US Fish and Wildlife

Check out stories from birder Sebastian Patti about his experience participating in Christmas Bird Counts in Kansas and Oklahoma. These stories were originally published in the 111th American Birds Annual Report.


"I've been birding in southwestern Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle for nearly 50 years, and participating on CBCs there for 40 of those years. Though not necessarily on most birders' "must visit" list, this is a part of the world that I love. The combination of excellent birds, beautiful scenery, and friendly, welcoming people surely ought to make this a major birding destination for all serious birders. This region is truly a transition area, with eastern bird species often seen in close association with western ones. It's where you can find a male Baltimore Oriole perched in a tree next to a female Bullock's during migration, see an Eastern Wood-Pewee sitting near a Western on a power line, hear the "bouncing ball" call of a Western Screech-Owl a quarter-mile downstream from the whinny of an Eastern in the cottonwoods on the Cimarron River, or hear the chip of a Myrtle Warbler next to the "hink" of an Audubon's. In short, it is where the Great Plains gives way to the Rocky Mountains and the great American Midwest meets the rough-and-tumble culture of the West."

A Kansas Snow Storm

"On one Cimarron National Grassland CBC a few years back, it snowed the night before the count; then it snowed some more, and it snowed yet again. By morning more than six feet of snow had accumulated with fiercely blowing north winds creating 10-foot drifts. Because of a nasty ice storm, I was the only birder who was able to make it to Elkhart the day before the count. To add insult to injury, of course, the area lost electric power sometime in the middle of the night. Needless to say, access was nearly impossible for most areas, but I was able to bird all day around the town of Elkhart once some of the town's streets had been bladed, and I ended up with a fairly decent species total. Every bird feeder in town was well patronized, and because of the heavy snow cover, most of the birds tended to flock together in search of food. What was really wonderful, however, was to see how everyone banded together to help others out. The local restaurant opened up its doors, fired up its gas grill, and was able to feed--at no charge--anyone who was able to walk through the front door. The local gas station had an above-ground gasoline storage tank (no electricity, no gas pumps) and siphoned off gasoline for stranded travelers' cars, charging on the honor system based upon how much the siphoned gas moved the car's gas gauge. The local tavern was a hoot, as you might imagine. Small town, beer-assisted, a cappella karaoke should be experienced at least once in a lifetime. "

A Rare Sighting

"Of course, nothing will get the old adrenaline flowing quite like seeing a rare bird on a CBC, and we've certainly had more than our fair share of rarities on both the Kenton and the Cimarron counts. And the adrenaline flows the fastest, of course, when you find a first state record. Birders were treated to such an event on the Kenton, Oklahoma, count in 1975 when we discovered the first Pyrrhuloxia seen and photographed in the state. In what can only be called an odd coincidence, birders in 1989 discovered the remains of Kansas' first Pyrrhuloxia on the Cimarron count. The bird had been found in early November, and its feathers were discovered in the same locale on the CBC that year."

Read Sebastian's full story here: