Trip Report 1: Spring in the Nebraska Panhandle – Wildlife

The senses really come alive during the spring in the Panhandle of Nebraska. First, I’ve got to mention the wild thunderstorms. Rain, lightning, thunder all combine to create awesome experiences. Although I’m not a storm chaser I love to watch these powerhouses of weather cross the vast prairies, canyons, and sandhills of western Nebraska. On my recent journey I was soaked, hailed on, and even saw a rainbow or two (Or was that a double rainbow?). Secondly, Nebraska is a haven for all sorts of wildlife, especially birds. If you’re a birder the little lakes in the sandhills are always filled with all sorts of colorful and interesting species. Lastly, the wildflowers. Spiderwort, Milk Vetch, flowering cacti, all combine to bring color to the usually verdant spring prairie. Travelling and discovering all of these natural wonders is one of the best things about being a nature photographer.

Today is the first of three posts from my recent journey to the Nebraska Panhandle. Wildlife is the subject for this one so enjoy all the critters I came across on my travels!

A burrowing owl watches for prey on the Oglala Grasslands from a fencepost.

I couldn’t have a visit to western Nebraska without seeing some burrowing owls! Although the babies are still underground, the adults are very active above ground. This one was on the border of the Oglala Grasslands. I had fun watching him fly, swoop, and observe from this post. A few more shots of him follow.

A burrowing owl scans the ground for potential prey on the Oglala Grasslands in western Nebraska.
An adult burrowing owl watches from his burrow on the Oglala Grasslands in western Nebraska.
Cautiously Watching
A burrowing owl prepares to take flight on a cool spring evening in the pandhandle of western Nebraska.
Preparing to Fly
A baby rabbit chews on some green spring grass near Kearney, Nebraska
Tasty Grass

When driving along Bassway Strip Wildlife Management Area I found myself needing to drive slow for there were baby rabbits everywhere. They must have been very hungry because they could care less I was there!

An American Antelope (Pronghorn) pauses on a hill before heading off in the Sandhills of Nebraska.
Short Pause

Another common sight in western Nebraska is the American Antelope or Pronghorn. These graceful creatures generally turn and run when they see me, but this one decided that I wasn’t a threat.

American Antelope (Pronghorn)
American Antelope (Pronghorn)
Spring Singing
Spring Singing

This Western Meadowlark wouldn’t stop singing to the world. Probably because it was a sunny, beautiful spring day!

A Wilson's Phalarope floats on one of the many small lakes nestled in the valleys of the Sandhills of Nebraska.
Wilson’s Phalarope
A pheasant ducks into the tall grass at Crescent Lake Wildlife Management Area in the Sandhills of Nebraska.
On the Move

I love the colors and pattern of ring-necked pheasants so I almost always stop to photograph them. I caught this one just as he ducked into the grass to get away from me.

A pair of adult burrowing owls watches from their burrow at Crescent Lake Wildlife Management Area in the Sandhills of Nebraska.
Pair of Owls

Besides the Burrowing Owl I found on the Oglala Grasslands several hang out at Crescent Lake Wildlife Management Area. This pair decided to watch me closely while I watched them closely.

A Western Grebe floats on the lake at Smith Lake Wildlife Management Area in the Sandhills of Nebraska.
Western Grebe

The Western Grebe likes to duck underwater. And then not come up. For a long time. The key to photographing them is to get them before they duck!

An American Bittern looks out across a small lake in the Sandhills of Nebraska.
American Bittern

The first time I saw an American Bittern I wasn’t sure what exactly I was looking at. I think he was trying to imitate a stick or something. Don’t worry, I see you, but I won’t come near!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: