A Travellerspoint blog

June 2020

Day 6: Medicine Root Trail

Badlands National Park, SD

sunny 81 °F

After breakfast today, my family and I drove five minutes to the Saddle Pass Trailhead and from there, we hiked a gorgeous five-mile loop trail called Medicine Root Trail.

It involved a very steep initial ascent into the cliffs where, appropriately, I found a CANYON WREN! Upon checking eBird later, I was stoked because this is an uncommon species around here — my record was the first of this year for the park! Cool when that sort of thing happens.
large_92FCFDCA-8DEA-422D-A7BA-65808EF37E71.jpeg

One Bighorn Sheep was out sunning itself.
large_05A912A7-4F61-49DC-92F0-EA71231866BC.jpeglarge_4F48FC7C-4192-4237-89F0-F2F28A1DA609.jpeglarge_3A5F6DE7-76B6-44D4-8315-02012CCE761E.jpeg

The views were absolutely other-worldly.
large_7B3D1D90-210D-4924-A84E-E3345FBD9BA5.jpeg

The middle part of the loop took us through extensive grasslands where WESTERN MEADOWLARKS and these LARK SPARROWS reigned:
large_82B067CD-8894-4D37-B90E-9D20142FA228.jpeglarge_5124352B-D852-4C8A-B03D-4C3B01404246.jpeg

A great surprise was this BLUE GROSBEAK:
large_F559DE4C-1A45-4AEC-81C4-3E6BD36B6786.jpeg

SAY’S PHOEBE:
large_15F21F62-A8ED-4785-96BD-F24776375D3E.jpeg

Cactus were flowering:
large_9A09AA44-283B-4D66-982E-BDA965BA836E.jpeglarge_BD303980-C6C2-4F2F-BAE9-A8B8BF0DEB1F.jpeglarge_38130901-A8D8-4385-AE97-3A8986CE9142.jpeg

It was a great family hike. Back at the trailhead, a nice male ORCHARD ORIOLE was singing, a sign we are starting to reach back into eastern birds’ territories as we retreat back eastward from the Black Hills.
large_2E82F346-C4A7-4A46-A89D-B2D5C39366BB.jpeglarge_001C2767-9DE7-45D3-84B6-94A2FDC4A769.jpeglarge_DE347413-073A-484C-A984-1DE9C14C5383.jpeg

And a WESTERN KINGBIRD was there to remind us we are still out west!
large_FCF6881B-556C-4CDF-9D5A-2E20060C4278.jpeg

Another short walk tonight did not yield hoped-for Common Poorwills, but Tian and I did see a ROCK WREN — photos coming tomorrow due to poor wifi connection tonight. Bird-of-the-day to the Canyon with runner-up to the Rock Wren, a very enjoyable day.

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1117 Species

REVISED TRIP LIST, 138 species and counting:
Canada Goose
Blue-winged Teal
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
American Wigeon
Gadwall
Mallard
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Redhead
Ring-necked Pheasant
Ruffed Grouse
Wild Turkey
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Eastern Whip-poor-will
Chimney Swift
White-throated Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
American Coot
Killdeer
Upland Sandpiper
Long-billed Curlew LIFE BIRD
Greater Yellowlegs
Wilson’s Phalarope
Ring-billed Gull
American White Pelican
Great Blue Heron
American Bittern
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
Golden Eagle
Northern Harrier
Bald Eagle
Swainson’s Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Great Horned Owl
Burrowing Owl
Short-eared Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-naped Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Prairie Falcon
Great Crested Flycatcher
Western Kingbird
Eastern Kingbird
Western Wood-Pewee
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Willow Flycatcher
Dusky Flycatcher
Cordilleran Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Say’s Phoebe
Loggerhead Shrike
Yellow-throated Vireo
Plumbeous Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
Clark’s Nutcracker
Black-billed Magpie
American Crow
Horned Lark
Bank Swallow
Tree Swallow
Violet-green Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Rock Wren
Canyon Wren
House Wren
Carolina Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
Mountain Bluebird
Townsend’s Solitaire
Swainson’s Thrush
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Sage Thrasher
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
House Sparrow
House Finch
Cassin’s Finch
Red Crossbill
White-winged Crossbill
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
Yellow-breasted Chat
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Bobolink
Western Meadowlark
Bullock’s Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
Orchard Oriole
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Brewer’s Blackbird
Common Grackle
Ovenbird
American Redstart
MacGillivray’s Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Western Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Black-headed Grosbeak
Blue Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Dickcissel
Grasshopper Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Lark Bunting LIFE BIRD
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Brewer’s Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Song Sparrow
Spotted Towhee
Eastern Towhee

Posted by skwclar 22:06 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day 5: Black Hills to the Badlands

South Dakota

semi-overcast 75 °F

Upon waking up at 4:05am, I proceeded to throw on my clothes, grab my camera, and excitedly made me way out of the campground: this was my last morning birding the Black Hills and the winds had finally died down, meaning hopefully even more avian activity than in the past days.

I started the day birding the Needles Highway by car (it was much more of a scenic route than a highway this morning because I was the only car!) and I picked up a number of new species for the trip including a GREAT HORNED OWL flying overhead in the darkness, and as it gradually became brighter, DUSKY FLYCATCHER & MACGILLIVRAY’S WARBLER, among others. Also, I couldn’t believe that nobody was out admiring the sunrise along the Needles Highway because let me tell you, when paired with the incredible landscape, it was just BREATHTAKING:
large_D88610EA-1AD8-404F-BA07-3F58D27616C4.jpeglarge_BD5162B0-0936-4BF9-AA9E-71F8582AEF74.jpeglarge_DD9A8E0E-0381-4DB8-A7ED-BC1B19D3B20E.jpeg

My main objective for the day was to hike the Willow Creek Trail #8 in the Black Hills National Forest somewhat near Mt. Rushmore in search of Pygmy Nuthatch which had been seen there recently, as well as anything else I might luck into. The habitat there is absolutely impressive with lush mixed forest adorning a beautiful mountain stream, and as I expected, birds proliferated. CEDAR WAXWING:
large_FB9E6DF8-D7CC-4BD3-B636-D81B94CF6EE4.jpeg

VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW:
large_F7D623EC-68B8-4FCF-B8CD-F00DAF691D12.jpeg

YELLOW-RUMPED “Audubon’s” WARBLER:
large_43B72FF6-0C7E-4672-8F1A-790936D36E76.jpeg

Then, I experienced a strange, almost uncomfortable sensation in my chest and I briefly got scared...it felt as if my heart all the sudden was palpitating. I stopped walking, took a few deep breaths, and then realized what I had just felt: the vibrations of a RUFFED GROUSE drumming! Now that is one cool sensation as usually in birding you identify a bird by sight or sound, but when a Ruffed Grouse drums by clapping its wings into its chest, you can literally feel it yourself. Male grouse drum in order to proclaim their territory and attract mates, similar to other male species’ songs.

I waited for the grouse to drum again and then moved back down the trail in the direction of the drumming. Soon, I saw a “lump on a log” that sure enough turned out to be an exceptionally-camouflaged, beautifully-patterned male RUFFED GROUSE!
large_E6E38069-746D-4CC6-9713-9FCFD0316ED1.jpeglarge_DF3DA27C-C1AA-4049-8566-313B18D46966.jpeglarge_89800627-883B-4AA1-AB73-E5537EF7FEB5.jpeg

And a little ways down the trail, I found a second one, too!
large_59E9F42E-8581-4E3B-B947-61B9A7B4F9DB.jpeglarge_1D8AB7A1-3710-4B6C-B3D5-042E630B381D.jpeglarge_28E82806-28BD-4878-AC88-7DEEE368A7A9.jpeglarge_AFB4CBD8-2270-43D0-B2ED-F74AC93F7A70.jpeglarge_1906D315-12F3-46C1-A0C9-930E10CC33AD.jpeg

Unfortunately, you can’t truly experience the sensation of a drumming grouse unless you are there in person, but I did take a video (which I seldom do) of the second grouse drumming because it was just so COOL! I posted it to youtube — skip to 1:07 if you get impatient like my dad, but start from the beginning if you want to hear this morning’s incredible birdsong in the background including OVENBIRD, SWAINSON’S THRUSH, and RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH.
https://youtu.be/MliG6WVwCiI

RED-NAPED SAPSUCKERS abounded which was cool:
large_A5FC2A34-FEC0-4BA6-9467-A3E0734FAB9E.jpeglarge_E5B02FB8-C580-4B0D-A8F6-71056F770BCF.jpeglarge_57363307-9B00-4346-9422-DCCB97B0F3B4.jpeglarge_2E6A0EE9-B212-4472-A0B6-75C1538FE596.jpeg

Marmot!
large_D93B2542-2023-4F05-AEED-4C31E257BCB5.jpeglarge_375A8516-19DB-48C6-9D19-DFFFD848211C.jpeg

A half-silhouetted Audubon’s YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER:
large_2B9F0A38-70FF-4929-92DC-D92174F23A54.jpeg

The CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHERS out here remind me of the Yellow-bellied we have out east.
large_3FCFDDED-BF9C-432D-88BC-7BEB2A9CDD19.jpeglarge_0C151BEF-3DCC-4B37-8159-BCA189E38E33.jpeg

Black Hills’ White-winged subspecies of DARK-EYED JUNCO:
large_C828721C-668C-40C4-A93E-0325CAE62064.jpeg

DOWNY WOODPECKER:
large_FDC1CC2F-EBA7-4F40-B121-34AB4117DC82.jpeg

Male WESTERN TANAGER:
large_3770B947-A2EE-4F08-92E9-2DF2419D3231.jpeg

Unfortunately, no Pygmy Nuthatch which means I missed it entirely for this trip. Dang! Well, maybe I will get one next year in Idaho...it’s good to save one for later!

By late morning we were all packed and back on the road, eastward this time, to Badlands National Park, a bit more centrally-located in the state. We briefly stopped in a quaintly empty town named Scenic, SD:large_F9EE04B2-3BE1-4F83-A811-C5B277C97D7B.jpeglarge_11AE8F41-66B3-43F4-BBA8-130294D35463.jpeglarge_2D1D6FB3-D0AD-414E-9AC3-5AAF77318A3A.jpeglarge_68980AED-4649-4D3A-81AE-98600639F78B.jpeg

BARN SWALLOW:
large_95E8BBC4-30C4-453C-97E0-2D2653BA5E94.jpeg

And we made it to the incredible landscape of the Badlands by 2:30. While unpacking the RV, i picked up a new trip bird, the BLACK-BILLED MAGPIE:
large_BFE22B28-0C22-42A1-9B92-F996C584C951.jpeg

And soon we did a short, half-mile loop hike to get a teaser of the amazing landscape the Badlands has in store for us the next couple of days.
large_41D54CA7-A92F-48D5-929F-A80712ECE929.jpeglarge_6A1030A9-5234-4140-A16B-50C622FCB3BF.jpeglarge_20764AA4-117B-476D-8516-6D14DB38AAF2.jpeglarge_116B7926-2B65-408F-842E-60DDC4DB2EE8.jpeg

I quickly snapped a shot at a SPOTTED TOWHEE before he disappeared into the brush.
large_5C42D78F-1B5B-4CC5-8963-72DBAF40F99F.jpeg

Back at the campground, a LARK SPARROW was waiting for us:
large_EDE57801-FEA4-44F8-B564-2EE32D284023.jpeg

Since a lot of time remained before dinner, Tian and I decided to drive an hour away to Sage Rim Road to look for Long-billed Curlew, Burrowing Owl, and any other cool animals along the way. We were NOT disappointed when we saw my life-animal Bighorn Sheep along the road:
large_3FE5D69D-79A3-4C03-9890-249915AF0E09.jpeg

Bison also proliferated today, thankfully at a safe distance.
large_23FFE0B1-5654-489E-B4D9-75F4D2695A11.jpeg

And soon, we arrived to the famed Prairie Dog colonies. We probably saw over a thousand of these feisty creatures! They are so cute with their different postures and sharp calls.
large_286BF016-10F3-463F-8036-6D9A80AF97FB.jpeg

I had my eye out for a different inhabitant of the colonies though, the Burrowing Owl...

HORNED LARK:
large_9DADA087-E04B-4112-8D8F-8C29C3BBDD09.jpeg

And soon, we flushed a medium-small but rather large-winged brown bird from the side of the road, it perched, and there it was, BURROWING OWL! Super cool — a “sophomore bird” for me as it is only the second time I have ever observed this species (the first being Marco Island, FL).
large_ED5E5F5C-5EB5-4B42-9098-BE501BBA7F7B.jpeg

A couple distant AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS caught my eye:
large_26B749E2-9BDB-4B84-8228-C0E25B712BD2.jpeg

Then, we got to the appointed spot on the road where, according to eBird, a Long-billed Curlew has been reported in recent days. I played the call and, nothing...

And then all the sudden Tian shouts “look Henry, there it is!”

She happened to be looking *behind* the car at exactly the right time as a LONG-BILLED CURLEW winged over the road, calling in response (I quickly shut up the tape, don’t worry). As I had only previously seen this bird briefly in flight over the highway a few days ago, I was absolutely ecstatic to get these looks, thanks to Tian.
large_F3979B49-9788-4B92-87AB-C32B9E84E219.jpeglarge_6AEC3742-8DEB-4EC1-8D65-A9CB200FCD65.jpeg

Then it landed on the ROAD in front of us! INCREDIBLE! I even had to motion to a passing car to slow down as to not endanger this incredible bird. Look at that BILL! Just...wow! Although this species is somewhat more common in areas even further west, it is such a cool-looking bird.
large_DA176DE0-AE99-4EB5-8838-34A1E0DF769A.jpeglarge_5EA44DC9-717D-4F46-B875-2F45C7AAA7BC.jpeg

Me with the bird-spotter today :)
large_C89A8976-614C-4B68-B51B-BEB308C82E71.png

We declared victory and headed back the same way on Sage Rim Road where the Burrowing Owl was still waiting for us, this time perched on a road sign. Tian marveled at its tiny size.
large_3051B65C-8EFD-440D-ACBB-003751F52C97.jpeg

And off it went!
large_A5A42DDA-FA3A-4A0A-8146-B7F86FB9E9FE.jpeglarge_03F8DFC2-4D18-4B3C-99A7-E1BB898F7AE7.jpeglarge_34398EA0-B017-4C4A-B35C-A22F047B7D43.jpeglarge_82202130-670B-4237-BC34-0C25C5B90329.jpeglarge_0AE8569F-E724-4E89-A916-757BEB1DE75A.jpeglarge_A90EE5F4-8404-4269-A2C4-B761D33FBF33.jpeglarge_7130963A-B64E-47FD-8406-07179133F87F.jpeg

We incredulously watched it hawk over the prairie in search of crickets, voles, and other small creatures which make up this bird’s diet. I did not know that, similar to kestrels, Burrowing Owls can literally hover for what seemed like over a minute! Incredible strength.
large_707EE2C7-0925-49C9-9FBE-32449AE4CA83.jpeglarge_9AFA0CCB-121D-4EDE-9C34-548F96B33C4D.jpeg

Nice Jackrabbit on the way back.
large_ADEC633C-A06B-43FA-92BB-25A12AF1041C.jpeg

WESTERN KINGBIRD:
large_6A835012-5F0F-4305-A389-C877D705CFE7.jpeg

And my last new trip-bird for the day was a flyover PRAIRIE FALCON which was a great treat since they are not common enough to absolutely count on getting on a trip like this. Amazing!
large_AB199ABB-BE74-4710-A9C6-77BD45C2D3C3.jpeg

Bird-of-the-day to the Long-billed Curlew with runners-up to the MacGillivray’s Warbler, Ruffed Grouse, Burrowing Owl, & Prairie Falcon. An extremely productive day of birding which brought my trip list up to 137 species, see below. Stay tuned: tomorrow, my family and I will take a hike through the crazy-looking canyons and crevices which are hallmarks of the Badlands. Should be fun!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1117 Species

REVISED TRIP LIST, 137 species and counting:
Canada Goose
Blue-winged Teal
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
American Wigeon
Gadwall
Mallard
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Redhead
Ring-necked Pheasant
Ruffed Grouse
Wild Turkey
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Eastern Whip-poor-will
Chimney Swift
White-throated Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
American Coot
Killdeer
Upland Sandpiper
Long-billed Curlew LIFE BIRD
Greater Yellowlegs
Wilson’s Phalarope
Ring-billed Gull
American White Pelican
Great Blue Heron
American Bittern
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
Golden Eagle
Northern Harrier
Bald Eagle
Swainson’s Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Great Horned Owl
Burrowing Owl
Short-eared Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-naped Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Prairie Falcon
Great Crested Flycatcher
Western Kingbird
Eastern Kingbird
Western Wood-Pewee
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Willow Flycatcher
Dusky Flycatcher
Cordilleran Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Say’s Phoebe
Loggerhead Shrike
Yellow-throated Vireo
Plumbeous Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
Clark’s Nutcracker
Black-billed Magpie
American Crow
Horned Lark
Bank Swallow
Tree Swallow
Violet-green Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Canyon Wren
House Wren
Carolina Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
Mountain Bluebird
Townsend’s Solitaire
Swainson’s Thrush
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Sage Thrasher
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
House Sparrow
House Finch
Cassin’s Finch
Red Crossbill
White-winged Crossbill
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
Yellow-breasted Chat
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Bobolink
Western Meadowlark
Bullock’s Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
Orchard Oriole
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Brewer’s Blackbird
Common Grackle
Ovenbird
American Redstart
MacGillivray’s Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Western Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Black-headed Grosbeak
Blue Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Dickcissel
Grasshopper Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Lark Bunting LIFE BIRD
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Brewer’s Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Song Sparrow
Spotted Towhee
Eastern Towhee

Posted by skwclar 20:18 Archived in USA Comments (3)

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:
large_E33889C6-AFA4-4AFE-AAE6-BBB689203F40.jpeg

The female MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD was around as usual.
large_39E88816-AEAA-4750-B05D-806CABB2A0BE.jpeglarge_C6291EC7-1043-4681-A020-947155379394.jpeglarge_50F996FD-5D32-47B7-BED2-5DBE8E55246E.jpeglarge_FF2E3CAD-45FD-49C4-92FB-A6475C63FB08.jpeg

And the BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK was also around again.
large_94E42942-4213-4C60-ABEE-3C6FF471DC2E.jpeglarge_848D35BE-E703-4EFF-ACAF-CE7DEA23D810.jpeglarge_1B477D44-D26C-4F0E-BC9E-186BB28F2E41.jpeg

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.
large_15100032-7669-4620-A462-D719EBDD70F1.jpeg

And the views grew increasingly more stunning.
large_4C991F07-C0C7-49BD-A3BC-069CB95107B7.jpeg

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!
large_0D79C008-75CE-4126-8F56-5814D4DCC179.jpeglarge_7EFDE354-01BB-4A84-AB71-7A9608560181.jpeglarge_D5CE24C0-7B70-444D-BF85-EA295C89EC96.jpeg

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!
large_F6F59CAC-2919-4C60-B71A-5E24B62D7F07.jpeg

Very close to the summit the trail involved going through a cave and following a twisty staircase.
large_EF83BF90-6AC8-43EB-BEB3-CF857A838FBE.jpeg

And there it was — the highest point in South Dakota! Black Elk Peak.
large_0BC93491-0BFD-462E-8800-E0842C175902.jpeglarge_DC86A9EE-2480-49A1-A058-64407DB6808A.jpeg

On the way down, I photographed a couple CLARK’S NUTCRACKERS, a classic high-elevation species, just below the summit.
large_630A38E4-DF1B-46C4-8418-925052E9C65B.jpeg

As well as another high-elevation specialty, the TOWNSEND’S SOLITAIRE! Both of these were new for the trip.
large_750917CC-DE75-4722-9B8C-80C9A05A12FD.jpeglarge_6F2AC2AB-3C95-4EC8-94DC-69B17CC62041.jpeg

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.
large_5430EAD8-DD1B-4D4E-8FB9-8ADC20200B7B.jpeglarge_6C17EF28-96F3-477F-894B-81B9B9B3FF44.jpeg

One last look at Black Elk Peak!
large_53344D42-114B-4470-8C56-B81CF2DAD59B.jpeg

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,
Henry
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 Comments (1)

Day 3: Trip to Wyoming & one angry bison!

all seasons in one day 72 °F

POST FOR YESTERDAY, MONDAY, JUNE 8:

Today, I woke up before 6am to drive 90 minutes west from the Black Hills in South Dakota to Thunder Basin National Grassland in Wyoming in search of Long-bilked Curlew, Lark Bunting (the “easy” target bird today), and Baird’s Sparrow.

Upon turning off the highway, I spotted a new bird for the trip: SAY’S PHOEBE, a classic western species! One of the coolest things about a road trip west is seeing the progression of eastern to western birds. Today was the furthest west I am going to go on this trip.
large_21C4A3D3-1BF6-47B2-A6C7-1F4597B43856.jpeg

Then, my eyes nearly popped out of my head when a SHORT-EARED OWL flew over the road! I thankfully managed to pull off in time to snap one photo — photographic life bird!
large_79023DA4-8E72-41FF-93E3-B6A1E4BF3259.jpeg

Upon arriving to the appointed road, Mush Creek Road, I immediately spotted a chunky, smallish songbird with white wings fly across the road and land in a nearby shrub — female LARK BUNTING, a life bird for me!
large_458A402E-A65A-40D1-ACA9-B1173D980269.jpeg

That species, as expected, soon proved to be extremely common throughout the grassland and I was of course treated to many great looks of a lot of adult male birds, as well.
large_5DE9C85A-1E17-47E4-A014-78F85332E1EB.jpeg

Several LOGGERHEAD SHRIKES were also great to see today.
large_0BE78862-935D-465E-BCD0-127589DD0825.jpeg

Then, I heard the “wolf whistle” of an UPLAND SANDPIPER and started scanning the fields around me. I could just not find the bird for the life of me, and as I was almost ready to give up, I happened to glance at the sky and the bird was winging around overhead! Incredible! I should have remembered that this bird tends to give the “wolf whistle” while in flight...anyway, this is only the second time I have ever seen this bird, so I was absolutely stoked.
large_9001D306-78EC-4D66-8006-26A01C803D21.jpeg

The “gray ghost” — male NORTHERN HARRIER!
large_2858D92E-2E9E-4247-8F65-44E1BC89330E.jpeg

SWAINSON’S HAWK perched on a rock outcropping — quite a change from the predominately eastern species seen and heard yesterday in Nebraska!
large_929927DA-EF81-422A-B5C4-757A9C866A52.jpeg

Today in the grasslands I heard dozens — possibly hundreds — of GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS, but true to their nature, I only saw one or two.
large_A0675B1E-76CC-45A9-BC57-FA34DE824F37.jpeg

At the appointed place along Howard Road, I walked into the field and checked for my target Baird’s Sparrow, but unfortunately came up empty! Dang! This was my best shot at that species this trip. I did, though, get my first-ever looks at an American Badger:
large_BBF1AE62-DB17-451F-B2D9-33B409A79F8D.jpeg

My view for the day in the grasslands.
large_C2ABCF74-61DC-4621-A78C-2035F6A6AFFC.jpeg

BREWER’S SPARROWS proliferated in several spots in the grasslands, another new one for the day.
large_6EAFC195-1ECB-4F64-8BAD-AB4CA5BEF0A4.jpeg

HORNED LARKS were also common.
large_A9D1D076-75F4-42E7-9450-DC7996C29DA2.jpeg

Here is a juvenile:
large_848C4E20-02EA-450D-B32A-63B7DE3EE984.jpeg

And I saw plenty of Pronghorn Antelope throughout the grasslands — a sight that actually made me sad because they remind me of Idaho and how I won’t be able to visit this year...
large_26B26CEA-CA6E-4901-A0CF-CBF6F099DC45.jpeg

Next stop: Morissey Road in nearby Newcastle, WY to search for Long-billed Curlew which have been reported alongside the road recently. In a random fluddle, I saw a number of waterfowl along with two smaller birds...could they be? Yes! WILSON’S PHALAROPES! Only the third or fourth time I have seen this species, and the first time ever seeing their striking breeding plumage. I hope this pair can stay and breed! They are incredibly beautiful birds.
large_14899E7C-074B-4492-8274-E9A8220AF271.jpeglarge_EEF08858-2303-4239-AAD3-9211B3F08AB3.jpeglarge_F9036F21-BEC1-4FD7-90A2-D028D28EF50A.jpeg

And the waterfowl — CINNAMON TEAL:
large_1E106313-A5FB-4E11-9731-2EF07B6DC1C3.jpeg

Ducks from smallest to biggest: BLUE-WINGED TEAL, AMERICAN WIGEON, MALLARD:
large_1854E8A2-90E7-4E05-9BD0-AA14DE7F1F57.jpeg

A distant, large shorebird caught me eye and briefly excited my hopes for Long-billed Curlew, but it turned out to “only” be another Upland Sandpiper — still a cool bird!
large_7E573C7C-9B71-44CC-AC07-1370F7668532.jpeg

AMERICAN WIGEON:
large_DD8E7D33-A444-45CF-BACD-765F1176E0A7.jpeg

BLUE-WINGED TEAL:
large_ADB4523A-77F1-4A92-848E-7815BAC3D3F0.jpeg

GADWALL:
large_FE8C52A7-C8F8-4522-93CE-D5B06495C344.jpeg

Male GREEN-WINGED TEAL:
large_267BE3CE-41D8-4189-9C67-2B19A13F5273.jpeg

NORTHERN SHOVELERS with Green-winged Teal:
large_CB324BFC-CF2B-466B-831A-66E768655518.jpeg

AMERICAN COOTS:
large_404C54C7-E0B8-4EBB-B6B2-715C55B5A768.jpeg

Next, I headed back into South Dakota to the Black Hills National Forest to “Elk Mountain Overlook” in search of Pygmy Nuthatch. On the way, I got a new bird for the trip in the form of a GOLDEN EAGLE feasting on a deer carcass alongside the highway — super cool!
large_4FAF66D9-BD1A-4CC0-A44F-98297B9159A8.jpeg
One awesome bird seen there was a PLUMBEOUS VIREO, a bird I have only seen once or twice before in southern Idaho.
large_6080AA57-226F-4CD1-A5D9-ED76E22938D1.jpeg

Unfortunately, no Pygmy Nuthatch. A WESTERN TANAGER was present for consolation, though:
large_E35DC788-4042-4F28-B915-6F1D65A43F72.jpeg

So, I headed back to the campground in Custer State Park where a BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK was waiting for me at the campsite. Cool!
large_F49D495C-36E6-4331-8590-566435A3EEE6.jpeg

Later in the afternoon, my family and I went to see Mt. Rushmore since it is a must-do being only 40 minutes away from Custer State Park. And it did not disappoint! We were treated to some great views along the drive there.
large_73C74F9E-C531-475E-B042-9E30D90B0484.jpeg

At one point, we stopped at a vantage point for Mt. Rushmore where I checked for Pygmy Nuthatch, and although I failed to find my target, I did frustratingly enough find the other two nuthatch species — WHITE-BREASTED:
large_0C77216D-BEF6-42A3-A52A-19C8FBE059C1.jpeg

And RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH:
large_B8F60B78-067A-475F-A022-657EDAE4BDBF.jpeg

As well as the “Audubon’s” western race of YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER:
large_34BED26F-596C-4164-92BD-29FC02886EA1.jpeg

The views of Rushmore were just as impressive up close.
large_649F414D-5AAE-48CB-B4A3-63F2AD0AFF8B.jpeglarge_DE6CA06F-A029-4256-B3A7-7F277EFF142E.jpeg

Then, thanks to a friendly ranger, I got directions to another location where Pygmy Nuthatch had been seen. After we had had our fill of Mt. Rushmore, we drove ten minutes over to the appointed trailhead and I started birding. There were quite a number of Marmots:
large_4F9047E9-19AE-40D1-AD25-933B81F1C931.jpeg

And I did get one new bird for the trip, BELTED KINGFISHER, but unfortunately, no photos and no nuthatch. The last stop of the day was the in-progress Crazy Horse monument:
large_BF9EB396-26D7-44F4-9E71-D9D827FA3049.jpeg

One last excitement for the day: right before arriving back to the campground, we saw two American Bison right next to the road. I hopped out of the car (staying very close) and snapped a few selfies and photos with my camera.
large_79731DF7-7C53-4D3D-8541-4562600E2D72.jpeglarge_C59C790D-A0EA-42AB-9091-6BD2FC704B24.jpeg

Then, all the sudden, I heard my mom scream, “GET IN!” so without thinking, I dashed back into the car (without even closing the door) and basically onto Tian’s lap! I had just been charged by a Bison! So an important lesson to be learned: always, always give wildlife a liberally large distance, and Bison in particular. I’m happy to be alive!

So a great day in total! Bird-of-the-day to my life bird Lark Buntings with runners-up to the Upland Sandpipers & Wilson’s Phalaropes. Love birding out here — my list for the trip so far is attached below. Stay tuned: tomorrow we hike to the highest summit in South Dakota, Black Elk Peak (where there is also a possibility for Pygmy Nuthatch).

Happy birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1117 Species (1 life bird today: Lark Bunting)

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. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
20. American Coot
21. Killdeer
22. Upland Sandpiper
23. Long-billed Curlew LIFE BIRD
24. Greater Yellowlegs
25. Wilson’s Phalarope
26. Ring-billed Gull
27. American White Pelican
28. Great Blue Heron
29. American Bittern
30. Turkey Vulture
31. Osprey
32. Golden Eagle
33. Northern Harrier
34. Bald Eagle
35. Swainson’s Hawk
36. Red-tailed Hawk
37. Short-eared Owl
38. Belted Kingfisher
39. Red-headed Woodpecker
40. Red-bellied Woodpecker
41. Downy Woodpecker
42. Hairy Woodpecker
43. Northern Flicker
44. American Kestrel
45. Great Crested Flycatcher
46. Western Kingbird
47. Eastern Kingbird
48. Western Wood-Pewee
49. Eastern Wood-Pewee
50. Willow Flycatcher
51. Cordilleran Flycatcher
52. Eastern Phoebe
53. Say’s Phoebe
54. Loggerhead Shrike
55. Yellow-throated Vireo
56. Plumbeous Vireo
57. Warbling Vireo
58. Red-eyed Vireo
59. Blue Jay
60. American Crow
61. Horned Lark
62. Bank Swallow
63. Tree Swallow
64. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
65. Barn Swallow
66. Cliff Swallow
67. Red-breasted Nuthatch
68. White-breasted Nuthatch
69. House Wren
70. Carolina Wren
71. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
72. Eastern Bluebird
73. Mountain Bluebird
74. Wood Thrush
75. American Robin
76. Gray Catbird
77. Brown Thrasher
78. Sage Thrasher
79. European Starling
80. Cedar Waxwing
81. House Sparrow
82. House Finch
83. Pine Siskin
84. American Goldfinch
85. Yellow-breasted Chat
86. Yellow-headed Blackbird
87. Bobolink
88. Western Meadowlark
89. Baltimore Oriole
90. Orchard Oriole
91. Red-winged Blackbird
92. Brown-headed Cowbird
93. Brewer’s Blackbird
94. Common Grackle
95. American Redstart
96. Common Yellowthroat
97. Yellow Warbler
98. Yellow-rumped Warbler
99. Western Tanager
100. Northern Cardinal
101. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
102. Black-headed Grosbeak
103. Blue Grosbeak
104. Indigo Bunting
105. Dickcissel
106. Grasshopper Sparrow
107. Lark Sparrow
108. Lark Bunting LIFE BIRD
109. Chipping Sparrow
110. Field Sparrow
111. Brewer’s Sparrow
112. Dark-eyed Junco
113. Song Sparrow
114. Spotted Towhee
115. Eastern Towhee
One new one this morning while I was posting: 116. Bullock’s Oriole

Posted by skwclar 06:25 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Day 2: Lewis & Clark R.A. to Custer State Park, Black Hills

Nebraska & South Dakota

semi-overcast 88 °F

This morning, I awoke at the jolly hour of 4:40am, threw on my clothes, and hopped in the car to head to Kansas to search for three possible life birds in the area: Greater Prairie-Chicken, Sharp-tailed Grouse, and Lark Bunting — I knew that all three would be long shots, but this would be one of my best shots at the ST Grouse. So my hopes were high!

First — a few shots I missed from last night at Lewis & Clark Recreation Area. BALD EAGLE:
large_BB8536DC-2883-47D9-B225-6DEC5C3249DA.jpeglarge_6A084073-515E-414D-B413-9C29A45F0A6C.jpeglarge_A88778D1-14C8-44A6-8530-CEE5A858087F.jpeg

And WESTERN KINGBIRD:
large_0914A65F-1E0A-4B17-98A7-4366C8FAF020.jpeg

Along the way, I picked up one of my first birds of the day which was a singing EASTERN WHIP-POOR-WILL: very cool!

I arrived at my first stop, unofficially named “Hermit Warbler Hill” on eBird from a vagrant Hermit Warbler which graced the area a few years ago. In reality, the area is a dirt road on a gentle rolling hill with a tapestry of farmland, grassland, and hedgerows. A good sign was a large number of openland bird species including dozens upon dozens of WESTERN MEADOWLARKS which posed for some crippling photos.
large_7AA90E7D-5E8D-4874-872C-A62293C6E23D.jpeglarge_6F1FDA75-66D0-481C-AFA3-7EC69EE200EF.jpeglarge_1F617597-7B64-439B-8D06-3FFA9E6757FA.jpeg

BOBOLINK:
large_F5AC59B7-3890-4839-896A-AE0FB7230769.jpeg

And I saw and heard probably about one thousand DICKCISSELS today (since I covered a lot of territory by car-birding the dirt roads).
large_65A1DA4D-6A7A-4C6D-8652-A1CD8D99F223.jpeglarge_ED4517F6-9869-4795-AAC7-9EB33E720763.jpeg

A definite highlight of the morning was my best look ever at a RING-NECKED PHEASANT cock in the dazzling morning light:
large_5A37B109-F2DD-467F-8FF8-C6025F34A2ED.jpeglarge_93FD865B-E92D-4285-BF13-314AEEE45571.jpeglarge_406BC6E6-BB7E-4BFC-9914-25ADEED3182C.jpeglarge_FC2E4FAA-5CB3-40D4-B34A-D9201ED84D72.jpeg

A few scattered woodland areas held a few interesting species including RED-HEADED WOODPECKER and this EASTERN PHOEBE. Birding Nebraska is cool because you get a nice mix of more eastern species (RH Woodpecker & the Phoebe) as well as Western ones like Western Kingbird and Meadowlark.
large_14A0F82E-5D2A-4EC0-90FA-235D8FECAFC7.jpeg

I scanned the grasslands intensely for hours checking for any grouse or Lark Buntings.
large_E557AE0C-7BAF-4AFF-B3BE-2A73441AC95D.jpeg

At one point, I heard an extremely melodic song coming from the roadside and I soon spotted a deep blue dot in the agricultural field next to the road. Upon zooming in, I discovered I had a male BLUE GROSBEAK — a cool bird and definitely one of my favorites considering it is not common, at all, in either the New York or the Chicago area.
large_04FEF49C-5255-4EA7-92DB-2DC38F4067B0.jpeg

Unfortunately, I dipped on all three of my targets this morning. Dang! That’s just how it goes sometimes. So, I headed back to the Lewis & Clark Recreation Area on the other side of the Missouri River and helped my family pack up so we could continue on to our next destination: Custer State Park in the Black Hills! My target life birds in the Black Hills area include Long-billed Curlew, Pygmy Nuthatch, Baird’s Sparrow, and McCown’s Longspur.

Along the drive to the Black Hills, we spotted a good amount of wildlife including Prairie Dogs and these Pronghorn alongside the highway.
large_E11510F9-D3E6-45E0-850E-F52C313AC207.jpeg

In many “prairie potholes” along the way (little ponds interspersed within the larger prairie), I saw many species of waterfowl including REDHEAD, BLUE-WINGED TEAL, NORTHERN SHOVELER, and this NORTHERN PINTAIL (pictured in the back):
large_F19AD69C-2F45-4196-A1B7-C83480264E2C.jpeg

And an AMERICAN WIGEON (right) with AMERICAN COOT (left). Again, on these photos, you’ll just have to trust me since as you can imagine it is impossibly hard to photograph from a 70MPH-moving vehicle.
21937E88-2D1A-4E8A-AE52-FD9FFDC709F5.jpeg

Then, I spotted two big shorebirds fly over with impossibly long bills and, given the grassland habitat, there was only one option: LONG-BILLED CURLEW! Life bird! I have looked for this bird in vain for many years in Idaho and was happy to finally nail it down, but I do hope to get photos of this impressive species later the trip...it was unsatisfactory to simply glimpse this bird from the highway (although it was a clinching look).

When we hit Rapid City, SD, I spotted a classic western raptor species: SWAINSON’S HAWK! It was being mobbed by AMERICAN CROWS.
large_5EE75D9F-50E9-4C26-9FC5-598374412252.jpeg

After five hours of driving, we arrived at the idyllic state park which will be our home for three nights. Lo and behold, there were three American Bison foraging in the meadow right across from our campground!!! At first I wasn’t sure exactly how wild they were, but they were gone about an hour later so obviously they can roam...
large_3E77DEEA-2636-4503-997B-91567DC0E9F6.jpeg

And I picked up a number of western specialty species at the campground including an absolutely stunning male MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD:
large_F6B9F963-B398-46DF-9462-346C0C384DC2.jpeg

WESTERN TANAGER:
large_89892834-A3C3-41DA-B79A-2DF77BF564FF.jpeg

And the western “Audubon’s” race of YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER which can be told from the Myrtle race because of the Audubon’s yellow throat.
large_767C7F93-A8D5-4DA2-B62C-5916A5D0DF8F.jpeg

One unphotographed bird at the campsite that was quite noteworthy was a YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT! Heard-only.

Bird-of-the-day to the Western Bluebird with runner-up to my life bird Long-billed Curlew along the highway — I really hope I get a chance to photograph this species later in the trip.

Stay tuned: tomorrow, I will head to Thunder Basin National Grassland just across the border in Wyoming in hopes of Baird’s Sparrow, Greater Sage-Grouse, Long-billed Curlew, Lark Bunting, and if Im very lucky, Chestnut-sided or McCown’s Longspur.

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1116 Species (1 life bird today: Long-billed Curlew)

Posted by skwclar 19:32 Archived in USA Comments (2)

(Entries 11 - 15 of 18) Previous « Page 1 2 [3] 4 » Next