Friday, August 9, 2013

West Trip part 1

I recently ran into a birder friend who quickly chastised me for not having blogged in awhile.  (Thanks Jeff!)  And it inspired me to pull out the keyboard, dust off my thumb drive, and see what I could come up with.  As of late, I haven't been doing a whole lot of birding around town and had no idea what to even blog about.  Then I had an epiphany (more like I had a moment of stupidity before becoming normal again), I just went birding out West!!

So without further ado, here is the first installment of a likely three part series of blog posts on birding the middle of the country.  To be more precise, it will cover two days of birding in South Dakota outside of Rapid City and then a few random shots from travels through North Dakota and Montana. (Ok it was a little more ado).

Mid-June I set out for a day on a birding field trip with other conference attendees.  One of the perks in working in natural history is that you do fun field trips at conferences like that.  We headed into the Black Hills-

That's what a trail looks like in the Black Hills.  I have previously mentioned to the leader, one of my target birds, and we spent substantial time trying to chase it down.  Here's what the nest looks like-

Know what the bird is yet?  Welllllll it's gray and brown and likes to hang out in streams.....

It's an American Dipper!  We found a few adults although none were willing to let us get close enough for a good shot.  I'll take it all the same.  I did get a couple of other life birds as well..  Here's one of those-

This male Black-headed Grosbeak was standing guard over his lady as she sat on a nest a few feet off of a well travelled path.  Almost every stop we made had either Black-headed Grosbeak or Red-eyed Vireo singing.  Luckily, even the vireos cooperated with an ok picture-

Probably my favorite stop of the day was up on top of a hill on the side of a dirt road.  There wasn't a huge showing of spectacular birds or anything it just had a cool feel to the place.  I think it has something to do with the pine trees.  We did see some Chipping Sparrows and an American Crow but they aren't in this picture-

Let's see, life birds on the day for me included:  American Dipper, Black-headed Grosbeak, Red-naped Sapsucker, Mountain Bluebird, and Western Wood-Pewee.  I really wanted Pinyon Jay and Lark Bunting but we got skunked.  Check in for the next installment to see if we found them on a day of birding post-conference.   Here's a cute little Veery that popped out to say 'Hi!' to us. 

Ooops almost forgot about the FUNNEST part of the day.  A thunderstorm came through but instead of soaking us with water, it covered everything in a layer of hail!.

And one other lesson I learned... when trying to decide where to go, just ask the Western Meadowlarks.