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Big, Cold Sky Country

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ahh, North Dakota. Wide open, and this June, cold as steel. The land had greened up, but winter was still making itself known well into what should have been summer. The story was the same across much of the northern tier of the US. Not North Dakota's fault.

We always watch for the road sign to Gackle. It's when we know we're really in North Dakota. On our first ever trip to the Potholes and Prairies Festival seven years ago, we got a rental car that had an alarm buzzer or bell for everything. Seatbelts, open doors, key in ignition was just the start of it. When you had finally strapped yourself in (Chest belt, check. Lap strap, check. Crotch strap, check), you'd get underway and hit 10 mph and the doors would lock automatically with a loud, startling ziiiiiich! For birding in North Dakota, this is overkill. It was also highly annoying to be strapped and literally locked into your car when you're only going 20 mph on a deserted gravel road and a ferruginous hawk sails over. You're hauling on the door handle, cussing a blue streak. Now who the @$%$#% locked my door?

So we named the car Gackle, which helped. Lord, we hated that car. If I'd owned it, I'd have been yanking wires left and right. I'll decide when to lock my doors, thank you.

In the few hours of sunshine, the groves were alive with orioles, flycatchers and warblers.

This farmstead is chock full of good birds, including nesting Say's phoebes.

Cold weather or not, the shorebirds and ducks were in high breeding dudgeon.

A marbled godwit beats over, yelling.

A hen shoveler pulls her mate's tail. A lot of in-flight nipping and feather pulling goes on with shovelers.

A blue-winged teal matches the sky.

And a very agitated hen mallard gives her mate an aerial dressing down.

We stayed with the kids at Lakeview Meadows Estates outside Jamestown, in a lovely cabin called The Yorkshire.
It hearkened to Merrie Olde with its warm fireplace and dark wood paneling. It was terrific.

We'd need that fireplace, with daily field trips out on the prairie. The theme for this year's Potholes and Prairies Festival, at least for me, was creature comforts.

Western kingbird to tree: I know you were just planted, but willya leaf out, already? Brrr!


I've tried to get to that festival for two years. Next year I'm going no matter what.

Love that mallard two-some photo. And what do you think she is saying?

Hmmmm....some birds you got there I've never seen. The marbled godwit and the shoveler. This would be such a delight to go to. Lotsa paintings, for sure.

I stayed at Lakeview Meadows last year... lovely place.

I miss North Dakota and hope to go back someday.

I really liked North Dakota and its residents. Hopefully someday I'll get back there too.

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