Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Day five: Big sky, big day!

I'll be honest, if I ever do this over again, it will be very different.  I will probably skip Minot entirely.  Gasp!  Of course, I cannot blame the bad weather of the past two days on Minot, North Dakota.  But, I am enjoying Montana so much more.  It is the difference between night and day.
I got off around 5:30 am this morning and happy to leave Minot behind.  I was enroute to ...
... just north of Culbertson.  My friend, Steve, really plugged this place and I am so happy he did.  The weather was still cool, but not raining and every so often the sun would peak through.  And, the birds were great.  Here I was reminded (I had forgotten this and have been trying to get it back) that birding is fun.  
I didn't count, but it is possible that I saw at least two dozen Chestnut-collared Longspurs (Calcarius ornatus) here in just about every pose. What a fun bird!
Marbled Godwits (Limosa fedoa) were pretty common.  They announce their presence with a very distinctive vocalization that I don't think I have heard before now.
While photographing the Chestnut-collared Longspur, I came across this nest of large light green eggs.  It was clearly not predated, but the eggs were all tidily clumped together.  I asked the refuge staff what bird these belonged to.  One of the guys guessed Northern Pintail (Anas acuta), but there is no down in the nest amongst the eggs.  Another guy offered, quite definitively, that the nest belonged to Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus).
There were plenty of Ring-necked Pheasants around, so his guess is very likely correct.  I've seen many pheasants in Detroit, but these guys were so ornate and appeared to be much larger than our Detroit pheasants. 
Common, common bird out here - seen and heard everywhere.  But, no matter how common, when I get a good photo, I have to include it - Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta).
Here's a bird and photo I am proud of.  Steve had suggested that I would get good views of Baird's here.  This Baird's Sparrow (Ammodramus bairdii) was a singing beauty.  How did I get this photo?  I crawled on my hands and knees and kept shooting as I got closer and closer. Finally, he flew into the grass, but he had already given me a huge treat. 
Terrible photo of a vocalizing Yellow-headed Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus) and there is no excuse for it.  I was very close to this bird.  I include it here because they were everywhere and because it reminds me of another bird seen.  As I was taking these photos, my car fan went off and flushed an American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) from the nearby reeds and I watched if fly across the lake.
Other good birds on the lake were Wilson's Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor) above and Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigicollis) below were amongst all of the other waterfowl that I have been seeing all along my trip.  I also saw one Western/Clark's Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis/clarkii) but it was too far away to tell which one it was.
The next bird was completely fun and so cooperative.  I probably took twenty-five photos of this bird as he flew from fence post to fence post.  I just moved my car up along with him and kept shooting.  Every so often he gave his airy vocalization which I love - qui-di-di-do - and when standing on the post he would make his chattering sound.
Chattering away.
Taking off.  From here he flew into the grass and that was the end of my photo shot.  What a fun bird!
I've been seeing American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) since arriving in North Dakota. Medicine Lake NWR even has an area called Pelican Point.  Earlier I had seen a large flock circling in the distance.  This bird was all by itself just circling and circling.  

Finally, I came to the end of the Medicine Lake NWR.  What a great place!  I made my way back to Highway 2 West - my route this whole trip.  I decided to aim for Havre.  I had hoped to make it to Shelby, but given the length of time I remained at the refuge that would have made just too much driving for today.  Instead I just drove along and stopped to take photos along the way.  I found the Pronghorn Antelope below in a roadside prairie field.  I was standing in the grass alongside the fence to take this photo.  A couple of Native American guys pulled up to ask if I was okay.  I asked what the deer were, just to make sure.  I told them that I was from Michigan and we don't have Pronghorn in Michigan.  
There were four Pronghorn Antelope, but this photo of only two turned out best.

Along the route west I saw two different Black-billed Magpies (Pica hudsonia) life bird for me, one just east of Glasgow and the other as I was getting closer to Havre.  I also saw one breeding plumage Lark Bunting (Calamospiza melanocorys).  
I finally arrived in Havre around 6:00 pm and selected to stay at the Siesta Motel on Highway 2 (called First St. in town) because the sign said Rooms with Wireless Internet.  That was all I needed.  At $55 this is the best place that I have stayed, especially with my love for staying at family-owned motels.  Montana towns are very interesting.  They all have huge grain elevators.  I really liked this view from my motel balcony.

On the recommendation of the motel owner, I had dinner at Uncle Joe's.  I sat at the bar and noticed that they had my friend Steve's favorite Montana beer on tap.  I tipped two Moose Drools for Steve in appreciation of his recommendation to stop at Medicine Lake NWR.  

1 comment:

Jerry Jourdan said...

Wonderful reports, Cathy! Keep 'em coming! I so want to get out that way....