Monday, April 27, 2009

A Bit of Old Fashioned Community News

This year's Plover Festival was marked by great fun, great food, wonderful guests, and cooperative birds. The weather was not the 80 degrees that we had all week, but good enough to see birds and enjoy our time.

Our first evening we took a trip to find Mountain Plovers and Burrowing Owls. We were not disappointed in our search. We found our target on the first tour. This was a new life bird for one of our guests. What a thrill this is. We also spent some time trying to find the Swift Fox that is usually hard to find.

We had a sandwiches and a treat of homemade ice cream provided by the Willing Workers while we talked and exchanged stories. Our first star gazing event was not to be. The overcast skies would not disperse and only a handful of stars were seen before bedtime. This was a disappointment after starry nights for several days.

A very early start came for the Karval Alliance members. By 5:00 am we were cooking breakfast for all - a hearty meal before venturing out into the cold morning air. This time we found more Plovers, and the Swift Fox. We wound our way through country roads calling out, "Stop!" Our attentive bus driver was up to the challenge.

We spent the morning at the Weinegar-Davis Ranch. Russell Davis, a gracious host, took us through his productive cow-calf operation. The cattle were certain our bus was a large load of feed and we had quite a following. At one point, it seemed they were all lined up for the port-a-potty. The cool morning slowed the activity of the birds for awhile, but as the chill left, the birds came out. A very knowledgeable crowd was pleasantly instructed in the ecology of the short grass prairie - a meaningful discussion about how to balance ranching and wildlife.

We returned for lunch provided by the Friendship Circle. We then went to Hugo State Wildlife Area and Kinny Lake area to see if we could add to our list of birds. Many Burrowing Owls were seen and a few more Mountain Plovers as well. We encountered new species at the lake and could see side by side views of the Myrtle's and Audubon's Warblers. Western Grebe, American Coot, Spotted Sandpiper, Song and White-Crowned Sparrows, and Northern Harriers were seen.

We had a chuck wagon supper from the Sophomore class. Roast Beef and baked potatoes restored energy in this staging area for birders and community members. The first photo contest winners were announced. Much of the beauty of the area was captured and displayed. Entertainment followed as local students performed along with teachers. Fun, food, and festivities concluded the day with energy and a sense of accomplishment.

Sunday morning brought many of the same crowd out for one last chance to add to the weekend's sightings. Breakfast was again a hearty one put on by the Karval Lions Club. No one should have left hungry after another excellent meal. Time was then spent on a bus crawling through fields - a visit to Karval Lake and the old Peyton Ranch with mixed grass habitat with Dan Merewether leading the way. The weather improved as the day wore on. Lunch was served by the Karval FFA. Bellies full and sun in the sky made for sleepy, happy birders returning home after a great weekend in the short grass prairie surrounding Karval. A great Big thanks goes out to all the community groups and experts who made this another successful Plover Festival.

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