Sunday, June 7, 2009

Day three: Prairie potholes

I departed my Duluth, Minnesota Motel 6 in gray, rainy and cold weather which stayed with me all day and gave me an incentive to push on all the way to Minot.  Almost as soon as I crossed the border into North Dakota and once getting out of Grand Forks, I was immediately in the midst of prairie potholes.  I haven't made my list today, but I must have at least ten species of waterfowl viewed in hundreds of prairie potholes.  These pools of water, some small, some medium and some large, can be viewed from alongside Highway 2.  I certainly could not stop at each!
This prairie pothool hosted a Black-crowned Night-heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) and a male Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola).

All of the following photos were taken on a road lined with prairie fields and potholes on my way to finding the Buffalo Lodge Lake Area just east of Granville.  As it turned out the road to this birding spot was closed - it appeared permanently - but the birding was very good all along the roads and fields to this area.  In addition to the birds shown below, I also saw one Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda).  Franklin Gulls (Larus pipixcan) were seen while driving, but I did not get the nice up close looks that I still hope for.
I'm not good at differentiating Common and Forster's terns, but I have finally decided that this is a Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) found flying over another prairie pothole.
Now that's a "stiff" tail (Oxyura jamaicensis), found with his mate in the same prairie pothole that the tern was fishing in.
I kept hearing a different chip note.  It came from here, it came from there and so I finally decided to get out of the car in the rain to find the source.  My friend, Steve, had told me that I could expect to hear Western Meadowlarks (Sturnella neglecta) everywhere and he was right. This bird has both a nice chip note and song.  This bird was definitely not eating this juicy meal. I'm sure there was a nest nearby.
A few Western Kingbirds (Tyrannus verticalis) were around.
A singing Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum) was a real treat singing his long bubbly song.  What is it about ammodramus sparrows that makes them so darn cute?
Grasshopper Sparrow.
This singing Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) launched into his display pose while perched on the fence.
Finally, the bird of the day for me.  I was still trying to figure out what it was when it began singing.  What a minute ... that's not a Grasshopper Sparrow as I was trying to make it out to be.  It's a Baird's Sparrow (Ammodramus bairdii)!  He stayed perched on the fence long enough for me to take a dozen photos - none of which turned out any better than this.  Tomorrow is another day.  I have my fingers crossed.    

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