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Buena Vista Grasslands 2024

 – Field Trip Report

The morning was cloudy as we gathered in Bancroft, and the temperature was 26 degrees – relatively balmy compared to many previous years that were closer to zero!  Unfortunately, the wind was fairly stiff out of the northwest, which definite kept things chilly in this open landscape.  The recent mild temperatures had melted nearly all of the snow cover, leaving a barren landscape.

Buena Vista 2024 2 10 1572 birding on Townline Rd


Our first stop was along Townline Road, where GREATER PRAIRIE-CHICKENS had been observed earlier that morning.  Unfortunately, they were no longer present at that location when we arrived, but luckily we found another group of down Lake Road, just to the east.  Those birds were spotted as they took off and flew toward the northeast – perhaps a dozen altogether.

From there we headed south on Taft Avenue and Hwy. W, and turned west on Prairie Chicken Road.  This dirt lane was a bit rutted, but fortunately frozen, so we were able to get through just fine.  We spotted only AMERICAN CROWS and AMERICAN TREE SPARROWS there.

Proceeding west on Swamp Road, we encountered a little more bird activity, finding first two dark morph ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS, and then a pale morph bird a short time later.  A large flock of SNOW BUNTINGS was spotted flying in the distance, but we weren’t able to find them on the ground.  Toward the west end, we were pleased to spot a COMMON RAVEN as it flew past our group.

Just to the north, along Townline Road, a NORTHERN SHRIKE was perched on a dead snag, but unfortunately it didn’t stay there for long, and it disappeared behind the trees.  Another COMMON RAVEN or two were heard calling, two more ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS were observed, and a few DARK-EYED JUNCOS and AMERICAN TREE SPARROWS were spotted.  Then another ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK was found along Elm Road.

Driving along Mill Road we encountered a nice flock of AMERICAN TREE SPARROWS, a small falcon was spotted along the back edge of a field.  After a short time, the bird took off and flew right past the group, and we could easily tell that it was a MERLIN!  It provided great looks, but the encounter was too quick for getting photos.

Buena Vista 2024 2 10 <b>Bald Eagle</b> in flight by Vinod Baskaran


South of there, along Elm Road, we found yet another ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK and also an adult BALD EAGLE.  Then, back on Townline Road, we went to check out some feeders that we traditionally have stopped at.  The birds were fairly few there, but we found RED-BELLIED and DOWNY WOODPECKERS, a couple of BLUE JAYS, and a few HOUSE SPARROWS and DARK-EYED JUNCOS.  There were also AMERICAN CROWS and a RED-TAILED HAWK in the distance, along with a few ROCK PIGEONS at a nearby farm.

Buena Vista 2024 2 10 1603 birding at Townline Rd feeders


From there we drove back toward Bancroft along Tower and Taft Roads, passing a farm with lots of EUROPEAN STARLINGS and ROCK PIGEONS present – our final birds of the day.  We ended the trip about 11:30 with the skies clearing, and the temperature up to about 32 degrees.  Our species total for the day was only 21, but that included some nice highlights!  Thanks to Jeff Baughman for co-leading.

Tom Schultz, WSO Field Trips Committee