I’ve had the opportunity the past couple of weeks to get outdoors for some deer hunting. It’s been a cold and snowy hunt, but still a wonder to experience the outdoors in the early winter season. Not only were the deer plentiful, but so were the birds.
While traversing the Western Plains, late fall and early winter birds showed themselves. Abundant sharp-tailed grouse flushed in large groups from buffaloberry patches, more ring-necked pheasants than expected flushed from several Badland drainages and snow buntings flitted around field edges along roads. Blue jays and northern flickers perched in woody draws. Canada geese traveled overhead at sundown, with their honks seeming to pierce the frigid evening air and notifying all of their presence. That sound never gets old. Every time I hear them, I have to search and find them.
One species that surprised me were large numbers of migrating American robins. American robins were seen everywhere from roadsides, open fields, grassy meadows, to woody draws and the skies between. These critters still make me dream of the first warm days of spring even in the very beginnings of the six-month long winter we experience. Don’t get me wrong, I love each and every season in North Dakota, but the first signs of spring are something special.
Finally, some of the more majestic species we observed during our travels included several golden eagles perched on adjacent trees, red-tailed hawks and rough-legged hawks perched on adjacent utility poles and hay bales, and northern harriers hovering over open fields, meadows and wetlands. A prairie falcon cruised close enough for a good look. Several bald eagles were seen in open fields and flying overhead.
One observation sticks out more so, than others, occurred in Mandan along the Heart River. I was fortunate enough to see a bald eagle swoop to the river ice and finish off a wounded mallard hen. Mother Nature working in her magnificent ways and reminding me of a tough life for wildlife in the winter months.
Just getting outdoors, even when its frigid cold, will brighten your days with its many bird flights.