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A Report from birdtours.co.uk

North Central USA - N & S Dakota and Minnesota,

Gruff Dodd

12 - 20 June, 1999

Gruff Dodd, 2 Clos Tawe, Barri, Bro Morgannwg, Cymru/Wales; Gruff@doddg.freeserve.co.uk

Participants:

Paul Clack (England) - PC, Jan-Joost Bouwman (Netherlands) - JB (Jan-Joost.Bouwman@comsys.nl), Gruff Dodd (Wales) - GD   

Introduction & Strategy

This trip was, I believe, fairly unique in that it was organised entirely through EBN, and the three participants were complete strangers until the start of the trip.  Back in January 1999 GD placed an advert on EBN asking if anyone fancied a trip to the USA, sharing costs, and after a few replies PC and JB were eventually confirmed as co-tourists.  In the event the trip was extremely successful, with all of us getting along well, despite many late nights, early mornings, and long days in the field and on the road.

The destination was also somewhat experimental - I doubt if North & South Dakota and Minnesota are among the first places to spring to mind when European, or even North American birders are planning a trip to that continent.  However, that was part of the attraction.  On paper, the area seemed to have an extremely impressive bird list, and the lack of attention from visiting birders was intriguing.  This was especially true given the number of highly localised birds in the area, many of which are high up on the want lists of many US birders, e.g. Baird's Sparrow, Sprague's Pipit, Yellow Rail, Connecticut Warbler etc.  Also, GD and JB had previously made several trips to North America, but none to anywhere near this area, so there were plenty of lifers on offer.

The original plan had been to fly into and out of Winnipeg, and bird southern Manitoba and North Dakota.  However, after doing a great deal of planning work, we found ourselves totally unable to find reasonably priced flights to Winnipeg.  Casting our net further afield, we eventually had to settle for flying into Rapid City, and out of Minneapolis, which was great in that it gave us a chance to bird the Black Hills.  However, having booked the flights, we found ourselves struggling to find a car rental company willing to both give us an unlimited mileage package and take the car into Canada.  Eventually, we reluctantly abandoned the Manitoba part of the trip, and included NE Minnesota instead.

In the event, the trip fully lived up to its potential, and we recorded a very creditable 207 species in just over 8 days, which compares very favourably to other areas.  To put this into context, I recently made a one week trip to The Gambia, which produced 180 species.  Highlights included 20 species of warbler, 18 sparrows, 8 woodpeckers, 17 species of wildfowl and 13 raptors.

Logistics and costs

GD and PC flew from London Heathrow to Rapid City, South Dakota, with United Airlines.  JB had decided on a longer trip, and thus went out to North Carolina for two weeks prior to the North Central trip.  He flew from Raleigh/Durham into Minneapolis with Continental, picked up a hire car, and drove over to the rendezvous at Rapid City Airport, a ten hour drive.  Our route took us northwards through South Dakota into North Dakota, with a slight detour into eastern Wyoming, then east through North Dakota to the Duluth area of Minnesota, and finally south to Minneapolis, from where we returned home, GD and PC to London, and JB to Amsterdam, both with United Airlines.

GD and PC's flights were booked through Airline Network (0800 727747).  The outward leg went via Newark (disembark & immigration) and Denver, while the return leg stopped off in Chicago.  The fare was 453 pounds per person, all-inclusive.  Flight times were as follows:

Outwards

Depart Heathrow 12.6.99  10:00,  arrive Rapid City 12.6.99  20:00

 

 

Return

Depart Minneapolis 20.6.99  15:00,  arrive Heathrow 21.6.99  07:00

JB's flight was booked through BTI in the Netherlands. The return flight had plane changes in Chicago, Washington D.C. and London Heathrow.  Departure from Minneapolis was at 12.00 on June 20th, arrival at Heathrow at 05.00 and at Schiphol, Amsterdam at 11.00 the 21st.

Rapid City was 7 hours ahead of London in June, while Minneapolis was 6 hours ahead.  The time zone runs through the middle of North and South Dakota - more about that later!

Car hire was arranged in advance through Avis, by JB from The Netherlands.  We opted for a full size car, a big Buick saloon, at an all inclusive rate of USD 479 (300 pounds) for nine days.  We drove some 4,400 miles on the trip, although it didn't really feel like so many, because the car was very comfortable to drive. It also had cruise control, which was very welcome.  Petrol cost between USD 1.13 and USD 1.30 per US gallon - very cheap by European standards!

Keep your eye on the speed limits, as they can be rigidly enforced.  Apparently, the level of fines are quite small (USD 1 for every m.p.h. over the limit, up to the first ten, and USD 2 for each m.p.h. thereafter), but I'd prefer to avoid the hassle.  Having said that, the US is a big country, and the Dakotas feel even bigger than most places, so the temptation to speed is quite strong!

Money

The exchange rate during the time of our visit was approximately 1 pound = USD 1.60.  This is the rate of exchange I have used in translating costs throughout this report.

Visa and Mastercard were widely accepted in hotels, restaurants, shops etc and we used cards for many such purchases throughout.  We also took a mixture of cash and USD travellers' cheques, the latter could be used as cash in petrol stations etc, with change given.

Bird Guides

We were extremely fortunate in securing the assistance of many local birders during our visit, all of whom gave us considerable assistance in the field, and helped us see some of the most special birds of the trip.  Further details are given under Acknowledgements, and in the Daily Account section of the report.

We only hired one professional guide, namely Mike Hendrickson in Duluth, for nearly two days.  Mike can be contacted by e-mail on twitcher@cp.duluth.mn.us, by phone on 218-626-2268, or by snail-mail at 9005 Lenroot Street, Duluth, Minnesota.  Mike really knows the birds and the sites in NE Minnesota, and is very entertaining company in the field.  His fee was USD 10 per hour, regardless of how many there are in the group, although check with Mike for up to date rates.

Accommodation

With the exception of the first night in Rapid City and one night in Duluth we didn't book motels in advance, but looked for accommodation when we arrived at our overnight destination.  Most nights we stayed in large chain motels - Econolodge were particularly useful in that they provided a third roll-out bed at a small extra charge.  The total accommodation cost for three people for 8 nights was USD 628 (393 pounds).

We stayed at the following establishments:

12.6 - Motel 6, Rapid City, SD (USD 59 - 37 pounds)
13.6 - Motel 6, Rapid City, SD (2 rooms) (USD 106 - 66 pounds)
14.6 - Canyon Gateway Motel, Spearfish, SD (2 rooms) (USD 86 - 54 pounds)
15.6 - Dakota Inn, Minot, ND (USD 50 - 31 pounds)
16.6 - Econolodge, Grand Forks, ND (USD 50 - 31 pounds)
17.6 - Econolodge, Duluth, MN (USD 75 - 47 pounds)
18.6 - Econolodge, Duluth, MN (USD 106 - 66 pounds)
19.6 - Days Inn, Minneapolis, MN (USD 97 - 61 pounds)

One final note on accommodation is that prices in Duluth were higher than normal because of the annual Duluth Marathon. In fact motels several hours south of Duluth were booked solid because of this event.

Food

Food was again very reasonable compared to the UK, but we soon got fed-up with constant fast food, despite the enormous variety!  At least we were very rarely far away from some food or other, although most of it consisted of snacks from petrol stations.

Red tape

We were required to disembark at Newark Airport, New Jersey, and proceed through immigration and customs, including completing a visa waiver form, and customs declaration form.  Make sure you hand in the visa waiver form when you leave the country, or it could cause problems when trying to enter the country in future.  After that, there was no red tape whatsoever to overcome.

Telephone

Public phones were plentiful, although the variety of phone companies was a little baffling.  Many offered free local calls, although long distance calls were quite expensive.  The easiest solution was to buy a pre-paid phone card (typically USD 10) from a petrol station, or bring one from home.  These involved phoning an operator number, dialling in the ID number on the card, and then the destination phone number.  A little long-winded, but it worked quite well, especially for international calls.

Weather

The weather was generally warm and dry.  In the prairie areas, it tended to rain, (sometimes showers, but once very heavy rain) in late afternoon, but it generally dried up before dark, and so didn't disrupt the birding too much.  However, on the night we arrived, the Black Hills were being subjected to a big storm, with thunder, lightning and huge hailstones.  We were still finding golf ball sized hailstones as late as the next afternoon.  This caused JB significant problems on his drive from Minneapolis to Rapid City, and delayed him by about an hour.

Health & safety

It quickly became a standing joke on the trip that we'd all be happy to make it home alive, such was the variety of dangers and annoyances which seem to dog every American birder's life!  If it wasn't the possibility of encountering a herd of angry bison, or being chased by a bear, there was always the risk of Lyme Disease, rattlesnakes, poison ivy, hurricanes or freak hailstone showers!  As for the mosquitoes ..!!

In truth, the risks are pretty low, as long as you're careful.  We have set out below some general advice given to us, although several different opinions were heard, and we accept no responsibility for death, dismemberment or nasty rashes resulting from following these tips!! 

Black bears are present throughout NE Minnesota, and we actually came across a female and her three cubs.  If one attacks you don't run (they're quicker than you) or climb a tree (they're better climbers too!).  The advice generally given is to lie on the floor, curl up into the foetus position, with your hands over the back of your neck, and keep still - the bear should lose interest quite quickly.  Never get aggressive, shout or throw things - that will just enrage it, especially if it has cubs.  Normally, they smell you long before you see them, and give you a wide birth.

There are Mountain Lions in the Black Hills, although you'd be very lucky to see one.  If one does show too much of an interest, the advice is the complete opposite of dealing with bears.  Make yourself as big as possible, scream and shout, and throw things at it - it should persuade it to push off.

The risk of injury from Bison in places such as Custer State Park is probably much greater than that of either of the above.  They are very big animals, weighing up to a ton, and can be quite short-tempered especially when they have calves.  Just stay in your car, and don't provoke them.  We saw a number of tourists getting much too close and poking cameras in their faces - unbelievably stupid.  If one does charge, your best bet is to either climb a tree, or get one between it and you.  They have very poor eyesight, so standing still on the other side of a tree should persuade it to lose interest.

There are certainly plenty of snakes in the area, especially in the prairies and the Black Hills, and some like the rattlesnakes are venomous.  Your biggest risk is to step on one inadvertently when walking through scrub.  Rattlesnakes apparently give plenty of warning of their presence, so keep your ears open.  Otherwise, watch where you're treading.

We were warned very early in the trip about the dangers of poison ivy.  Unfortunately, I underestimated this plant, and its ability to affect you through clothing, and managed to walk through a patch on my last day.  The result was that some 24 hours later my ankles were covered by a severe rash, my ankles swelled up to double their normal size, and walking, or even standing, was absolute agony.  It took about three days for the swelling and rash to reduce, and for me to be able to walk properly, and even two weeks later my ankles were still pretty tender.  Poison oak is a similar plant, with a similar effect, and there are also stinging nettles, not dissimilar to European stinging nettles

Poison ivy is a low-growing plant, which forms dense mats in grass and woodlands.  It is a three-leafed plant, with a reddish stem.  When the stems or leaves are broken, it releases an oil which causes a severe allergic reaction when it comes into contact with the skin.  In my case, my legs were fully covered, but the oil soaked through my socks, and came into contact with my skin.  Knee length wellington boots are the best answer.

Wood ticks were fairly plentiful throughout, especially in the Black Hills.  These are horrible, repulsive little creatures, which attach themselves to you to suck your blood.  They are carriers of Lyme Disease (and other viral diseases), although this is apparently more common in the East than the West.  Don't underestimate these little critters - wearing long trousers prevents them biting immediately, but they will happily clamber all over your clothing until they find some bare skin onto which to attach.  I found quite a few on my head - quite disgusting.  The advice generally given is to remove them with a lighted match or by applying alcohol (but not both!), but we couldn't bring ourselves to leave them in situ any longer than we had to, and just pulled or scraped them off.  This isn't too difficult as long as they haven't dug themselves in too deep.  The discovery of a tick by one member of the group inevitably lead to a bout of paranoid searching by the others - I still think I can feel one crawling on me sometimes!

The other main nuisance is the inevitable mosquito.  These were common throughout, but their numbers and ferocity in parts of NE Minnesota, and in Lostwood, ND was quite incredible.  Several Boreal Chickadee searches were hastily abandoned as we were bitten to death, even through denim jeans and thick shirts.  Insect repellents such as Jungle Formula seemed to have a small preventative effect, but it generally just encouraged them to bite you somewhere else where you hadn't sprayed!  As in places like Scandinavia, there's no point moaning about them - you've just got to try to ignore them and get on with it, but it isn't always possible.

As far as human threats go, I can honestly say that I have rarely felt safer.  Some of the birders who accompanied us regularly and disconcertingly left the car open, with the keys in the ignition and all our luggage on view, and this appeared to be the norm.  Not once during the whole trip did we feel remotely threatened.

References:

Books:

    National Geographic Society Field Guide to the Birds of North America, probably the best field guide available - I bought the 3rd edition just before the trip.  As far as the plates go, there didn't seem much difference between it and the 2nd edition.  There are certainly a lot more species illustrated, but most of the extras are of rare vagrants, which are of limited interest to the average European visitor.  However, the big improvement for me was the distribution maps, which have been done from scratch.  Not only are they much more legible than the old ones, but they are much more accurate.  This was especially noticeable in the Black Hills where we saw several species not shown as present in the old edition, but which are marked by a small dot in SW South Dakota in the new guide.

    Golden Guide to the Birds of North America - Robbins et al.  I must admit to a sentimental attachment to this book, the first NA field guide I bought.  I still think the jizz of some of the birds is excellent - try Grasshopper Sparrow for example.

    A Birder's Guide to North Dakota (Zimmer).  Good site info, but a little out of date (1979)

    Birdfinder - A Birder's Guide to planning North American Trips (Cooper).  Good background info, plus RBA numbers.

   A Birder's Guide to Wyoming (Scott) - an ABA "Lane" guide.  Excellent.

    A Birder's Guide to Minnesota (Eckert).  A superb book, incredibly detailed information.

    A Birdwatcher's Guide to the Black Hills (Peterson).  Many thanks to Karen Hegre from Rapid City for obtaining this book for us.

    Buntings & Sparrows (Byers, Olsson & Curson) - the Pica Press guide.  Extremely useful, even in the field - excellent text, and good illustrations.

    A guide to the identification and natural history of the Sparrows of the United States and Canada (Rising & Beadle).  Also worth bringing along.  The illustrations are too bright, but once this has been appreciated, it proved extremely useful.

    Advanced Birding (Kaufman) - pretty useful for problem groups.  We used it a few times on Empids, but with mixed success.  One day someone will write the definitive guide to these birds!

Trip reports

Very few were available, indicating how few birders visit this wonderful area.  The following were obtained from the Birdchat archives, or kindly sent directly from the authors:

    Northern Great Plains 17.6.96 - 1.7.96 - Brad Bergstrom

    North Dakota 30.5.99 - 1.6.99 - Tom Grey

    North Dakota 14.6.94 - 19.6.94 - Blake Maybank

Web sites

There are a couple of web sites which are worth checking out:

   South Dakota Ornithologists Union web site, including "where to watch birds" section:

http://www.usd.edu/biol/SDOU/

   USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center - checklist and site description for a whole range of sites right across the North Central USA, from Montana to Minnesota, and south to Nebraska.

http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/othrdata/chekbird/r6/

   The USGS NPWRC also have individual species accounts for all birds regularly found in North Dakota, including survey maps.

http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/distr/birds/bb_of_nd/species/

Maps

We didn't bother buying any special maps, but used a Rand McNally road atlas to the USA, which was perfectly adequate.  The free maps given away by Avis at Minneapolis and Rapid City were very useful, but for detailed site access, we usually used the maps contained in the site guides above.

Itinerary

Sites visited were as follows:

12.6PRIVATE .99

8 p.m. GD and PC arrived Rapid City, SD, met JB, drove to accommodation

13.6.99

Custer State Park, SD and en route

14.6.99

Roby & Boles Canyons, SD, Devil's Tower, WY, Roughlock Falls, Spearfish, SD

15.6.99

Route I-85 northwards through SD, Bowman-Haley, ND, Marmarth, ND, Lostwood, ND

16.6.99

Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND and nearby areas, Turtle Lake, ND, Route 2-- eastwards through ND, Grand Forks, ND

17.6.99

Mostly travelling.  Littlefork, MN

18.6.99

Sax - Zim Bog, MN, Duluth MN

19.6.99

Isabella area, MN, Cook Sewage Farm, MN, Floodwood, MN

20.6.99

Murphy-Hanrehan Park and Little Cloud Airport, Minneapolis, MN

 

Acknowledgements

As usual, we were fortunate in obtaining a considerable amount of assistance from many birders, both before and during our trip.  Special thanks are due to Maggie Hachmeister, Ron Martin, Dave Lambeth, Sharon & Truman Lindvall for giving up their valuable time to help us see birds they'd probably seen a million times before, as well as providing us with a huge amount of assistance when planning the trip.  Thanks to Mike Hendrickson for guiding us so expertly during our two day stay in Duluth.  Thanks to Jim Pavlek and Richard Hill for allowing us to tramp all over their back yard in Floodwood at half an hour's notice, looking for Pileated Woodpecker.  Thanks to Doug and Karen Hegre in Rapid City for showing us around their habitat, and for obtaining for us two books which we were unable to source in the UK, and for refusing to allow us to reimburse their cost!

Many thanks to all the people who went to the trouble of providing us with information and advice in the planning stages.  I hope that I have remembered everyone in thanking Eric Liknes, Blake Maybank, Jocie Baker, Michael Melius, Shan Cunningham, Brad Bergstrom, Tyler Bell, David Kelly, Bob Tolles, Michael Tarachow, Dave Porter, David Mark, Larry de March, Peter Taylor, Dennis Fast, Blaine Seeliger, Sharon Stiteler, Dan Tallman and Elaine Meyer.

Thanks to Paul and Jan-Joost for being brilliant companions and great birders, and for not getting annoyed with me when we had to make a 200 mile detour to collect my passport and documents which I'd stupidly left behind in McDonalds in Cook, MN!!  Finally, special thanks to my wife Sara for allowing me to indulge myself with yet another overseas birding trip, while she stayed at home working!  Not many birders are as lucky as I am!!

Daily account:

Note - the letter "h" in the "Birds recorded" section denotes that the bird was heard but not seen.

Saturday 12 June 1999

GD and PC travelled up to London Heathrow from South Wales in the evening of 11 June 1999.  Unfortunately, a combination of lack of attention to detail and ultra caution (both by me!!) meant that we arrived about 9 hours before the flight was due to leave!  Oh well, no excuse for not having done our bird study homework.  The journey out was pretty gruelling, involving stops at both Newark and Denver airports before finally arriving at Rapid City Airport at 20:00 local time, or 03:00 UK time - a total of 17 hours of travelling.

On the way we had debated about what would be the most likely first trip tick.  To our great disappointment, but fairly predictably, the first two places went to Feral Pigeon and Starling at Newark Airport, as well as unidentified gulls, probably American Herring, and crows, probably American.  Our stop over at Denver was a little more interesting, with a few Cliff Swallows flying around outside the terminal building.

We had arranged to meet up with JB at Rapid City Airport, as he had flown from Raleigh/Durham to Minneapolis to collect our hire car, and driven over to meet us.  He had a tough 10 hour drive, delayed by very bad weather en route and eventually arrived at 21:00.  However, the journey did provide him with his first trip ticks (and his first wood ticks.) in Red Shouldered Hawk, Great White Egret, Cattle Egret, Western Meadowlark, Upland Sandpiper and a Longspur which was probably Chestnut-collared.  As we loaded up the car, 3 Common Nighthawks were hawking overhead, which was a better introduction for GD and PC to the joys of US birding.

Luckily we had pre-booked some accommodation at the Motel 6 at Rapid City, so at least we didn't have to look for accommodation, right?  However, when we arrived at the motel we were told that our booking had been cancelled, as we had not provided a credit card number.  This was despite being given a reservation number, and not being asked for a credit card number!  Fortunately, they had just 2 rooms free so we were able to book in.

There was also a note waiting for us from Maggie Hachmeister, a local birder we had arranged to meet the next day.  She had previously called the motel to make arrangements, been told about our reservation problem, and had left a message saying that if we were stuck we could stay at her house.  Incredible hospitality from someone who had never met us before, and totally typical of the help we received throughout our trip.

Birds recorded

Denver Airport, CO - Cliff Swallow

Rapid City Airport, SD - Common Nighthawk

Sunday 13 June 1999

After such an arduous journey, we weren't planning on an early start the next day, and Maggie arranged to come to the motel by 7 a.m.  However, GD and PC were far too excited at all the lifers waiting for us out there, and just 4 hours after arriving at the motel, we were out trying to identify birds in the dark by calls and silhouettes!  We managed to identify Eastern Kingbird, American Robin and Red-winged Blackbird, and heard a song that we were sure was Grasshopper Sparrow.  As the sun finally and slowly started to rise we were joined by JB, and set off to track down the suspected sparrow.  Sure enough, we soon had great views of a singing Grasshopper Sparrow, as well as our first views of some common species such as American Goldfinch, Western Meadowlark and Mourning Dove.

Maggie turned up on the dot at 7 a.m. and we set off for a fabulous day's birding, which was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.  First stop was the shooting range on the left hand side of the road as you leave Rapid City southwards towards Custer.  Almost immediately we found 2 Upland Sandpipers and Great Blue Heron, around the farm buildings either side of the road.  At the shooting range itself we parked the car, and were soon enjoying great views of Horned Larks, Lark and Savannah Sparrows.  As we got back on to the main road, PC saw a Long-billed Curlew in flight, but unfortunately no-one else managed to pick it up.  This proved to be the only one of the trip.

From there we headed south towards Custer State Park on Road 16A.  At the entrance station, we first turned east away from the park on road 36, and made a roadside stop at a parking area on the left hand side a few miles along.  This was an area of thick deciduous trees on one side of the road, and a bush-lined stream and open trees on the other.  It proved to be a great stop, producing birds such as American Kestrel, Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, Black-capped Chickadee, Common Yellowthroat, Warbling Vireo and, perhaps best of all, a superb MacGillivray's Warbler.  Heading back towards the park a further stop produced another Western Tanager, and brief glimpses of a very elusive Ovenbird.

As we headed into the park proper we made another roadside stop at a pull-in on the left next to a large burnt area.  The main targets here were bluebirds, and we soon found a nesting Eastern Bluebird, as well as quite a few Northern Flickers and Hairy Woodpeckers, but not the hoped for Mountain Bluebirds.  A couple of Turkey Vultures, and a Violet-green Swallow were flying overhead.

We carried on driving westwards on Road 16A, and made our next stop at the park office and visitor centre.  We soon found our first Empidonax flycatcher of the trip, which we eventually decided was a Cordilleran Flycatcher.  This, and subsequent Empid sightings convinced us quite quickly that while the jizz may be pretty good in some of the fieldguides, the colouration shown was often way off the mark.  We headed for the path leading up the hillside behind the visitor centre, stopping firstly at the feeder at the building at the bottom of the track to admire the flocks of Pine Siskins and Red Crossbills.  We also found another Empid here which was identified as a Least Flycatcher based on its small size and stumpy appearance.  

The main quarry along the track up the hill was White-winged Junco, but they just wouldn't co-operate.  A couple were heard, as well as the equally elusive Western Wood-Pewee, but wouldn't show.  A Northern Goshawk was an excellent sighting flying over our heads, although ironically not a tick for any of us three European birders, who would probably have preferred a Sharp-shinned!  Red-breasted Nuthatch was also seen well on the way up.  At the top of the climb PC and JB got fleeting views of a Townsend's Solitaire as it flew away, but they were less than satisfying. 

We eventually gave up on the juncos, and headed back down, picking up a Plumbeous Vireo in the trees just behind the building with the feeder.  Just then, Maggie glimpsed an Evening Grosbeak in the tree above the house, but it flew away before GD and PC could see it, and JB got just a glimpse!  This wasn't a bird we had even hoped to see here, so we were pretty stressed by all this. We ran around to the front of the house, just in case, and there they were; a cracking pair of Evening Grosbeaks on the feeder at point blank range.  Just to top it all, some White-winged Juncos then put in appearance, and gave superb views - just reward for a long, hot and steep climb!

Having finally found our main Black Hills target bird, we set off back southwards along Wildlife Loop Road to see what else we could find.  The next stop was at the start of the path along the French Creek Natural Area, where we hoped to find Townsend's Solitaire and Mountain Bluebird.  In the middle of the day, birds were pretty scarce, although good views of 4 Bighorn Sheep were good consolation.  Another Ovenbird proved very elusive, with only PC getting brief views, and another puzzling Empid was eventually identified as a Least Flycatcher based on size, although the colouring of both this and the earlier bird were very different to that in the field guides.

Custer State Park is one of very few places in the US where it is possible to see free-roaming Bison, and the Wildlife Loop Road is possibly the best area in the park for these animals.  We soon encountered large herds of Bison, often alongside or even in the middle of the road.  These are seriously big animals!!  We estimated that we saw some 500 out of the total of 1,500 animals present in the park.  A stop at the Prairie Dog Town also produced Black-tailed Prairie Dogs and Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel, and Pronghorn Antelopes were also seen in ones and twos all along this road.

We continued stopping at every burnt area we encountered, and eventually we finally managed to find some Mountain Bluebirds - well worth the wait with their exquisite powder-blue plumage.  We also finally succeeded in pinning down a Western Wood-Pewee, although its plumage was a little less inspiring!  Plenty of Hairy Woodpeckers and Northern Flickers (yellow-, red-shafted and hybrids) were also in evidence throughout, and a Red-tailed Hawk flew over.

With the afternoon moving on we arrived at Stockade Lake, and immediately found another puzzling Empid.  This one was very dark, being larger than Least, drab greyish in colouration and lacking any degree of yellowish or greenish plumage.  This one had us totally confused, as it looked nothing like anything in any of our field guides.  Eventually we decided that it must be a Dusky Flycatcher, as nothing else fitted, and the plumage was, after all, extremely dusky!  We also found a flock of Black-necked Grebes on the lake, and a Red -breasted Merganser flew by. 

By now, time was quickly running out, so we bade farewell to Custer State Park, driving to the town of Custer, and turning northwards on Road 16 towards Hill City and Rapid City, and seeing several Mountain Bluebirds on fencelines on the way.  Typical - you spend all day killing yourself trying to find one, and then you start seeing them everywhere!  We made a quick stop at a spot Maggie had been told about for Pygmy Nuthatch, but with no luck, although we managed to find an Audubon's Yellow-rumped Warbler, as well as a Red-breasted Nuthatch and, of course, another Mountain Bluebird.

A final stop at the Pactola Reservoir area with light fading fast produced a Tree Swallow, the first of the trip, a nesting Osprey, and a Belted Kingfisher was heard calling, but not seen, as darkness finally beat us.  What a fabulous day's birding, and all the better for Maggie's wonderful companionship.  Her technique for dispatching Wood Ticks will live long in all our memories!  We retreated to Rapid City for almost our only decent meal of the whole trip (the other was as guests of the Lindvalls in Littlefork, MN), and to our delight Maggie agreed to join us - you'd think she'd have had enough of us by then!!  Finally, three very happy but really really tired European birders crawled back to the Motel 6 for a good night's sleep (well, about 5 hours anyway!).

Birds recorded

Vicinity of Motel 6, Rapid City, SD - Eastern Kingbird, Grasshopper Sparrow, American Goldfinch, American Robin, Mourning Dove, Western Meadowlark

Rapid City, SD - Blue Jay, Cliff Swallow, Barn Swallow, Brewer's Blackbird

Rapid City Shooting Range, SD - Great Blue Heron, Mallard, Killdeer, Upland Sandpiper, Horned Lark, Lark Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Western Meadowlark, Long-billed Curlew

Custer S.P., SD - Black-necked Grebe, Blue-winged Teal, Red-breasted Merganser, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Goshawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Northern Flicker, Hairy Woodpecker, Western Wood-Pewee, Least Flycatcher, Dusky Flycatcher, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Plumbeous Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Blue Jay, Tree Swallow, Violet-green Swallow, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Eastern Bluebird, Mountain Bluebird, Townsend's Solitaire, Audubon's Warbler, MacGillivray's Warbler, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, Western Tanager, Spotted Towhee, Lark Sparrow, White-winged Junco, Black-headed Grosbeak, Western Meadowlark, Red Crossbill, Pine Siskin, Evening Grosbeak

Monday 14 June 1999

Another early start, as we had a lot of ground to cover today.  First stop was a cultural one, rather than a birding one - most out of character!  Still, you can't stay that near to Mount Rushmore and not go to see it, and very impressive it was too.  From a bird point of view, highlights were unbeatable views of White-winged Junco around the car park, and a huge flock of Red Crossbills on the approach road.

Having met our "tourist quota" for the trip it was time to get on with some serious birding.  Next stop was for Virginia's Warbler at Roby Canyon, the recently discovered and only known breeding location in South Dakota for this bird.  Take Road 16 southwards to Custer, where the road heads north west towards the Wyoming state line.  Very shortly after crossing the state line (about half a mile?), a dirt road heads off to the right (east) along Redbird Canyon, re-entering South Dakota.  A quick stop around this junction produced a rather elusive Western Tanager and some of the commoner sparrows including Song and Chipping.

About a mile along Redbird Canyon, a road leads off to the left (north) along Boles Canyon.  This is bounded by a low cliff, with a plateau above on the left, and the river floodplain on the right.  A random stop along this road produced a pair of Rock Wrens along cliff edge, and a scramble to the top of the cliff resulted in a Spotted Towhee.  A further stop a little later, near the farm on the right hand side produced a small flock of White-throated Swifts overhead, and a Mountain Bluebird on a fence line. 

About 3 miles along Boles Canyon, the road curves to the right, and a rough track leads off northwards (to the left).  This is Roby Canyon, where the Virginia's Warblers are to be found.  Apparently, these birds are very habitat-specific, requiring a combination of pine trees and thick understory, with a particular liking for Mountain Mahogany.  This is a shrubby plant with small light green leaves, and thin black stems.  Soon after entering Roby Canyon, you will pass through a gateway, after which we were advised to continue for about another mile.  We did so, looking out for a likely looking area of vegetation, eventually stopping a little over a mile from the gate. 

No sooner had we got out of the car before PC shouted that he had one of the warblers, and sure enough we had views of about four birds flitting about in the undergrowth.  They were extremely active birds, proving difficult to get more than fleeting views of, but they stayed in quite a small area, and were eventually seen very well.  This stop also turned up a family party of White-winged Juncos, Audubon's Warbler, White-breasted Nuthatch and Black-capped Chickadee.

Having quickly achieved our goal here we returned to Road 16 and headed off for our main destination for the day, Devil's Tower National Monument in Wyoming.  The main target bird here was Prairie Falcon, with a chance for some other birds including Townsend's Solitaire, Gray Jay, and both Three-toed and Black-backed Woodpecker.

The site is reached by continuing westwards on Road 16 to Newcastle, then northwards on Road 85 to Four Corners, where a Red-tailed Hawk was seen overhead, and a Bobcat ran across the road.  From Four Corners go north on Road 585 to Sundance, left a short distance on I-90, right on Road 14, right on Road 24, then left on Road 110 to the monument where an entrance fee is payable.  The monument itself is an awesome sight - a huge conical basalt plug rising out of the surrounding landscape.  Film buffs will recognise it from the film "Close Encounters of the Third Kind".

First stop was the visitor centre, where we picked up a very useful map of the monument, and gathered some information on the birds of the reserve.  We learned that Prairie Falcons nest on the rock itself, right in front of the visitor centre and, in the light drizzle, set up our scopes trained on the rock to look out for these birds.  It wasn't long before JB somehow managed to pick out a perched bird on a ledge, and this showed well, although distantly, before flying off across the face of the rock, and disappearing behind.  Soon afterwards it, or another bird, reappeared around the side of the rock, and landed on another ledge where it was lost from view.  Other birds here included several White-throated Swifts and a soaring Turkey Vulture.

Satisfied, we set out in search of some of our other target birds.  The crowds around the visitor centre were growing by the minute, so we headed back down towards the entrance gate, and turned right (south) towards the river side picnic area and the Belle Fourche Campground, which had been recommended as the most likely spot for Red-headed Woodpecker.  An hour in this area proved to be extremely productive, with Yellow Warbler, Red-headed Woodpecker and Bullock's Oriole at the same time producing an unbelievable show of colour.  Other good birds included several Dusky Flycatchers, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, Red-breasted Nuthatch and Eastern Kingbird.

From here we returned to the visitor centre, intending to walk the 1.3 mile long Tower Trail around the base of the monument looking for more woodpeckers.  After just a few hundred yards, it became obvious that there were far too many people around to do any productive birding.  We decided to return to the car park, and instead walk at least some of the way along the 3 mile long Red Beds Trail, which the visitor centre staff had suggested might be quieter.  Before setting off, we waited for five minutes to enjoy a White-breasted Nuthatch hopping around right at our feet.

Red Beds Trail indeed proved to be far quieter than the Tower Trail, and after less than half a mile entered an excellent looking recently burnt area.  After a couple of false alarms caused by Northern Flickers and Hairy Woodpecker, we spotted a very interesting dark woodpecker on a tree ahead of us.  To our delight it proved to be a fine Black-backed Woodpecker, and gave us excellent prolonged views at a range of some 10 yards.  Eventually satisfied we pressed on, pausing for close-up views of Red Crossbills, but the drizzle soon became heavier, and we headed back for the car park.

Arriving back at the Black-backed Woodpecker site we soon found another woodpecker.  But wait, this one had a pure white back, lighter underparts, and more white in the face.  Unbelievably, it was a Northern Three-toed Woodpecker, and indeed we immediately refound the Black-backed Woodpecker on a nearby tree.  The agony of trying to decide which of these woodpecker to watch was soon solved for us, when the Three-toed actually flew on to the same tree as the Black-backed, there they started "arguing" - both species in the same binocular view at the same time!  Can anyone match that?!

Unable to believe our good fortune at fining two such difficult and elusive birds, we headed off for the car park, only to stumble across a Townsend's Solitaire some twenty yards further.  Instead of quickly flying away, this individual gave excellent views perched in the low branches of a small tree - proper views at last.

By the time we got back to the car, the rain had got heavier, and we decided to call it a day, and headed back along I-90 towards South Dakota.  A local birder, Karen Hegre in Rapid City, had very kindly obtained for us a couple of books on the birds of the area, as well as some state bird checklists, but we had left too early that morning to call in for them, so we now drove back to Rapid City to collect them.  The whole drive was made in absolutely torrential rain which totally ruled out a planned stop near Spearfish for American Dipper so we pressed on to the Hegres, where we spent a pleasant hour touring their back yard, and sitting out the rain.

By the time we left, the rain had eased up, and we realised that a "Dipper-stop" might be possible, although night was quickly setting in.  We arrived at Spearfish, turning south on Road Alt 14 along Spearfish Canyon towards Savoy, where we turned right (west) to drive the short distance to Roughlock Falls.  By the time we arrived at the picnic site just above the falls, it was almost dark, and we had pretty much given up for the night, but walked down to the falls anyway, where PC immediately found one American Dipper perched on a dead branch right above the main falls, about 5 yards away!

The original plan had been to drive northwards tonight from the Black Hills along I-85 towards North Dakota, hoping to find a motel room in one of the towns along the way such as Redig or Buffalo.  In the event, we were far too tired to bother, and instead checked into a motel in Spearfish, and decided on an early start instead.  This was a good move, as motels along the I-85 north of Belle Fourche proved to be very few and far between.

One last treat tonight came at our evening meal trip to the local KFC, where up to 10 Common Nighthawks were seen by streetlight hawking for insects.

Birds recorded

Mount Rushmore, SD - Hairy Woodpecker, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-winged Junco, Red Crossbill, Pine Siskin

Roby & Boles Canyons, SD - White-throated Swift, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Rock Wren, Mountain Bluebird, Virginia's Warbler, Audubon's Warbler, Western Tanager, Spotted Towhee, White-winged Junco

Four Corners, WY - Red-tailed Hawk

Devil's Tower, WY - Turkey Vulture, Prairie Falcon, White-throated Swift, Red-headed Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Black-backed Woodpecker, Three-toed Woodpecker, Dusky Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Townsend's Solitaire, Yellow Warbler, Bullock's Oriole, Red Crossbill

Roughlock Falls, Savoy, SD - American Dipper,

Spearfish, SD - Common Nighthawk

Tuesday 15 June 1999

An early start got us well into the prairies north of Redig along I-85 by dawn, and we had soon found our first Lark Bunting and Vesper Sparrow of the trip.  We had fun sorting out the various hawks seen on the drive between Redig and Bowman, ND, identifying several each of Red-tailed, Swainson's and Ferruginous Hawks.  A Great Horned Owl perched right on top of a small bush, without a tree in sight caused a great deal of confusion initially, and a ghostly Short-eared Owl was seen soaring along the roadside shortly afterwards.

Before reaching Bowman, and some 5 miles into North Dakota, we turned right (east) off the I-85 on a gravel road signposted for Bowman-Haley Dam Recreational Area.  After 5 miles, we turned right (south) onto another gravel road signposted "Point Rec Area", then left (east) after another two miles into the reserve. 

Along these gravel roads we found our first Western Kingbirds and Loggerhead Shrike, while a Grey Partridge would undoubtedly excite many a North American birder, although it failed to impress us Europeans!  A nice lake on the left hand side produced some new waterbirds including American Coot, Western Grebe, Redhead and Bufflehead.  Finally, the area of bushes on the left along the last stretch of road mentioned was very productive with Willow Flycatcher, Orchard and Bullock's Orioles seen.

From here we backtracked to the I-85, went north to Bowman, then left (west) on Highway 12 to the town of Marmarth, where a Chimney Swift and Common Nighthawk were seen in the middle of the town.  Some half a mile west of the town centre, we turned south onto a gravel road, just before Highway 12 crossed a bridge over the railway.  We drove south for some 13 miles along this road, before stopping to check out the prairie areas on either side of the road.  This area is recommended in Zimmer as one of the best areas in North Dakota for several key birds, including McCown's Longspur, Sage Grouse, Brewer's Sparrow and Burrowing Owl.  However, this was undoubtedly the most disappointing part of our trip, and we saw none of these birds, and not a lot else. 

Part of the problem was that the information in Zimmer seemed put of date (1979), and areas he describes as prime prairie now appeared to be ploughed fields.  The birds are probably still in the area - we found a road-killed Sage Grouse, and the area is apparently still the best spot for McCown's Longspur, but we just didn't have the time to find the best areas for ourselves.  A casual wander over the grasslands produced some good birds, including Grasshopper Sparrow, Horned Lark, Chestnut-collared Longspur (flight views only) and brief views of a Dickcissel by PC and JB.

A little further along there was a really squalid looking pond on the right (west) hand side of the road, which wasn't visible from the road - near a nodding donkey oil well.  Despite looking extremely unsavoury, with apparently filthy water and containing several dumped cars and lots of old tyres, the spot nevertheless had some good birds.  Highlights included a family party of Wilson's Phalaropes, Canvasback, and Yellow-headed Blackbirds in the surrounding rushes.

We continued for about another 7 miles southwards, arriving at a small wooden bridge across a stream bed.  A bird flitting around a smaller footbridge a hundred yards to the right (west) was investigated and proved to be a Say's Phoebe - the main reason for driving so far down the road.  A big bonus came in the form of 2 Great Horned Owls which flushed from under this second bridge.

Time was ticking away, and we had hoped to fit in some time at Lostwood that evening, so we returned to Marmarth, then to Bowman, and headed north again on I-85.  A roadside stop between Bowman and Belfield resulted in a fence-sitting Cooper's Hawk, a Swainson's Hawk flew over, and a couple of American White Pelicans were found on a small roadside pond.

We continued northwards on the I-85 as far as Watford City, where we turned eastwards on Road 23, crossing the Missouri Rover near New Town, where we found a Northern Harrier flying over the fields.  Continuing through New Town on Road 23, we then turned north on Road 8 to Stanley, and then on to the town of Lostwood.  Some way beyond the town, we arrived at Lostwood N.W.R., 22 miles north of Stanley.

Before entering the refuge itself we enjoyed some excellent birding at the roadside pools a few miles south of the refuge entrance.  Birds seen along this stretch included Wilson's Snipe, Willet, Black Tern, Slavonian and Pied-billed Grebes, Lesser Scaup, Redhead and Ruddy Duck.

The main quarry at the refuge itself was Baird's Sparrow, for which the first section of the auto trail had been recommended.  Sure enough, a random stop after about half a mile soon produced excellent view of a singing roadside Baird's Sparrow, and at least two others were seen well along the next mile of road.  Our approach was to drive a few hundred yards, park, and walk up and down for about a hundred yards, before driving on again.  By doing this, within about half an hour, as well as the Baird's, we found many other sparrows, including Vesper, Grasshopper, Savannah, Song and many Clay-colored. 

After a couple of miles, the road entered a dip with an area of marsh on either side of the road.  This was a great spot, producing excellent close-up views of several Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrows, Sedge Wrens, Yellow-headed Blackbirds and Common Yellowthroats.  Northern Harriers were again seen hunting low over the fields.  With daylight fading fast, we arrived at a point on the trail reputed to be the best spot for Sharp-tailed Grouse, an apparently common species which had thus far eluded us completely.  We walked out to the hide, and in fading gloom managed to find one distant Sharp-tailed Grouse.  An American Bittern was booming in the distance, but was far away.

It was time to call it a day, and we set off on the final drive of the day to Minot, where we arrived at around midnight and checked into a motel.  Our evening meals were deteriorating by the day, and tonight consisted of sandwiches and other pre-packed snacks from a filling station at Kenmare.

Birds recorded

I-85 from Redig, SD to Bowman, ND - American Wigeon, Blue-winged Teal, Red-tailed Hawk, Swainson's Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, Short-eared Owl, Great Horned Owl, Horned Lark, Cliff Swallow, Lark Bunting, Vesper Sparrow, Western Meadowlark

Bowman-Haley Dam Reserve, ND - Western Grebe, Great Blue Heron, Gadwall, Pintail, Shoveler, Blue-winged Teal, Redhead, Bufflehead, Pheasant (h), Gray Partridge, American Coot, Killdeer, Willow Flycatcher, Western Kingbird, Eastern Kingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, Sand Martin, Cliff Swallow, Lark Bunting, Western Meadowlark, Orchard Oriole, Bullock's Oriole

Marmarth, ND - Shoveler, Blue-winged Teal, Canvasback,  Swainson's Hawk, Wilson's Phalarope, Great Horned Owl, Common Nighthawk, Chimney Swift, Say's Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, Horned Lark, Lark Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Lark Bunting, Vesper Sparrow, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Dickcissel, Bobolink, Western Meadowlark, Yellow-headed Blackbird

Belfield, ND - American White Pelican, Gadwall, Swainson's Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Lark Bunting, Western Meadowlark

New Town, ND - Pintail, Northern Harrier

Lostwood, ND - Slavonian Grebe, Pied-billed Grebe, American Bittern (h), Blue-winged Teal, Redhead, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck, Northern Harrier, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Willet, Wilson's Snipe, Black Tern, Sedge Wren, Common Yellowthroat, Clay-colored Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Baird's Sparrow, Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Bobolink, Western Meadowlark, Yellow-headed Blackbird

Wednesday 16 June 1999

Today was a humbling lesson in North American hospitality.  We had previously arranged to meet up with Ron Martin, a local birder, for a day's birding in the Minot area.  I phoned him the previous night and arranged to meet him at 04:00 near Norwich, east of Minot, for an early start so we could look for Yellow Rail.  We guessed something was wrong when we came out of the motel, and it was already light.  The previous day we had crossed a time zone, from Mountain Time to Central Time.  We had immediately changed our watches, but completely forgot to change our alarm clock!! 

As a result, despite a total disregard for the speed limit, by the time we got to the agreed meeting place we were an hour late!  Obviously Ron wouldn't have hung around waiting for us would he, but amazingly he had!  Not only that, but he completely refused to let us apologise, saying it was no problem, and that he'd spent the time having a nap in his car.  And all for three birders he had never met - unbelievable hospitality.  By the end of the day, we were all extremely grateful that he had been so patient, because this was another absolutely superb day's birding during which, in just one day, Ron helped us virtually clean up on the breeding birds of North Dakota!

We spent most of the day in the vicinity of Buffalo Lodge Lake, just east of the town of Granville, ND.  This started at an area of marsh adjacent to the main road, Road 2, where we soon found singing Le Conte's Sparrow.  Some rails were calling nearby, and a quick burst of Virginia Rail song on the tape immediately brought one inquisitive bird out of the reeds into open water, up the bank, and out onto the gravel road, where it practically walked over out feet.  Sora was also seen here.

We then moved further in away from the main road, for a quick walk out into a wet meadow which looked ideal for Yellow Rail, but sadly the hour's delay had put paid to any realistic chances of finding one of these birds.  JB flushed a rail from under his feet, but it was probably another Virginia Rail.  Marsh Wrens were abundant in this area singing constantly, and occasionally showing.

On the other side of the road was a drier area of grassland, around which we took a stroll.  This was a productive spot, producing excellent views of a Baird's Sparrow, as well as many other birds including Willet, Marbled Godwit, Upland Sandpiper and Wilson's Snipe.  A Double-crested Cormorant was drying its wings on a nearby hay bale.

Further along the road, nearer Buffalo Lodge Lake, the terrain was drier, with more trees and bushes.  This area produced Grey Catbird and Brown Thrasher quite close together.  The road then turned onto a promontory from which the open lake could be scanned from either side of the road.  Two American Bitterns were seen distantly in flight, while a Forster's Tern was a little more co-operative.  Several Black-necked Grebes were also seen on the lake, together with a variety of duck species, while both Nelson's Sharp-tailed and Clay-colored Sparrow were heard singing from nearby reeds.

The next area visited was an area of rolling dry grassland within sight of the lake.  Chestnut-collared Longspurs were common here, eventually giving excellent perched views, as well as close views of flying birds.  Other birds seen in this area included Loggerhead Shrike and Northern Rough-winged Swallows.

Heading back to Route 2 a Wood Duck was spotted in a roadside ditch, and on getting out for better looks a Sora was also found.

We next visited an area of woodland near the town of Norwich.  By this time it was late morning, and the birds were less co-operative.  A House Wren was new for the trip, but we were soon beaten back by murderous mosquitoes.

Ron then took us to an area of scrubby fields and woodland south of Norwich.  On arrival 4 Wild Turkeys strolled casually across the road, and disappeared into some bushes.  The reason for visiting this site was to look for Sprague's Pipit, and we soon heard one singing high overhead.  Seeing it was, however, quite another matter, and it took some time to pick it out against the blue sky.  Eventually it started parachuting down and landed nearby.  We slowly walked towards where it landed, and it flushed again, fluttering up and away, showing quite well in flight. 

Cedar Waxwings were seen in nearby trees, and a Warbling Vireo was calling, but was not seen.  More Northern Rough-winged Swallows were also flying overhead.  We crossed back over the road, and walked into the woods on that side, eventually picking up an Eastern Wood-Pewee.

We then drove south from Norwich on Road 41 to Velva, where Ron took us to an area of woodland near the river.  Again, the woods were quiet in the midday heat, although highlights included Yellow Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, Hairy Woodpecker and nesting Cooper's Hawks, which we kept encountering at various points in the wood.

We decided to retire to Ron's house and extensive back yard near Sawyer to see what we could find.  We headed back northwards on Road 41, and stopped at the junction near the left hand turning to Sawyer.  This quickly produced the Lazuli Bunting Ron had been expecting, as well as Belted Kingfisher flying overhead.  A Black-and-white Warbler was singing further into the undergrowth, but stubbornly refused to show itself.

We pressed on to Ron's house, where we spent an hour or so hunting for some of the commoner woodland birds which had thus far eluded us.  It was hard work in the heat of the early afternoon, but we eventually managed views of Veery, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Yellow Warbler, Tree Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, House Wren, American Goldfinch, Red-eyed Vireo and Downy Woodpecker.  Another Black-and-white Warbler was singing, and eventually PC managed a brief glimpse, albeit highly unsatisfactory.

We decided to finish off our time with Ron at an area of woodland near the railway tracks at Minot.  Patient scanning of the trees here produced Yellow-throated Vireo, Indigo Bunting, Blue Jay and Great Crested Flycatcher, as well as an interesting hybrid Lazuli x Indigo Bunting - a pointed reminder that we were straddling the east-west divide between several species and sub-species pairs.

It was time to say goodbye to Ron, and to thank him for a superb day's birding.  Our planned stop for the night was at Grand Forks, ND, where another local birder, David Lambeth had agreed to take us looking for Yellow Rails.  However, we still needed a few prairie specials, for which Ron had recommended the area around Turtle Lake.  This town is located on Road 41, south of Velva, and the best areas of lakes and marshes are situated immediately east of the town.

We worked our way slowly along the roads in this area.  The first stop, between two lakes produced a variety of ducks, including Redhead and Green-winged Teal, as well as Black-necked Grebe, American White Pelican and American Avocet.  We eventually found our way to a large lake, containing a couple of islands, which held California and American Herring Gulls, Caspian and Forster's Terns, American Avocets and Killdeer.  Eventually we found our main target bird in the form of 4 Piping Plovers along the shoreline, in the company of Wilson's Phalaropes, Willets and Marbled Godwits.  Aware of the plover's strictly protected status we didn't stay to watch it for long, and headed back for the car.  Almost immediately a Sharp-tailed Grouse flushed from right under our feet and flew clumsily away before crash-landing into the middle of a nearby bush.

Satisfied we drove back the way we had come, stopping to scan a small wet area on the side of the road.  Almost immediately, we found an American Bittern attempting to camouflage itself in the sparse reeds about 100 yards away - great views!  Western Kingbirds were very common throughout this area.

Aware that we had a long drive ahead of us, we drove a short way south on Road 41, then turned left (east) on Road 200 for the 220 mile drive to Grand Forks.  The habitat along this road was noticeably wetter than we had previously experienced in western ND, with dozens of lakes, big and small, all along the road.  Eventually, near the town of Hurdsfield, we found a likely looking spot, with water on both side of the road, and settled down to scan the area.  It proved to be an excellent stop-off, producing some great birds including a flock of American White Pelican, the most convincing wild Canada Geese of the trip, Franklin's, Ring-billed and California Gulls, Black-crowned Night Herons, Killdeer, Willet, Lesser Yellowlegs and Wilson's Phalarope.

We pressed on to Carrington, where we had our evening meal of Bison burgers at a roadside diner.  By now, it was starting to get dark, and as we progressed towards Grand Forks we had a few hair-raising moments, on a road which wasn't as good as it had seemed in the daylight.  On two occasions the road suddenly went at right angles to the direction in which it had been heading, without any road signs, and we found ourselves careering along a dirt road at 70 m.p.h.  It's lucky there was a dirt road there, and not a field!  Near the town of Finley, at 23:30 the drive reached its lowest ebb when we were pulled over by a traffic policeman for speeding (42 m.p.h. in a 30 m.p.h. zone).  Fortunately, the policeman couldn't understand GD's Welsh driving licence, and let us off with a warning!

We eventually arrived at Grand Forks at 01:30 - surely too late for David Lambeth to want to go railing with us?  Not at all - he quite happily came out to meet us, and off we went.  He took us to an area where rails had been heard consistently earlier in the year, although not for a few weeks.  Unfortunately, the rails were nowhere near as friendly or co-operative as David, and stubbornly refused to call in the 1.5 hours we toured the area, although there appeared to be plenty of excellent habitat.  At 03:00 we finally called it a day (or rather, a night), and headed back to Grand Forks, where we said goodbye to David.  Sincere thanks are due to David, not just for coming out at such an ungodly hour with us, and incidentally at just some 4 hours notice, but for the enormous amount of help he provided during the planning stages of the trip.

Luckily we had earlier booked a room at a nearby motel, and shortly after leaving David three extremely tired but happy birders poured themselves into bed.

Birds recorded

Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND - Black-necked Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, American Bittern, Black-crowned Night Heron, Great Blue Heron, Wood Duck, Green-winged Teal, Blue-winged Teal, Lesser Scaup, Cooper's Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Virginia Rail, Sora, Willet, Marbled Godwit, Upland Sandpiper, Wilson's Snipe, Wilson's Phalarope, Forster's Tern, Black Tern, Northern Flicker, Western Kingbird, Eastern Kingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, Horned Lark, House Wren, Marsh Wren, Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher, Clay-colored Sparrow (h), Baird's Sparrow, Le Conte's Sparrow, Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Western Meadowlark, Yellow-headed Blackbird

Norwich, ND - Wild Turkey, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Warbling Vireo (h), Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Sprague's Pipit, Cedar Waxwing

Velva, ND - Cooper's Hawk, Hairy Woodpecker, Red-eyed Vireo, Yellow Warbler, Clay-colored Sparrow

Sawyer, ND - Belted Kingfisher, Downy Woodpecker, Red-eyed Vireo, Tree Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, House Wren, Veery, Black and White Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting, American Goldfinch

Minot, ND - Yellow-throated Vireo, Blue Jay, Indigo Bunting, American Goldfinch, Great Crested Flycatcher.

Turtle Lake, ND - Black-necked Grebe, American White Pelican, American Bittern, Mallard, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, Blue-winged Teal, Redhead, Lesser Scaup, Red-tailed Hawk, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Piping Plover, Killdeer, American Avocet, Willet, Marbled Godwit, Wilson's Phalarope, California Gull, American Herring Gull, Caspian Tern, Forster's Tern, Western Kingbird, Western Meadowlark

Hurdsfield, ND - American White Pelican,  Black-crowned Night Heron, Canada Goose, Killdeer, Willet, Lesser Yellowlegs, Wilson's Phalarope, Franklin's Gull, Ring-billed Gull, California Gull, Western Meadowlark

Thursday, 17 June 1999

The possibility of an early start after yesterday's exertions wasn't even mentioned, and we all enjoyed a rare but welcome lie-in, getting up at 10:00 just before we were due to be kicked out!  Today was largely a travelling day, designed to get us to Duluth by tonight, ready for two days of hard birding.  However, we had arranged to take a detour to the extreme north of Minnesota to visit a local birding couple, Truman and Sharon Lindvall.  We headed east from Grand Forks on Route 2 to Bemidji, then north-eastwards on Road 71 towards International Falls.  3 Ospreys flew over the road just north of Bemidji.

The Lindvalls had had a Great Gray Owl calling near their house near the town of Littlefork for several months, although unfortunately it stopped calling three weeks before our visit, and was not located again.  Nevertheless, we had a great time at the Lindvalls who, not being content with spending the afternoon taking us birding around the local area, also fed us, and plied us with very welcome cold beers. 

Birding highlights included Eastern Phoebe nesting in their garage, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Scarlet Tanager and Savannah Sparrow in the brushy field behind their house, Tree Swallows and Eastern Bluebirds in nestboxes in their front yard, American Goldfinches at their feeders, Red-eyed Vireo, Yellow Warbler, Pine Siskin and more Eastern Phoebes in the nearby woods, and two separate Ruffed Grouse, one with several chicks by the roadside, giving excellent views.

Eventually, we reluctantly tore ourselves away and started southwards on Road 53 via Virginia to Duluth, stopping at McDonalds in Cook for our standard evening meal of fast food.  Finding accommodation in Duluth had proved very difficult, due to the city hosting a marathon road race, called Grandma's Marathon on Saturday 19.6.99.  We had been warned of this before coming on the trip, and had spent much time looking for a room in advance, eventually booking a room at the local Econolodge.  To GD's panic, on arrival he found that he had left his hip-bag, containing money, traveller's cheques, passport and flight ticket at the McDonalds in Cook, 100 miles north of Duluth!!  Fortunately, a quick phone call confirmed that all was safe, but recovering the bag posed a bit of a headache!

Birds recorded

Bemidji, MN - Osprey

Littlefork, MN - Ruffed Grouse, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Eastern Phoebe, Red-eyed Vireo, Tree Swallow, Eastern Bluebird, Yellow Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Savannah Sparrow, Pine Siskin, American Goldfinch

Friday 18 June 1999

Today we had arranged to meet up with Mike Hendrickson, a local professional guide, for a day's birding in the famous Sax - Zim Bog area.  Mike drove out to our motel to meet us, where a Green Heron flying over the car park was a good start to the day.  The Sax - Zim area is located north of Duluth, to the west side of Road 53, around the town of Cotton.  There are several roads leading westwards into the bog area, but the one we used was Road 133, signposted for Meadowlands.  If you're going to explore this area, get a copy of Eckert's book, which has excellent maps and a description of all the best spots.

The main target birds for today were as many warblers as possible, but especially Connecticut Warbler, as well as some of the boreal specials.  We were soon coming across warblers of various species, with Myrtle Yellow-rumped, Nashville and Blackburnian Warbler featuring early on.  A Common Raven flew overhead, sounding quite different to their European equivalents.  We soon heard a Connecticut Warbler singing from trees quite near the road, and got into position, hoping we could attract it out. 

Unfortunately he hadn't read the script, and seemed in no hurry to move from what was obviously a comfortable perch.  Undaunted by a wide ditch, filled with water and deep mud, and soaking wet undergrowth, GD and PC decided to hike in after it.  JB declined showing an impressive degree of confidence in our chances of seeing another easier bird.  In any case being Dutch, he could tick it based on a "heard only" record!!  The bird proved to be something of a ventriloquist, being much further back in the trees than it had seemed from the road.  Eventually we pinned it down to one tree where, despite singing continuously, it proved remarkably difficult to locate.  Eventually, it was found perched quite near to the trunk of the tree, and gave breathtaking views at extremely close range for several minutes, before it eventually flew off.

Ecstatic, GD and PC headed back for the road, but GD was so overcome by pleasure at seeing his number one target bird for the whole trip that he didn't give the ditch the respect it deserved, and ended up with a rubber boot full of water, mud and slime.  He didn't care at the time, but soon changed his mind, and spent most of the day regretting his carelessness!

JB's confidence proved well-founded, as we soon found another singing bird viewable from the roadside, and while not seen as closely as the first bird, excellent views were again obtained.  The rest of the morning and early afternoon were spent slowly cruising the various dirt roads in the Sax - Zim area, and walking frequently. 

Warblers indeed proved the main source of excitement, with several species seen.  A Mourning Warbler provided the group with a look-alike Oporornis Grand Slam (Kentucky Warbler not seen, unfortunately)- how many other birders can claim to have seen all three species on their breeding grounds on one trip?!  Other superb warbler species included Ovenbird (much more co-operative than their Black Hills brethren) Chestnut-sided, Magnolia and Black-throated Green Warblers, as well as more Nashville, Myrtle Yellow-rumped and Blackburnians. 

It wasn't just warblers - other good species included Purple Finch, White-throated Sparrow, Great Blue Heron, Wood Duck, Sharp-shinned, Broad-winged and Red-tailed Hawks, American Kestrel, Ruffed Grouse, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Flicker, Alder Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Red-eyed Vireo, Hermit Thrush, Golden-crowned Kinglet and Swamp Sparrow.  There were no particular hot spots for these birds - many were seen several times, and most were stumbled across in spots which looked very typical of the whole area.

Several other species were heard but not seen, including Winter Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Le Conte's Sparrow and fly-over Evening Grosbeaks.  The Eastern Meadowlarks sounded very different from the millions of Westerns we had seen up to now, but I doubt if any of us would feel completely comfortable with a visual ID.  Regrettably, no Boreal Chickadees could be found, and the only Gray Jay seen was a tail disappearing into some trees - not really countable.

As the day got hotter, the birds got quieter and more elusive, and we decided to head back to Duluth to see what could be found there.  A casual drive along the north shore of Lake Superior produced several summer-plumaged Great Northern Divers and some Ring-billed Gulls.  A nearby house had a hummingbird feeder, and a quick request produced a swift invitation to sit out on the patio, and watch in comfort.  A female Ruby-throated Hummingbird soon showed up, and we finally got good views of a Black-and-white Warbler in the garden.

Leaving these hospitable people we headed for a Bald Eagle nest site Mike knew, and were quickly treated to great views of two birds, one perched in a nearby tree, and the other soaring overhead.

Next stop was the area around the Yacht Club, where a Bonaparte's Gull and a Common Tern were new for the trip, and indeed the only ones seen.  A Chimney Swift flew overhead, Spotted Sandpiper and Killdeer fed on the lake shore, and a Cooper's Hawk was located perched on a log at the far end of the inlet.

We headed into the residential areas of Duluth, successfully finding a colony of Purple Martins, and a pair of House Finches.  A small flock of ducks glimpsed between houses was investigated, and proved to be mostly Mallards, but with a number of American Black Ducks.  2 Belted Kingfishers were also seen nearby. 

We bade Mike farewell back at the motel, having made arrangements to meet up again the following day.  Luckily, a room had become free at the Econolodge, as we had not previously been able to find anywhere to stay for that night, although the price had mysteriously risen from USD 75 to USD 106 per night, for an inferior room.  Nothing to do with the town being busy, I'm sure!! 

The plan had been to rest up and have an early night, ready for another early start the next morning.  However, after resting for a couple of hours, we were all keen for more, and decided to head back to Sax - Zim for a late evening session.  The birds were pretty quiet at that time, but new birds seen included Palm Warbler and, surprisingly, the only Black-billed Magpie of the trip!  A stint after dark at a good Yellow Rail spot again failed to produce any calling birds - oh well, one for next time!  A Long-eared Owl was also heard calling from some nearby trees.

Birds recorded

Sax - Zim Bog, MN - Great Blue Heron, Wood Duck, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Ruffed Grouse, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Flicker, Long-eared Owl (h), Alder Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Red-eyed Vireo, Black-billed Magpie, Common Raven, Winter Wren (h), Golden-crowned Kinglet, Ruby-crowned Kinglet (h), Hermit Thrush, Nashville Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Myrtle Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Palm Warbler, Mourning Warbler, Connecticut Warbler, Ovenbird, Le Conte's Sparrow (h), Swamp Sparrow (h), White-throated Sparrow, Eastern Meadowlark, Purple Finch, Evening Grosbeak (h)

Duluth, MN - Great Northern Diver, Green Heron, American Black Duck, Bald Eagle, Cooper's Hawk, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, Bonaparte's Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Common Tern, Chimney Swift, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Purple Martin, Black-capped Chickadee, Black and White Warbler, House Finch

Saturday 19 June 1999

After what was by now our standard 4 hours' sleep, we had yet another pre-dawn start, to meet Mike and undertake the 170 mile drive north eastwards to Ely.  A little south of Ely, we turned eastwards on a gravel road to the area around Gabbro Lake.  This area produced a range of good birds, including yet more warblers - Northern Parula, Nashville Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Common Yellowthroat and Ovenbird.  A Northern Waterthrush was heard but refused to show itself. 

Other new species included Blue-headed Vireo and Rusty Blackbird, and we finally encountered a family party of Gray Jays.  Also in the area were Great Crested Flycatcher, Swamp Sparrow and White-throated Sparrow.

By now we were homing in on specific target birds, and two birds high on our want list were Black-throated Blue and Canada Warblers.  Mike decided to head back southwards down Route 1 to the town of Finland, then right (west) on Route 4 to the reserve of Lax Lake, near the town of the same name.  We parked in the roadside car park, and headed uphill along the trail. 

The trail eventually crests a hill, and starts to head downhill, and in this area Mike heard and then located a singing Black-throated Blue Warbler, which proceeded to give excellent views.  Also in the area were Downy Woodpecker, Red-eyed Vireo and Red-breasted Nuthatch, but no sign of the more elusive Canada Warbler, although several were heard singing away in the undergrowth.  We slowly headed back downhill towards the car park, and stopped when we saw a female American Redstart.  At that moment, PC saw a bird flitting in the undergrowth, and sure enough there it was - a beautiful Canada Warbler.

By now it was lunchtime, and Mike had family commitments for that night.  We therefore decided on one last stop, and headed for an area known as Stony River Road.  This is reached by going back northwards on Route 1 to the village of Isabella.  Nearly 3 miles beyond (west) of Isabella, is the turn off south onto Stony River Road.  We birded the stretch between Route 1 and Road 104, also known as Whyte Road, where the best bird was a very obliging Northern Waterthrush, which gave great views. 

Other good birds included Broad-winged Hawk, Winter Wren, Magnolia Warbler, Great Crested Flycatcher and Hairy Woodpecker.  A Lincoln's Sparrow persistently sang from some roadside shrubs but despite much searching could not be spotted.  However, at that time, all thoughts of Lincoln's Sparrow were completely forgotten as a female Black Bear and three cubs ambled into the gravel road a few hundred yards ahead, and slowly wandered down towards the car - quite incredible!

Sadly, our last main target bird, Boreal Chickadee, completely failed to co-operate, and none were heard or seen throughout the trip.  Eventually we gave up on it, and headed back for Duluth, where we said goodbye to Mike, with great thanks for 2 days of top class boreal birding.  Unfortunately, GD's hip bag was still sitting in the safe of the McDonalds in Cook, so off we went to fetch it.  Arriving in Cook, and having collected the bag, we made some enquiries about the local sewage farm which is located west of the town centre along a road behind the Forestry office.  This was an old-style sewage farm, with stone-banked settling pools.  Several Common Goldeneye were new for the trip, and some waders were also seen, specifically Lesser Yellowlegs and Spotted Sandpiper.  Bobolink also gave their best views of the trip.

It was now time for the last long drive of the trip, southwards towards Minneapolis.  We had one last stop scheduled en route, at the home of Jim Pavlek and Richard Hill on the outskirts of the town of Floodwood, northwest of Duluth.  Jim had written to me just before I left on the trip telling me he had Pileated Woodpeckers nesting in the back yard, and as we had so far dipped on these birds, we made the detour to call in.  Sadly, time was too short to allow us to accept their very kind offer of a meal, but a quick tour of their back yard soon produced excellent views of a Pileated Woodpecker, pterodactyl-like as it alighted on a nearby tree.  The drumming it made was unbelievably loud, and you wondered how the tree could withstand it.  Other excellent birds seen during our very brief visit included a pair of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, and only our second Yellow-bellied Sapsucker of the trip.

On leaving Floodwood, we decided on a short detour for one last try for Boreal Chickadee, south of Hill City.  En route we crossed a young Mississippi River, no more than a large stream this far upriver.  Unfortunately, there were again no signs of the chickadees, and we were comprehensively defeated by the most vicious and aggressive mosquitoes I have ever encountered.  No clothing was thick enough to prevent them biting through, and by the time we got back to the car, we were all covered in bites.

The original plan had been to get to Minneapolis by tonight, so as to get in some early morning birding in the Twin Cities the next day, before flying home early afternoon.  However, the drive down to Minneapolis was very long and we soon decided to try to stay somewhere en route, and sacrifice some birding time the next morning.  Unfortunately, we had badly underestimated the pulling power of Grandma's Marathon, and every motel we tried were completely full. 

By this stage, not only had we accepted that we would need to complete the journey to Minneapolis that night, but we were starting to worry whether we'd find anywhere to stay there either.  We eventually arrived at the Day's Inn in the centre of Minneapolis at some 01:00, after driving a total of some 750 miles that day!  To out enormous relief, they had just one room left.  I don't actually remember eating anything that evening, although we probably ate some pre-packaged rubbish from a petrol station!

Birds recorded

Gabbro Lake, MN - Hairy Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher, Blue-headed Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, Gray Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, Nashville Warbler, Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush (h), Common Yellowthroat, Swamp Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Rusty Blackbird

Lax Lake, MN - Downy Woodpecker, Red-eyed Vireo, Black-capped Chickadee (h), Red-breasted Nuthatch, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Canada Warbler, Ovenbird, American Redstart

Stony River Road - Broad-winged Hawk, Hairy Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher, Winter Wren, Hermit Thrush (h), Magnolia Warbler, Myrtle Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, White-throated Sparrow (h), Lincoln's Sparrow (h)

Cook Sewage Farm, MN - Mallard, Blue-winged Teal, Goldeneye, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Savannah Sparrow, Bobolink

Floodwood, MN - Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Pileated Woodpecker

Sunday 20 June 1999

Despite a really tough day yesterday, we managed to get up at about 07:00, for some last day birding.  A quick stroll around the motel car park produced our first Northern Cardinal and a House Wren, and then it was time to head for Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve, accessed south from Burnsville in the southern outskirts of Minneapolis.  Again, there are full details plus maps and directions in Eckert's book.

The reserve is a good site for some species which are highly localised in Minnesota, such as Hooded Warbler, Acadian Flycatcher, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Red-shouldered Hawk.  Unfortunately, when we got there the reserve was closed, preventing a thorough exploration.  Furthermore, it was hot and very humid, and the mosquitoes were again out in force.

We spent some time exploring the fields and bushes around the car park and visitor centre, the highlight of which was a Yellow-bellied Cuckoo.  We also found a party of Field Sparrows here, as well as Wood Duck, Cooper's Hawk, American Coot, Yellow-throated Vireo, Cedar Waxwing, and White-breasted Nuthatch.  A Great White Egret flew in and landed on the section of the pond near the junction between the access road and the main road, while a Northern Cardinal was seen in a nearby garden.

We decided to spend our last hour looking for Dickcissel at the grasslands around Little Cloud Airport, south of Eden Prairie, in the south west suburbs of Minneapolis (again, details and directions in Eckert).  Unfortunately, no Dickcissels were found, but we found our last new bird of the trip in the form of an Eastern Towhee, as well as the first perched Belted Kingfisher we had seen, a Cardinal and a small group of House Finches.

Absolutely exhausted but extremely happy and satisfied, it was finally time to call it a day and head to Minneapolis Airport for our flights home.

Birds recorded

Murphy - Hanrehan Park, Minneapolis, MN - Great White Egret, Wood Duck, Cooper's Hawk, American Coot, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Hairy Woodpecker, Yellow-throated Vireo, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-breasted Nuthatch, House Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Cedar Waxwing, Field Sparrow, Cardinal, American Goldfinch

Little Cloud Airport, Minneapolis, MN - Belted Kingfisher, Eastern Towhee, Cardinal, House Finch

 

Species List:

Sites visited:

   Rapid City, SD - the town itself, and the area around the shooting range just south of the town.

   Custer, SD - Custer State Park, in the Black Hills south of Rapid City

   Mount Rushmore, SD - the access road and the area around the free remote car park

   Roby Canyon, SD - the area including Boles and Roby Canyons in SD, just adjacent to the Wyoming state line.

   Devil's Tower, WY - the southern end of the Red Beds Trail, south of the monument, and the car park and camp site near to the river

   Redig, SD -  the prairie area along the I-85 just north of the town of Redig

   Bowman-Haley, ND - the vicinity of the Bowman-Haley Dam Refuge

   Marmarth, SD - the area about 14 miles south of Marmarth along the gravel road that heads for the state line with SD

   Lostwood, ND - Lostwood N.W.R. north of Stanley, and the area of pools alongside Route 8 just south of the reserve entrance.

   Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND - a full clockwise circuit of this lake east of Minot

   Turtle Lake, ND - the area of wetlands immediately east of the town.

   Hurdsfield, ND - some excellent prairie potholes either side of Road 200 near to this town

   Littlefork, MN - the yard of the Lindvall family west of Route 71 south of Littlefork, and the surrounding area

   Duluth, MN - primarily the lake front in and around the city

   Sax - Zim Bog, MN - the area of boglands west of road 53 north of Duluth - look for signs for Meadowlands

   Gabbro Lake, MN - woodlands adjacent to this lake, east of Route 1, south of Ely

   Lax Lake, MN - woodlands around Lax Lake, along Route 4 in the NE corner of the state

   Stony River Road, MN - dirt road south from Route 1, 2.7 miles west of Isabella.

   Cook Sewage Farm, MN - sewage pools just west of the centre of Cook, between Duluth and International Falls

   Floodwood, MN - the yard of Jim Pavlek, south of Floodwood, west of Duluth

   Murphy-Hanrehan, MN - state park, in the southern outskirts of Minneapolis

   Little Cloud Airfield, MN - prairie area, adjacent to the airfield, in SW outskirts of Minneapolis

Please note - where I have not accurately counted the number of a particular species seen, I have preceded the location with 'n'. Numbers of each species seen are understated in many cases, especially regarding the commoner species - I'm not always as diligent as I should be in keeping numbers of species seen.

The letter 'h' denotes that the bird was heard but not seen.

1.   Great Northern Diver (Common Loon)  (Gavia immer)  4+ Duluth, MN 18.6

2.   Black-necked (Eared) Grebe  (Podiceps nigricollis)  8+ Custer, SD 13.6, 2 Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6, 2 Turtle Lake, ND 16.6

3.   Slavonian (Horned) Grebe  (Podiceps auritus)  1 Lostwood, ND 15.6

4.   Pied-billed Grebe  (Podilymus podiceps)  1 Lostwood, ND 15.6

5.   Western Grebe  (Aechophorus occidentalis)  2 Bowman-Haley, ND 15.6

6.   American White Pelican  (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)  2 Belfield, ND 15.6, c.6 Turtle Lake, ND 16.6, 4 Hurdsfield, ND 16.6

7.   Double-crested Cormorant  (Phalacrocorax auritus) 1 Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6

8.   American Bittern  (Botaurus lentiginosus)  h Lostwood, ND 15.6, 2 Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6, 1 Turtle Lake, ND 16.6

9.   Black-crowned Night Heron  (Nycticorax nycticorax)  1 Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6, 4 Hurdsfield, ND 16.6

10.    Green Heron  (Butorides virescens) 1 Duluth, MN 18.6

11.    Great White (Great, American) Egret  (Ardea alba)  1 Murphy-Hanrehan, MN 20.6

12.    Great Blue Heron  (Ardea herodias)  2 Rapid City, SD 13.6, 5+ Bowman-Haley, ND 15.6, n Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6, 1 Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6

13.    Canada Goose  (Branta canadensis)  Birds seen occasionally at prairie potholes throughout North Dakota.  These appeared to be of a mixture of races, suggesting that at least some were feral birds.  Of those considered to be truly wild birds, a flock of 11 + young seen at Hurdsfield, ND 16.6 were notable, as were two flocks comprising a total of about 70 birds flying over Lostwood, ND.

14.    Wood Duck  (Aix sponsa) 2 Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6, 1 Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6, 1 Murphy-Hanrehan, MN 20.6

15.    Mallard  (Anas platyrhynchos)  1 Rapid City, SD 13.6, n Turtle Lake, ND 16.6, n Cook Sewage Farm, MN 19.6.  Probably others

16.    American Black Duck  (Anas rubripes)  8 Duluth, MN 18.6

17.    Gadwall  (Anas strepera)  n Bowman-Haley, ND 15.6, 1 Belfield, ND 15.6, n Turtle Lake, ND 16.6

18.    Green-winged Teal  (Anas crecca carolinensis)  1 Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6, 1 Turtle Lake, ND 16.6

19.    American Wigeon  (Anas americana)  1 Redig, ND 16.6

20.    (Northern) Pintail (Anas acuta)  1 New Town, ND 15.6, n Bowman-Haley, ND 15.6

21.    (Northern) Shoveler  (Anas clypeata)  n Bowman-Haley, ND 15.6, 2 Marmarth, ND 15.6

22.    Blue-winged Teal  (Anas discors)  2 Custer, SD 13.6, 1 Redig, SD 15.6, 1 Bowman-Haley, ND 15.6, 2 Marmarth, ND 15.6, 4+ Lostwood, ND 15.6, 1 Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6, n Turtle Lake, ND 16.6, n Cook Sewage Farm, MN 19.6

23.    Canvasback  (Aythya valisineria)  1 + young Marmarth, ND 15.6

24.    Redhead (Aythya americana)   n Bowman-Haley, ND 15.6, n Lostwood, ND 15.6, n Turtle Lake, ND 16.6

25.    Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)  6+ Lostwood, ND 15.6, 2 Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6, 1 Turtle Lake, ND 16.6

26.    (Common) Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)  n Cook Sewage Farm, MN 19.6

27.    Bufflehead  (Bucephala albeola)  3 Bowman-Haley, ND 15.6, 2 Lostwood, ND 15.6

28.    Red-breasted Merganser  (Mergus serrator)  1 Custer, SD 13.6

29.    Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)  2 Lostwood, ND 15.6

30.    Turkey Vulture  (Cathartes aura)  3+ Custer, SD 13.6, 1 Devil's Tower, WY 14.6

31.    Osprey  (Pandion haliaetus)  1 Custer, SD 13.6, 3 Bemidji, MN 17.6

32.    Northern Harrier  (Circus cyaneus)  1 New Town, ND 15.6, 3 Lostwood, ND 15.6

33.    Bald Eagle  (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  2 Duluth, MN 18.6

34.    Sharp-shinned Hawk  (Accipiter striatus)  1 Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6

35.    Cooper's Hawk  (Accipiter cooperii)  1 north of Bowman, ND 15.6, 1 Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6, 1+ Velva, ND 16.6, 1 Duluth, MN 18.6, 1 Murphy-Hanrehan, MN 20.6

36.    (Northern) Goshawk  (Accipiter gentilis)  1 Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6

37.    Broad-winged Hawk  (Buteo platypterus)  1 Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6, 2 Stony River Road, MN 19.6

38.    Red-tailed Hawk  (Buteo jamaicensis)  2 Custer, SD 13.6, 2 Four Corners, WY 14.6, 2 Redig, SD 15.6, 1 Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6, 1 Turtle Lake, ND 16.6, 1 Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6

39.    Swainson's Hawk  (Buteo swainsoni)  1 near Redig, SD 15.6, 1 Marmarth, ND 15.6, 1 Belfield, ND 15.6

40.    Ferruginous Hawk  (Buteo regalis)  4 along the I-85 northwards from Redig, SD 15.6

41.    American Kestrel  (Falco sparverius)  1 Custer, SD 13.6, 1 Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6, 1 Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6

42.    Prairie Falcon  (Falco mexicanus)  1 Devil's Tower, WY 14.6

43.    Gray Partridge  (Perdix perdix)  1 Bowman-Haley, ND 15.6

44.    Wild Turkey  (Meleagris gallopavo)  4 Norwich, ND 16.6

45.    Ruffed Grouse  (Bonasa umbellus)  2 + young Littlefork, MN 17.6, 1 + young Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6

46.    Sharp-tailed Grouse  (Tympanuchus phasianellus)  1 Lostwood, ND 15.6, 1 Turtle Lake, ND 16.6

47.    Virginia Rail  (Rallus limicola)  1 Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6

48.    Sora  (Porzana carolina)  2 (+ others heard) Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6

49.    American Coot  (Fulica americana)  2 Bowman-Haley, ND 15.6, 1 Murphy-Hanrehan, MN 20.6

50.    Piping Plover  (Charadrius melodus)  4 Turtle Lake, ND 16.6

51.    Killdeer  (Charadrius vociferus)  n Rapid City, SD 13.6, n Bowman-Haley, ND 15.6, n Turtle Lake, ND 16.6, n Hurdsfield, ND 16.6, n Duluth, MN 18.6

52.    American Avocet  (Recurvirostra americana)  12+ Turtle Lake, ND 16.6

53.    Willet  (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus)  2 Lostwood, ND 15.6, n Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6 2 Turtle Lake, ND 16.6, 1 Hurdsfield, ND 16.6

54.    Lesser Yellowlegs  (Tringa flavipes)  1 Hurdsfield, ND 16.6, 1 Cook Sewage Farm, MN 19.6

55.    Spotted Sandpiper  (Actitis macularia)  1 Duluth, MN 18.6, 2 Cook Sewage Farm, MN 19.6

56.    Long-billed Curlew  (Numenius americanus)  1 Rapid City, SD 13.6

57.    Marbled Godwit  (Limosa fedoa)  2 Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6, n Turtle Lake, ND 16.6

58.    Upland Sandpiper  (Bartramia longicauda)  2 Rapid City, SD 13.6, 3 Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6

59.    Wilson's (Common) Snipe (Gallinago (gallinago) delicata)  1 Lostwood, ND 15.6, 1 Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6

60.    Wilson's Phalarope  (Phalaropus tricolor)  3 Marmarth, ND 15.6, 2 Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6, n Turtle Lake, ND 16.6, n Hurdsfield, ND 16.6

61.    Franklin's Gull  (Larus pipixcan)  4 Hurdsfield, ND 16.6

62.    Bonaparte's Gull  (Larus philadelphia)  1 Duluth, MN 18.6

63.    Ring-billed Gull  (Larus delawarensis)  n Hurdsfield, ND 16.6, n Duluth, MN 18.6

64.    California Gull  (Larus californicus)  n Turtle Lake, ND 16.6, n Hurdsfield, ND 16.6

65.    Herring Gull  (Larus argentatus smithsonianus)  n Turtle Lake, ND 16.6

66.    Caspian Tern  (Sterna caspia)  1+ Turtle Lake, ND 16.6

67.    Forster's Tern  (Sterna forsteri)  2 Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6, n Turtle Lake, ND 16.6

68.    Common Tern  (Sterna hirundo)  1 Duluth, MN 18.6

69.    Black Tern  (Chlidonias niger)  3 Lostwood, ND 15.6, 1 Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6

70.    Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon)  (Columba livia)  Unfortunately, abundant everywhere

71.    Mourning Dove  (Zenaida macroura)  Common throughout

72.    Yellow-billed Cuckoo  (Coccyzus americanus)  1 Murphy-Hanrehan, MN 20.6

73.    Short-eared Owl  (Asio flammeus)  1 Redig, SD 15.6

74.    Long-eared Owl (Asio otus)  Sadly, one collided with and was killed by our car at Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6.  Another heard calling, also at Sax-Zim Bog, MN

75.    Great Horned Owl  (Bubo virginianus)  1 Redig, SD 15.6, 2 Marmarth, ND 15.6

76.    Common Nighthawk  (Chordeiles minor)  3 Rapid City Airport, SD 12.6, 10 Spearfish, SD 14.6, 1 Marmarth, ND 15.6

77.    Chimney Swift  (Chaetura pelagica)  1 Marmarth, ND 15.6, 1 Duluth, MN 18.6

78.    White-throated Swift  (Aeronautes saxatilis)  n Roby Canyon, SD 14.6, n Devil's Tower, WY 14.6

79.    Ruby-throated Hummingbird  (Archilochus colubris)  1 Duluth, MN 18.6, 2 Floodwood, MN 19.6

80.    Belted Kingfisher  (Ceryle alcyon)  h Pactola 13.6, 1 Sawyer 16.6, 1 Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6, 2 Duluth, MN 18.6, 1 Little Cloud Airfield, MN 20.6

81.    Red-headed Woodpecker  (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)  2+ Devil's Tower, WY 14.6

82.    Northern Flicker  (Colaptes auratus)  Common throughout.  In the Black Hills both Red-shafted and Yellow-shafted versions were seen, as well as some hybrids.  Further east, only Yellow-shafted types were seen.

83.    Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  (Sphyrapicus varius)  1 Littlefork, MN 17.6, 1 Floodwood, MN 19.6

84.    Downy Woodpecker  (Picoides pubescens)  1 Devil's Tower, WY 14.6, 1 Sawyer, ND 16.6, 1 Lax Lake, MN 19.6

85.    Hairy Woodpecker  (Picoides villosus)  2 Custer, SD 13.6, 1 Mount Rushmore, SD 14.6, 1 Devil's Tower, WY 14.6, 1 Velva, ND 16.6, 1 Gabbro Lake, MN 19.6, 1 Stony River Road, MN 19.6, 1 Murphy-Hanrehan, MN 20.6

86.    Three-toed Woodpecker  (Picoides tridactylus dorsalis)  1 Devil's Tower, WY 14.6

87.    Black-backed Woodpecker  (Picoides arcticus)  1 Devil's Tower, WY 14.6

88.    Pileated Woodpecker  (Dryocopus pileatus) 1+ Floodwood, MN 19.6

89.    Eastern Wood-Pewee  (Contopus virens)  1 Norwich, ND 16.6

90.    Western Wood-Pewee  (Contopus sordidulus)  1 Custer, SD 13.6

91.    Alder Flycatcher  (Empidonax alnorum)  1 Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6

92.    Willow Flycatcher  (Empidonax traillii)  1 Bowman-Haley, ND 15.6

93.    Least Flycatcher  (Empidonax minimus)  2 Custer, SD 13.6

94.    Dusky Flycatcher  (Empidonax oberholseri)  1 Custer, SD 13.6, 3 Devil's Tower, WY 14.6

95.    Cordilleran Flycatcher  (Empidonax occidentalis) 1 Custer, SD 13.6

96.    Eastern Phoebe  (Sayornis phoebe)  n Littlefork, MN 17.6, 2 Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6

97.    Say's Phoebe  (Sayornis saya)  1 Marmarth, ND 15.6

98.    Great Crested Flycatcher  (Myiarchus crinitus)  1 Minot, ND 16.6, 1 Gabbro Lake, MN 19.6, 1 Stony River Road, MN 19.6

99.    Western Kingbird  (Tyrannus verticalis)  n Bowman-Haley, ND 15.6, 1 Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6, 1 Turtle Lake, ND 16.6

100.     Eastern Kingbird  (Tyrannus tyrannus)  n Rapid City, SD 13.6, n Custer, SD 13.6, 2 Devil's Tower, WY 14.6, 1 Bowman-Haley, ND 15.6, 1 Marmarth, ND 15.6, 2 Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6

101.     Loggerhead Shrike  (Lanius ludovicianus)  1 Bowman-Haley, ND 15.6, 2 Marmarth, ND 15.6, 1 Norwich, ND 16.6

102.     Yellow-throated Vireo  (Vireo flavifrons)  1 Minot, ND 16.6, 1 Murphy-Hanrehan, MN 20.6

103.     Blue-headed Vireo  (Vireo solitarius)  1 Gabbro Lake, MN 19.6

104.     Plumbeous Vireo  (Vireo plumbeus)  2 Custer, SD 13.6

105.     Red-eyed Vireo  (Vireo olivaceus)  1 Velva, ND 16.6, 2 Sawyer, ND 16.6, 1 Littlefork, MN 17.6, 2 Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6, 2 Gabbro Lake, MN 19.6, 1 Lax Lake, MN 19.6

106.     Warbling Vireo  (Vireo gilvus)  3 Custer, SD 13.6, h Norwich, ND 16.6

107.     Blue Jay  (Cyanocitta cristata)  1 Custer, SD 13.6, 1 Rapid City, SD 14.6, 1 Minot, ND 16.6, 1 Gabbro Lake, MN 19.6

108.     Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis)  c. 4 Gabbro Lake, MN 19.6

109.     Black-billed Magpie  (Pica pica)  1 Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6

110.     American Crow  (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  Seen throughout

111.     Common Raven  (Corvus corax)  1 Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6

112.     Shore (Horned) Lark  (Eremophila alpestris)  1 Rapid City, SD 13.6, 1 Redig, SD 15.6, 1 Marmarth, ND 15.6, 1 Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6

113.     Tree Swallow  (Tachycineta bicolor)  1 Custer, SD 13.6, n Sawyer, ND 16.6, n Littlefork, MN 17.6

114.     Violet-green Swallow  (Tachycineta thalassina)  n Custer, SD 13.6

115.     Purple Martin (Progne subis)  c.10 Duluth, MN 18.6

116.     Sand Martin (Bank Swallow)  (Riparia riparia)  1 Bowman-Haley, ND 15.6

117.     Cliff Swallow  (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)  n Denver Airport, CO 12.6, n Rapid City, SD 13.6, n Redig, SD 15.6, n Bowman-Haley, ND 15.6

118.     Northern Rough-winged Swallow  (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)  2 Norwich, ND 16.6, 2 Sawyer, ND 16.6

119.     (Barn) Swallow  (Hirundo rustica)  1 Rapid City, SD 13.6.  Probably others.

120.     Black-capped Chickadee  (Poecile atricapillus)  1 Custer, SD 13.6, 1 Roby Canyon, SD 14.6, 1 Duluth, MN 18.6, 1 Gabbro Lake, MN 19.6, h Lax Lake, MN 19.6

121.     White-breasted Nuthatch  (Sitta carolinensis)  1 Custer, SD 13.6, 1 Roby Canyon, SD 14.6, 1 Devil's Tower, WY 14.6, 1 Murphy-Hanrehan, MN 20.6

122.     Red-breasted Nuthatch  (Sitta canadensis)  n Custer, SD 13.6, 1 Mount Rushmore, SD 14.6, 1 Devil's Tower, WY 14.6, 1 Lax Lake, MN 19.6, 1 Murphy-Hanrehan, MN 20.6

123.     House Wren  (Troglodytes aedon)  1 Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6, 1 Sawyer, ND 16.6, 3 Murphy-Hanrehan, MN 20.6

124.     Winter Wren  (Troglodytes troglodytes)  h Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6, 1 Stony River Road, MN 19.6

125.     Rock Wren  (Salpinctes obsoletus)  2 Roby Canyon, SD 14.6

126.     Marsh Wren  (Cistothorus palustris)  1 (+ lots heard) Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6

127.     Sedge Wren  (Cistothorus platensis)  1 Lostwood, ND 15.6

128.     American Dipper  (Cinclus mexicanus)  1 Roughlock Falls, Savoy, SD 14.6

129.     Golden-crowned Kinglet  (Regulus satrapa)  1 Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6

130.     Eastern Bluebird  (Sialia sialis)  n Custer, SD 13.6, 4 Littlefork, MN 17.6, 1 Murphy-Hanrehan, MN 20.6

131.     Mountain Bluebird  (Sialia currucoides)  n Custer, SD 13.6, 1 Roby Canyon, SD 14.6

132.     Townsend's Solitaire  (Myadestes townsendi)  1 Custer, SD 13.6, 1 Devil's Tower, WY 14.6

133.     Veery  (Catharus fuscescens)  1 Sawyer, ND 16.6

134.     Hermit Thrush  (Catharus guttatus)  1 Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6, h Stony River Road, MN 19.6

135.     American Robin  (Turdus migratorius)  Common throughout

136.     Gray Catbird  (Dumetella carolinensis)  1 Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6

137.     Brown Thrasher  (Toxostoma rufum)  1 Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6

138.     European Starling  (Sturnis vulgaris)  Common throughout.  Depressingly, this was the very first species seen (Newark Airport)

139.     Sprague's Pipit  (Anthus spragueii)  1 Norwich, ND 16.6

140.     Cedar Waxwing  (Bombycilla cedrorum)  2 Norwich, ND 16.6, 2 Murphy-Hanrehan, MN 20.6

141.     Nashville Warbler  (Vermivora ruficapilla)  2 Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6, 1 Gabbro Lake, MN 19.6

142.     Virginia's Warbler  (Vermivora virginiae)  c.4 Roby Canyon, SD 14.6

143.     Northern Parula  (Parula americana)  2 Gabbro Lake, MN 19.6

144.     Chestnut-sided Warbler  (Dendroica pensylvanica)  1 Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6, 1 Gabbro Lake, MN 19.6

145.     Magnolia Warbler  (Dendroica magnolia)  1 Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6, 1 Gabbro Lake, MN 19.6, 1 Stony River Road, MN 19.6

146.     Yellow-rumped Warbler  (Dendroica coronata)  Myrtle Warbler (D. c. coronata) - 2 Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6, 1 Stony River Road, MN 19.6; Audubon's Warbler (D. c. auduboni) - 1 Custer, SD 13.6, 1 Roby Canyon, SD 14.6

147.     Black-and-white Warbler  (Mniotilta varia)  1 Sawyer, ND 16.6, 1 Duluth, MN 18.6

148.     Black-throated Blue Warbler  (Dendroica caerulescens)  1 Lax Lake, MN 19.6

149.     Blackburnian Warbler  (Dendroica fusca)  2 Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6, 2 Gabbro Lake, MN 19.6

150.     Black-throated Green Warbler  (Dendroica virens)  1 Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6

151.     Palm Warbler  (Dendroica palmarum)  1 Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6

152.     Yellow Warbler  (Dendroica petechia)  2+ Devil's Tower, WY 14.6, 1 Velva, ND 16.6, 1 Sawyer, ND 16.6, n Littlefork, MN 17.6

153.     Mourning Warbler (Oporornis philadelphia)  1 Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6

154.     MacGillivray's Warbler  (Oporornis tolmiei)  1 Custer, SD 13.6

155.     Connecticut Warbler  (Oporornis agilis)  2 (+ others h) Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6

156.     Canada Warbler  (Wilsonia canadensis)  1 Lax Lake, MN 19.6

157.     Ovenbird  (Seiurus aurocapillus)  1 Custer, SD 13.6, 1 Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6, 1 Gabbro Lake, MN 19.6, 1 Lax Lake, MN 19.6

158.     Northern Waterthrush  (Seiurus noveboracensis)  h Gabbro Lake, MN 19.6, 1 Stony River Road, MN 19.6

159.     Common Yellowthroat  (Geothlypis trichas)  3+ Custer, SD 13.6, 1 Lostwood, ND 15.6, 1 Sawyer, ND 16.6, 1 Gabbro Lake, MN 19.6.  Probably others

160.     American Redstart  (Setophaga ruticilla)  1 Lax Lake, MN 19.6

161.     Scarlet Tanager  (Piranga olivacea)  1 Littlefork, MN 17.6

162.     Western Tanager  (Piranga ludoviciana)  2 Custer, SD 13.6, 1 Roby Canyon, SD 14.6

163.     Eastern Towhee  (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)  1 Little Cloud Airfield, MN 20.6

164.     Spotted Towhee  (Pipilo maculatus)  2 Custer, SD 13.6, n Roby Canyon, SD 14.6

165.     Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla)  c. 6 Murphy-Hanrehan, MN 20.6

166.     Chipping Sparrow  (Spizella passerina)  Abundant, in a wide range of habitat.

167.     Clay-colored Sparrow  (Spizella pallida)  n Lostwood, ND 15.6, h Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6, 1 Velva, ND 16.6

168.     Lark Sparrow  (Chondestes grammacus)  n Rapid City, SD 13.6, n Custer, SD 13.6, 1 Marmarth, ND 15.6

169.     Grasshopper Sparrow  (Ammodramus savannarum)  1 Rapid City, SD 13.6, 1+ Marmarth, ND 15.6, 1 Lostwood, ND 15.6

170.     Baird's Sparrow  (Ammodramus bairdii)  3+ Lostwood, ND 15.6, 2 Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6

171.     Le Conte's Sparrow  (Ammodramus leconteii)  2+ Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6, h Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6

172.     Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow (Ammodramus nelsoni)  3 Lostwood, ND 15.6, 1 Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6

173.     Lark Bunting  (Calamospiza melanocorys)  common roadside bird all the way from Redig, SD northwards to Watford City, ND.  Seen more sparsely in other prairie areas.

174.     Savannah Sparrow  (Passerculus sandwichensis)  1 Rapid City, SD 13.6, n Lostwood, ND 15.6, n Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6, 1 Littlefork, MN 17.6, 1 Cook Sewage Farm, MN 19.6

175.     Song Sparrow  (Melospiza melodia)  Common throughout

176.     Vesper Sparrow  (Pooecetes gramineus)  1 Redig, SD 15.6, 1 Marmarth, ND 15.6, 1 Lostwood, ND 15.6

177.     Swamp Sparrow  (Melospiza georgiana)  h Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6, 3+ Gabbro Lake, MN 19.6

178.     White-throated Sparrow  (Zonotrichia albicollis)  1 (+ lots heard) Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6, 1 Gabbro Lake, MN 19.6, h Stony River Road, MN 19.6

179.     "White-winged" Dark-eyed Junco  (Junco hyemalis aikeni)  n Custer, SD 13.6, n Mount Rushmore, SD 14.6, 4 Roby Canyon, SD 14.6

180.     Chestnut-collared Longspur (Calcarius ornatus)  2+ Marmarth, ND 15.6, 6+ Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6

181.     Rose-breasted Grosbeak  (Pheucticus ludovicianus)  1 Sawyer, ND 16.6

182.     Black-headed Grosbeak  (Pheucticus melanocephalus)  4 Custer, SD 13.6

183.     Northern Cardinal  (Cardinalis cardinalis)  1 Days Inn, Minneapolis, MN 20.6, 1 Murphy-Hanrehan, MN 20.6, 2 Little Cloud Airfield, MN 20.6

184.     Dickcissel  (Spiza americana)  1 Marmarth, ND 15.6

185.     Indigo Bunting  (Passerina cyanea)  1 Minot, ND 16.6

186.     Lazuli Bunting  (Passerina amoena)  1 Sawyer, ND 16.6

187.     Bobolink  (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)  1 Marmarth, ND 15.6, 1 Lostwood, ND 15.6, n Cook Sewage Farm, MN 19.6.  Probably others.

188.     Eastern Meadowlark  (Sturnella magna)  n Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6

189.     Western Meadowlark  (Sturnella neglecta)  Abundant throughout the prairies of North and South Dakota.

190.     Yellow-headed Blackbird  (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)  c.6 Marmarth, ND 15.6, n Lostwood, ND 15.6, 1 Buffalo Lodge Lake, ND 16.6

191.     Red-winged Blackbird  (Agelaius phoeniceus)  Abundant everywhere

192.     Common Grackle  (Quiscalus quiscula) Abundant everywhere

193.     Rusty Blackbird  (Euphagus carolinus)  1 Gabbro Lake, MN 19.6

194.     Brewer's Blackbird  (Euphagus cyanocephalus)  n Rapid City, SD 13.6, n Custer, SD 13.6, n Roby Canyon, SD 14.6, n Norwich, ND 16.6, n Cook Sewage Farm, MN 19.6.  Probably others not recorded - seemed pretty abundant.

195.     Brown-headed Cowbird  (Molothrus ater) Abundant everywhere

196.     Orchard Oriole  (Icterus spurius)  1 Bowman-Haley, ND 15.6

197.     Bullock's Oriole  (Icterus bullockii)  3 Devil's Tower, WY 14.6, 1 Bowman-Haley, ND 15.6

198.     Purple Finch  (Carpodacus purpureus)  1 Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6

199.     House Finch  (Carpodacus mexicanus)  2 Duluth, MN 18.6, n Little Cloud Airfield, MN 20.6

200.     Red Crossbill  (Loxia curvirostra)  n Custer, SD 13.6, n Mount Rushmore, SD 14.6, 3 Devil's Tower, WY 14.6

201.     Pine Siskin  (Carduelis pinus)  n Custer, SD 13.6, n Mt Rushmore, SD 14.6, n Littlefork, MN 17.6

202.     American Goldfinch  (Carduelis tristis)  3 Rapid City, SD 13.6, 1 Sawyer, ND 16.6, 1 Minot, ND 16.6, n Littlefork, MN 17.6, 2 Murphy-Hanrehan, MN 20.6

203.     Evening Grosbeak  (Coccothraustes vespertinus)  2 Custer, SD 13.6, h Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6

204.     House Sparrow  (Passer domesticus)  Abundant

Birds heard but not seen

205.     Ring-necked Pheasant  (Phasianus colchicus)  h Bowman-Haley, ND 15.6

206.     Ruby-crowned Kinglet  (Regulus calendula)  h Sax - Zim Bog, MN 18.6

207.     Lincoln's Sparrow  (Melospiza lincolnii)  h Stony River Road, MN 19.6

What did we miss?

Inevitably, we missed a few, the most significant of which were as follows:

1.   Trumpeter Swan  (Cygnus buccinator)  Supposedly easy at Lacreek N.W.R., SD, which we didn't visit.  Sparsely distributed throughout the Black Hills.

2.   McCown's Longspur  (Calcarius mccownii)  Best spot is in the area we visited south of Marmarth, ND, but we couldn't find one.  Wyoming is probably a better bet.

3.   Greater Prairie Chicken  (Tympanuchus cupido)  Present in small numbers in extreme eastern ND, around Grand Forks, and adjacent parts of Minnesota, but we ran out of time.  Probably a bit late in the year - early mornings in April would be a much better bet.

4.   Sage Grouse  (Centrocercus urophasianus)  Best found in the same place as the McCown's Longspurs, south of Marmarth.  The closest we got was a female road kill.

5.   Yellow Rail  (Coturnicops noveboracensis)  Present in several areas of North Dakota and Minnesota, but vary in abundance and activity from year to year depending on water levels.  We tried sites near Norwich, ND, Grand Forks, ND and Sax - Zim Big, MN, but with no success.

6.   Boreal Chickadee  (Poecile hudsonicus)  The least said about this one the better!!  Boy, did we try hard, but we were comprehensively defeated by the mosquitoes which seem to be abundant in all the best looking spots.  May be easier at feeders in winter?

7.   Great Gray Owl  (Strix nebulosa)  Quite widespread in NE Minnesota, but your chances in June are poor unless you know of a nest site.  We had calling birds identified at two sites prior to our visit, but both stopped calling about 10 days before our trip.  Very good chance in winter - Mike Hendrickson specialises in trips looking for winter owls, including Great Gray, Boreal, Snowy and Hawk, plus other winter specialities e.g. the redpolls, Bohemian Waxwings, Pine Grosbeaks etc.

 

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