Saturday, May 29, 2010


The Lesser Prairie-Chicken field trip was on Saturday April 10, at a site SW of Pratt, KS. I was jonesing to get going, so left on the 7th. The days before were devoted to getting the truck well packed, trying to remember all the essentials, which for once I seem to have mostly done. I've driven off on trips and forgot the spotting scope, fortunately not for long, but I've learned to expect such stuff. The approach now is for a week before leaving to drop anything I'm doing when I think of something that has to go, get it and put it in the truck or on the porch.

The other prep activities are related to mapping and planning. Using TopoUSA, I work over the proposed route and tag all the birding sites I know of from various sources, such as bird-finding books, birding trail brochures, places mentioned on the various relevant list-servs for the states I plan to visit, other Internet birding location sites, word of mouth and whatever else catches my fancy. The point is that I can't remember all that stuff when I'm actually traveling, paper resources are prone to entropy, but the mapping software is running at all times when I'm moving and the GPS shows exactly where I am. So the map tags are always letting me know when I'm in reach of a possible site, or several, and I can figure out a fairly efficient route. I also download aerial imagery of the more interesting possibilities in advance, and while in reach of wifi at stops I'll add any others that seemed notable as the trip develops.

Between those two activities I've developed quite a library of birding databases and enhanced maps to go with them. Passes the winter nights too, but I'm afraid I often over plan, and have way inflated ideas of what can be fitted in. The actual trip consists of a lot ignoring possibilities. Maybe some other time, I say, but in some cases I'm unlikely to get back for a long time if ever. As my friend Larry Harrison says, "the finish line is in sight".

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Oklahoma was on the way to Kansas, and It's a state where I'm really close to having 60% of the species ticked. That's the real milestone I think. 50%, the ABA threshold for being in the published roster isn't all that hard with a little focus and judicious routing in all seasons. The only states where I've managed it are Arkansas where I live, and Texas where I've been at least a dozen times. Texas is attractive since almost every year there's a point when three lifers may be present at the same time, usually in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and along the coast. So I started with OK, where 8 more ticks would make 60%.

I got away from the house and through town with just a short library stop to harvest email. Made a stop at Centerton Fish Hatchery, still in AR, good early shorebirds, and then fairly directly across OK to Pawhuska, the Osage capitol, and the gateway to the TNC (Nature Conservancy) Tall Grass Prairie Preserve. It had become windy and drizzly, the day had gotten late, still officially winter you know, and I ended up staying at Osage Hills State Park east of Pawhuska, a nice small place with decent birding and some very nice CCC construction. I want to try it again a little more in migration, and also to get some pics.
Slept well.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Dawn was chilly but the wind was gone and the skies had cleared. Two or three hours brought me to Salt Plains NWR starting in the SE corner where there's a free campground with excellent birding. The day was young enough to allow a full loop around the refuge with lots of stops, at the State Park, shorebird trail, grocery store and library in Cherokee, around to the crystal digging area (Selenite) which wasn't active, and back to the campground. There were lots of Shorebirds at the shorebird trail, and lots of ducks and raptors at the campground. Notable were thousands of Ruddy Ducks, which I'd never seen in OK before. Somehow I ended up adding 5 ticks, putting me in spitting distance of the 60% goal. The sunset across the lake was long and glorious, and sleeping there was quiet and perfect.

Friday, April 9, 2010

When I woke up there was a Swainson's Hawk in the tree over the truck. Birded the camp again, and then the tour loop and shorebird trail again. The wind was picking up again too, and would be a hassle off and on for weeks. Spring weather. I took a back route up to Pratt, KS and explored the area around there, a Fish Hatchery, a small lake, a city park, called Lemon, which wasn't a, in fact looked like another ideal place for a migration stop, almost a migrant trap since it was mature river bottom hardwoods in a basically grassland setting. After dark and dinner the Wichita folks showed up at heir motel which was across the street from a truck stop where I sorta slept. It was the first of many on this trip and later I'll go into how to find the best spot in them, if there is one and you're lucky. This one wasn't much good for sleeping, woke up a lot, lots of dream recall.


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