16 May 2011

Eurasian Wigeon Surprise at LaPlatte Bottoms

A single Eurasian Wigeon seen at the LaPlatte Bottoms on May 14 was a certain surprise and delight for area birders.

The single wigeon, in the company of a single American Wigeon, was observed when a group of birders participating in the Sarpy County Spring Bird Count arrived to do a site survey.

This group, after a break from hours of looking about the environs of Fontenelle Forest, decided to go southward to see an additional variety of species.

After a drive-by look, three of us got out to walk a bit westward to scan the wetlands and see what birds were present. Mark Brogie was out front, and had the first opportunity to scan the waterfowl, and within a minute or two, had sighted the Eurasian fowl, which he had seen several times previously.

His exclamation was first met with skepticism, but upon us two other guys looking at the duck in the distance with careful consideration, its identity was confirmed. When Brogie and Justin Rink got their large spotting scopes setup, it was more closely observed and appreciated. Ellen Brogie joined the three guys to get her look.

It was a dramatic and bright plumage bird, swimming along among the other waterfowl present.

Cellphones were soon put to use to inform other local birders of the species occurrence. During this time, Clem Klaphake, and two other birders arrived, who had been surveying birds in the western part of the county. In a short time, five additional birders were on the scene. Everyone got a good look at the wigeons.

Birders looking at the Eurasian Wigeon.
Observers include Mark Brogie, Clem Klaphake, Justin Rink,
the Padelfords, Eric Stoiber and Jerry Toll. The Kovandas soon arrived.

It was a new addition to several observers life list, state list, county list and site list, for those who keep such records.

It is interesting to note that there had been a Eurasian Wigeon at Squaw Creek NWR, southward along the Missouri River valley. A single bird was present on May 12, though it was not observed on May 14, according to reports on the Missouri Birds discussion forum.

It is possible that the Missouri bird decided to visit Nebraska during its wanderings.

Birders at the LaPlatte Bottoms.
Mark Brogie is in the center of the picture, looking northward, into the wind.
Justin Rink is at the right.

There have been no further reports of the vagrant wigeon.

The first Eurasian Wigeon seen at this location was on March 28, 1980 as noted by Ruth Green, formerly a prominent birder in Nebraska.

Wetland Species Diversity

There was a fine bunch of other species present during the site visit.

Canada Goose - 4
Gadwall - 30
Mallard - 2
Blue-winged Teal - 7
Northern Shoveler - 2
Northern Pintail - 1
Ruddy Duck - 2
Pied-billed Grebe - 4
Eared Grebe - 1
Great Blue Heron - 2
Turkey Vulture - 1
Bald Eagle - 1
Red-tailed Hawk - 1
Sora - 2
American Coot - 60
Killdeer - 2
Spotted Sandpiper - 3
Greater Yellowlegs - 1
Lesser Yellowlegs - 1
Semipalmated Sandpiper - 1
Least Sandpiper - 3
White-rumped Sandpiper - 3
Pectoral Sandpiper - 2
Black Tern - 30; first observation for this site in 2011
Eastern Kingbird - 3
Horned Lark - 1
Tree Swallow - 75
Bank Swallow - 2
Cliff Swallow - 65
Barn Swallow - 10
Red-winged Blackbird - 15
Eastern Meadowlark - 1
Yellow-headed Blackbird - 1
Common Grackle - 2
Brown-headed Cowbird - 2

Overall there were 37 species documented.

The Horned Lark was seen at the nearby sod farm, with the Eastern Meadowlark also westward, near the abandoned chemical plant.

A great variety of waterfowl, shorebirds and other birds continue to occur at the wetlands of the LaPlatte Bottoms.