Friday, September 2, 2011

Big dipper

I have a report from South Dakota for the 501st post on this blog. Our trip took us to the Black Hills and Badlands. We recorded 48 bird species and eight mammal species. The birds included two additions to the North American life list--upland sandpiper and american dipper.

We found the sandpiper, pictured below, near the dusty grassland town of Buffalo Gap. We had left the highway at Buffalo Gap to catch a road to the Badlands. When we discovered that the 40-plus mile trip to the park would be on a dirt road, we decided to head back to the highway. On the way there, we saw a strange bird sitting on a hay bale. It took some research on the web to confirm that this indeed was an uppie. It was the big eye and relatively long neck that gave it away. Ironically, I had looked for this bird here in Illinois in July and came away empty.
The american dipper is a plump thrush-like bird that lives only in high mountain streams. It reaches the Black Hills at the eastern extent of its range. So we traveled to the northern Black Hills to find the bird, at Roughlock Falls near Spearfish Canyon. We walked down to the falls but didn't see a dipper on our first try. We walked downstream a ways and decided to go back for one last attempt. And there it was, sitting on a log in the water. The ouzel sat there for a long time, and we took many pictures. We never did see its peculiar behavior--plunging into streams and walking on the streambed in search of food--but that was OK. (The dipper is a gray dot in the bottom right of the first photo below.)

There are many more photos from our trip here.