Saturday, June 19, 2010

North Dakota Prairie Potholes and All

Yesterday evening I went over to Kelly's Slough NWR which is only 10 miles outside of Grand Forks, ND. I had been there back in 2006, and really liked birding the area. The refuge is surrounded by a mixture of marsh/wetlands and farmland. The top photo above was taken as the sun was setting over the slough.

I returned to the slough this morning before dawn to drive the gravel roads around it looking for a gray partridge. I heard one calling just off the road in some reeds. It called continuously for about 5 minutes and then stopped. I hoped it would walk out on the road, but it did not. I waited for more light before getting out of my truck to see if I could flush the bird, but my search was not successful so this will go down as a heard only bird for now.

As I was driving out of the area I found another short eared owl sitting on a dead snag. I was able to get close enough to actually see the very short "ears" on top of its round head. Before I could get my camera out to try to capture those ears the bird took flight.

I returned to our motel to pick up my wife who had slept in. We then drove to Arrowwood NWR only to find the auto tour route was closed because of a breach in the roadway. We decided to go onto Jamestown and check into our motel. After getting organized and working on the possible birding options for the next couple of days, I got back in the truck and went west into Kidder county which is well known as a good place in North Dakota to look for key prairie birds like baird's sparrow.

I wandered around on the grid of gravel roads north of I-94 and south of ND 36 for 3 hours. The bottom photo above is of an upland sandpiper posing just for me. Actually, it is quite common to find them perched on top of a pole or post here where they breed. I also found several chestnut-collared longspurs which was a new year bird.

Last nite and today added 26 more new birds for this week, and the YTD is now at 617. There is an updated travel map. Tomorrow we will be up very early to go back to Kidder county in search of both the baird's and nelson's sparrows. Stay tuned!

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