Around 1:15 this afternoon I observed a small flock of Smith's Longspurs
fly into the northeast corner of the buffalo pen at Blue Mounds State Park.
This was about 300 yards south of the beach parking lot along the hiking
trail adjacent to the buffalo fence. I was able to hear the birds giving
their diagnostic rattle calls in flight, which have been described by
others as "slower and lower" or "more cowbird-like" compared to the rattles
of Lapland Longspurs. Also, I have yet to hear a Smith's give a "dew" call,
which Laplands often (but not always) give in flight.
Querying the MOU database this is allegedly a first county record, although
this is as much an artifact of little observer coverage during the species'
short migration window in the fall in western MN (around the third and
fourth week of October) as anything else. The habitat looks great for
Smith's in several locations throughout the park right now, characterized
by short grasses (including large areas grazed by the buffalo) interspersed
with flat quartzite outcrops. For comparison, The Nature Conservancy's Red
Rock Prairie is located in Cottonwood County some 75 miles northeast of
Blue Mounds as the longspur flies, and that location has nearly identical
habitat and has been a consistent spot for Smith's around this time for
many years now.
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