Awakening to the spirit and beauty of the northern Great Plains
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Spring Birds of Indian Head Creek II
On the weekend I had a chance to get out to the pipit fields on and around Strawberry Lake Community Pasture. Two good friends, John and Michelle, came with me to see what grassland birds had arrived for the summer.
After the surprise of finding a pair of Say's Phoebe at an old farmstead (too distant to photograph), we stopped at one of the wetlands that head toward the beginnings of one arm of Indian Head Creek south of Lake Marguerrite. This Wilson's Snipe stood on his fencepost at roadside amid last summer's cattails . . .
Below him a male Northern Pintail stayed just long enough for this shot (click on any image to see a larger version).
As we neared the native grasslands of the area, I started to hear our first grassland sparrows singing, including this Vesper Sparrow . . .
. . .and the Savannah Sparrow featured at the top of this posting.
No Baird's Sparrows yet, but off in the pasture we heard an Upland Sandpiper giving its bubbling wolf whistle. We heard another, then saw two of them flying back and forth across the road. Unfortunately, this was the only photo I could manage.
Turning the corner west at an old cemetery and heading west along a tame hay field, I heard my first Sprague's Pipit of the year. We jumped out of the vehicle and leaned back on it to look up at the sky. We could hear its swishing, sibilant song perfectly, but we stared up into the blue for ten minutes or more and never managed a glimpse. Pipits are hard to see because they stay a couple hundred feet up in the air and sing, but I can almost always find the little bird-dot moving across the sky if I work at it. We moved on down the road and found another pipit and another, eventually counting five of them in that field, but try as we may, we could not find any of them. I wanted to show John and Michelle what they look like when they sing, but we eventually had to give up and move on.
The other grassland birds we saw on and around the pasture were Western Meadowlarks, Horned Larks, and Sharp-tailed Grouse (including a late lek containing at least 8 birds).
On the way back, we passed a set of ponds and sloughs in the community pasture and found a good mix of ducks and waders, including this female Wilson's Phalarope. . .
. . .and an American Avocet.
Back at our place at Cherry Lake, I tried sneaking up on a Lark Sparrow that had arrived to forage in the yardsite where we see them every spring. No dice, but I took a distant shot anyway, close enough to see the striking pattern on the sparrow's face.