Sunday, August 26, 2018

Our 48th Contiguous...

We really weren't sure that it would happen this year what with Annie's multiple Birthday celebrations and extended stays here and there.   But, we did it!

Finally reaching North Dakota means that we have now visited some part of all of the 48 Contiguous United States. 

To be honest, it wasn't really a milestone we were aiming for.   One day though we were looking at the map of our travels and the roads we have driven.  We noted a big blank spot (no roads in or through) where North Dakota was.  Without even knowing it we had been to 47 of the 48 Contiguous States. 

So, we figured, if we could, we'd might as well go ahead and make it 48 out of 48.

As soon as we crossed into North Dakota we headed for.... can you guess?  If you guessed a wildlife refuge you were right.

Before we could even get to the refuge though we had to drive through more pothole prairies.  That meant, lots of stopping and pulling over to look at and take pictures of critters.

IMG_8536 Swainson's Hawk Bird (1)
One of our first sightings was a Swainson's Hawk - a long sought LIFER!  North Dakota was going to be a great state, for sure.

IMG_8551 Domestic Greylag Goose Bird
Next, we spotted a Graylag Goose peeking at us through the cattails.

IMG_8554 Double Crested Cormorant Bird (2)
Double-crested Cormorants were sunning themselves.

IMG_8554 Double Crested Cormorant, Hooded Merganser, Blue-winged Teal Bird (3)
A juvenile Double-crested Cormorant looks on at a passing Blue-winged Teal and Hooded Merganser.

We rounded a corner, crested a hill (oh, yes, the pothole prairie region of this part of southern North Dakota has hills!) and noticed some birds in the parking lot of a grain operation.

IMG_8559 Franklin's Gull Bird (1)
LIFER #2 of the drive - The Franklin's Gull!

IMG_8559 Franklin's Gull Bird (10)
A whole bunch of them.

IMG_8573 Red-tailed Hawk Bird (2)
Down the road, a red-tailed hawk left its perch to grab a snack.

This was only a small sampling of the birds that we saw on this drive.  While only two of the birds we presented were lifers for us, we made a point to include others to do our part to demonstrate the importance of the prairie grasslands and the pothole prairies.

The importance of fields of sunflowers is that they make you smile!

Eventually, we made it to Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge and took a ride on their auto tour route.  Our sightings at this location were not new but we enjoyed the drive as always.

IMG_8602 Ring-billed Gull Bird (3)
The Ring-billed Gull is spotted virtually everywhere we go but it is still a pretty gull.

IMG_8620 Western Kingbird Bird (4)
We have not seen the Western Kingbird since the last time we were out west.

In the absence of native bison, wildlife refuges are beginning to utilize local cattle and permit grazing to maintain the original design of the prairies.

IMG_8670a D Ruddy Ducks Bird (2)
We have seen the Ruddy Duck before but had not yet seen the babies.  Mama doesn't look much older than her kids.

Lastly, as we were preparing to exit the refuge we pulled over so that Darlene could take the above photo of the Ruddy Duck babies on her side of the van.  As she sat there, Nicole looked around and spied something exciting on her side, as well.

IMG_8652 Black Tern Bird (10)
Two Black Terns sitting on a rock right near the shore.  What an improvement over our last views of them.  Exciting.

That is our introduction to North Dakota.  Pretty sure we're going to like it here.