Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sweeping through the Plains

Nearing the end of September, we drove into North Dakota along the prairie pot holes where we encountered many waterfowl species and shorebirds.  We then settled into Graham's Island State Park.  A walk around the grounds produced good looks at Harris's Sparrows like this male to the right.

Our next stop was the vast wetlands at Sand Lake National Wildlife Area.  Here we witnessed the staging area filling with thousands of ducks and Franklin's Gulls.  Dozens of Western Grebes (to left), Cattle, Snowy and Great Egrets, we also had out first Snow Geese signaling the winter season is coming.  New birds added were Swainson's and Ferruginous Hawks.

We continued south into South Dakota as news of a cold front was heading our way.  We saw our fist Prairie Dogs.  We stopped at Lake Louise where we added the Spotted Towhee then at Big Bend Army Corps Campground for a night on the Missouri River.

Next morning we flushed ten Prairie Chickens as we headed into Nebraska.  This one posed on the barbed-wire fence for several photos.  Now Ring-necked Pheasants were showing up in good numbers.

This White-lined Sphinx Moth was seen actively feeding on nectar at the Calamus State Park.  We then followed the Platte River that was overflowing its banks from the Colorado floods upstream.  We visited with the staff at the Sandhill Crane Audubon Nature Center near Kearney.

After several WLA stops in Nebraska we continued into Kansas.  Our first Prairie Falcon was seen harassing 3 Mourning Doves and a flock of Killdeer.

We were most impressed with the Cheyenne Bottoms State WLA where we spent 2 days traversing the 10 miles of auto tour.  We found concentrations of hundreds of Yellow-headed Blackbirds, this group was perched on the water impoundment pump along with our first Great-tailed Grackles.

Hundreds of White-faced Ibis filled the skies and settled into the marshes,  they were accompanied by thousands of Franklin's Gulls, Blue-winged Teal, American Coot and Barn Swallows.  We had good numbers of Am. Avocets, Long-billed Dowitchers, and 8 White-fronted Geese.  We established a good repoire with the naturalists at the visitor's center and enjoyed their exhibits.

Being keenly aware of the huge snow storm in South Dakota and the tornados in Nebraska and the cold front heading our way, we journeyed southward faster than we had planned.  We camped at the Great Salt Plains State Park on the west fork of the Arkansas River in Oklahoma.  We battened down the hatches as torrential rains and 60 mph winds caught up with us.  No worse  for the ware, we felt God's protection.

With the ensuing calm, this flock of Am. White Pelicans resumed feeding in the shallows below the spillway behind our campsite.  Also in the group were Cattle, Snowy and Great Egrets, and Double-crested Cormorants.

We were surprised to see so many beautiful Scissor-tailed Flycatchers (Oklahoma's State Bird) still this far north.  Their tenacity at chasing any bird that interloped into their feeding area including hawks, kingfishers, blackbirds and each other.

With the National Wildlife Refuges being closed and large signs strictly forbidding roadway stopping we drove through the Wichita Mountains NWR.  This large free roaming Bison bull made us violate the dictates of the Federal Government by encouraging us to stop and take a quick picture.

Now it's onto Texas for the next 7 weeks.

God Bless "you all".    Ty & Ida Baumann

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