phil jeffrey:: MN-ND-MT-WY-SD trip report
Gallery for aggregated trip photos is at http://www.catharus.com/gallery2/v/MN-ND-WY.
Click on any of the small images in the text below and the corresponding gallery page will open.
This is an incomplete version of the trip report for my epic trip across Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota from
June 10th-23rd 2009.
Although in principle this was a "Prairie Pothole" trip, it became obvious that I could wedge both Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons
into a longer loop trip. Since I had been to neither of these places and have a natural affinity for western montane environments
I added them at the expense of dragging the trip out to two weeks in length. The other thing is that I had only one prairie
life bird of any significance (Baird's Sparrow), one introduced agricultural one (Gray Partridge) and the rest were montane
or boreal birds (Ruffed Grouse, Blue Grouse, Black-backed Woodpecker). I had no realistic chance at Yellow Rail on this trip because I do
not count heard-only birds.
In the schedule Minnesota was given fairly short shrift, and was really on there because flying into Minneapolis
was more practical (non-stop from PHL) than other options where I'd pretty much have to change planes in MN anyway. A more linear route of
flying into Denver and flying out of Minneapolis may have worked slightly better, however, and reduced the gas-hungry total of 5,500 miles. Those
rental car companies have got to love people like me.
Life target list:
- Gray Partridge - found two in ND farmland near J. Clark Salyer NWR
- Dusky Grouse - singing male in Grand Teton NP (photos!)
- Ruffed Grouse - not found
- Black-backed Woodpecker - one in Sax-Zim bog in MN, two in Custer SP in SD
- Baird's Sparrow - multiple locations in ND especially Lostwood NWR
- Red-necked Grebe - ND's Turtle Mountains
- Upland Sandpiper - various prairie locations
- Sprague's Pipit - various prairie locations
- Three-toed Woodpecker - not found
- Dusky, Cordilleran, Hammond's Flycatchers - only the most common Dusky was found, Cordilleran was probably heard, a few unknowns were seen
- Le Conte's Sparrow - one seen, two more heard in ND wet prairies
- Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow - two at Lostwood NWR in ND
- Clay-colored Sparrow - widespread in grassland
- Dickcissel - not found - outside the typical (central-eastern prairie) breeding range
- Lark Bunting - common in WY grassland, rarer in ND, SD, MT - should have been more widespread
- Saw two Review List species in ND - Tricolored Heron and Sage Thrasher - both were submitted as reports to the records committee
After the trip I have the following observations to make about ND birds:
- Baird's Sparrow and Sprague's Pipit are probably fairly widespread in drier/shorter grass prairie but also pretty local.
Seen or heard in multiple locations, the best and most reliable ones were at Lostwood NWR near the Grouse Blind (stop #11 or #12)
with the Sprague's only vocal in the mornings. There's no need to walk into the prairie, as I saw one birder do.
- Clay-colored and Savannah Sparrows were widespread, and you could almost pick out the areas for Clay-colored looking for a
greater preponderance of weeds in the prairie grasses. The Clay-colored song is distinctive. Song Sparrows were
uncommon only in rather weedier edges. At least one of Rising's Sparrow books suggest Song Sparrow is absent from the plains but that's not
- Grasshopper Sparrows were uncommon and patchy but findable in many
grassy areas that you might be looking for Ammodramus sparrows
in. Grasshopper song fragments sound a lot like Le Conte's and Nelson's when
not heard well (e.g. at a distance or in windy conditions)
- Le Conte's Sparrows were hard to find - I heard two at Sheyenne NG in wet grasses, and saw one at Lostwood NWR in the same habitat.
Multiple "suitable" habitat patches appeared to contain none, but areas that certainly had them were also silent,
so they probably only sing very early or late in the day.
- What is true for Le Conte's is also true for Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrows, but I was lucky enough to be told of two
at Lostwood NWR that were fairly cooperative and singing. I had no sign of them elsewhere in the state although there were reports
from J. Clark Salyer and various other prairie potholes throughout ND. Time of day may be a factor here, also.
- Sharp-tailed Grouse were seen from time to time on various local roads (e.g. the road to Lords Lake NWR, south of Lostwood NWR,
south-east of Tuttle). Obviously widespread with no certain place to see them in June nor any particular habitat clues apart from them
being a prairie bird.
- Gray Partridge are "where you find them" at the edges of agricultural fields, my hunch being the abundant pesticide use makes it
less likely to find them in the centers of fields. I only saw two, so they are not exactly common and require some searching for. The agricultural
areas south-west of Bottineau and south of Sheyenne National Grasslands are just two of the better areas, but they are all over the place.
- Sedge Wren was relatively widespread in moist scrubby areas. Marsh Wren was locally abundant in marshland, especially J. Clark Salyer NWR
- Chestnut-collared Longspurs were local, the best bets appearing to be state lands grazed by cattle or horses i.e. short grass prairies.
I found some south and south-east of Tuttle
- Lark Buntings were few and far between in ND - I saw perhaps 2 or 3 on wires in the south-west corner of the state along US-85 and south of I-94.
There were a few in SD and many in WY so this appears to be a range/habitat issue.
- Waterfowl were abundant, with Blue-winged Teal being the most abundant of them. The BW Teal and Mallard, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler,
Northern Pintail were common, Redhead, Cavasback, Lesser Scaup being fairly common, American Wigeon and Green-winged Teal being more elusive.
- Least Flycatcher and Yellow Warbler appeared to be willing to pick any small fragment of useful habitat,
in ways that they wouldn't in the more deciduous east coast.
- I used the Delorme maps of Wyoming, Minnesota and North Dakota. Like other Delorme maps their update
schedule is not exemplary and I found significant discrepancies. They also invert the square/oval scheme
for county/state roads between the MN and WY maps. Which genius thought that was a good idea ? I also used other, smaller, state maps and where I had
reception I also used the map software on my iPhone. I didn't get very much reception away from interstates and cities, however. And not always on interstates.
- In what follows, I try to be consistent about usage of CR-xxx (county roads) and MN-xxx (state roads)
although that's not always possible. I reference Delorme map and grid numbers as [Delorme 56/A2]. In some
cases I reference the birding guides by page number (e.g. Eckert p.200, Scott p.99).
Click here for a Google map of locations that I made when planning the trip
and subsequently amended with trip notes.
- Duluth Birding Report telephone number is (218) 834-2858. (I didn't call any RBAs)
Prior Trip Reports
The Europeans and the prolific Stuart Healey (ex-pat Brit) are pretty much holding down the fort on trip reports, which are otherwise thin on the ground.
This is one reason that I was particularly motivated to put this trip report on line because I ended up doing a LOT of pre-trip research.
- NorthwesternUSA2003_SH.pdf PDF (MN-ND-SD-WY)
- Minnesota, Dakotas and Northeastern Wyoming
- Minnesota, Dakotas
- Stuart Healey Minnesota, Dakotas, Wyoming also contd
in July 2008
- Stuart Healey - WY, ND June 17-28 2006
- Stuart Healey - ND, SD, June 2005
- Stuary Healey - Wyoming, 2004
- Stuart Healey also doing ND in 2009, his journals are here with
this one for June 7th
- Wyoming in June (and Colorado)
- Yellowstone and Grand Tetons, June 2004
- Wyoming, June 2003
- Montana, Yellowstone and Grand Tetons in May/June 2007
I used the following books for trip planning, but limited myself to bringing only the MN and WY guides and making scans/photocopies of
small parts of the other one to keep the weight and bulk down. As it was my bag checked in at 49.5 lbs after a bit of hasty repacking on the outward leg.
- A Birder's Guide to Wyoming by Oliver Scott, in the ABA/Lane guide series
- Birding Montana by Terry McEneaney in the Falcon series
- A Birder's Guide to Minnesota by Kim Eckert
- A Birder's Guide to Planning North American Trips by Jerry Cooper, published by the ABA but possibly not formally a Lane guide
- There are no current books on birding ND or SD - most of the information for ND or SD has been obtained online
Distances and timings via Google maps. In some cases Google directions are very pessimistic (e.g. 2 hours from
Duluth to Sax, MN when it is closer to half that time). This should give you an idea of the scale of the place.
- Rapid City, SD to Bozeman, MT - 515 miles, 7 hours
- Rapid City, SD to Minneapolis, MN - 600 miles, 8.5 hrs
- Minot, ND to Minneapolis, MN - 500 miles, 8 hrs
- Bismarck, SD to Minneapolis, MN - 430 miles, 6.25 hrs
- Idaho Falls, ID to Jackson, WY - 90 miles, 2 hrs
- Bozeman, MT to Jackson, WY - 215 miles, 4 hrs
- Jackson, WY to Casper, WY - 280 miles, 5 hours
All times for June 15th 2009. Both Mountain and Central time zones are in play. MDT is sw.ND,
w.SD (Rapid City), MT, WY. CDT is MN, e.SD, most of ND (Minot, Bismarck). There's actually not a lot
of light around at 9pm, so effective sunset is probably up to an hour earlier if you're doing any sort
- Minneapolis 5:30am, 9pm, TZ=CDT
- Minot 5:50am, 9:30pm, TZ=CDT
- Bozeman 5:40am, 9:20pm, TZ=MDT
In what follows I use the cryptic style of (species name) when I want to refer to a bird that I heard only. Rather
than track down every single bird in these sort of trips I made a strategic decision to not chase some because of
time and knowledge of Eastern passerine song, which helped a lot especially in MN and eastern ND. Also to be frank, I don't really
care if I saw Ovenbird or Northern Waterthrush on these trips or not - I see lots of them every year and the point of the trip
is to see something different. (I'm aware this is heresey to some).
Wed June 10th: Minneapolis - Duluth, ~350 miles
A relatively uneventful flight landed in Minneapolis with heavy overcast progressing into rain. As I drove
north on I-35 the rain cleared to a partially cloudy sky. Interstate birding wasn't all bad: two Bald Eagles,
Great Blue Heron and Green Heron were the most interesting ones. Along MN-27 west of Moose Lake I added
Eastern Bluebird, a fly-by Cuckoo (perhaps Black-billed) and Pileated Woodpecker.
The good thing was that the sky had cleared by the time I made the first stop at Rice Lake NWR. The bad thing was
that it was already 11am and breezy - nevertheless quite a few birds were singing and I
birded there for two hours from 11am-1pm. Sedge Wren,
(Golden-winged Warbler), (Clay-colored Sparrow) were the most interesting ones.
Many species I just heard and chose not to spend 15 minutes trying to find: (Ovenbird), (Northern Parula),
(Least Flycatcher), (Yellow-throated Vireo). Nice extras were Black Tern and Common Nighthawk, the latter the
only one for the trip. Savannah and
Song Sparrows were common, as were Common Yellowthroat and Alder Flycatcher. The lake itself was quiet with a
few Bufflehead, Ring-necked Ducks and Mallard. The passerine species were classical eastern deciduous - in
addition to the heard-onlies I actually did see Red-eyed Vireo, Indigo Bunting, Great Crested Flycatcher, Yellow
Warbler and Bobolink.
Then I went to nearby Aitkin Twp Road 380 where I saw more Bobolink, Savannah and Song Sparrows but no Ammodramus sparrows, before heading for
Sax-Zim Bog via a winding road that paralleled the west side of the Mississippi River and passed through more grasslands containing
Bobolinks and one or two (Sedge Wrens). The Sax-Zim Bog was a mixed bag, given it was later in the day with a decent breeze. Nashville Warblers
were numerous as were Common Yellowthroats and Alder Flycatchers. I birded Blue Spruce Road east of Meadowlands and
turned up Black-and-white Warbler, White-throated Sparrow, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. In farm fields off Arkola Rd
while failing to find either Sharp-tailed Grouse or Upland Sandpiper I saw a small flock of Brewer's Blackbirds.
Up McDavitt Rd around sunset while waiting to see if the Great Gray Owl would put in an appearance I saw a fairly tame Broad-winged Hawk.
Bobolinks were widespread in the grassier fields and Sedge Wren was in the scrubbier areas.
Overnight at Motel 6 in Duluth, MN.
Thursday June 11th - Duluth MN to Jamestown ND, ~560 miles
My body had other ideas when I woke it up at 3:30am to go looking for Yellow Rails, so instead a more
sedate 6am departure from Duluth saw me headed for Sax-Zim bog, getting there at 7am just as the
sun emerged from the overcast and the weather cleared. Surely this good weather karma was going to come
to a nasty end soon. I started at Blue Spruce Rd, where activity was unsurprisingly better than the
previous afternoon. Yellow-rumped Warblers, heard then seen Hermit Thrushes and a singing male Blackburnian
Warbler were good starts, then male and female Purple Finch, a singing Mourning Warbler,
Chestnut-sided Warbler, Eastern Wood-Pewee and Eastern Phoebe at the bridge. I heard Veery singing and calling. A Broad-winged Hawk was drying
out in the early morning sun. Chestnut-sided Warbler, Eastern Phoebe and Eastern Wood-Pewee were on the west side of this loop and another
Mourning Warbler was heard.
After Blue Spruce Rd I revisited the meadows on Rt.29 north of Meadowlands but had no success with Le Conte's Sparrow,
didn't manage to be totally certain I was seeing the singing (Eastern Meadowlark), and headed up Owl Ave to the intersection with
Mottonen Rd stopping briefly to track down a Clay-colored Sparrow en route.
Like magic, I heard a somewhat distant (Connecticut Warbler) to the west of Owl Ave at Mottonen along with
Magnolia Warbler, Alder Flycatcher, Common Yellowthroat, Nashville Warbler.
Half a mile to the north a Mourning Warbler was singing with the right pitch but a Connecticut Warbler cadence. Some confusion was
cleared up when I actually saw the bird which turned out to be a Mourning Warbler.
Along Arkola Road I added Olive-sided Flycatcher - initial qualms about relative size were abated once one of the
ubiquitous Alder Flycatchers perched just below it.
Then north along McDavitt Rd where I stopped briefly at the conifer bog ~3 mi north of Sax Rd to listen
to a Black-and-white Warbler song, then saw Boreal Chickadee and hung out there long enough to hear a very strange
Woodpecker call. Non Hairy-like. I'd already done some research on the relative calls (and disagree with Sibley's descriptions of them).
Advancing down the road on the suspicion that it could be Black-backed, I saw a male Black-backed Woodpecker
fly past me down McDavitt and into the forest. No luck on further searching, but this was an eye-level view of a roadside fly-by so pretty
much unambiguous. I struck out on a possible Yellow-bellied Flycatcher that I couldn't see, and further searching of reported
Connecticut Warbler spots turned up nothing. By now it was noon, however and it was time to head west.
I think Connecticut Warbler was reported from this section of Owl Ave around the same time as I was there, but I certainly didn't hear it.
I started the long drive south west in which I skipped the optional site of Itasca SP (BBWP spot), but cut through
Tamarack NWR where the birding drive held Trumpeter Swan, Common Loon and a host
of eastern deciduous species including (Yellow Warbler), (American Redstart), (Veery), (Great-crested Flycatcher),
Least Flycatcher, (Northern Parula) etc. I didn't spend much time walking the drive to find most of the species since I was on a tight schedule.
Exiting Tamarack it was just some quick road miles down out of the deciduous rolling hills around Detroit Lakes and into the very flat agricultural land
beyond Fergus Falls. I crossed into ND via Breckenridge, adding Horned Lark as the last MN bird.
Entering ND at Wahepton, House Sparrow, Common Grackle, Red-winged Blackbird, Killdeer, and other roadside birds
started out my ND list. I followed ND-13 out to Milnor, located the uninspiring rest area referenced by the
Zen & Art of Motorcycle Maintenance fandom, but at the nearby pond on the south
side of town added prairie birds quickly: Black Tern, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Mallard,
Gadwall, Canvasback, Redhead, American Coot, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Savannah Sparrow. Going through Milnor I saw
Chipping Sparrow and heard (Chimney Swifts). Going north out of Milnor
I went east on 75th for 6 mi east of (Route 10?) then 2 miles north to the Nature Conservancy
wetlands at Sheyenne National Grasslands
for Upland Sandpiper and Marbled Godwit but I didn't find any Le Conte's or Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrows. I think
this is the area of Brown Ranch but I didn't attempt to find it.
Further north still along ?10? I added Grasshopper Sparrow and Western Meadowlark at the grasslands trail parking lot but since there was a
dog hanging around it was difficult to approach them.
As night fell I started the long trek to Jamestown where I stayed at a very budget motel.
Friday June 12th - Jamestown to Bottineau, ~420 miles
Left Jamestown at 6am following the Jamestown-Chase Lake birding drive,
and was amazed at all sorts of waterfowl on the road, in the fields
and especially in numerous road-side ponds. I also found Marbled Godwit, Franklin's and California Gulls and
an out-of-place American Bittern wandering around out in the open at the side of a large lake. This was the first of four American Bitterns on the trip.
All the usual ducks were present and also less numerous American Wigeon and Black Terns, and there were a few Wilsons Phalaropes and
White-rumped Sandpipers. Some Brewer's Blackbirds were present in addition to common ones, numerous Savannah Sparrows, and Clay-colored
and Song Sparrows, with Western Meadowlark. Sedge Wren was present in a few areas and Willow Flycatcher, Yellow
Warbler and a single Sage Thrasher were found in a small shrubby section. Sage Thrasher turns out to be a ND bird record committee review species,
although the range maps for Sibley didn't make it look all that rare so I didn't snap a distant pic of it. Ah well. I did submit the record.
The Birds of North America Online range maps show ND lying outside the extreme north-east edge of the breeding range, which explains why I saw them
in WY rather more readily.
I added Western Grebe at a large lake near the entrance to Chase Lake NWR
where the causeway had young Killdeer and young Marbled Godwit. The adult Killdeer was performing the broken wing
display but the Godwits were less hands-on about protecting their somewhat confused juvenile. Both fledgelings were in the road and getting past them
Black-backed Night-Herons were in some ponds and I saw fly-by Great Egret and Snowy Egret near Chase Lake, with the latter two not billed as
exactly common in ND - perhaps the influence of a wet year or out-of-date bird lists.
The road into Chase Lake NWR was in good condition but the grass in the middle of the track scraped against the underside of the car.
It's not easy to find places to turn around along this road and it would be extra fun to meet someone coming in the other direction.
I saw Clay-colored Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow and several Grasshopper Sparrows but a notable absence of Baird's or Sprague's Pipit which were the main
targets for this place. American White Pelicans were fly-overs.
By now it was late morning and getting too hot to be good for finding much. Checking the area
around the nearby Chicago Lake added nothing (previous ND list report suggested this was useful)
Crop dusting was happening nearby which didn't help but the time of day was the killer.
In the heat of the day I drove west to Tuttle where the marsh east of town had American Avocet, Green-winged Teal,
more Wilson's Phalaropes and White-rumped Sandpipers as well as the usual suspects in the duck department.
There were a couple of Chestnut-collared Longspurs in state land used for grazing south-east of town,
Orchard Oriole west of town and Josephine Lake had Double-crested Cormorants, Forster's Tern and Willet.
Grasslands had Red-tailed Hawk and Northern Harrier but raptor numbers were pretty low and American Kestrels were
conspicuous by their absence, especially compared to MN where they were quite numerous.
I then drove a fair distance due north to Bottineau and the Turtle Mountains finding Red-necked Grebes, Baltimore Oriole,
Yellow Warbler at School Section lake and other heard several other eastern deciduous birds (Common Raven, Least Flycatcher, American Redstart,
Northern Waterthrush were all heard). Black-billed Magpie was a nice addition. Heavy rain in the Turtle Mountains abruptly truncated
birding there so I headed back down to the plains. Down to Bottineau to check in at the Super8 and then to J. Clark Salyer NWR
where Eared Grebe was fairly common and there were all sorts of ducks including American Wigeon, lots of blackbirds, Tricolored Heron
(ND review list), Black-crowned Night-Heron, the motherload of Franklin's Gulls hunting over the marsh, many vocal Marsh Wrens,
Black Tern and Forster's Tern. An American Bittern was at the side of the auto tour trail but slunk back into the reeds as I approached.
Apparently the Le Conte's habitat here is flooded but I failed to find the recently-reported Nelson's Sharp-tailed
Sparrows either. The nearby Grasslands Section west of Kramer held Western Meadowlark, Bobolink, Savannah and Clay-colored Sparrows. The
gate was open but the road closed off 1 mile in making for an "interesting" U-turn in the narrow grassy track.
Stuart Healey reported one Baird's that was difficult to find in this section around the same time, but given that
Baird's are a lot easier in Lostwood this grassland did not seem that productive.
Overnight Super8 at Bottineau.
Saturday June 13th - Bottineau to Minot, ~340 miles
I started early at the road north of Lords Lake NWR, finding Grasshopper and Savannah Sparrows almost immediately, and while striking
out yet again on Le Conte's and Nelsons's I first heard then tracked down a singing Baird's Sparrow - most unexpected. The habitat seemed rather
more lush than I would have associated with Baird's but perhaps it was the best compromise for that area. The bird was distant so plumage
details were useless beyond the fact that it had a little streaking and didn't appear to be an orange-ish Ammodramus,
but I could watch it sing in the scope and hear the song with a half-second delay. A life bird that got put on the "better
view desired" list immediately.
There were one or two Sharp-tailed Grouse along the road and Marbled Godwit. There were a few ducks including Bufflehead on Lords Lake itself.
Driving down a few agricultural roads west of Bottineau I did not find any Gray Partidge, but after checking out of the hotel and taking back roads
toward J. Clark Salyer NWR I found two Gray Partridges a few miles north-east of Kramer after I stopped to take photos of Franklin's Gulls. This
was near one of the small grain silos that dot the area. However given the amount of back-road driving I did, seeing only two was not an outstanding
total. These were also the only two for the entire trip. Two life birds for the morning. Not bad.
I walked into the Clark Salyer NWR grasslands section for half a mile but it was relatively quiet with just Bobolink and Savannah Sparrow and the most
interesting birds were two fly-by American Bitterns. On the auto tour through the reserve I added pretty much the same birds as
the previous day: Black and Forster's Tern, White-faced Ibis, Marsh and (Sedge) Wrens, Willow and Least Flycatchers, Sora. I walked into
the sandhill section and wadered around, finding Eastern Bluebird, Veery, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Lark Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow, (Warbling
Vireo), (Ovenbird), Cedar Waxwings, Yellow Warbler and House Wren. There was also a Bald Eagle on the nest a little east of this section.
Biting insects were only bad in the dark areas of riparian woodland.
En route south and west to Minot I added another Sharp-tailed Grouse and Upland Sandpiper but precious little else of interest
despite a fair amount of driving on back roads.
I took lunch at Minot, and checked into an uninspiring but entirely adequate Super8.
North out of Minot I went first to Upper Souris NWR which had Purple Martin,
Orchard Oriole, Yellow Warbler and Warbling Vireo
at the HQ but very little along the auto loop to detain me. Then west to Carpio and US-52 north to Kenmare where I found the
Des Lacs NWR visitor center offering very little information as to the tour loop,
so I had to rely on road signs.
The loop is more of a linear drive along a narrow road of variable quality and only intermittent view of the water, but there were many Eared and
some Western Grebes, many waterfowl, a lot of Clay-colored Sparrows and Yellow Warblers along the road with a few Marsh Wrens down by the water.
I saw a bird that might have been a Bullock's Oriole, and also a Broad-winged Hawk blasting through the canopy.
Finally I made it to Lostwood NWR in more favorable light in later afternoon.
Savannah, Vesper and Clay-colored Sparrows were fairly numerous with especially the
Vespers fond of feeding in the road. A couple of Marbled Godwits dive-bombed my car, Willets were less assertive and there were Wilson's Phalarope
on the first pond. On the larger alkaline lake were American Avocet, more Phalaropes and Piping Plover. Two local birders scouting for the upcoming
ABA convention in Minot (that I was anxious to avoid because I loathe birding crowds) told me about some
relatively retiring Nelsons Sharp-tailed Sparrows in the wet marsh downhill from the fire tower that actually sang for us after a little wait.
I also saw/heard 2-3 Bairds including one seen well near the grouse blind (stop #11). I also saw another Ammodramus sparrow that was
probably a Le Conte's but too briefly to be certain about it. Sprague's Pipits were neither seen nor singing at that time of day.
Overnight Minot (but should have stayed in Kenmare).
Sunday June 14th - Minot to Glendive MT, ~380 miles
I went to Lostwood NWR at dawn. Baird's Sparrow was singing elusively but there were several individuals from points #11 to #14.
Sprague's Pipits were also around the grouse blind but took some finding until I adopted the old Skylark technique of gridding the sky
when they weren't nearly as impossible to find with binoculars. Pretty invisible to the naked eye. There were two more Sprague's at the
Fire Tower. Grasshopper, Clay-colored, Savannah, Vesper and Song Sparrows were also in evidence, with Least and Willow Flycatchers plus
Warbling Vireos at the willow and alder patches. The two singing Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrows were still present at the marsh below the
fire tower but once again there were no traces of Le Conte's. One of the Nelson's was uncharacteristically cooperative and sat on a reed-covered
barbed wire fence while singing. Contrary to what you might think, I did not tape this bird in, but the competition between the singing males
and the ability to sit on location for an extended time without other birders around certainly were factors. Even on a Sunday Lostwood is largely
Exiting Lostwood, I went west to Lake Zahl NWR where I found Clay-colored, Grasshopper, (Baird's) Sparrows and Sprague's Pipit - the latter
two obviously quite widespread in the right habitat. At nearby Alkali Lake there was a FWS staff member walking the shore line so I put up with
distant American Avocet and Wilson's Phalarope views.
Then south to Roosevelt National Park north section after lunch in Watford City.
Conditions were windy and hot so I saw relatively little although
it was obvious there was a transition to more western species: Western Meadowlark, singing Lazuli Bunting, singing Spotted Towhee
and a few Buffalo. There was a Wood Duck in the flooded woodland bottomland, although at least this was better habitat than the one I saw in a small
flooded woodland in the middle of the prairie on the way to Chase Lake two days previously.
Because of lack of enthusiasm, conditions and the necessary road miles I skipped the secondary sites around Shirley, MT and headed straight to
Glendive, MT via US-85 and I-94 and a scenery stop at Painted Canyon, just west of Belfield and part of the southern section of Theodore
Overnight at Super8 in Glendive.
Monday June 15th - Glendive MT to Red Lodge MT, ~460 miles
Mostly a long drive day, I started at Makoshika State Park in the badlands just to the south of Glendive.
There I found a nice variety
of birds in overcast conditions: Mountain Bluebird, House Finch, Rock Wren, Cedar Waxwing, Grasshopper, Chipping, Vesper, Field and Lark Sparrows,
American Robin, Prairie Falcon flying up valley, two Wild Turkeys, Spotted Towhee, Western Meadowlark and Say's phoebe.
The forecast called for patchy sun with thunderstorms and this was certainly the case with large storms dropping water
across the landscape with sunny intervals in between them. I headed south-west along I-94 for a bit of long-haul driving.
En route there were a few Lark Buntings and a couple of American Kestrels. Stopping outside
Miles City at Strawberry Hill BLM I found the usual suspects: Brewer's Blackbird, (Yellow Warbler), Spotted Towhee, Lazuli Bunting.
Further driving west on I-94 and then I-90 I finally turned south into the river valley toward Red Lodge, seeing American Kestrel and Northern Flicker along
this riparian route and Pine Siskin as I checked into Yodeler Motel in Red Lodge.
This small town reminded me a little of Steamboat CO and was
clearly geared up to cater to the winter ski trade with a ski lift up to Beartooth Pass to the south. In fact after checking in I headed up there
Up toward Beartooth Pass I hit my first montane habitat of the trip and
added Clark's Nutcracker, Mountain Chickadee and Common Raven to the MT list at the Rock Creek Vista, then Black Rosy-Finch,
American Pipit and Horned Lark just before the east summit on the MT side of the state line. The Rosy-Finches were fairly numerous (30+) feeding in
the melting snow fields. Later I added Black Rosy-Finch and American Pipit on the west side of the west summit to the WY list.
There was a decent amount of snow present, with snow walls
up to 10 feet in places and snow persisting down into the "Top of the World" alpine area in WY down off the west summit.
Two Red-tailed Hawks were in this valley. Several lakes were still at least partially frozen. Beartooth Lake was
barely unfrozen but the campsite road was closed and not particularly productive as a walk-in. In fact many facilities like campsites were closed in this
particular National Forest (Shoshone?). The storms appeared to be gathering in greater numbers
and it was relatively cool and wet. Down into the very small and rustic Cooke City the road deteriorated just west of there, so I turned around just
shy of the Yellowstone north-east entrance where it looked like the weather was closing in. Trying to avoid the storm I headed quickly back east to the
junction with Chief Joseph highway where rain storms appeared to be converging. I made rapid stops at sagebrush and aspen areas along the road as I
made my way back toward Beartooth Pass, seeing Hairy Woodpecker,
American Robin, White-crowned Sparrow, Empidonax sp (probably Dusky), and Mountain Bluebird. Further east
at a bog were Green-winged Teal, Mallard, American Robin, Mountain Chickadee, (Hermit Thrush) and full breeding-plumaged male Audubon's
Yellow-rumped Warbler. I made it back over the pass in a snow storm and then down quickly into Red Lodge for the night.
Tuesday June 16th - Red Lodge MT to Jackson WY via Yellowstone and Grand Tetons, ~290 miles
Starting from Red Lodge MT at 6:35 am I climbed quickly (well, OK, the car did) toward Beartooth Pass again. The only thing at Rock Creek Vista
was a Common Raven. It was sunny at the summit, but just American Pipit and Horned Lark were seen from the state line through
the West Summit - there were no Rosy-Finches! Immediately beyond the west summit it was down into cloud,
partially clearing around Top of the World with American Pipit and several White-crowned Sparrows.
Pine Grosbeak was heard then seen briefly in this open Alpine area, together with Dark-eyed Junco (pink-sided). Further down at Beartooth
Lake there was surveying in progress so I didn't walk in along the closed road, but Gray Jay was at the roadside stop
nearby. There was a veritable torrent emptying from the south side of the lake - a combination of meltwater and rain.
Further down the road a little I revisited the bog from the previous day, finding much the same species with
Mountain Bluebird, Dark-eyed Junco (pink-sided), Green-winged Teal, Audubon's Yellow-rumped Warbler.
After a few uneventful stops at alder grove sites I drove through Cooke City MT, and was delayed by
traffic construction into Yellowstone NP's north-east entrance. At least I got to watch a White-crowned Sparrow
hop along the road as I waited. A ranger saved us some time by checking passes etc as we waited and I learnt from him about a Great Gray Owl
that was being seen at Floating Island Lake - doubtless dawn or dusk would have been the best time to look for this bird.
Once through the entrance gate there was a veritable convoy downhill so I baled out at the Pebble Creek trail pullout and a short
walk through sagebrush next to a conifer forest yielded Green-tailed Towhee, Warbling Vireo (finally saw one), (Ruby-crowned Kinglet).
I saw a single male Common Merganser along Soda Butte Creek. Vesper Sparrow was in the valley as it opened up into sagebrush but I didn't find Brewer's Sparrow.
Many Buffalo were present as the Lamar Valley widened, including a group that crossed the road at Soda Butte itself
followed by a flock of Brewer's Blackbirds.
I saw one Pronghorn that had not yet attracted attention, which was somewhat of a miracle given the general human behavior in Yellowstone.
At the next pullout the Cliff Swallows were nesting at the restrooms and Bank Swallows flew by. There were a remarkable number of
Buffalo littered across this broad grassy valley (Lamar Valley), Common Raven wandered up and down the valley and a couple of Red-tailed Hawks were seen near
While searching unsuccessfully for Brewer's Sparrow I did at least turn up Sage Thrasher, and while failing to find Goldeneyes I saw a
Spotted Sandpiper and a few E. Starlings. The first Osprey of the trip flew overhead calling. Cinnamon Teal was found in a couple of the
calmer areas along the river.
I took the side road to Slough Creek campground and at the pullout overlooking the creek saw
Green-winged Teal, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Black-backed Magpie, a female Goldeneye sp. with a dark bill (see later - Barrow's females have dark bills at the
height of breeding plumage), a
sleeping swan (should be Trumpeter) and American Wigeon.
A little further along the Slough Creek road, but short of the campground, I took a trail along a small stream which turned out to be very productive.
Several vocal Pine Siskins and a pair of Williamson's Sapsuckers were the first finds. Then a large raptor drew my interest, and I was overjoyed to
find it was an adult Northern Goshawk which had prey in its talons but was in no apparent hurry and was in full view
circling for several minutes. Lincoln's Sparrow, Audubon's Yellow-rumped Warbler, MacGillivray's Warbler, House Wren,
Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Warbling Vireo and Cassin's Finch were also present. I gave up on the trail when a storm rolled in. There was an
Empidonax here that could have been either Hammond's, Cordilleran or Dusky but it was totally silent and I had no desire to
open that can of worms with so little recent experience with them in a habitat which could suit any of the three.
Traveling down the river I didn't find anything else new, and at Tower Junction I headed west toward Gardiner to check
out Floating Island Lake, where indeed there was a floating island and a Sandhill Crane nesting on it ! Then I pulled out
at Blacktail Plateau Drive and found it closed. Nevertheless I parked and walked in for a while and saw Williamson's Sapsucker, Northern
Flicker, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Dark-eyed Junco. More interesting were three Coyotes that loped along 100 yards away and largely ignored me.
I turned around on the road when it
became somewhat obvious that no other alder groves were appearing, but before I did I managed to find a Dusky Flycatcher.
The human behavior at Yellowstone is fundementally parasitic, where the traffic slows to a halt whenever someone appears to have
found something interesting, and all sorts of gratuitously touristic behavior then manifests. This can reach silly heights, and I
precipitated one myself with the help of a British (presumed) birding group. At the start I was the only one parked at the start of the
closed Blacktail Drive, and then the British group van parked behind me. I bumped into them walking up the trail as I walked back down it
as they were engrossed in examining some Wolf scat. This number
of people precipitated the "must be something good" parasitic behavior where suddenly all sorts of tourists pulled off the road and wandered
up to me asking what was there.
Clearly this is the way to go if you want to perpetrate a full-blown hoax (claiming a Grizzly 300 yards up the trail would be an excellent story).
Nevertheless this sort of behavior is not idyllic and might be viewed by some (e.g. me) as farcical.
Returning to Tower Junction I headed south toward Canyon, and apparently everyone else had the same idea, with many
pullouts jammed with cars, and one "bear jam" where two Black Bears (a brown-colored one was being mis-ID'd as a Grizzly).
So I skipped the worst of them (e.g. Tower Falls) that were swarming with tourists. I got a very late lunch at Canyon and carried on south
toward Hayden Valley. There weren't many big mammals there, and the Yellowstone River that drained Yellowstone Lake looked swollen and fast upstream
of the canyon falls near Canyon. I
noticed Western Grebe from the roadside. In a wider section in Hayden Valley a few American Avocet and Wilson's Phalarope were present along
with California Gull. There were decent numbers of Canada Geese. But I wasn't finding any Goldeneyes.
Finally I made it to Yellowstone Lake and found a pullout where a flock of male, immature male and one or two apparent
female Barrow's Goldeneye's were feeding. The "females" had all dark bills so I'm not sure of both their gender and
the reliability of that ID feature - allegedly Barrow's have small yellow bills as females.
A few Scaup sp. and a pair of Buffleheads were also present. I carried on through to
Grand Teton NP in the face of time marching on,
storms wandering around the mountain valleys, more road construction and a growing sense of exhaustion.
Finally reaching Grand Teton NP I saw an American White Pelican below the dam.
The small lake nearby was closed because of Trumpeter Swan breeding activity
with no clear visibility from the road. I actually got better Trumpeter Swan views in MN this trip than in WY.
I drove up Signal Mtn in search of the elusive Dusky Grouse. No Grouse, but there were Rock Wren, Western Tanager,
(Swainson's Thrush), (Hermit Thrush), (Ruby-crowned Kinglet), Audubon's Yellow-rumped Warbler, a single Townsend's Solitaire and
Red-tailed Hawk as dusk fell.
Overnight (and some laundry) at one of the better Motel6's I stayed at all trip, in Jackson, with a price tag to match ($75).
Jackson's a good tourist town
with many restaurant options and lurks as a triplet with Red Lodge (MT) and Steamboat (CO) as places that might be good to explore when not on some
crazy birding trip. The 20-something check-in clerk at the Motel6 asked me if I was a member of AARP, so it was possible that the successive early
mornings were getting to me. (I was 45 when I took this trip).
Wednesday June 17th - Grand Teton NP, ~170 miles
Early at Signal Mountain, I found no Dusky (Blue) Grouse (0/1 targets for the day) and only a subset of the previous evening's species,
but got a bonus in the form of 40+ Crossbills, mostly White-winged
but also at least a couple of Red Crossbills moving in a rapid feeding flock through the pines at the summit.
Pine Siskins flew in to join the mobile foraging group.
Olive-sided Flycatcher was hunting on the slopes below.
In retrospect listening for Dusky Grouse song is a waste of time since I can barely hear it when I'm standing 50 feet from the bird.
Down to the Jenny Lake scenic drive to take advantage of the sunny morning, I then hiked the trail to Taggart Lake through some very promising
habitat for Ruffed Grouse - finding Yellow Warbler, Dusky Flycatcher, (Western Wood-Pewee),
several Chipping Sparrows, Pine Siskin, displaying Broad-tailed Hummingbird. The trail crossed two streams and paralleled the second one
up through the alders to an open scrubbier patch for another Dusky Flycatcher, then into a young pine grove (post-burn) for Clark's Nutcracher,
(Swainson's Thrush), Dark-eyed Junco until it reached Taggart Lake - where Swainson's and Hermit Thrushes were singing, and a Coyote was
encountered jogging down the trail.
Returning back down the trail I found the same species and more hikers, so I completed my second strike-out for the morning on grouse.
I went to the Jenny Lake Burn which had pretty much no woodpeckers except a few Northern Flickers, one American Kestrel, Chipping and White-crowned
Sparrows, MacGillivray's Warbler, Brown Creeper, Western Wood-Pewee, (Olive-sided Flycatcher), Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, a fly by
immature Bald Eagle, an Osprey nest, and a few Common Mergansers along the lake. That's a good list, bracketed either side of a short hail storm from
one of the storms that continued the stormy-and-sunny trend of the previous day. However the actual target was woodpeckers, and I only heard two
Hairies. This might reflect the fact that it's not a recent burn, so that it's "played out", or that I should have started there first rather than
Back toward Jackson I saw Trumpeter Swan, Gadwall, Ring-necked Duck at the river overlook on the north side of town.
After lunch and a short rest at the hotel I decided to hit a few trails in the later afternoon in search of primarily Ruffed Grouse.
I went to the Death Valley trailhead off Moose-Wilson Rd, which was a relatively rough road but just traversable by passenger car (the sign
recommended 4-wheel drive, but the conditions at the time were mostly dry). The Valley Trail northbound was flat and went through excellent
habitat for Ruffed Grouse - but there were none to be found. A plus was the fact that hikers weren't to be found either. Instead I did find
more Swainson's Thrushes, Williamson's Sapsucker, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Dark-eyed Junco. Along the edge of the parking lot
at Lupine Trail many Elk were gathering. I followed the paved trail and saw Swainson's Thrush, fly-by Great Blue Heron and adult Bald Eagle. It was getting fairly
dark, fairly late and lightly drizzling, perhaps not the best conditions to find anything. Nevertheless I made a stab at the
Taggart Lake trail, hiking to the second stream crossing and a little way up into the aspens, but saw a subset of the morning's species and no
grouse. I was 0/3 at this point for target species for the day.
It was already sunset and was quite murky out but I made the 18 minute drive north to Signal Mountain once more, in the distant hope of Dusky
Grouse. Climbing the mountain I had my headlights on, and increasingly needed them to see to drive in the pine forest. Up at the top, around the
last corner, I slowed down thinking that if there was a Dusky in the road it would be a shame to hit it. And there it was, in the middle of the
road, wandering down toward me through my headlight beams. I parked up along the side of the road 75 yards away and proceeded to watch it sing in dark conditions
by the side of the road before it wandered off into the brush. When I say "sing" I mean give a series of barely audible ultra-low pitch hoots.
Quite the finale for the day.
Overnight Jackson Motel6 for second night.
Thursday June 18th - Jackson WY to Gillette WY, ~530 miles
I returned to Signal Mtn at dawn and initially thought I'd failed to find the Dusky Grouse until I noticed it sheltering under a conifer from
the rain, singing again. It sat there for a while hooting away as I shot about 200 images of it in impossibly dark conditions requiring
high ISO - the picture at left was shot at ISO 1600 at something absurd like 1/30th at f4. The inherent sharpness of the EOS 5D Mark II and the 500/4L
helps to overcome the noise in the image, especially after using Noise Ninja. Elk and Mule Deer were feeding in the forest, and there was the mostly the same mix of birds as the previous days visits there. This Dusky Grouse was unquestionably the bird of the trip, even edging out that Northern Goshawk.
This was mostly planned on being a Tetons-Yellowstone-and-eastward day, and the weather wasn't particularly friendly with low cloud and frequent patches of rain.
For one last attempt at Ruffed Grouse I was the first person on the Taggart Lake trail finding a subset of species from the previous day but Ruffed Grouse
were conspicuous by their absence. The rain got heavier and I made my way back to the car to drive north to Yellowstone.
In Yellowstone I took the south-west corner to Old Faithful to at least take a look at the scene.
Big mistake, as I found it had been turned into a tourist magnet with few redeeming features.
The road to Old Faithful even had its own exit ramp although one threatened by some geothermal activity.
The old lodge overlooking Old Faithful was huge and magnificent, but the rest of the area had been developed in standard National Park mode to cater to the mass
of tourists, rather strongly detracting from the spectacle. . Common Raven was the only bird species I saw at Old Faithful.
I exited in a hurry, working my way around the south-east corner as far north as Canyon. Barrow's Goldeneyes were on the Yellowstone Lake,
Common Mergansers and Western Grebes were on the Yellowstone River north
of there in the Hayden Valley, but apart from scenic stops at Mud Volcano and Lower Canyon Falls I failed to find any interesting
bird species in variable weather conditions. In driving rain I did come across an interesting conifer burn near the Hayden Valley but
conditions didn't allow me to check it out. Finally I returned to Yellowstone Lake and
took the road toward the East Entrance. On the road east of the Fishing Bridge I saw Eared Grebe, Northern Rough-winged Swallow
mixed in with Bank and Cliff Swallows. A little
further along at Steamboat Point there was a Common Loon along the lake and Violet-green Swallows nesting on the cliffs.
The road through the East Entrance of the park takes you toward Cody along US-20/16/14.
As I was dropping out of the mountains as the valley starts to widen at Wapiti
I came across a small group of what appeared to be Mountain Goats,
walking uphill out of a river valley after either coming down to drink (or perhaps visiting a salt lick).
Out of Cody, I followed the US-20/16/14 combination to Greybull and US-14 to
Shell into the Bighorn Mountains and up via Granite Pass.
The drier conditions between the mountain ranges suggested that this was in the rain shadow of the Rockies.
At a small National Forest site along the canyon I stopped to find Lazuli Bunting, Chipping Sparrow, Cassin's Finch and Common Raven
streamside. Then up through the the pass into a greener alpine area that would seem to be promising for all sorts of montane birds
if it had more public land access - however it appeared to be mostly private land so I didn't stop to investigate.
I made good time across the plateau at the top of the Bighorns, exiting the mountain range on the east side and meeting the
interstate at Ranchester. I managed to make it as far as Gillette overnight seeing Killdeer, Brewer's Blackbird, Western Meadowlark,
Red-tailed Hawk along the interstate.
Friday June 19th - Gillette MT to Belfield ND, ~530 miles
A little after dawn I made it to Lynch Road in Thunder Basin NG west of Newcastle and south of Gillette. There were several Lark Buntings, Western Meadowlarks, Brewer's Sparrows,
and smaller numbers of Sage Thrasher and Killdeer. There were a decent number of Pronghorn in the lusher areas. Despite good numbers of birds the diversity was low, so after a couple of
hours chasing photographs I headed east toward Newcastle through the grasslands. An older trip report had indicated some shortgrass prairie with Chestnut-collared Longspurs along this
route (WY-450) but I didn't see any on the fence lines and it was pretty obvious that the land was all private. Newcastle is on the south-west edge of the Black Hills, and I crossed
into this higher rolling terrain and into SD via US-16, ultimately reaching Custer. My sole target in this region was the productive burn at Four Mile Draw at
Custer State Park so after paying the $6 access fee
I headed straight for it, ignoring other potentially productive places. Several Buffalo were seen roadside. Up at the burn (~3 miles along the Wildlife Drive, 0.5 miles up the dirt
road of Four Mile Draw itself) I sheltered under one of the living trees while a rain storm passed, then finally found some woodpeckers. Two of these turned out to be male Black-backed Woodpeckers !
The rest were Hairies with a some Flickers heard across the valley. Chipping Sparrows and Brewer's Blackbirds were around, and Western Tanager was heard.
At this point I made a tactical decision to exit the Black Hills rather than take the slow winding roads north to Spearfish Canyon. In light of what I didn't achieve in Theodore Roosevelt SP
that evening, it would have made more sense to spend the time in Spearfish Canyon and head north later - the benefits of hindsight. As it transpired I took a long drive north along US-85 through
SD into ND. Roadside birding was less productive in SD because there are no prairie potholes, but I did see a few Lark Buntings south of the border in SD and fewer north of the border in ND. In
fact there appeared to be a marked uptick in agricultural land use in ND compared to the similar area in SD. In ND there were more roadside ponds and a Swainson's Hawk.
Finally I made it to Theodore Roosevelt's south unit late in the afternoon and went to the picnic area in Cottonwood Canyon where I found Yellow Warbler, Eastern Bluebird, Lazuli Bunting and
a first year male American Redstart. The American Redstart surprised me but it appears to be well within the breeding range. There were no viable photographic opportunities, however. I stayed
overnight at the Cowboy Motel in Belfield which had wired internet via satellite.
Saturday June 20th - Belfield ND to Kenmare ND, ~320 miles
Not long after sunrise on the valley floor I started out at the Cottonwood picnic area at T. Roosevelt NP South and saw Yellow Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat,
Bullock's Oriole, Spotted Towhee, Eastern Bluebird and Barn Swallow. American Redstarts sang from multiple brushy areas. Field Sparrows sang from the sage brush and so did several
Chats and Lazuli Buntings in mixed Juniper/sage river valleys. Photo ops were less common than I would like with the exception of a single Say's Phoebe
and I left the south unit after covering the river valleys
By the time I reached Theodore Roosevelt NP north unit it was a redux of conditions on the way to MT - windy and hot. I managed to find (Yellow Warbler), (Rock Wren), an immature Golden Eagle,
Spotted Towhee, Western Meadowlark and Say's Phoebe but birding conditions were fairly poor. After driving to the end of the auto tour I left to have lunch in Watford City before heading east
then north to Stanley and then onto Lostwood NWR where in windy conditions I found Baird's, Vesper, Savannah and Clay-colored Sparrows, Marbled Godwit, Green-winged Teal,
Ruddy Duck, Swainson's Hawk, Northern Harrier and a Sharp-tailed Grouse on the road south of Lostwood NWR. Again, there was no evidence of singing Sprague's Pipit in the afternoon, and I could
not find either Nelson's nor Le Conte's Sparrows. Given the conditions I left fairly early for Des Lacs NWR which is precisely when the rental car started to give problems starting, a symptom
that would persist through the middle of the next day and may just have been dirt in the fuel line. Nevertheless your rental car refusing to start in rural
ND is not the ideal situation.
Overnight in Kenmare.
Sunday June 21st - Kenmare ND to Bismarck ND, ~425 miles
The morning was windy and overcast and I had to contend with a cranky rental car. Not relishing the prospect of being stranded in the back of beyond at Lostwood NWR I simply did not turn off
the rental car all morning, which certainly didn't help the resolution of some sparrow shots. At Lostwood NWR there were Baird's, Clay-colored, Savannah and Vesper Sparrows, singing
Sprague's Pipits, Willow Flycatchers, Marbled Godwit, a brief look at a Le Conte's Sparrow (finally!) and Wilson's Phalarope. Conditions were pretty windy and not especially inspiring. Heading
back to Kenmare I stopped at the state land "Chestnut-collared Longspur pasture" and made a quick walk down the slightly more sheltered east side while leaving the car running and found very little,
but by then it was approaching mid morning and quite windy conditions.
I headed into Minot and then east on US-2 to Berwick where a little rummaging around in the ponds north of this hamlet produced Horned Grebe for the trip list and the usual marshland birds
including Wilson's Phalarope and Black Tern in good numbers. Then I backtracked a little and headed north-west to Clark Salyer NWR where the wind hadn't lessened and parts of the auto
tour had minor grit storms. Black and Forster's Terns handled the conditions well, as did many Franklin's Gulls, with a variety of waterfowl hunkered down in calmer areas. Sora's were heard, but
predictably Ammodramus sparrows were nowhere to be found. After being buffeted by wind all day I made a late afternoon drive to Bismarck without further stops, although as it passed through
the hillier country north of Wing I noted that this had been reported as good territory for Baird's Sparrow and Sprague's Pipit and one could see why - it bore a strong resemblence to the
terrain around Chase Lake NWR a little to the east of there and somewhat like Lostwood NWR.
Overnight Bismarck at a fairly basic Motel6.
Monday 22nd June - Bismarck ND to Fargo ND, ~350 miles
The day started dry but with heavy low cloud and fog that slowly lifted throughout the morning. I started in and round the state lands south-east of Tuttle finding
Chestnut-collared Longspur, Grasshopper Sparrow, Wilson's Snipe, Clay-colored Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, one briefly heard (Baird's Sparrow), Black Terns,
Western Meadowlark, various waterfowl, Sharp-tailed Grouse, a possible singing Indigo Bunting and an American White Pelican on the lake east of Tuttle. From there I went west
and tracked north along the route of the Carrington Birding Drives. At various stops I found Chestnut-collared Longspur, NO Baird's/Sprague's, another Horned Grebe,
Black Tern, White Pelican, waterfowl, Harrier, RT Hawk with a white tail,
Clay-colored and Savannah Sparrows, Pied-billed Grebe, Upland Sandpiper, Sedge and Marsh Wrens and heard a (Sora).
Driving south I went as far as Chase Lake NWR but only walked a short distance along the entrance road. A silent Sprague's Pipit circled in the air before diving into the prairie,
there were Grasshopper and Savannah Sparrows and there were scolding Brewer's Blackbirds. Otherwise nothing to detain me. The causeway across the lake east of here didn't have the
fledgeling Killdeer and Marbled Godwits of the previous week but Western Grebes were in higher numbers. Great and Snowy Egrets were around here. I drove the Jamestown-Chase Lake
birding drive in reverse, finding nothing special in the middle of the day beyond Sedge Wren and Pied-billed Grebe, but there was increased truck traffic compared to the first
time I visited it.
I made a quick check of the WPA near Rogers but despite reports of Le Conte's and Nelson's here there was nothing beyond Savannah Sparrows at 2pm with a good breeze. It's not obvious to me
if the people that post the reports are walking into the areas too, which would explain the high counts, but I'm reluctant to do that in breeding season without a compelling reason. Finding birds for the year list doesn't quite meet that standard.
Then I headed south towards Lisbon and Sheyenne NG. Going through Lisbon just after 4pm I decided it was too late to get info about the grasslands so I headed to the
walk in at trail - actually more of a ride-in trail - Grasshopper, Savannah, Clay-colored Sparrows were in the grasslands along with Bobolink and Western Meadowlark. Some of the prairie was
fairly wet, doubtless in view of the recent rains, so I also encountered winnowing Wilson's Snipe, agitated Wilson's Phalarope and Black Terns. Over on the south side of Sheyenne NG
near Brown Ranch the wetlands turned up more Snipe, Upland Sandpiper, American Coots with young, numerous icterids, a heard (Sora) and finally, finally two heard-only Le Conte's Sparrows which were entirely invisible.
Tuesday June 23rd - Fargo ND to Minneapolis MN, ~375 miles
Pretty much no birding was done on this travel day - the day dawned humid, then strong storms developed that eliminated any desire I had to
bird the local prairie areas although I did start to drive there before a heavy storm overtook me.
I started the drive to Minneapolis, stopping briefly at Rothsay to look at the roadside Prairie-Chicken statue,
and by the time I emerged from the car it was breezy in the 90's so I just returned the rental car and
spent the rest of the time in the airport working on photos before the flight back.
Web Resources used for Trip Planning
LOCATION means a "significant" place, "Location" means something of less epic importance. Links to mailing lists and birding sites are included where I found them useful.
In some cases I list a bunch of locations within (e.g.) Grand Teton NP that seem to keep cropping up in birding trip reports. They usually don't have URLs. Should be noted that what follows is still mostly in the fairly rough trip-planning form.
Really you should just read Eckert, which was used for planning this
segment, but recent sightings for other species were lifted from the MN
MN email list
MN OU list
- Eckert birding guide plus corrections
- Aitkin Co birding guide site and downloadable PDFs
- LOCATION: McGregor Marsh and Rice Lake NWR
- LOCATION: MOU info on Sax-Zim bog
- LOCATION: Sax-Zim Bog and CR22, Arkola Rd Sharp-tailed Grouse lek, also CR 208 and Arkola Road (be more specific, also Meadowlands Rd)
- Location: Sax-Zim: CT Warbler: Tamarack bog on CR 135 (Sax-Zim); CR202 and Mottonen (Tamarack Bog) - in the event CT Warblers were reported form multiple locations w/in the bog
- LOCATION: Sax-Zim: Road 133, signposted for Meadowlands
- Location: Savannah Portage SP - near McGregor
- Location: West of Rothsay, the prairie-chicken lek at 190th Street (see mods to directions relative to Eckert)
- Location: (Minneapolis) Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve (Regional Park) - Burnsville Parkway exit from I-35W
- Location: (far northeast) Various trip reports mention FR 315 off Gunflint Trail, Grand Marais, Isabella Lake, Stony River Rd, White Pine Picnic Gd,
- Location: (far northeast) Boreal Woodpecker sites at Grand Marais area - Lima Mountain Road and Lima Grade Road at Bow Lake Rd Black-backed Woodpecker, Three-toed Woodpecker
- Location: (far north) Stuart Healey has notes on boreal forest north of Roseau toward Canada for Black-backed Woodpecker, Spruce Grouse
ND email list
- ND RBA
- Where Do You Want To Go Birding: North Dakota
- Birding opportunities in ND from the ND parks dept
- Birding Drives of ND
- Breeding birds of ND
- ND birding society specialty species tips
- Northwest ND birding guide has the inevitable Lostwood NWR plus additional locations (thanks David)
- LOCATION: J. Clark Salyer NWR (Upham, ND) - near Bottineau - Delorme map 14/F1
- LOCATION: Lostwood NWR
- LOCATION: Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge - entrance road can be entertaining due to limited maintenance [Delorme 49/B6]
- Location: Arrowwood NWR - Delorme map 38 grid G5 - closed due to flooding in June 2009 when I was there
- Location: Des Lacs NWR - at Kenmare, Delorme map 12/E1
- Location: Theodore Roosevelt NP southern section, northern sections seperated by 50+ miles of driving, badlands like with some riparian
- Location: Lake Alice NWR en route between Jamestown and Bottineau
- Location: Area around Bottineau (ND) and Turtle Mtns: Pelican Lake [Delorme 14/B5], School Section lake etc for Red-necked Grebe
- Location (Bottineau/Turtle Mountains) Lake Metigoshe SP - Ruffed Grouse heard regularly here, seen less often [Delorme 14/A4]
- Location: Lords Lake NWR (24th St NE) to the east of Bottineau [Delorme 14/D5] in the plains south of Turtle Mountains - grassland sparrows
- Location: Bowman-Haley Dam Reserve - Gray Partridge - see directions below - sw corner of state - however Gray Partridge should be findable in many locations. Should be....but not always so easy.
- Location: (Sheyenne National Grasslands): Yellow Rail: Seen on 147th Avenue, 1.75 miles north of 75th Street, 0.25 miles south of 73rd Street (where The Nature Conservancy's Brown Ranch is located - Delorme 64/B1). Delorme 64/B1. This is where I hear the LeConte's on the penultimate evening.
- Location: (Sheyenne National Grasslands): Nature Conservancy's Brown Ranch is located - Delorme 64/B1 - at or near 73rd St/146th Ave.
- Cross Ranch Preserve - From the north or east proceed to Washburn ND via US Highway 83 then cross the Highway Alternate 200 bridge over the Missouri River. Head south on West River Road following signs to Cross Ranch State Park. Cross Ranch Headquarters are located on the west side of West River Road (Highway 1806) across from the park entrance. From the west or south proceed north from Mandan on Highway 1806 about 30 miles. Over 15 miles of this route is on a good gravel road. Delorme map 35/H9
- The ABA birding trip planner has suggested routs around Valley City betwen Fargo and Jamestown, and Medina area west of Jamestown (near Chase Lake NWR). This area at Chase Lake and further west
seems quite productive in general.
- Location: Slade NWR is located approximately 2 miles south of Dawson, North Dakota. From I-94, travel south on Highway 3 for 3 miles, then turn east on the gravel road and continue ½ mile to the Refuge gate. A recreational area managed by the Kidder County Park Board lies just south of the entrance gate to the Refuge. [Delorme 48/D3]
- ND Game and Fish Dept PLOTS maps (Public Land Open to Sportsmen) which also shows location of "State School" Lands including detailed maps and an interactive map section - the static maps are
very detailed and at least as good as the DeLorme. State School lands are public access but often have livestock on them, so it's not like parkland or refuge access.
- Public use rules for ND State School Lands (includes links to maps, but the PLOTS ones are more detailed)
SD email list
- South Dakota OU birding hotspots
- South Dakota Birding Trail
- South Dakota Breeding bird atlas
- Ferruginous Hawk - north central
- 3toed and BB Woodpeckers - rare in Black Hills
- Cordilleran Flycatcher - Black Hills
- Sprague's Pipit - central southern and western northern
- Philadelphia Vireo - Turtle Mtns
- Baird's Sparrow - widespread western
- Clay-colored Sparrow - widespread eastern/northern
- Chestnut-collared Longspur - widespread western
- McCown's Longspur - uncommon western, espec northwestern
- LOCATION: Black Hills in general contains many western montane sp.
- Location: (Black Hills) Roby Canyon - Virginia Warbler - see SDOU info
- Location: (Black Hills) Spearfish Canyon, Hanna Campground
- Location: (Black Hills) Spearfish Cyn and Roughlock Falls - Dipper - SDOU info
- Location: (Black Hills) Sylvan Lake - SDOU info - Ruffed Grouse, Three-toed Woodpecker; Hwy 87 in montane section ne of Custer - recent report incl WW Crossbill, Black-backed Woodpecker, Ruffed Grouse
- Location: (Black Hills) Custer State Park on Road 16A. At entrance station, first turned east away from the park on road 36 - roadside stop at parking area on left a few miles along - various birds in park, also bison
- Location: (Black Hills) Black Fox Campground - SDOU info west of Rochford off dirt roads? west of Rapid City and west of US-385
- LOCATION: Badlands NP - scenery rather than birding, off Interstate east of Black Hills. Well east of the Black Hills.
- Location: Sand Lake NWR - nothing compelling
- Location: Ordway Prairie
- Location: Lacreek NWR - nothing compelling
- Location: Ordway Prairie (Nature Conservancy) - Baird's and Sprague's - SDOU info - north central
- In a burnt-over area a Black-backed Woodpecker's nest could be heard and seen from the road. (this is WY side
of Black Hills, mentioned in these directions for Cement Ridge: Route 2 from Sundance, Wyoming: proceed east on I-90, exit on the Moskee Road, Exit 191. Proceed south on the Moskee Road (County Road 141) to the intersection with the Grand Canyon Road (Forest Service Road 875), turn east (left) on 875, east (left) on 804 (Rattlesnake Canyon Road), and then north (left) on 850. Travel time for both routes is approximately one hour. Both routes contain gravel roads. [WY Delorme 29/A7 but a better map is needed]
MT email list
- MT Eastern Plains wildlife trail
- LOCATION: Beartooth Pass en route to north-eastern entrance to Yellowstone NP from Red Lodge MT, via the diminutive Cooke City. Alpine scenery
including Black Rosy-Finch.
- LOCATION: Makoshika SP 1.5 miles southeast of Glendive.
- Location: Elk Island, 1 mile north of Savage, 20 mi South of Sidney at mm32 on Hwy-16. Assorted eastern riparian species of not great interest
- Location: Fox Lake WMA, 21 mi west of Sidney on Hwy 200, turn south through Lambert at mm50. Plains marshland species.
These two areas, both nr Sidney are about 55 mi/1.3 hrs northeast of Glendive.
- Location: Spotted Eagle Recreation area at Miles City, also Strawberry Hill BLM 10 mi east of Miles City on US-12
- Location: Terry Badlands near (you guessed it) Terry
- Location: Swords Park in Billings (Terry-Billings = 180 mi, 2.5 hours)
- Location: entrance road to Pirogue Island State Park on the Missouri River
WY email list
- The Oliver Scott's "Birding Wyoming" in the ABA/Lane guide series is older but still rather useful. There is also a section in the MT Birding Guide
(non-ABA) that covers Yellowstone
- Locations fall primarily into two sets: Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons; the Sundance area west of the SD Black Hills, based
on Stuart Healey's journal, including Devil's Tower
- Location: (Sundance) forest roads 872 and 876 that run west from the Moskee Road (east of Sundance) to Hwy 585 (the road from Sundance to Newcastle).
the starting point (7.5 miles south of I-90 exit 191 on the Moskee Road) is no longer marked with a #872 sign. It's now marked Reynolds Road (this is FR 872). The right angle turn after 1.8 miles is now marked Clark Road (this is FR 876).
- Location: (Sundance) Sand Creek east of Sundance near SD line (truck traffic - but not on a Sunday)
- LOCATION: Yellowstone National Park
- Location: Yellowstone: western end of Blacktail Plateau Road (mixed forest); Blue Grouse on road nr Tower Falls; Duck Lake (Barrow's); Sheffield Creek s. of (which?) park entrance; Lamar Valley @ Calcite Springs,
Blue Grouse at Antelope Creek - Lamar Valley appears north-east of Tower Falls.
- Location: Yellowstone: Sylvan Pass en route to eastern entrance can hold woodpeckers
- Location: Yellowstone: Beartooth Highway, Beartooth Pass - north-eastern entrance into Yellowstone see here
- Location: Yellowstone: Chief Joseph Scenic Highway Rt-296 - north-eastern edge of Yellowstone - links Beartooth (Rt-212) with Rt-296 toward Cody
- LOCATION: Grand Teton NP
- List of Teton birding hotspots however it's not clear how dated this is
- Location: Tetons: Taggart Lake for Calliope, Cordilleran, also allegedly woodpeckers?; west side of Jenny Lake burn and String Lake burn for woodpeckers; Flat Creek: Trumpeter.
- Location: Tetons: Moose-Wilson Road/Sawmill Lake - south of Moose entrance on spur road south of 390.
- Location: Rendezvous Mountain tramway for Rosy-Finch at top - tramway is west of Teton Village.
- Location: Devil's Tower NP - Red Beds Trail, Belle Fourche Campground - can hold woodpeckers but by no means certain
- Location: Tetons: Signal Mtn Rd for Blue Grouse [Delorme 20/E3]
- Location: Tetons: from parking lot of Jenny Lake/String Lake trails at the north end of Jenny Lake, the trail down the west
shore, cross the ferry then return up the east shore. Total walking distance was about 4.5 miles. Jenny Lake burn on the north-west shore of Jenny Lake
had in prior trip reports provide Three-toed Woodpecker, Black-backed Woodpecker and Ruffed Grouse near the Ferry Dock. None of these were evident on my
- LOCATION: Thunder Basin National Grassland - "Lynch Road" that runs generally southwest starting from SR 450 (intersection ~7.5 miles east of WY-116)
west-south-west of Newcastle. The road connects to SR 59 at Bill, ~35 miles north of Douglas.
- Location: from an old trip report, "short grass prairie" section along SR 450, about 20=25 miles west of Newcastle at far east of state near Black Hills, probably somewhat unreliable, subsequent trip reports do not find this and the land appears privately owned
- Location: New Fork Lake Rd [Delorme 31/E7] for Ruffed and Blue Grouse - southeast of Jackson (Grand Teton)
- Location: FR-872 and FR-876 that run west from the Moskee Road (east of Sundance) to ND-585 (the road from Sundance to Newcastle).
A 7 miles drive through pines, meadows and a little bit of riparian habitat. Corresponds to the "Moskee Road and Bluebird Trail" on page 122 of Scott's "Birder's Guide to Wyoming".
As per Healey, the starting point (7.5 miles south of I-90 exit 191 on the Moskee Road) is
no longer marked with a #872 sign. It's now marked as Reynolds Road (this is FR-872).
The right angle turn after 1.8 miles is now marked as Clark Road (this is FR-876).
- Location: FR-838 into the Bear Lodge Mtns for about 11 miles north-west of Sundance to the crossroads past Warren Peak. FR-847 down the other side of the mountains toward general area of Devil's Tower.
Recent Sightings from Regional Lists
- SD/Cust SP: Black-backed Woodpecker at burn at 4 Mile Rd in Custer State Park. There is a road called 4 Mile Rd, just SE of Blue Bell Lodge.
If you have a map and find the Custer SP Wildlife Loop Rd, it's 4 miles E of Hwy 87. After going S on 87 from Blue Bell, there are signs for the
Wildlife Loop that takes you to the SE. After 4 miles, you can't miss the sign for 4 Mile Rd. Before you get to it, you'll start to see the burn.
We found the BBWP about a 1/2 mile or so along that road after it turns west and you can see the ridge and the valley to the north. We had BBWP,
lots of Hairies, 1 or 2 Red-headed, 1 Lewis', and Flickers. The road eventually returns back to 87 after a few miles. We had lots of good birds all the way. Multiple records for Custer SP Black-backed via eBird.
- ND/Harvey (ND-Birds): several nesting Horned Grebes in Harvey area. Harvey is on US-52 about 50 mi due north of Chase Lake NWR
- ND/Lake Zahl NWR (DavidS): Baird's and Sprague's Pipits here (just north of US-85 and ND-50, walk-in)
- ND/Appam Alkali Lake (DavidS): shorebirds here (just east of US-85 and ND-50, walk-in)
- ND/Niobe road pasture (via DavidS): Chestnut-collared Longspur
- ND/Lostwood (DavidS): Spragues between posts 2-4, Fire Tower; LeConte's at Fire Tower; Bairds between posts 11-13.
- ND/Clark Salyer (ND-Birds): May 30th: Water levels are high at Clark Salyer, and waterbirds are abundant and very visible with the vegetation behind schedule this year.
Sprague's Pipit - 3; Le Conte's Sparrow - 3, much of the former habitat is flooded; Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow - 9
- MN/Duluth (RBA): a BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKER on the 3rd along Lake County Road 2 at the Sand River.
- MN/Duluth (MOU-RNA): May 30th: observed a Great Gray Owl on McDavitt Rd, 3.1 mi N of Sax Rd in the Sax-Zim Bog, St Louis Co, ALSO 2.5 and 3.1 mi north. This is the same
location where one was seen last June, and there were intermittent sightings here last winter. It was hunting along the ditch on the E side of
the road for several minutes, and it was still present when we left ~9:00 pm. The previous morning, May 29, Connecticut Warblers, Boreal Chickadees,
Yellow-bellied Flycatchers, and other Sax-Zim Bog specialties were found at various locations, mostly along Co Rd 133, Blue Spruce Rd, Owl Ave, and Arkola Rd.
- MN/Duluth (RBA): six YELLOW RAILS and a NELSON'S SHARP-TAILED SPARROW on May 27th at the McGregor Marsh along MN Highway 65, a mile south of MN Highway 200 in Aitkin County
- MN/Duluth (RBA): Chris and Cindy Edwardson found a BLACK-BACKED
WOODPECKER on May 10th in Hartley Nature Reserve along one of the
mountain bike paths in the Kenwood area.
- MN/Duluth (MOU-RBA): May 24th: in the afternoon we saw a male Black-backed Woodpecker at the Park Point Recreation Area, east of the playground. At Sax-Zim bog area where highlights included a singing Connecticut Warbler on the north side of county hwy 27, 50 yds east of county 83.
5 Sharp-tailed Grouse, 3 Upland Sandpipers in the field southwest of the county hwys 52 - 208 intersection (late morning).
3 Upland Sandpipers and a few other shorebirds at the Meadowlands sewage pond.
- MN/Duluth (MOU-RBA): May 23rd: At 7am this morning I was viewing the backside of Herding Island at Park Point and viewed a adult Arctic Tern flying amongst a flock of about 60+ Common Terns.
- MN/Swift Co (MOU-RBA): May 19th: Yellow Rail
- a single calling bird was heard both Sunday afternoon and early
Monday morning at a marsh located just south of the Pope county line. The
marsh is just over a mile west of where state highway 29 crosses into Pope
county (just north of Lake Hassel)
- ND/Jamestown-Bismarck (ND-Birds):
White-faced Ibis - 5 (McKenzie Slough);
Virginia Rail - 6 (most at Horsehead Lake);
Sora - 17 (most at Horsehead Lake);
Sprague's Pipit - 4 (north of Sterling & north of Rice Lake);
Grasshopper Sparrow - 20 (n. of Sterling & Rice Lake);
Baird's Sparrow - 4 (north of Rice Lake);
Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow - 14 (Horsehead Lake, night birding);
Chestnut-sided Longspur -50 (n. of Sterling & Rice Lake);
Horned Grebe - 3 (southwest corner of Dewald Slough square, adjacent
to Lake Etta in Kidder County) (1 bird on nest);
Clark's Grebe - 2 (Unit III, Long Lake NWR);
Sedge Wren - 5 (east side of Lake Isabella, Kidder County);
LeConte's Sparrow - 2 (between east of side of Lake Etta and west side
of pond in southwest corner of Dewald Slough area);
- ND/Jamestown (ND-Birds): May 18th in Wing area, east to Horsehead Lake
and back to McKenzie Slough. Some of the sightings:
Red-necked Grebe - 1 on nest (County Line Ponds, BURLEIGH/SHERIDAN Co's, north of Wing) [Delorme 36/F5];
California Gull - 5,000 (colony on island in Salt Lake, BURLEIGH Co);
Sprague's Pipit - 6 (prairie north of Sterling & north of Rice Lake) [Delorme 47/B9 and 47/D9] ALSO 5/29;
Baird's Sparrow - 1 (north of Rice Lake) 4 ON 5/29
- ND/Tuttle (ND-Birds): (May 21st) birded state school land today:
Highlight was seeing a burrowing owl on the state school land
just SE of Tuttle [Delorme 37/I7]; Baird's sparrow (2) same section as owl in Kidder Co;
Baird's sparrow (2) Burleigh Co north of Sterling [Delorme 47/D9] and 1 mile north of
Rice Lake [Delorme 47/B9]; Sprague's pipits were seen/heard at both locations above
Chestnut-collared longspurs - 150+ for the day after walking about 6 miles
on 5 state school sections
- ND/Chase Lake area: Nelson's sharp-tailed sparrows and LeConte's sparrows were found at
multiple locations in both counties including the Chicago Lake area in
Stutsman. [Delorme 49/A6] north of Chase Lake NWR
Directions to Various Sites
ND and SD in particular are not covered by any guide books currently available (there is a very old 1979 birding guide by Zimmer, but a lot changes in 30 years and it is very much out of print).
MN, MT and WY are covered by the birding guides and are in general
not repeated here.
- The Lostwood NWR headquarters is located 22 miles north of Stanley,
North Dakota, along State Highway 8. Stanley is located 55 miles west
of Minot on State Highway 2. Alternative (signed) routes exist from Kenmare, or US-52 to ND-50 westbound is also fast from Minot.
The auto tour route is open from 5:30 am to 10:00 pm, May through September. It's a two-way auto route, with the southern part the most
use for Sprague's Pipit and Baird's Sparrow. There's a very inconspicuous entrance off ND-50 that is the southern entrance to this auto tour.
- Coteau Prairie WPA is northeast of the intersection of Highway 8 and 75th Street between mile markers 169 and 170 on Highway 8.
For reference it is about eight miles south of the entrance to Lostwood NWR.
(Prospective visitors should check with the Lostwood NWR headquarters for current access rules).
Arrowwood NWR headquarters is located 26 miles north of Jamestown and
about 23 miles south of Carrington. From Jamestown, travel north on
Highway 281 to Edmunds. At Edmunds, go east on County Road 44 for 5.5
miles and turn north on the headquarters road. From Carrington, travel
south on Highway 281 to Edmunds. Turn east on County Road 44 for 5.5
miles, and turn north on the headquarters road. There are signs on
Highway 281 and County Road 44 directing visitors to the headquarters. Delorme map 38 grid G5. AS OF JUNE 9th 2009 REFUGE IS CURRENTLY CLOSED DUE
J. Clark Salyer NWR headquarters is 2 miles north of Upham, North
Dakota, and can be reached by turning off U.S. Highway 2 at Towner and
proceeding 26 miles north on State Highway 14. Delorme map 14 grid F1.
Refuge areas are open from 5:00 am to 10:00 pm daily. The auto tour is two way and in two parts - the part that crosses the dam over the
river that is also part of a public road, and a longer trail that runs 15 miles back to ND-14 through more varied habitat.
Upper Souris NWR office and visitor center is located southeast of
Lake Darling Dam. Drive northwest of Minot on State Highway 52 to 1
mile north of Foxholm. Turn right and follow County Road 11 north 7
miles. Follow Refuge directional signs to the Refuge. An alternate
route is to drive 12 miles north of Minot on State Highway 83, turn
west and drive 12 miles on County Road 6. Delorme map 12/H5
Refuge open 5am-10pm daily.
Chase Lake NWR is located 10 miles north and 7 miles west of Medina,
North Dakota. From Jamestown, travel west on I-94 to the Medina exit.
Turn north and go 11 miles on County Highway 68. Turn west on the
gravel road and drive 7 miles. Turn south and go 1 mile. The last 5
miles are "prairie trail" road. This is a minimum maintenance road
that can be difficult to travel during wet conditions. However, this
very scenic drive provides visitors a glimpse of how this country
appeared during pre-settlement times. Delorme map 49 grid B6
The Des Lacs NWR headquarters is located 1 mile west of Kenmare, North
Dakota, off Ward County Road 1. A large entrance sign is situated at
the junction of County Roads 1 and 1A. Kenmare is located 50 miles
northwest of Minot on U.S. Highway 52. There is not much information at the HQ when it
is closed, and the birding drive is relatively narrow and of variable quality.
Theodore Roosevelt NP South Unit is north of Medora off I-94, accessed from the
center of Medora. Theodore Roosevelt NP North Unit is about 50 mi
north of Bellfield off US-85 (north of South Unit) with about 75 miles between the two units.
- Sheyenne National Grasslands
- Follow ND 27 east from Lisbon for 10.8 miles. At milepost 30 turn right (south).
In 1 mile, drive through the pasture gate into South Durler Allotment. Follow the two-track southeast for another two miles. Please be sure to close the gate.
- Directions to Allotment R: Follow ND 27 east from Lisbon for 22 miles. Reduce your mileage at milepost 41, then go right (south). Allotment R starts on the left
(east) side of the road at mile 3, and lies along both sides of the road between miles 4 and 6.
- Directions to Forest Area: Travel 16 miles east on ND 27 from Lisbon. At milepost 35, turn left (north) on 147thth Ave. SE.
Travel 5 miles and cross the Sheyenne River (private land); travel another 2 miles, turn right (east) onto the gravel road, proceed 200 years, and park on the east side of the bridge.
The land to the north and south is public land. Walk in either direction for great birding.
- Nature Conservancy Brown Ranch
at the Sheyenne NG. Brown Ranch [Delorme 64/B1] is located in Ransom County about 8 miles northeast of Milnor, 13 miles northwest of Wyndmere, or 16 miles southwest of Lisbon, ND.
Before reaching Bowman, and some 5 miles into North Dakota, we turned right (east) off the US-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. ..... Gray Partridge .....
- Lake Alice National Wildlife Refuge is located approximately 18 miles northwest of Devils Lake, North Dakota. The Refuge can be reached by turning north from
US Highway 2 at Penn, North Dakota and traveling 6 miles north on the gravel road.
- Lake Metigoshe State Park near Bottineau off Rt.43 about half-way between US-281 and
Hwy-14. Drumming Ruffed Grouse often heard, sometimes seen here
- Location: Custer SP (main part) is west of Custer along Hwy-87. Hwy 87 loops back (northwest) toward US-16 and US-385. This general area is more
accessible from Rapid City or Custer than from Spearfish. Also Mount Rushmore is in this general vicinity.
- Location: Spearfish Cyn: is US-14 south of Spearfish off I-90, along the north side of the Black Hills. The falls appear to be west of Savoy.
- Location: Roby Cyn for Virginia's Warbler: From Custer, drive west on US-16. Just past the state border with Wyoming, take the first dirt road to the right (east) along Redbird Canyon.
About 1 mile from the turn-off, take the road to the left leading north into Boles Canyon. After about 3 miles, the road bends to the right and another dirt road leads northwards to the left. This is Roby
Canyon. Park the car at the gate and walk up the canyon. The warblers prefer areas with thick understory.
- Location: Badlands NP appears to be a not inconsiderable distance (80 mi?) east of Rapid City, right off I-90.
- Location: Ordway Prairie (Nature Conservancy): From the intersection of Highways 10 and 45 in Leola, travel about 8 miles west on Highway 10.
There is a blue water tower on the north side of the road. The Ordway property is on the south side of the road. The blue water tower marks the northeast corner.
The self-guided trail area is one mile west of the blue water tower on the south side of Highway 10. Look for the kiosk and sign at the trailhead on the south side of the road.
Final Trip List
204 species including heard-only birds like Black-throated Green Warbler, Connecticut Warbler, Ovenbird and Northern Waterthrush that I was sure of the
ID of. (MN) means heard only in MN. Without parentheses it means seen.
|Common Loon ||Gavia immer || MN |
|Pied-billed Grebe ||Podilymbus podiceps || ND |
|Red-necked Grebe ||Podiceps grisegena || ND:Turtle Mtns|
|Horned Grebe ||Podiceps auritus || ND |
|Eared Grebe ||Podiceps nigricollis || ND, WY |
|Western Grebe ||Aechmophorus occidentalis || ND, WY |
|American White Pelican ||Pelecanus erythrorhynchos || ND, WY |
|Double-crested Cormorant ||Phalacrocorax auritus || ND |
|American Bittern ||Botaurus lentiginosus || ND |
|Great Blue Heron ||Ardea herodias || MN, WY |
|Great Egret ||Ardea alba || ND, MN |
|Snowy Egret ||Egretta thula || ND |
|Tricolored Heron ||Egretta tricolor || ND |
|Green Heron ||Butorides virescens || MN |
|Black-crowned Night-Heron ||Nycticorax nycticorax || ND |
|White-faced Ibis ||Plegadis chihi || ND |
|Turkey Vulture ||Cathartes aura || MN, ND, MT |
|Canada Goose ||Branta canadensis || MN, ND, WY |
|Trumpeter Swan ||Cygnus buccinator || MN, WY |
|Wood Duck ||Aix sponsa || MN, ND |
|Gadwall ||Anas strepera || ND, WY |
|American Wigeon ||Anas americana || ND, WY |
|Mallard ||Anas platyrhynchos || MN, ND, WY |
|Blue-winged Teal ||Anas discors || ND |
|Cinnamon Teal ||Anas cyanoptera || WY |
|Northern Shoveler ||Anas clypeata || ND |
|Northern Pintail ||Anas acuta || ND |
|Green-winged Teal ||Anas crecca || ND, WY |
|Canvasback ||Aythya valisineria || ND |
|Redhead ||Aythya americana || ND |
|Ring-necked Duck ||Aythya collaris || MN, ND |
|Lesser Scaup ||Aythya affinis || ND, WY |
|Bufflehead ||Bucephala albeola || MN, ND, WY |
|Barrow's Goldeneye ||Bucephala islandica || WY |
|Hooded Merganser ||Lophodytes cucullatus || ND |
|Common Merganser ||Mergus merganser || WY |
|Ruddy Duck ||Oxyura jamaicensis || MN, ND |
|Osprey ||Pandion haliaetus || WY |
|Bald Eagle ||Haliaeetus leucocephalus || MN, ND, WY |
|Northern Harrier ||Circus cyaneus || ND |
|Sharp-shinned Hawk ||Accipiter striatus || MN |
|Cooper's Hawk ||Accipiter cooperii || MN |
|Northern Goshawk ||Accipiter gentilis || WY |
|Broad-winged Hawk ||Buteo platypterus || MN, ND |
|Swainson's Hawk ||Buteo swainsoni || ND |
|Red-tailed Hawk ||Buteo jamaicensis || ND, WY |
|Golden Eagle ||Aquila chrysaetos || ND |
|American Kestrel ||Falco sparverius || MN, MT |
|Prairie Falcon ||Falco mexicanus || MT |
|Gray Partridge ||Perdix perdix || ND (Life bird) |
|Ring-necked Pheasant ||Phasianus colchicus || ND |
|Dusky Grouse ||Dendragapus obscurus || WY (Life bird) |
|Sharp-tailed Grouse ||Tympanuchus phasianellus || ND |
|Wild Turkey ||Meleagris gallopavo || MT |
|Sora ||Porzana carolina || ND |
|American Coot ||Fulica americana || ND, WY |
|Sandhill Crane ||Grus canadensis || WY |
|Piping Plover ||Charadrius melodus || ND |
|Killdeer ||Charadrius vociferus || MN, ND, WY |
|American Avocet ||Recurvirostra americana || ND, WY |
|Willet ||Catoptrophorus semipalmatus || ND |
|Spotted Sandpiper ||Actitis macularia || ND, WY |
|Upland Sandpiper ||Bartramia longicauda || ND |
|Marbled Godwit ||Limosa fedoa || ND |
|White-rumped Sandpiper ||Calidris fuscicollis || ND |
|Sanderling ||Calidris alba || ND |
|Wilson's Snipe ||Gallinago delicata || ND |
|Wilson's Phalarope ||Phalaropus tricolor || ND, WY |
|Franklin's Gull ||Larus pipixcan || ND |
|Ring-billed Gull ||Larus delawarensis || MN |
|California Gull ||Larus californicus || ND, WY |
|Herring Gull ||Larus argentatus || MN |
|Forster's Tern ||Sterna forsteri || ND |
|Black Tern ||Chlidonias niger || MN, ND |
|Rock Pigeon ||Columba livia || MN, ND, MT |
|Mourning Dove ||Zenaida macroura || MN, ND, MT |
|Common Nighthawk ||Chordeiles minor || MN |
|Chimney Swift ||Chaetura pelagica || (ND), MT |
|Broad-tailed Hummingbird ||Selasphorus platycercus || WY |
|Williamson's Sapsucker ||Sphyrapicus thyroideus || WY |
|Yellow-bellied Sapsucker ||Sphyrapicus varius || MN, ND |
|Hairy Woodpecker ||Picoides villosus || MN, MT, WY |
|Black-backed Woodpecker ||Picoides arcticus || MN, SD (Life bird) |
|Northern Flicker ||Colaptes auratus || MN, ND, MT, WY |
|Pileated Woodpecker ||Dryocopus pileatus || MN |
|Olive-sided Flycatcher ||Contopus cooperi || MN, WY |
|Western Wood-Pewee ||Contopus sordidulus || WY |
|Eastern Wood-Pewee ||Contopus virens || MN, ND |
|Alder Flycatcher ||Empidonax alnorum || MN |
|Willow Flycatcher ||Empidonax traillii || ND |
|Least Flycatcher ||Empidonax minimus || MN, ND |
|Dusky Flycatcher ||Empidonax oberholseri || WY |
|Eastern Phoebe ||Sayornis phoebe || MN, ND |
|Say's Phoebe ||Sayornis saya || MT, ND |
|Great Crested Flycatcher ||Myiarchus crinitus || MN, ND |
|Western Kingbird ||Tyrannus verticalis || ND, MT, WY |
|Eastern Kingbird ||Tyrannus tyrannus || MN, ND, MT |
|Yellow-throated Vireo ||Vireo flavifrons || (MN) |
|Warbling Vireo ||Vireo gilvus || (ND), WY |
|Red-eyed Vireo ||Vireo olivaceus || MN, (ND) |
|Gray Jay ||Perisoreus canadensis || WY |
|Blue Jay ||Cyanocitta cristata || MN |
|Clark's Nutcracker ||Nucifraga columbiana || MT, WY |
|Black-billed Magpie ||Pica hudsonia || ND, MT, WY |
|American Crow ||Corvus brachyrhynchos || MN, ND, MT, WY |
|Common Raven ||Corvus corax || MN, (ND), MT, WY |
|Horned Lark ||Eremophila alpestris || MN, ND, MT, WY |
|Purple Martin ||Progne subis || ND |
|Tree Swallow ||Tachycineta bicolor || MN, ND, WY |
|Violet-green Swallow ||Tachycineta thalassina || MT, WY, ND |
|Northern Rough-winged Swallow ||Stelgidopteryx serripennis || WY |
|Bank Swallow ||Riparia riparia || ND, WY |
|Cliff Swallow ||Petrochelidon pyrrhonota || MN, ND, MT, WY |
|Barn Swallow ||Hirundo rustica || MN, ND, MT |
|Black-capped Chickadee ||Poecile atricapilla || MN |
|Mountain Chickadee ||Poecile gambeli || MT, WY |
|Boreal Chickadee ||Poecile hudsonica || MN |
|Red-breasted Nuthatch ||Sitta canadensis || (MN), WY |
|White-breasted Nuthatch ||Sitta carolinensis || SD |
|Brown Creeper ||Certhia americana || WY |
|Rock Wren ||Salpinctes obsoletus || MT, WY |
|House Wren ||Troglodytes aedon || (ND), (MT), WY |
|Sedge Wren ||Cistothorus platensis || MN, ND |
|Marsh Wren ||Cistothorus palustris || ND |
|Ruby-crowned Kinglet ||Regulus calendula || WY |
|Eastern Bluebird ||Sialia sialis || MN, ND |
|Mountain Bluebird ||Sialia currucoides || MT, WY |
|Townsend's Solitaire ||Myadestes townsendi || WY |
|Veery ||Catharus fuscescens || (MN), ND |
|Swainson's Thrush ||Catharus ustulatus || WY |
|Hermit Thrush ||Catharus guttatus || MN, WY |
|American Robin ||Turdus migratorius || MN, ND, WY |
|Gray Catbird ||Dumetella carolinensis || MN, ND |
|Sage Thrasher ||Oreoscoptes montanus || ND, WY |
|Brown Thrasher ||Toxostoma rufum || ND |
|European Starling ||Sturnus vulgaris || MN, ND, WY |
|American Pipit ||Anthus rubescens || MT, WY |
|Sprague's Pipit ||Anthus spragueii || ND |
|Cedar Waxwing ||Bombycilla cedrorum || MN, ND, WY |
|Golden-winged Warbler ||Vermivora chrysoptera || (MN) |
|Nashville Warbler ||Oreothlypis ruficapilla || MN |
|Northern Parula ||Parula americana || (MN) |
|Yellow Warbler ||Dendroica petechia || MN, ND, (MT), WY |
|Chestnut-sided Warbler ||Dendroica pensylvanica || MN |
|Magnolia Warbler ||Dendroica magnolia || MN |
|Yellow-rumped Warbler ||Dendroica coronata || MN, WY |
|Black-throated Green Warbler ||Dendroica virens || (MN) |
|Blackburnian Warbler ||Dendroica fusca || MN |
|Black-and-white Warbler ||Mniotilta varia || MN |
|American Redstart ||Setophaga ruticilla || MN, ND |
|Ovenbird ||Seiurus aurocapillus || (MN), (ND) |
|Northern Waterthrush ||Parkesia noveboracensis || (ND) |
|Connecticut Warbler ||Oporornis agilis || (MN) |
|Mourning Warbler ||Oporornis philadelphia || MN |
|MacGillivray's Warbler ||Oporornis tolmiei || WY |
|Common Yellowthroat ||Geothlypis trichas || MN, ND, WY |
|Yellow-breasted Chat ||Icteria virens || ND |
|Western Tanager ||Piranga ludoviciana || WY, (SD) |
|Green-tailed Towhee ||Pipilo chlorurus || WY |
|Spotted Towhee ||Pipilo maculatus || ND, (WY), MT |
|Chipping Sparrow ||Spizella passerina || MN, ND, MT, WY, SD |
|Clay-colored Sparrow ||Spizella pallida || MN, ND |
|Brewer's Sparrow ||Spizella breweri || WY |
|Field Sparrow ||Spizella pusilla || ND, MT |
|Vesper Sparrow ||Pooecetes gramineus || ND, MT, WY |
|Lark Sparrow ||Chondestes grammacus || ND, MT |
|Lark Bunting ||Calamospiza melanocorys || MT, SD, ND |
|Savannah Sparrow ||Passerculus sandwichensis || MN, ND, WY |
|Grasshopper Sparrow ||Ammodramus savannarum || ND, MT |
|Baird's Sparrow ||Ammodramus bairdii || ND |
|Le Conte's Sparrow ||Ammodramus leconteii || ND |
|Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow ||Ammodramus nelsoni || ND |
|Song Sparrow ||Melospiza melodia || MN, ND |
|Lincoln's Sparrow ||Melospiza lincolnii || WY |
|White-throated Sparrow ||Zonotrichia albicollis || MN |
|White-crowned Sparrow ||Zonotrichia leucophrys || WY |
|Dark-eyed Junco ||Junco hyemalis || WY |
|Chestnut-collared Longspur ||Calcarius ornatus || ND |
|Northern Cardinal ||Cardinalis cardinalis || MN |
|Rose-breasted Grosbeak ||Pheucticus ludovicianus || MN, ND |
|Black-headed Grosbeak ||Pheucticus melanocephalus || WY |
|Lazuli Bunting ||Passerina amoena || ND, MT, WY |
|Indigo Bunting ||Passerina cyanea || MN, (?ND) |
|Bobolink ||Dolichonyx oryzivorus || MN, ND |
|Red-winged Blackbird ||Agelaius phoeniceus || MN, ND, MT, WY |
|Eastern Meadowlark ||Sturnella magna || (MN) |
|Western Meadowlark ||Sturnella neglecta || ND, MT, WY |
|Yellow-headed Blackbird ||Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus|| MN, ND, MT, WY, SD |
|Brewer's Blackbird ||Euphagus cyanocephalus || MN, ND, WY |
|Common Grackle ||Quiscalus quiscula || MN, ND, MT, WY |
|Brown-headed Cowbird ||Molothrus ater || MN, ND, MT, WY |
|Orchard Oriole ||Icterus spurius || ND |
|Baltimore Oriole ||Icterus galbula || ND |
|Bullock's Oriole ||Icterus bullockii || ND |
|Black Rosy-Finch ||Leucosticte atrata || MT, WY |
|Pine Grosbeak ||Pinicola enucleator || WY |
|Purple Finch ||Carpodacus purpureus || MN |
|Cassin's Finch ||Carpodacus cassinii || WY |
|House Finch ||Carpodacus mexicanus || MT |
|Red Crossbill ||Loxia curvirostra || WY |
|White-winged Crossbill ||Loxia leucoptera || WY |
|Pine Siskin ||Carduelis pinus || MN, MT, WY, ND? |
|American Goldfinch ||Carduelis tristis || MN, ND |
|House Sparrow ||Passer domesticus || MN, ND |