The COS trip to the Newton-Prairie Ridge area was a big success.  Our group was led by Dr. Jeff Walk of The Nature Conservancy.   Jeff grew up in the area and knows it well.   On Saturday, we scoured farm fields in the Newton-Prairie Ridge area.   While we missed Upland Sandpiper and Smith’s Longspur, everyone had fabulous looks at a very cooperative Loggerhead Shrike.  Other highlights included Northern Harrier, Northern Bobwhite, Henslow’s Sparrow, LeConte’s Sparrow, and Yellow-throated Warbler.  As Saturday was winding down, we ‘chased’ huge flocks of Pectoral Sandpipers and American Golden Plovers that seemed to be flying in from all directions.  We finally located a couple of fields where the birds had landed and had amazing looks at both the sandpipers and plovers.  Jeff estimated that on Saturday we saw approximately 5,000 American Golden Plovers and 3,000 Pectoral Sandpipers.   I’ll never forget the sight of all those birds!  

On Sunday, we left the hotel at 4:15 a.m. and arrived at the Prairie Ridge State Natural Area office by 5:00.  We were guided to the blinds by Bob Shelby, Leroy Harrison and a very bright, beautiful moon.   Shortly before 6:00, Prairie Chickens began to show up.  The males displayed, sparred, jumped and boomed while the lone female basically ignored them.  When the birds were done with the show, we left the blinds and headed home. Many thanks to Dr. Jeff Walk for escorting our group as well as to Bob Shelby and Leroy Harrison at the Prairie Ridge office.

- post contributed by Sigrid Schmidt

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