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The Man at Plains

December 2, 2008

For Thanksgiving, birding often takes a back seat. And so it was for me, that extended family and the complicated logistics therein took precedent over any impulses I had to explore eastern Kansas for those few life birds possible. The best laid plans get thrown out the window. Though Saturday, in the morning before an afternoon flight back to North Carolina, my dad and I made a couple hours to explore Clinton Reservoir and the farmlands around Lawrence, Kansas, for any weird gulls or, hope of hopes, any longspurs in the fallow fields.

We stepped out to big fat wet snowflakes falling from a gray sky, making visibility a battle all day. We drove over the dam to see tens of thousands of gulls, those we could make out the midwest winter mix of Herring and Ring-billed, leaving their lake roost and heading off towards Kansas City, probably to enjoy their own Thanksgiving feast at the landfills nearer to the city. There were likely some rare species in the group, it seems like any large flock of gulls contains a few surprises, but the visibility and distance conspired to leave them as “gulls” for the time being.

There were a few ducks around though. Flocks of Ring-necks and Buffleheads and several Common Goldeneyes, a bird that’s hard to come by in North Carolina and new for my total year list. A pair of Blue Snow Geese tricked my brain for a couple seconds before the synapses fired correctly. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Blue Geese, as the populations that winter in Carolina are amost exclusively White.

The longspur hunt was unsuccessful, tough we found no shortage of fields in the area. We did find me another new bird for the year, a flock of American Tree Sparrows in a fencerow. With little else exciting and the weather deteriorating, we headed back to town to prepare for my flight home.

A nice little reminder of midwest birding, even if our targets weren’t necessarily forthcoming.


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