July 23, 2006 [LINK]

Birding in South Dakota, 2006

During my recent trip to South Dakota, I spent quite a bit of time exploring various locations, including some spots I had never been to before. I stopped at the Mulberry Point scenic overlook on the Nebraska side of the new Missouri River bridge , two spots on the same river southeast and southwest of Burbank, a few miles upstream at Clay County Park, The Bluffs Golf Course, Spirit Mound (north of Vermillion), and Cotton Park, which is on the Vermillion River, as well as random rural spots. I was rewarded with good views of many wild birds. Perhaps the highlight was seeing Bell's vireos, a life bird for me, at two different locations. I also got good views of Yellow-headed blackbirds and Cliff swallows, neither of which I had seen in years. Thanks to my brother John for his tips on where to go.

South Dakota bird montage Clockwise, from top left: Red-headed woodpecker, Orchard oriole (adult male), Barn swallow, Lark sparrow, Dickcissel.

List of birds seen:

Notes in parentheses indicate whether the particular species is significantly more (or less) abundant in South Dakota compared to Virginia during the summer. Click on the camera icons to see photos of individual birds, or click on the photo itself to see my South Dakota (and Nebraska) bird photo gallery.

* The last time I was in South Dakota, I happened to see some Sedge wrens within a day or two of the publication of a weekly bird-watching column in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader about that same bird in the same place. This time there were no Sedge wrens at Spirit Mound. It just so happened, that the very same author, Jerry Stanford, wrote a column about the Rose-breasted grosbeak during my latest visit, and indeed I saw several of them in Nebraska and South Dakota, including one that zipped through my father's back yard! Mere coincidence?

Throughout my visit, a Killdeer was brooding on two eggs it had laid near the driveway at my father's house, long after they were due to hatch. Killdeers don't build nests, they just lay eggs in rocky depressions to camouflage them. It (she) would squeak loudly and make threatening gestures and/or feign injury to divert our attention from the eggs whenever we approached. It was amusing but also a little tragic. There was also a Robin's nest in the back yard, and two swallow nests above the front porch. Quite a bird-friendly habitat!

No Mockingbirds, Titmice, or Carolina wrens are found in the Dakotas, whereas they are all very common in the East.