I had a busy weekend heading west to the Badlands to help a friend look for pronghorns, then to the shorelines of Lake Sakakawea in search of Chinook salmon. While en route, several birds were observed in the skies above and the lake below.
The route to and through the Badlands held abundant avifauna. I had observed a golden eagle perching on a hay bale. Tens of raptors perching and flying about included several northern harriers, red-tailed hawks and great horned owl. Other birds observed included large flocks of American crows, a flock of 20 sharp-tailed grouse, large numbers of western meadowlarks and dickcissels. Large, streaming flocks of blackbirds were present traversing above the western fields.
During the latter part of the weekend, the snow/rain mix held off just enough on Sunday morning for a run north to the big lake in search of a shoreline cruising Chinook salmon. I did observe a single salmon surface, but nothing wanted to eat what I was throwing at 'em. However, I was able to fool a nice northern pike to tango with for a few minutes, before a quick photo and release.
On the lake, were several western grebes and a few soaring ring-billed gulls. Two bald eagles were observed overhead. A group of four Canada geese cruised overhead. After a couple hours of fishing, and not catching, we decided to head to the west side of the Garrison Dam tailrace and take a peek at the river below. In the tailrace were several ring-billed and Franklin’s gulls, and a large gray gull I didn’t recognize. Also observed were hundreds of double-crested cormorants and American white pelicans.
The coming weeks will be fun to get outdoors and watch. Migrating waterfowl should include large numbers of ducks, geese and swans. Bald eagles and other raptors will be observed in large numbers. Grab a friend, some binoculars or a spotting scope and get out and enjoy one of North Dakota’s finest seasons.