Sunday, October 12, 2008

South Dakota Sparrow Weekend, part deux

I have just a few more pictures I want to share from my sparrow workshop weekend in South Dakota. The weekend was structured so that we would spend time out in the field looking at sparrows for a few hours, then go back for classroom time, hearing about habitat, field marks, songs and migration. This was repeated through-out the whole weekend and I found it to be a very effective way for me to learn. Fortunately the group dynamics were very positive and supportive as we were all coming from different levels of experience. The beautiful LeConte's Sparrow was my first lifer sparrow. The second was a Vesper Sparrow (sorry, no pictures). Another lifer for the weekend were these Western Meadowlarks. There were Western Meadowlarks on nearly every hay bale we saw.
The views of the prairie were stunning. I found myself on more than one occasion needing to hurry along to keep up with the group.
Trying to memorize the colors, the feel of the wind on my face and the sounds of the whispering grasses...
This ranch has the largest remaining tract of native tallgrass prairie left in North America. The views were spectacular and made me feel quite small.

We're off again- this time driving across the fields.
A fence full of Savannah Sparrows, all facing into the wind.


A closer view of a Savannah Sparrow. Yellow lores and streaking over a white breast.
Another stop brought us to the Blue Cloud Abbey. Blue Cloud Abbey is a Benedictine male monastery located on a hill overlooking the vast prairie a few miles from Milbank. We were there to spend some time checking out the Chipping Sparrows that hang out in the tall pines along the entrance road. Being early October it was a good opportunity to see and compare immature Chipping Sparrows and winter adult Chipping Sparrows. After breeding season, Chippies lose their characteristic rusty cap for a streaky cap. Immature Chippies have a very streaky breast. I didn't give the Chipping Sparrows my full attention. I was thinking of another Minnesota birder/blogger, Ivars from Ivars' Birds. Ivars has been such a tremendous help to me along my path of trying to improve my photography skills. Blue Cloud Abbey is an important place to Ivars and I wanted to take in some of what he sees. I hope to go back and visit Blue Cloud Abbey again.
This sparrow workshop was a terrific learning experience for me. I've always love the little brown birds and now I feel a new confidence in identifying them in the field. I enjoyed the company of the group. Don't we look like a happy bunch of sparrow stalkers? The class leaders are in front: Bob Janssen and Doug Buri, and I'm behind the camera.
It was a big weekend for lifers:
Northern Shoveler
Gray Partridge
Sharp-tailed Grouse
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Pectoral Sandpiper
Orange-crowned Warbler
Vesper Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
LeConte's Sparrow
Western Meadowlark
We counted a total of sixty-two species of birds over the weekend.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
My materials for Cape May Autumn Weekend came over the weekend. I leave in ELEVEN days!
Kathi- did you see there's a sparrow class there?
Tomorrow I'll finally finish re-writing my sparrow notes, then it's time to get out the raptor books. I don't want to look like a total raptor knuckle-head.
It's time for some serious packing...

32 comments:

Linda in Erie said...

What a great learning experience! I love the photos of the birds and scenery. I hope you have as much fun at the Cape May Autumn Weekend. I'm truly envious!

ivars krafts said...

Your pictures make me want to leave for Blue Cloud first thing tomorrow morning -- I do plan to get out there sometime this fall yet. Thank you for your kind mention of my blog & Blue Cloud.
I know Cape May will be an exciting trip for you -- can't wait for the photos!

Robert V. Sobczak said...

Really great photos, and great post: that definitely looks like great country ... if not a little cold.

Bird Girl said...

I've never seen the western meadowlark - though we have eastern meadowlarks in our area they certainly have declined in the past 20 years. At first I thought they were Dicksissels.
What a lucky gal you are - always going on a bird trip - I envy you! Cape May in autumn...sounds w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l!!!

Tina said...

The leconte's sparrow looks like it has a pastel yellowish belly?? I really like the fence line of savannah sparrows! Neat photo!

LauraHinNJ said...

Oh Lynne... the prairie is just so darn beautiful, isn't it?

I felt kinda the same way in ND this summer - so overwhelmed with the scenery and the whole experience of being in someplace so different from home that I almsot couldn't concentrate on the birds!

Cape May is going to be such a blast - I can't wait to meet you finally!

Jayne said...

Your experience has me even more pumped for WV Lynne. I can't wait to experience these things for the very first time with people I feel I already know so well! :c)

NatureWoman said...

I love the prairie. I'd have the same problem keeping up with the crowd for looking at the landscape!

KatDoc said...

You got some birds that would be lifers for me, Lynne: the Sharp-tailed Grouse, the Gray Partridge and the Orange-crowned Warbler.

Oh, yeah - and the LeConte's Sparrow, one I have been after for a while. I'm already looking forward to the sparrow class at Cape May. I did a weekend sparrow symposium with OOS (Ohio Ornth. Soc.) but I still need more help.

What a contrasting pair of habitats you are getting to see - from the prairie to the ocean in just a couple of weeks!

Soon ...

~Kathi

Mary said...

HA! You better get packing, travelin' girl!

South Dakota to NJ - all within a few weeks. That's just so wonderful. Not to mention those lifers.

I'm clapping for you :o)

May, who will never get Sparrow IDs...

egretsnest said...

What a fun trip. So many lifers!

scienceguy288 said...

Looks like a ton of fun. The prarie is so beautiful. I yearn to travel westward.

Ruth's Photo Blog said...

Sounds like a wonderful experience.Glad to hear you saw some lifers.

Yolanda said...

you live in such a hauntingly beautiful place.

Marsha said...

What a great learning experience and how cool to add those "lifers" to your list. I look forward to the Cape May postings as well.

RuthieJ said...

Oh Lynne, that looks like quite an adventure! I'm glad you got the chance to go plus add some new birds to your life list too.

Red said...

What a fantastic journey! It sounds very very educational and worthwhile. The views of the prairies were awesome too! ALMOST but not quite makes me miss Kansas a tad. I finished up my BA at KU and came back home to CA.

Before I finished reading your post here, I noticed you already commented on mine. When I got to your driving picture, I was wondering how some of you didn't get left behind by your leader... and now I know, you did too. It must be common, lol.

Shellmo said...

Lynne - your photos and posts are very inspiring - I need to do one of these workshops. Thank you so much for sharing this - I can't wait to hear about your next adventure!!

Mary C said...

Lynne, it looks like a great time had by all and all that you learned. Great photos, too -- I felt like I traveled along with you. And your life list is getting nice and long, isn't it?

NCmountainwoman said...

What a great series of photographs. I have enjoyed them all.

Ecobirder said...

Lynn, sounds like you had a great time. I considered taking the class, they anounced it while I was at the shorebird workshop, but my main goal is to get pictures and I was afraid that it would be difficult to get close enough to get pics of sparrows with 20+ people stomping around.

Larry said...

Wow! That's a lot of lifers Lynne!
I've been saying every year that I'm going to a sparrow workshop but have managed to miss it every time.-Maybe this year-sounds like it was well worth your time.-Great prairie shots too-where's half pint? I don't see her anywhere.

Deb said...

Those prairie scenes bring back memories of my graduate school days in Brookings. Once you crossed the border into SD, you knew you were in different country.

Maybe you can come here some time and help me ID some of the sparrows I have in the grasses along our driveway!

Susan Gets Native said...

Oh, those wide open spaces....nothing like feeling insignificant, huh?

You will NOT look like a knucklehead. I will be there...and will give tips as needed. (or wanted) What I like about our little Cape May flock is our expertise. We will all be bringing a different skill.
We all will learn something. And have a ****ing blast doing it!!!!!

And why weren't you in that last photo? HUH?
Don't ya just love birders? We all dress so...comfy.

Leedra said...

Sounds like you couldn't have had a better time. These workshops really get us inspired. You should be able to help me. I don't know sparrows at all.

Eve said...

I would have loved to have been there with you Lynne! Sparrows are sometimes just thought of as little brown birds but I have come to love all these sweet birds! I get to hear the Savannah Sparrow every day during the summer! I also get the rare (here) Clay-colored Sparrow at my home each year. Great trip, great birds!

birdchick said...

Hey! I'm so glad you got to make it to Doug and Bob's workshop, I really wish I could have gone, great shots of a LeConte's.

It turns out that I'm going to Cape May after all, I'll see you there!

Kathiesbirds said...

Wow Lynne, you've been busy! What a lot of great information and what a wonderful experience. I love that rolling prairie. It makes me feel small too. How exciting is Cape May going to be! Now I am (happily) envious of you. I can't wait to read all of yoru blogposts about it!

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