My Life’s Birds: #77-79
August 13, 1993 – McPherson, Ks – Finally, after weeks of ticking individual birds off my life list, I had my first multi-lifer day since returning from Florida nearly a month before. And like most birders experiencing multi-lifer days, all I had to do was to get out of town. This time it was to my grandparent’s house, in the little central Kansas town of McPherson.
We would usually make the trip out west at least once a year, typically late in the summer before everyone in my family had to make the adjustment to starting the next school year. I admit, I often dreaded it. There’s very little to do in Kansas, especially in a small town completely surrounded by wheat fields and sunflowers and oil derricks and devoid of that sort of things that might be interesting to the average teenager. The drive even seemed interminable, and my sister and I would often pass the time counting oil wells once we passed the flint hills in the eastern part of the state and crossed the flat, wide expanse that stretches all the way to the Rocky Mountains.
But now, there were birds to look for. And when we arrived late in the afternoon my grandfather, an avid birdhunter, would take my dad and I out on the gravel roads to see if there was anything worth looking at. He knew the best spots to find stuff, and we soon pulled into a dead end road on what looked to be a completely ordinary farm field to find a Ring-necked Pheasant tentatively poke its head out of the brush and strut across the open space.
That’s not all, interspersed between the vast expanses of plowed land that seemed to hold nothing but hundreds and hundreds of Mourning Doves, lie lowland marshes managed for waterfowl and waterfowl hunters. It was here, finally, I found my life Mallard. And now, looking back on my list, I find it completely amazing that up to that point I had seen 77 species of birds, of which none of them were Mallard.
Sunsets seem to take forever on the Great Plains, and before we headed back we flushed up off the road several Northern Flickers, woodpeckers that seem to have no problem hanging out on the ground, an essential trait in an area where trees are few and far between. So with three new life birds in my pocket and more on the horizon we headed back for dinner. Now that I had some interest in seeing as many birds as possible while there, Kansas suddenly didn’t seem so bad. And I was lucky to have grandparents that were only to willing to encourage an interest in the nature of the state.
photos from Wikipedia