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Stop 7 - North Dakota : LONG LAKE NWR, THEODORE ROOSEVELT NP
The following page is devoted to my roadtrip photos of birds from a couple of locations in North Dakota. Clearly, I did not photograph every kind of bird that can be found in North Dakota, but I have provided a selection of some of my favorite photos of the birds I did happen to see as I passed through.
From the Warblerville around the Great Lakes, I headed west towards home. But I still had a number of birding stops on my itinerary, one of which was North Dakota. North Dakota is a little-known but great birding local, as it is representative of where east meets west in the Great Plains, and thus hosts a wide variety of both eastern and western species. I spent a couple of days each at Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge in south-central North Dakota and Theodore Roosevelt National Park on the west end of the state.
Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge is set in the heart of the Prairie Pothole Region, where the open ranges, grassy fields, marshes, and lakes area home to several species of nesting ducks, shorebirds, raptors, and grassland songbirds. I chased the birds around for a couple of mornings (when bird activity was a constant serenade of clucks, whistles, songs, and cheeps), mostly driving around the Refuge roads and photographing birds out of my window. There were birds everywhere: grebes and teals in the lake, pelicans and terns in the sky, sandpipers and willets on the shore, blackbirds and wrens in the marshes, and meadowlarks, sparrows, and bobolinks in the surrounding grasslands. I saw a number of birds I saw no where else on my travels, such as the Marbled Godwit, Northern Goshawk, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Horned Lark, Short-eared Owl, Sprague's Pipit, White-rumped Sandpiper, and Grasshopper Sparrow.
While Long Lake and the surrounding area has an eastern plains feel, just 120 miles further west along I-94, Theodore Roosevelt National Park feels like the wild west. This park is located in the heart of the dry rolling mountains of the Badlands. I spent a full day in the more remote north unit of the park, where Lazuli Buntings, Yellow-breasted Chats, Common Yellowthroats, Spotted Towhees, and Mountain Bluebirds abounded. I also hiked to the Prairie Dog Town, in hopes of finding a Burrowing Owl; although I did not spot an owl, I enjoyed the cute Prairie Dogs. I would have liked to spend another day in the park, but unfortunately thundershowers and new headlights for my car drove me westward towards my next birding stop.
(Overall, I was a bit disappointed with my photos from North Dakota. While I had a few good ones - the Western Meadowlark, Western Grebe, Yellow-headed Blackbird, and Marsh Wren to name some of my favorites, which I have highlighted below - I felt that many of my photos were simply "checklist" shots. Perhaps this was somewhat related to my experience hitting a deer at 60mph while driving into North Dakota, but that's another story… )
The two areas I went to had noticeably different bird populations, so I grouped the birds from each location separately below.
KEY: favorite photos SONGBIRDS WATERBIRDS RAPTORS & OWLS/NEAR PASSERINES HUMMINGBIRDS & WOODPECKERS