Charmed and Enchanted

Written by Tony Roberts
Sunday, May 10, 2015

Tony Roberts.Third time’s a charm, right? This is my first experience helping to conduct the Breeding Population and Habitat Survey, during the 60th year of its operation. Pam Garrettson (a seasoned veteran of the survey) and I were hoping to get a good start and make some progress before the inevitable weather delays. Though we missed most of the weather, we’ve had a slow start to the ground portion of the western Dakotas and eastern Montana survey, mostly due to vehicle issues. But on our third try we made it out of Pierre, SD, and are now in Dickinson, ND, working our way through the survey. We have completed half of the air-grounds (the name of sections of transects used to correct for visual detection from the air), and are enjoying seeing ducks.

Though this is my first year and I have nothing to compare it to, it seems like the landscape is drier than normal, and many of the potholes and natural wetlands are lacking for water. Despite this, our time on survey counting ducks has revealed quite a few blue-winged teal, mallards, and northern shovelers (one of my favorites!). We have also seen numerous other migratory birds including burrowing owls, golden eagles, and upland sandpipers. It’s a treat for me to be on the prairies and see all these amazing birds.

We drove down Highway 8 in North Dakota yesterday, a stretch of which is known as the “Enchanted Highway” due to numerous metal sculptures placed along the road. I agree it’s enchanted, but mostly due to the beautiful wildflowers, abundant bird life, and amazing views across the open prairies. On we go, and I’m sure we will encounter many more charmed and enchanted moments.