Prairie potholes

Prairie potholes are small wetlands that are teaming with birds. Virtually every duck that winters in Alabama are breeding in these potholes in May.

After my wonderful morning watching about 35 male Sharp-tailed Grouse displaying to about 3 females on the lek in front of my blind, I drove out of Arrowwood NWR headed west. About 10 miles from Arrowwood I cut south to 28th street and followed the southmost birding drives given at this web site:

http://www.birdingdrives.com/

This route was through rural backcountry toward Chase Lake. Running the full route turned out not to be possible because some of the roads now literally disappear into lakes, but it is usually easy enough to find a way around. Even with some problems of impassable roads, I highly recommend this route. It took me through fabulous prairie pothole country and was very birdy. I didn't see any of my target rarities: Baird's Sparrow, Chestnut-collared Longspur, or Sprague's Pipit, but there were impressive numbers of grebes, pelicans, terns, gulls, shorebirds, ducks, rails, swallows, wrens, blackbirds etc.

In the winter in Alabama, Ruddy Ducks are abundant but drab. I really wanted to see and photograph Ruddy Ducks with blue bills in breeding plumage.

I was hearing Virginia Rails in almost every wetland I stopped at. I finally called one out with a playback.

Sedge Wrens were one of the most abundant birds in wetland throughout North Dakota and Minnesota.

Going into this trip, my only photo of Upland Sandpiper was a speck photo of a bird at a sod farm in Alabama. I was very happy toh have this bird perch on an post in nice light.

I really wanted a photo of a breeding plumage Wilson Phalarope, but my real hope was a female (the more brightly colored bird) and male together in one frame.

The largest colony of American White Pelicans in North America breeds at Chase Lake and from the colony pelicans fill the wetlands for tens of miles around.

Bank Swallows are scarce migrants in Alabama but common and widespread across the norhtern plains.

One of the most common migrant shorebirds in North Dakota was Baird's Sandpiper. In most places where birders bird, this species is not the most common shorebird. The smaller peep poking its head up in the lower left is a Western Sandpiper.

© 2015 Geoffrey Hill

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