|Rolling Hills and Pothole Lakes|
I studied every bird I thought I might find in North Dakota. I even looked at Google Maps to see where I had to drive. But in the end, I really had no idea what to expect about the state itself. The bottom line is that North Dakota is gorgeous in May! I loved the rolling hills, the open spaces, and vast expanse of the sky. And it was very, very green.
The first stop on my trip was Audubon NWR. As soon as I turned onto the entrance road, there was a small pond to my right, and around it were a group of Yellow-headed Blackbirds (above, right). I've seen a few of them in Florida, but none of them were quite like this. It was a spectacular combination of black and gold! Such a beautiful bird.
|Eared Grebes at Lostwood NWR|
Much of the Auto Tour was like the one at Audubon filled with gorgeous ducks and other waterfowl. And there were some really nice surprises along the way too. At one stop, a Nelson's Sparrow sang and then came into view. At another, Wilson's Phalaropes walked the water's edge and swam just offshore. Another stop offered wonderful looks at Canvasbacks and Redheads. At a fourth, a Black-crowned Night-Heron flew over. This was shaping up to be a terrific morning.
But there was a single disappointment. I heard Baird's Sparrow singing in at least four locations along the Auto Tour. I won't count a heard-only bird on my life list, so failing to see it was frustrating. I hoped I'd get another shot at it.
My final destination for the day was Des Lacs NWR. I drove toward the town of Bowbells, crossed Upper Des Lacs Lake, and eventually turned south along its eastern side. At a small bridge over a little stream, a flock of Cliff Swallows criss-crossed the road in a mad feeding frenzy. A short while later a couple of Upland Sandpipers appeared on top of a power pole. American Goldfinches and Yellow Warblers graced the roadside trees. White Pelicans floated on the lake. Here a Least Flycatcher vocalized and showed itself; there a Clay-colored Sparrow sat up and sang.
The first two days wrapped up with about 63 species and one life bird. My goal for this trip was not numbers. I was after a few lifers and great looks at ducks, grebes and other water birds that I never get to see in breeding plumage. Undoubtedly, the first two days were a great success.
|Gadwall at Audubon NWR|
|This Ruddy Duck is looking good!|
|Canada Geese herding the little ones to safety.|
|Upland Sandpiper fleeing from the paparazzi.|
|The Auto Tour at Lostwood.|
|Brewer's Blackbird with nest building on her mind.|
|Northern Pintail at Audubon NWR|