I think I was too tired to be blogging the other day when I tried to post this originally – and I kept erasing it by accident. Finally I gave up. It gets light here around 4:45am, and the sun doesn’t set until after 9:15pm. One consequence of this extended daylight is that you can be tempted to spend 16 hours in the field, which doesn’t leave that much time for sleeping, eating, blogging, etc. And that doesn’t even count the midnight trips to McGregor Marsh for Yellow Rail! But I will try to re-write my post from the other night below…
I’m in the Morehead MN/Fargo ND area – prairie country! One of the amazing things about Minnesota is that it possesses at least three distinct bio-regions, something that is fairly unusual even for a state of its size. Each of these regions has its own unique set of animal and plant communities, which means visiting each one allows you to see a whole new array of birds. The area around the Twin Cities, and the region south and east of there shares much in common with the eastern and even southeastern US. They have nesting Louisiana Waterthrush, Blue-winged Warbler, and Acadian Flycatcher. A couple hours north by car, and you transition fairly rapidly into boreal forest. These are the spruce bogs and northern timberlands that stretch well into central Canada, and north of Duluth you can find Boreal Chickadee and Spruce Grouse. Head west a couple hours and you are in The West – a land of gently rolling prairies and pothole lakes. And windmills.
I soon discovered why they have so many windmills here – it’s incredibly windy! I spent a couple days roaming around the Felton Prairie area, seeing Chestnut-collared Longspurs, Grasshopper Sparrows, and Upland Sandpipers. I looked and looked for Prairie-chickens, but they were elusive.
I checked the rare bird alert before I left, and was stunned to see a Snowy Owl being reported south of Fargo/Moorhead. Now sometimes Snowies wander down from Canada in mid-winter to hang out in Minnesota and other far northern states, but by spring they always head back. By June, Snowies should be eating lemmings in the high Arctic and making baby Snowies. They most definitively should not be sitting next to a field of knee-high corn in western Minnesota. I don’t know if this one is sick, injured, or just really, really lost.
I think it’s an adult male based on the extent of white in his plumage. He was flying around a bit, so he doesn’t have a broken wing. The picture isn’t great because I didn’t want to get too close – he’s probably stressed enough as it is.
Tomorrow I’m heading back east!