Monday, May 3, 2010

Windy Birding Weekend

Dave and I headed west Saturday and Sunday, hoping to catch peeps and other shorebirds in areas like Salt Lake and the Big Stone Lake region of western Minnesota. It was insanely windy the whole time, and we were pretty much shut out for shorebirds. We saw a lone Snowy Plover (fairly rare in this area), a Spotted Sandpiper (much more common), and a few Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs (we can see plenty of them near to home, as we recently did at Lake Byllesby) ... and that was it. We did see all manner of ducks, cormorants, geese, and pelicans, however, as well as some Western and Red-necked grebes, and plenty of Yellow-headed Blackbirds, which I love (we rarely see them this far east in the state; the only time I've ever seen one in Northfield was right after I'd seen a lot of them on a trip to the Black Hills and Yellowstone about six years ago, but never again).

Here are some photos from the trip.

Flag in the wind at a county park near Canby, Minnesota. At the bottom of this post is a short video clip from which this photo is taken.

A female pintail showing her elegant long neck. I think that's her partner over on the left, suddenly grooming himself just when I took the photo.

Here's a fairly typical scene along the back roads of western Minnesota, where many small lakes and flooded fields were to be seen.

White pelicans in flight - click on the photo to see their black and white beauty. When they're at rest, you can't see the black on their wings, so it's startling to see the change when they are flying.
Pelicans at rest, Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge.

Yellow-headed blackbird in the foreground, and three pelicans and a Canada goose in the background, Thielke Lake, Big Stone County.

This large, handsome bird and his much lighter-colored mate, just hanging out by the side of a seldom-used road, had us saying "What on earth is that?!" and pulling out the field guides. Turns out it is an introduced game bird native to Africa that now has some wild populations in North America: the Helmeted Guineafowl, Numida meleagris.

We saw a couple of rainbows. This one was impressive for its width, despite its short stature as it spanned the narrow gap between a large white cloud and the ground. The startling flat-top mound to its right was a granite quarry, of which there were several in the area.

This is a raft of Franklin's Gulls, with their striking black heads.

This abandoned house or schoolhouse was too photogenic to be resisted. It was on a back road west of Canby, MN.

Here are two short videos showing the strong winds which were our constant companions this weekend.

Addendum, May 5: For our own records and for those who like to peruse lists, I have posted a full list of our bird sightings for the weekend here.

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