailed Hawks and one adult, so it is evident that they have nested in this area.
The last photo is one of several Wild Turkeys and I counted at least 6 young ones in the flock.
Nebraska is probably not considered one of the nation's hotspots for birding, but one can't complain with the variety and color seen here. We saw many other birds as well such as Eastern Bluebirds, Yellow Warblers, Great Blue Herons, Lark Sparrows, Bell's Vireo (heard song only), and Turkey Vultures. But this was definitely worth the time spent there, and maybe someones interest in birds just might have gotten a little stronger.