A Travellerspoint blog

Day 4: Highest point in South Dakota!

Black Hills, SD

all seasons in one day 54 °F

Today, my father and I hiked to Black Elk Peak, the highest mountain in the state! We decided to do it in the afternoon though since the morning’s weather was rather damp and chilly. A few birds around the campground in the morning included a BULLOCK’S ORIOLE, new for the trip, which was very flighty and shy:

The female MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD was around as usual.

And the BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK was also around again.

Then, this afternoon, my dad and I were on the trail to Black Elk Peak by 12:30. A VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW started the trail off right, new bird for the trip.

And the views grew increasingly more stunning.

Then, I heard some foreign-sounding calls and spotted a few finches at the top of the pines, peaking my interest that they could be Red Crossbills...I zoomed in and saw reddish finches with crossed bills, but WAIT — they also had white wing bars, meaning only one thing: I had lucked into one of the few WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS that nest in South Dakota. This is a very, very hard-to-find species and one that I have only ever seen once before. Awesome!

Interestingly enough, down the trail I also heard the “chit chit chit” of RED CROSSBILLS giving me a double crossbill day — cool! This was the point where I bid goodbye to my dad for a time as he got too tired out. Not a bad place to stay though!

Very close to the summit the trail involved going through a cave and following a twisty staircase.

And there it was — the highest point in South Dakota! Black Elk Peak.

On the way down, I photographed a couple CLARK’S NUTCRACKERS, a classic high-elevation species, just below the summit.

As well as another high-elevation specialty, the TOWNSEND’S SOLITAIRE! Both of these were new for the trip.

And it was cool to once again observe the endemic White-winged race of the DARK-EYED JUNCO which can only be found in the Black Hills. Note the two white wing bars.

One last look at Black Elk Peak!

It was an incredible hike, thanks for taking me, Dad. Bird-of-the-day to the White-winged Crossbills with runner-up to the Townsend’s Solitaire. My updated trip list is below. Stay tuned: tomorrow we drive out to Badlands National Park!

Good birding,
World Life List: 1117 Species

1. Canada Goose
2. Blue-winged Teal
3. Cinnamon Teal
4. Northern Shoveler
5. American Wigeon
6. Gadwall
7. Mallard
8. Northern Pintail
9. Green-winged Teal
10. Redhead
11. Ring-necked Pheasant
12. Wild Turkey
13. Rock Pigeon
14. Eurasian Collared-Dove
15. Mourning Dove
16. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
17. Eastern Whip-poor-will
18. Chimney Swift
19. White-throated Swift
20. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
21. American Coot
22. Killdeer
23. Upland Sandpiper
24. Long-billed Curlew LIFE BIRD
25. Greater Yellowlegs
26. Wilson’s Phalarope
27. Ring-billed Gull
28. American White Pelican
29. Great Blue Heron
30. American Bittern
31. Turkey Vulture
32. Osprey
33. Golden Eagle
34. Northern Harrier
35. Bald Eagle
36. Swainson’s Hawk
37. Red-tailed Hawk
38. Short-eared Owl
39. Belted Kingfisher
40. Red-headed Woodpecker
41. Red-bellied Woodpecker
42. Red-naped Sapsucker
43. Downy Woodpecker
44. Hairy Woodpecker
45. Northern Flicker
46. American Kestrel
47. Great Crested Flycatcher
48. Western Kingbird
49. Eastern Kingbird
50. Western Wood-Pewee
51. Eastern Wood-Pewee
52. Willow Flycatcher
53. Cordilleran Flycatcher
54. Eastern Phoebe
55. Say’s Phoebe
56. Loggerhead Shrike
57. Yellow-throated Vireo
58. Plumbeous Vireo
59. Warbling Vireo
60. Red-eyed Vireo
61. Blue Jay
62. Clark’s Nutcracker
63. American Crow
64. Horned Lark
65. Bank Swallow
66. Tree Swallow
67. Violet-green Swallow
68. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
69. Barn Swallow
70. Cliff Swallow
71. Red-breasted Nuthatch
72. White-breasted Nuthatch
73. Brown Creeper
74. House Wren
75. Carolina Wren
76. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
77. Eastern Bluebird
78. Mountain Bluebird
79. Townsend’s Solitaire
80. Swainson’s Thrush
81. Wood Thrush
82. American Robin
83. Gray Catbird
84. Brown Thrasher
85. Sage Thrasher
86. European Starling
87. Cedar Waxwing
88. House Sparrow
89. House Finch
90. Cassin’s Finch
91. Red Crossbill
92. White-winged Crossbill
93. Pine Siskin
94. American Goldfinch
95. Yellow-breasted Chat
96. Yellow-headed Blackbird
97. Bobolink
98. Western Meadowlark
99. Bullock’s Oriole
100. Baltimore Oriole
101. Orchard Oriole
102. Red-winged Blackbird
103. Brown-headed Cowbird
104. Brewer’s Blackbird
105. Common Grackle
106. Ovenbird
107. American Redstart
108. Common Yellowthroat
109. Yellow Warbler
110. Yellow-rumped Warbler
111. Western Tanager
112. Northern Cardinal
113. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
114. Black-headed Grosbeak
115. Blue Grosbeak
116. Indigo Bunting
117. Dickcissel
118. Grasshopper Sparrow
119. Lark Sparrow
120. Lark Bunting LIFE BIRD
121. Chipping Sparrow
122. Field Sparrow
123. Brewer’s Sparrow
124. Dark-eyed Junco
125. Song Sparrow
126. Spotted Towhee
127. Eastern Towhee

Posted by skwclar 17:02 Archived in USA

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What a cool hike! Amazing views and amazing birds. Looks like the trip is going well!

by Susie

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