Sunday, June 27, 2010

Birds from Potholes and Prairies

Swainson's Hawk - taken through a fogged-up bus window, this photo does not do him justice.
Ferruginous Hawk - nearly as big as an eagle, and even more impressive when seen perched by the side of the road, on the right-of-way post, and showing all his field marks.
White Pelican. Not a life bird for me, but I still gasped every time I saw these guys. Big white birds impress southern Ohio birders - we don't see too many in our local patches.
Western Grebe - Lifer! Later, I also saw the Clark's Grebe, which looks very similar. My 1980 4th edition of Peterson's Field Guide, eastern version, shows the Clark's as a pale morph of the Western. By the time my third edition of Peterson's Western Birds was published, in 1990, the Western Grebe was split and Clark's Grebe was named as a separate species.
Say's Phoebe - another Lifer.

Common (formerly Wilson's) Snipe was not a life species, but this behavior was quite new for me. I'm used to snipes staying low on the ground, not T-ed up on fence posts. This must be a prairie thing, as we saw many birds doing this.
Bobolinks. Lovely to see and to listen to, trouble to photograph. Here are my best efforts.
One of the fun things about North Dakota is how East meets West. This was really driven home to me by the overlap of two tyrant flycatcher species - the Eastern Kingbird, which lives and nests in my back yardand the very different Western Kingbird, a new species for me.
The Western Meadowlark looks nearly identical to the more familiar eastern species, but his song was quite different.
The ubiquitous Red-winged Blackbird was joined by the beautiful, but much less musical, Yellow-headed Blackbird, a very shy guy when it comes to having his picture taken.
All in all, I got 107 species of birds in four days, including the following 25 Life Birds:

Sharp-tailed Grouse
Red-necked Grebe
Western Grebe
Clark's Grebe
Swainson's Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk
Yellow Rail (heard only)
Piping Plover
American Avocet
Upland Sandpiper
Marbled Godwit
White-rumped Sandpiper
Wilson's Phalarope
Say's Phoebe
Western Kingbird
Loggerhead Shrike
Spague's Pipit
Clay-colored Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Baird's Sparrow
LeConte's Sparrow
Nelson's (Sharp-tailed) Sparrow
Chestnut-collared Longspur
Western Meadowlark

In addition, I saw my first USA Grey Partridge (my Lifer was in Scotland in 1999) and a Krider's hawk (not a separate species, but a pale morph of Red-tailed Hawk.)

I definitely recommend the Potholes and Prairies birding festival of North Dakota for both
eastern and western birders. Look in your favorite field guide. This is where the range maps overlap, and everybody has a chance of seeing some life birds.

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