Monday, June 23, 2008

Siouxland area into South Dakota

Saturday and Sunday, June 7&8, 2008

Birded around the state park in the morning, the rain had stopped. On the whole trip, even though I was rained on over and over, almost all of it was at night. I lost no actual birding time to the weather. A different kind of continuity to the trip was the Lewis and Clark story. Since I was following the Missouri River pretty tightly from Kansas City to the far end of Fort Peck Lake, I was following the trail of the Corps of Discovery. What brought that up was the full size replica of the L&C boat at the state park. I had seen models, but for some reason had never realized how big the main craft was. Reading the journals had made me wonder where they had put all that gear and supplies and trade goods and twenty some men. The full size operating craft would look big at most inland lake marinas, and was accompanied by batteaus as well. Worth seeing if you pass that way.

A couple of years ago I had ordered from ABA Sales a brochure called the Siouxland Birding Guide (or something like that). I broke it out now, and started checking out the sites it highlighted. There are quite a few, enough for several days of more focused birding, but I only spent a day at it. One of the best things about doing total ticking is that each state has to be explored more than superficially. The Siouxland brochure thrust me into places I'd have never expected. Iowa has a lot of flat boring ag fields, but it has a lot of other terrain as well. Anyway, I drove around northwest Iowa checking out maybe ten sites and anything that looked interesting on the map. Very little mudflat as noted, most rivers and ponds were over-full. There was some woodlands, grassy hills, ox-bow lakes, ag fields and what-not. By the end of the day I'd added 14 tics for IA, making 32% of their list. I ended up in Sioux City at Stone State Park on the northwest corner, there's a really nice nature center with well developed trails and some birders there got me on a Scarlet Tanager, always a great bird to find. It alone would be worth at least a half day during migration.

I had to take a break for lunch and Wally World, needed gas vitamins for the truck and allergy meds for me. Say what you will, they have almost everything you need, and the stores are laid out to a pattern so shopping is quick unless you have to walk from end to end for something. From there it was a small bridge over a small creek to put me in the very southeast tip of South Dakota. The attraction is the Adam's Homestead Preserve, and well worth it, got lots of woodpeckers and flycatchers, and some other fillers. Walked about three miles on good trails, but it was a hot and humid afternoon and I was whooped. From there I needed a place to camp, and Ponca SP back in NE along the river looked good. What a great place. Wonderful woodland habitat, and I had somehow gotten above the worst of the flooding so that the river shore was accessible. That meant Least Terns and Franklin's Gulls and Bank Swallows, and a Scarlet Tanager there as well. There are Piping Plovers as well, but I couldn't see them from where I was. I had gone to the Missouri National Scenic River VC, which is in the park, and there was a ranger guy who really was into the birds. He showed me where to look for various things, and also recommended a WMA that the park manages few miles west. I put that on the next day's morning plan. After some exploring and checking out an isolated campsite, I went back to the VC to pay up and find the ranger again. He was gone, turns out he was the park super, young and very casual and into birds. Hope I meet him again when I can go birding some morning. Back to the campsite on the edge of a meadow surrounded by woods and one corner overlooking the river and South Dakota. Just about dark the rain started and lasted all night.

Sunday - I was up early for a soaking world, headed into the little town on the highway looking for food. No luck on a Sunday morning. Went on to the WMA, a large flat bottom-land with some ag fields. And really muddy roads. Went down one until I was sliding some, remembered being stuck in similar circumstances (at least this was flat) and backed up a quarter mile slowly in four wheel until I could bail out. Further west there was a bridge into SD, into Vermilion for breakfast, then back to the north side of the river in a public recreation area and boat launch. I had the scope set up and was scanning for Plovers and Terns. A couple of locals pulled up, and we got to talking. Told them what I was doing, they puzzled over my maps, then recommended going about a mile up-river where they said a guy lived who had a good river view and was into birds. Went there, introduced myself, described my informers, was welcomed to check out the bars and channels. After a few minutes he came up and told stories of exploring the islands and bars in the river, and recalled various kinds of bureaucratic incompetence by state folks studying the wildlife. I did get my birds, and after some map study figured that I had the tics for both NE and SD. I ended up adding 12 species in Nebraska, less than my goal, but OK considering the flooding. Enough so I'm motivated to push that list for the ABA threshold. Now at 37%.

Now begins the continuation of the Tale of Nemesis. One target lifer was Gray Partridge. I have looked for this bird on a half dozen trips through its range. I had made a note from one web posting about the entrance road to a State Park just over the border east in Minnesota. I went there. I drove the target road back and forth twice. I stopped in the VC and quizzed a ranger. He laughed off my prospect of finding GRPA this time of year, seems they hide in the tall grass of the road verges, and only the greatest good luck, which I manifestly lacked for this bird, would get it to reveal itself. I birded their campground briefly since it was an open house day, but then headed on north toward Big Stone NWR. Couple of hours drive and a worthwhile stop. I'd been there before but had somehow not gotten deep into the refuge. This time I did with good results after spending several hours, ducks and waders and scattered shorebirds. Back into town for a little city park with camping, where I thought I'd stay for another morning pass at the Refuge. I caught up my records for the day, and realized that given my latitude and the long days around the solstice, that there were still hours of daylight. Started driving back into SD. Unremarkable except for the first road-killed Beaver I'd ever seen. Actually, I got some good birds in roadside ponds and pools, but the best was when I was at the turnoff for Waubay NWR. It was after sundown but still good light. I had gone ahead just a half mile or so to some possible camping by a decent size lake, and when I was returning to the turnoff the lake on my left had a smattering of ducks. Good ducks, and variety too, Redheads and Canvasbacks, Ring-necks and Ruddys. Between that lake and the one adjacent I managed to make my SD goal, 100 species, and I hadn't hit the refuges yet. It was deep twilight when I got to Waubay, the gates weren't closed, and no signs saying I couldn't so I parked the truck in the first decent pull-off and slept well, dark and no rain.


Post a Comment

<< Home