Tuesday, September 6, 2011

So Long North Dakota...enshrouded in Lark Buntings....The Road to Yellowstone

This Tiger Salamander was crossing the road as I was leaving Lostwood for the last time. Nice smile.

Sleepy Lark Bunting.

The moment you have been waiting for has arrived. Not only am I unemployed, I am back in San Francisco where I have nothing but time. The halcyon days of five blog posts a week (is that overkill?) are once again within reach....as is almost anything the heart desires...this is San Francisco, after all.

Right. In the spirit of catching up, I left North Dakota a couple weeks ago as my seasonal job monitoring Piping Plover productivity (i.e. numbers of nests that hatch and chicks that fledge, for you nonbirders) was finished. Since I was going back to California, I decided it was best to make my way to Yellowstone National Park...alternately known as "The American Serengheti" (according to the National Park Service) and "A Fucking Zoo" (according to a friend, referring to the tourists).

Another Lark Bunting. Not something a Californian sees much of.

Juvenile Grasshopper Sparrows are pretty striking...for a sparrow.

After living in rural North Dakota for months, I was totally ready for large mammals and not afraid of tourists...I hadn't stood in a crowd all summer. Intrepidly, I set out westward, back through Montana...

And there was not much to tell about that. I took one random road in the hope of finding some McCown's Longspurs, which I haven't seen in a few years...I think I may have flushed some with a flock of Horned Larks, but identifying birds flying directly away from you is not a terribly accurate strategy. I did run into a bunch of Lark Buntings though, which are not very common in North Dakota, and a good number of Grasshopper Sparrows to boot.

Horned Lark. They don't usually appear so shrunken-headed.

The next day I was en route to Yellowstone, heading towards the northeast entrance, going through the facemelting Gallatin National Forest en route. The scenery was phenoms. And so began my constant wishing that I had more time to bird/explore the area...

More on all that next time. Until then, perhaps you should brush up on whats happening over at 10,000 Birds or at my friend Dan Maxwell's blog right here. He is living just a few miles from me on the Farallon Islands, but will probably see, how do you say, "hella" more rare birds than me this fall because that happens to be one of the best places to bird on the West Coast. Don't let his blatant misidentification of a Blackburnian Warbler put you off, he is typically not a sketchy birder.
Day breaks above treeline. Crushing scenery northeast of Yellowstone, easily comparable with whats in the park. Gallatin National Forest, MT.

A strange creature from another kingdom. Gallatin National Forest, MT.

Golden-mantled Ground-Squirrels. Squirreling. Gallatin National Forest, MT.


  1. If you end up doing any Fall birding in the Santa Cruz Area hit me up. I am just a beginner but like getting out there.

  2. Awesome, awesome, more awesome. Then squirrels squirreling? Totally awesome. Did that Grasshopper Sparrow just take a dump or what?

  3. As a by-product of your profession, you have indeed become a photographer. Your page reminds me of my best days as an undergrad, working with my advisor. His lectures on avian's is what caused me to change majors mid-stream. Love your style.

  4. @JK for sure! Depends on my car staying intact though.

    @Jen - That sparrow has nothing on your mindboggling ibis shit. Ill try to get your interview up next week.

    @Anne - Thanks Anne! I can always relate to someone who has had their lives ruined by birds.

  5. you're killing me, KILLING ME! why do you hate me? A Tiger Salamander? GM Ground Squirrels? MT? I hate being stuck here. Kill me now!