January 15, 2008 [LINK / comment]

Winter birds in South Dakota

While I was visiting my family in South Dakota last week (br-r-r-r!), I went birding a couple times -- once along the Vermillion River and once at the Gavins Point Dam on the Missouri River, west of Yankton. I didn't realize it at the time, but on the latter occasion I saw three life birds. The Trumpeter swan, which was standing on the ice about 1000 yards away, was identified by another birder who filed a report on the same day. The last time I saw three life birds on the same day in the United States was June 1, 2002, doing the Breeding Bird Survey with the Augusta Bird Club.[**] Two eagles were near the dam, and the third was in a tree east of Gayville. The following is a fairly complete list, in rough order of appearance. Exclamation marks indicate unusual sightings, for birds that were out of their normal range.

Yesterday Jacqueline and I paid a quick visit to the home where the Painted bunting has taken up winter quarters. Chris Waldrop told us that it had been there in the morning, but we missed it. We did see, however, a Yellow-bellied sapsucker, a White-breasted nuthatch, a Field sparrow, a Purple finch, and many House finches, White-throated sparrows, Chickadees, and Titmice, as well as an attacking Sharp-shinned hawk.

[** NOTE: My trips to Latin America have yielded much greater birding successes. On February 19, 2005 I saw 15 life birds in and around Playa de Cacao, in Costa Rica. See my Life bird list, newly updated. Grand total: 372.]