Monday, June 9, 2008

Sullys Hill National Game Preserve (Part 2)

Boy, it's tough getting everything done after being away for 5 days! 75 new e-mails in my mailbox at work, so things were busy there and then I had to take advantage of the sunny afternoon to get my lawn mowed after work today before more rain moves back into the region. I'm running late again tonight, but I want to try and get one more installment of my North Dakota trip posted. Before I get back to North Dakota though, I want to show you something exciting I found while mowing today. I usually check my bird houses as I'm mowing and I was quite surprised to find this bluebird nest with 5 eggs today! I've heard the male bluebird singing occasionally, but very seldom see him and I've never seen the female in the backyard, but apparently they've been busy, doing what bluebirds do best. This is the closest they've nested to the house in many years. I'll have to keep a close eye out to make sure the wren and sparrows don't bother this nest box.

OK, now back to Sullys Hill National Game Preserve. Just beyond the prairie dog town, was the winter feeding area where they provide hay as supplemental feeding for the resident bison, deer and elk. I was lucky to see a large bull elk nearby in this field. They are beautiful animals and he was growing a nice set of antlers, still covered with velvet. He wasn't real thrilled about me standing near the fence to take some pictures, but I tried to be still and he eventually seemed to ignore me.

Here's a little video of him walking through the pasture and enjoying some nice tender grass.

Also in this pasture were two turkeys--a tom and a hen. This is the closest I've been to a tom turkey this spring. This guy was pretty quiet and not gobbling or displaying for the hen at all. He was a nice big bird, but it looks as though he may have some sort of an injury to his wing (or maybe his feathers are just molting).

I made a stop at the visitor's center to see if they had a bird checklist for the park (yes!) and to purchase a souvenir sweatshirt. They had quite a few birdfeeders set up outside the center and I was surprised to see that they had several clay-colored sparrows and pine siskins at their feeders. They also had a couple of nectar feeders with hummingbirds visiting.

After leaving the center, I found this very large buffalo wallow. Because of the recent rains, it was almost full of water, but you could see plenty of animal footprints around the muddy edges. In this picture, you can also see the wildlife trail (white arrow pointing to it) that comes down from the woods directly to this wallow/watering hole.

I continued following the road which wound around through the beautiful oak/ash forest. There were so many birds singing in these trees and I was able to stop periodically and roll down the window to watch and listen. In one spot, I heard a thrush singing (WOW!) I knew it wasn't a wood thrush and the birding checklist I picked up earlier showed the park had 3: Swainson's, Gray-Cheeked, and Hermit. I took this little movie and if you listen really closely (right around the 3 second mark) you should be able to hear the thrush singing.

Later in the evening at our wine tasting reception, I replayed this movie for Sharon (the Birdchick) and she positively identified the thrush as Swainson's. Thanks Sharon!

My last stop before leaving the park was the Devil's Lake Vista. Again, this must be a fantastic view on a sunny day, but still quite a nice sight even on a rainy day. Even from up here, you could see all the whitecaps on the lake from the strong wind that was blowing.

It was getting late in the afternoon, so I decided after leaving the park to run up to the city of Devil's Lake and find a little lunch. The road to town runs right along this lake. I almost changed my mind about proceeding down the highway when I saw this sign:
Fortunately, there was no water on the road and I had an uneventful drive into and back out of the city of Devil's Lake.

I got back to Carrington just in time to attend a seminar called, "The Ten Most Important Things You Can Do for Birds and Bird Conservation." It was a good talk presented by Paul Baicich. I learned that some of the things I'm already doing, but also a few new things that will be easy for me to start doing.

Later that evening we walked over to the wine tasting and appetizers event at the Historic Putnam House near downtown Carrington. It's a beautifully restored home that was built in the early 1900's. We were also treated to music by Bill Thompson, Julie Zickefoose and some of their equally talented friends (who just happened to also be attending this festival). As we say here in Minnesota, "A good time was had by all!"

I hope to post the final installment of my North Dakota trip tomorrow night. I hope you've enjoyed these stories and pictures enough that you will think about maybe trying to attend this festival next year (or another year in the future). It was a well organized festival and the groups were small. Everyone was very friendly and some of us had the added benefit of already knowing people when we got there (through blogging). As you know, it's so nice to go someplace where you already know people.....


Anonymous said...

WOW,what a post. Why do the turkeys look different in ND then they do here in MN? That was a pretty close-up of that bull elk, how close was the car in case you needed it from being chased by an elk? I certainly enjoyed all the scenery and the birds singing. Devil's Lake is a beautiful area. They do seem to be a little behind us weather wise and also foliage wise. The little videos were a great treat, thank you.

Trixie said...

Great thrush! When we were camping two weeks ago it was thrushville (I am going to post about it). Those Swainson's can have an otherworldliness to their song. I am so glad you got to hear one.

Jayne said...

Wow, you were pretty close to that elk! Great photo Ruthie! Would have loved to have been at the wine tasting to hear JZ and BOTB. Maybe some day... :c)

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Elk are magnificent anmimals and with a rack like that one wow.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Mom,
As far as I know they were Eastern Wild Turkeys (the same as ours). They definitely looked bigger than ours though.
The car was about 5 yards away, but that elk wasn't too concerned about my presence.
I think they were about 2 weeks behind us weather-wise. Some of the fields hadn't even been plowed yet and where crops were growing, they were still quite short.

Hi Trixie,
I almost never hear thrushes here, so I'm looking forward to your post. They have such a beautiful, ethereal song--definitely another reason for me to visit Alaska now!

Hi Jayne,
I hope you can come to this festival some day too. BOTB and JZ are excellent trip leaders and their knowledge of birds is unbelievable. I really learned a lot.

Hi Lisa,
I always like seeing elk (there are some on farms around here), but it was really neat to see one with antlers in velvet.

Lynne said...

Aren't thrush songs beautiful? You saw and heard such wonderful things out there Ruthie. Thanks for taking us along to the prairie. Maybe next year I'll get to see it in person!

Meggie said...

What a great festival, Ruthie! You and Julie went together last year, didn't you? But it wasn't in ND...I don't think. I love gathering in the evening and singing to guitar music with a group of friends. I wish I could play a musical instrument. Your photos are great...looks like you had a rich and full experience. Getting home and trying to catch up on all the work can be a bummer.

Marsha said...

It sounds like you had "a most excellent adventure"! How cool are all of these wildlife shots and sounds. Thank you for sharing the experience with the rest of us.

Debbie said...

Wonderful post. I have very much enjoyed your adventure. It is always nice to see new territory. Thank you for sharing your travels.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Lynne,
I think those thrush songs are my favorite of all the birds. I hope you can go next year too.

Hi Meggie,
This was only my second birding festival and the first time in North Dakota.
I can play the piano, but that's about it. Those guys were great musicians--didn't even need music! I share your envy of that kind of musical talent.

Hi Marsha,
I glad you were able to share this festival with me too. Hopefully some day you will get the chance to go in person also.

You're welcome Debbie. I'm glad you enjoyed the adventure too.

Mary said...

I don't know how I missed this one. Wonderful! Music and wildlife = FUN. Great people to boot. This event will keep you remembering for a long time :o)

Mary C said...

That looked like a very good birding day, or should I say "nature" day. From prairie dogs to wild turkeys to elk, wow! Thanks for sharing your trip with us.

Larry said...

I would really like to take a trip that is dedicated soley to birding some time.-So far, I've only mixed in birding during my fishing trips.