Big Country Audubon Society

Stories from February, 2006

Longspurs Sighted South of Abilene

February 11, 2006: It’s Saturday morning, a huge arctic coldfront has pushed frigid temperatures as far south as Abilene, and the wind is blowing a gale. Stay inside where it’s warm and cozy? No! It’s a great time to look for longspurs. Longspurs breed in the arctic and some winter around the Abilene area. Find large barren fields (see below) or fields that have really short stubble left from fall harvest and look for a bunch of little birds flying in a tumble, jumble action and you have a mixed flock of longspurs and horned larks.

Longspur habitat

About mid morning I found such a flock just north of Tuscola on CR 152. A small flock of about 100 birds was landing in a large field, close enough to get them in the scope and ID them. First I saw Horned Larks working the ground, looking for something to eat. Behind them hung McCowan’s Longspurs, popping up between furrows. I was surprised to see a few McCowan’s changing into breeding plumage, but I was really excited to spot at least three Lapland Longspurs scurrying along behind them. Really excited because the Lapland was a lifer for me. Of course I left the camera at home (that’s not going to happen again) so I did the next best thing. I started calling my birding friends to inform them of my find. A little later another birder joined me and we found a huge flock of about 300 birds in another field. Now that’s the way to have a great day!

Field Trip to Lake Ivie

Members will be taking a field trip on Saturday, February 4, 2006 to Lake Ivie. We will meet at the Burger King on Antilley Road (across from Abilene Regional Medical Center) at 7:30 am. Come early for breakfast and carpooling. Bring snacks and a sack lunch or money for lunch (there is a lake store that has a small grill inside). Remember to dress for the weather and if it’s cool, dress warmly. It always feels colder beside the lake, especially when the wind is blowing across the water. We’ll be looking for loons, Bald Eagles, ducks, and any other wintering birds.

Update: Our field trip produced 73 species of birds and one Bald Eagle, sitting in a lone tree on an island overlooking the lake. Several Common Loons were found and other birds of note were Gadwall, American Wigeon, Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup (1), Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, Osprey, Eared Grebe, White Pelican, Herring Gull, Vermilion Flycatcher (probably overwintered), Verdin, Marsh Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (early spring migrants), Orange-crowned Warbler, and Common Yellowthroat.