May 13: Grasslands National Park. On the road to Val Marie, which is the town with headquarters for the park, we found our first warblers! In a row of bushes along a farmer’s field, a Ruby-crrowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Yellow Warbler!
We love Grasslands – an oasis for grassland species, including the elusive Burrowing Owl. We were hopeful we would spot at least one – and one it was. Unfortunately it was waaaaay too far away for a photo. It finds an unusued burrow in a prairie dog community (or maybe it just takes one?).
The prairie dogs were very vocal, chirping to each other, bobbing up and down, running around – in general it looked like they were having a great time! They’re about 10 times the size of a ground squirrel. Also near the entrance (and in a few other spots) the bison is making a return to this area.
I loved this one buried in dried grass – some pair of horns!
We did have a close encounter however – actually more than once! Impressive beasts!
We’d hoped for Chestnut-collared Longspurs and managed to capture it from side view as well as its black belly! There was a little more traffic than we expected, but we did see a couple of other birders. Some people just barrelled through at full speed!
We didn’t expect to find an American Bittern here – but we saw it both coming and going. It pretends to be grass amongst the reeds. These reeds were just a little too underdeveloped.
In the same little slough, a Solitary Sandpiper
Sharp-tailed Grouse have an excellent camouflage. If we hadn’t seeen it cross the road, probably wouldn’t have spotted it.
As well as deer and antelope (yep, it’s where they play – on the range), we also spotted a couple of coyotes. This is a pretty good lookin’ one who seemed more curious than afraid.
This Harris’ Sparrow is only seen on migration, since it nests in the arctic. We saw one in AZ 2 winters ago, and before that it had been quite a few years! The other sparrow which gave us a thrill was Grasshopped Sparrow! Only our 2nd one – and no view – just its song! We added 14 species to our list on this trip – making our 3-day total 99! Pretty good! Had dinner with Karen and Harold at one of their favourite restaurants – Akropol. A great time was had by all, though too short! May 14: This morning I heard a House Finch singing in the RV park – our 100th bird! This is the final day birding this area and we decided to go to Nelson Reservoir east of town.
First bird on a fencepost alongside a slough was this Wilson’s Snipe. He chattered at us in protest of us taking his photo! We saw a pair of Forster’s Terns last time we were at the reservoir. Not so lucky this time.
Here are a couple of views of a Common Tern. They were vocal as they hunted along the shoreline road.
Insects are hatching at a great rate. Evidenced by the number of swallows hawking over the water. Here are some of the swallows we saw when they perched on some twigs on shore. On the left a pair of Barn Swallows – on the right 2 Bank Swallows on the top-to-bottom branch and 2 Cliff Swallows on the lower branches.
There were hundreds of Western Grebes, but we were lucky to see a double-headed one, along with the regulars. No Clark’s.
There don’t seem to be many hawks yet. The most common we see are Swainson’s and one Northern Harrier. One is again nesting near our home which we observe flying up and down the river. This one sat on a post but when it flew off, it landed on another and they mated (had sex?).
The last new species near the reservoir was a Loggerhead Shrike. It kept moving a few more fence posts away each time we got closer to take its photo. Bill finally stopped the truck and got out, since he was shooting on my side of the road. We headed back to town, stopping to fill up our truck with diesel fuel and our propane tank for – we leave tomorrow. Then off to a slough on the west end of town, pretty much behind Wilf and sons’ Cypress Motors. Just south of the railroad tracks.
Around the corner Stilt Sandpipers probed the mud alongside Long-billed Dowitchers. The big one in front in the dowitcher – 2 behind sandpipers. Then it was back into town the back way to see if we could find a Eurasian Collared Dove. Ron, who used to live here, took us through the residential area to find one another time. Luck was on our side – got ‘im! That was 9 new species today! Off to S’toon tomorrow!
So. A day in the Toon to shop and get ready for the Park. A gorgeous day with high about 20C and low winds. Awesome! This is where our friend Ron now lives. He had a pretty rare moment the other day and I can’t resist sharing this with you all.
This Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was seen on the outskirts of the ‘toon! It is the Oklahoma State bird, and that is where I saw my first many years ago while visiting Bill’s Mom.
Arrived in Waskesiu early-ish, about 11 AM. The only bird I heard while still outside was a Winter Wren somewhere off in the bush. No Tennessee Warblers, nor even a Ruby-crowned Kindlet! Got set up, but it was cool and windy, so didn’t even go for a drive. It’s packed with people here. We did go out for dinner to the Hawood (very good meal). The next day it was also cool and windy, so another day inside. We watched Canada beat Russia in the world hockey championships. Bill watched his backetball team (the Clippers) get beat in the 7th game of that series. I didn’t even do my makeup!!! Only happens a few times a year!
May 18: A much nicer day with low winds and highs around 14C. Off to Mud Creek, our favourite hiking trail. It is still pretty early, hardly any trees with leaves and ground cover just starting to spring up on the forest floor. We netted 30 species in the park so far. Not many photos, but here is a 1st for us in this park:
Harris’ Sparrow. Moe had just seen some in Birch Hills, so I guess they’re still on their way north!
These female Common Mergansers were sitting on a grassy knoll in the creek.
The first marsh marigolds were blooming, and lots of early blue violets. A beautiful day!