Nebraska Birding Hot Spot – Calamus Outfitters and Reservoir

By Joe Sebastiani, Seasonal Program Team Leader

Delaware Nature Society Nebraska Trip: Part II

There is plenty to keep a group of birders busy near the Switzer Family Ranch, otherwise known as Calamus Outfitters, when not watching Greater Prairie-chickens and Sharp-tailed Grouse.  After a morning of chicken-watching, we circled the 11-mile long Calamus Reservoir which is directly across the street from the ranch.  The reservoir is haven for thousands of migrating waterfowl, American White Pelicans, gulls, and Bald Eagles.  Lots of Bald Eagles.  In the winter, shad die in the reservoir, then after ice-out, they float to the surface.  This is a feast for the eagles.  In previous years, I thought 40 or 50 eagles was good.  This year, we estimated 800 Bald Eagles on the Calamus River, Reservoir, and on the ranch.  Yes, 800.

We estimated 800 Bald Eagles to be at the Calamus Reservoir on the Delaware Nature Society trip to Nebraska this past March. Photo by Hank Davis.

While sorting through flocks of Bald Eagles, we found other birds.  I bet that when you think of Nebraska, pelicans aren’t the first thing that jump to your mind.  Well, American White Pelicans breed in prairie wetlands and lakes of North America, and migrate through the Great Plains.  We always find some at the Calamus Reservoir.  This year, there was a flock of about 100 feeding and lingering on the water.  These amazing birds are huge, brilliant white and black, and are a thrill to see cruising over the water.

An American White Pelican glides over the water at the Calamus Reservoir in Nebraska. The horn on top of the bill always takes me by surprise. Photo by Hank Davis.

The list of birds that use the reservoir as a stopover is long.  We found 19 species of waterfowl (that’s slang for ducks, geese, and swans) including a Tundra Swan which is rare in Nebraska, and 62 species of birds overall.  A special highlight for me was seeing both the Northern Shrike and the Loggerhead Shrike in the area.  The Northern was at the end of the Calamus outfitters driveway!  Enjoy some photos from our day around the reservoir. 

A Harris's Sparrow is a fairly common wintering bird in the central great plains. Photo by Hank Davis.
You can see why a Western Meadowlark is the state bird of Nebraska, they are absolutely everywhere and their song is the overwhelming sound of the prairie in March. Photo by Hank Davis.
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Your first reaction to seeing a flock of Wild Turkey running scared is to laugh. I am glad Ben Franklin did not get his way to have this bird be our national symbol. No one laughs when you see a Bald Eagle…unless you are giddy from seeing 800 of them. Photo by Hank Davis.

More highlights from the Delaware Nature Society Nebraska trip to follow in a few more blogs…

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