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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Prairie Potholes Birding Festival

Some may say I am crazy for waking up at 3am during the weekend to look at birds in a field but they will likely never experience such an exciting and memorable weekend in their life. The tour bus was full of people from all walks of life, from all parts of the country and world. In fact, I sat next to a guy from the neighboring town of my hometown in Massachusetts. Small world!

So I began the trip as a stubborn beginner who favors flora over most anything and ended as a passionate birder. That's right I said it. And I even have a "list" now, which is packed full of prairie birds such as the highly saught after "big three" grassland sparrows: LeCount's, Nelson's, and Baird's along with many others. A truly unforgettable weekend that will stay with me to the end. 

On the hunt for Sprague's pippet.
Searching for the Baird's and Nelson's sparrows. 

Along the way, we stumbled upon an old buffalo wallow, which was used in historic times by buffalo to scratch their itchy hides. The soil surrounding the rock has been removed or compacted from traveling herds in need of a scratch.

A marbled godwit fluttering above our spotting scopes.

A willet flying by.

 A lifer for even some of the most experienced birders on the trip - a white-faced ibis. This species was a nice surprise considering they are somewhat uncommon in ND.

Nelson's sparrow showing off his ochre head striping. 

 Another grassland sparrow - clay colored sparrow. We also found many grasshopper, swamp, and savannah sparrows.

 A nest of the grassland bird, the chestnut collard longspur.

 Of course I had to catch up to the rest of the group a couple of times as I passed many prairie wildflowers such as the western wallflower and an old prairie crocus which already flowered this season.

Prairie smoke in bloom!

Other lifers for me include the Townsend's solitaire, Virginia rail, sora, cattle egret, snowy egret, Swainson's hawk, among many more. All in all, an unforgettable weekend!