Friday, May 18, 2007

Kansas Meeting trips

May 5, 2007 (Sat)

Coffee and donuts or the equivalent in the big hall in the morning. Talk of the morning was a tornado that nearly wiped out the town of Greensburg. National news stuff. Folks were birding the grounds, with some good luck including me finding an Olive-sided Flycatcher. Also Least Flycatcher, which we saw several of during the day. I rode with Matt Gearhart and his friend ??, a McDonald's manager. We rode all over Nemaha, Johnson and part of Brown Counties. Kansas listers are big on county listing, something that will spread as gas prices continue to cut into longer distance birding. It puts a renewed thrill into birding, a House Sparrow can be a big deal a hundred more times. The Kansas birders had small decks of checklists and were loving this meeting since it had dragged them to a corner of the state where many had rather weak lists. We started out with a nearby reservoir, and got a Lazuli Bunting to get our juices flowing, then Nemaha Reservoir where we found a virtual fallout. We spent most of the morning there, until lunch, finding Willow Flycatcher, five new Warblers for me, a Gray-cheeked Thrush etc. The afternoon was more driving and not so birdy, but we steadily added new species, including Yellow-headed Blackbird as we were driving back in a roadside paddock near the meeting site.

When we got back to Sycamore Springs we found that another group had a similar Warbler bonanza in the very north-east corner of the state, and that the group which went to Indian Cave had been also been very lucky. Dinner was excellent, locally home cooked, a cheerful gathering of jazzed birders telling tales. After that presentations and picture shows, and they gave me a T-shirt to honor my out-of-stateness. At first they offered me a hat, but I'd already bought one. So now I have both, and a decal. Later the rain started, really big dramatic lightning and thunder rain.

May 6, 2007

In the morning we saw what six inches of rain would do. The campground had flooded during the night, roads had been overtopped and washed badly, fields were full of windrows of flood wrack, the parking lot was a pond, streams swollen, and mud everywhere. I did not sleep well since camping in the thin sided campershell is like sleeping in a drum. I rode with Matt again and we tried several stops including Brown WMA, good for a Sedge Wren and a Caspian Tern. Our main goal was the place in the corner with the amazing warblers, but the rain had changed it a lot. A little used trail up a wooded draw. The birds were good, but hard to see, since the trees were mature and the canopy high, and still some wind. Managed to add Golden-wing Warbler, but had some serious misses too, others would get a glimpse, but I couldn't get the look. Varied from drizzle to rain. The Missouri River was in serious flood, whole trees blasting along at 20+ mph. After the mop-up and final listing tally, which I've somehow lost, I started driving west to continue ticking in the rest of the state. First I tried a place where I'd failed to find Upland Sandpiper and Henslow's Sparrow the day before, frustrated by the wind and not knowing the call well enough to pull it out of the background. Also met Matt again on the road and followed him into Topeka where we tried to find Yellow-crowned Night-Herons. We found the street with a little poking around, we found the nests, but not the birds.

It was raining again hard. I pulled off the main highway in Salina and couldn't get back on at that exit since the ramp was flooded. Drove around trying to find an alternate entrance, passing folks piling sandbags to levee the town against more flooding. I ended up skipping several areas I had noted on the map since it was miserable. Finally got down to Cheyenne Bottoms near Great Bend. The storm had been really bad there too, signs and power poles were down, buildings caved in, grain towers imploded, even 18 wheelers rolled around. The bottoms themselves were a lake, after several years of low water. In places the fence-lines were just pole tops in a row with swallows alit on them. I drove around to the west-side entrance road and stayed in the campground there, a little edgy worried about getting flooded in there as the rain continued.


Post a Comment

<< Home