Around 4:00 this afternoon Chad Gustafson and I found 4 Smith's
Longspurs at the WMA one mile north of the town of Nicollet on the
east side of Hwy. 111 in Nicollet County. The birds were frequenting
the grassy area between the first wetland and the farm fields east of
the parking lot.
As we initially flushed the birds, we could hear the longspur rattles
given in flight but as they did not make the usual "dew" calls often
heard from flocks of Laplands I was immediately interested in the 4
birds. They circled overhead for a bit and eventually at close range
we were able to see entire lemon-yellow underparts as well as a black
"hood," indicating breeding plumaged Smith's. Additionally in flight
the upper wing coverts stuck out as being bright white and obvious,
which is a characteristic I have found to be quite noticeable on
Smith's in the past. We followed these birds as they landed in the
grass again and were able to get a few quick looks through binoculars,
confirming their i.d. on the ground.
Chad was able to get a few shots in flight that, when significantly
cropped, actually show the yellow underparts as well as the diagnostic
hood and head pattern. A photo will be posted to the "Recently Seen"
page later. This is a first county record and one of the few records
away from "known" locations in the state, although as many longspurs
are difficult to see well and at close range I'm guessing there are
more that go through undetected.
Bob Dunlap, Nicollet County
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