Over the past couple of weekends, I’ve had the opportunity to get outdoors to the western wilds of North Dakota with my wife’s family, in and around Medora, and to the east in search of some walleyes. While in the west, particularly within the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the surrounding Little Missouri National Grasslands, the avifauna was not to disappoint. Further, the eastern lakes held abundant birds, as well.
During the trip west, the national park held turkey vultures, numbering in the 20s that circled overhead, over the high bluff on the north side of Medora. Other birds spotted included the American crow, black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatch, bank swallows, ferruginous hawk, golden eagle, American kestrel, killdeer, mourning dove, common nighthawk, downy and hairy woodpeckers, American robin, brown thrasher, cedar waxwing, warbling vireo, red-eyed vireo, yellow warbler, black and white warbler, yellow-breasted chat, lazuli bunting, eastern and western kingbirds, horned lark, blue jay, black-billed magpie, mountain bluebird, Baltimore oriole, clay-colored sparrow, chipping sparrow, vesper sparrow, lark sparrow, grasshopper sparrow, American goldfinch, and, of course, the state bird, the western meadowlark.
I have to say that my favorite observation was that of the lone ferruginous hawk that circled quickly overhead as we stopped along the auto-tour route. I’ve only seen a handful of ferruginous hawks in my lifetime … at least where I was searching for birds. I love every opportunity I get to get outdoors in the Badlands region of North Dakota. Everytime I head to the Badlands, my mind wonders what it would have been like to live in and around Medora during the days of Theodore Roosevelt and Marquis de Mores. If it wasn’t for TR, I truly don’t believe we’d be able to enjoy the outdoors as we do today on our national lands, or any public land, for that matter. He was truly the conservation president. We owe a lot of what we love to do outdoors to this great man and his mindset.
A week later, I find myself searching for walleyes with a fellow friend and my wife in an eastern lake. While on the lake, we note several Franklin’s gulls, almost seeming to be staging or en route on the migration south, and ring-billed gulls. Seems a bit early, but with birds, nothing surprises me anymore. Other birds noted during the eastern sojourn, we noted American white pelicans, fishing voraciously and likely catching fish more frequently than we did, black terns, common terns, killdeer, mallards, blue-winged teal and gadwall.
While en route to these wonderful places in North Dakota, the signs of fall migration are around. Mourning doves have been staging together and large numbers along back roads. Blackbirds, including mostly the red-winged variety, are staging in large numbers along overhead utility lines in the country with nearby sunflower fields. Further, my neighborhood has been bombarded by American robins the past several days, everyday at just about sundown.
Now is a great time as ever to get outdoors, spot a few favorite or new birds and enjoy Mother Nature’s vistas.