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.
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!