Monday, May 9, 2011

KOS Spring Meeting...Morton County Kansas

This past weekend the Kansas Ornithological Society held it's Spring Meeting at Elkhart in Morton County which is in the extreme southwest corner of the state bordering Colorado to the west and Oklahoma to the south. To most people in Kansas Morton County is a rather ho-hum place but to birders it's a very special place and many make a point to travel to this birding hot-spot as often as possible. Through the years Morton County has produced numerous rare bird sightings and such was the case again this weekend with birders making the trip to Elkhart being treated to views of a Painted Redstart, far from it's normal range in the Southwest. The Redstart was found in the Picnic area near the Cimarron River and a majority of those attending the meeting got to see it on Friday, it was unfortunately a no-show Saturday and Sunday. The trees along the Cimarron River afford a pathway for western bird species to enter the county and the 108,000 acre Cimarron National Grasslands provide birders with abundant public land to search for rarities as well as birds that are hard to find in the rest of Kansas. There was a choice of several field trips both Saturday and Sunday, I decided to go to Cottonwood Canyon in Baca County Colorado which has long had a reputation as a birding hotspot. The canyon is a very scenic place, some of the highlights included seeing Ash-throated Flycatchers, Cassin's Kingbird, Black-chinned Hummingbirds, Mississippi Kite, Canyon and Rock Wrens and hearing at fairly close range a Western Screech-Owl. On Sunday I went on the field trip to the Cimarron National Grasslands where I was able to see a Cassin's Sparrow (a life bird for me) it put on quite a show with it's skylarking. I also saw the only known nesting Common Ravens in Kansas at the Grasslands work station. It was a great weekend of birding and catching up with old friends, many that I hadn't seen since last year's KOS Spring Meeting...and also making new friends.

Point of Rocks in Cimarron National Grasslands north of Elkhart...this was a landmark on the Santa Fe Trail

Birders gather early Saturday Morning at the Picnic Area in hopes of seeing the Painted Redstart.

Painted Redstart

Another view of the Redstart

On the road to Cottonwood Canyon in Baca County Colorado

Pronghorn (often called Antelope) along the road

Burrowing Owl
(I was surprised I got a fair photo...the bird was so far away I could barely see it in my binoculars looking into the morning sun)

A Scene in Cottonwood Canyon Colorado

Ash-throated Flycatcher

The next several photos are in Cottonwood Canyon

Canyon Wren in Cottonwood Canyon

Searching for birds in the rugged terrain atop Point of Rocks on the Sunday Morning field trip.

Another view at Point of Rocks

Eurasian Collared Dove on a fence post in Stevens County, Kansas