Monday, 13 September 2010

Breakfast In America - Supertramp

Just in time to catch the Monday deadline for today's post, I am in the home of Jeff & Doreen Vance along with their 3 lovely children Taylor, Rya and Kyle, but more of that later. It'd 16-30 here in Miles City, Montana which is 7 hours behind the UK so I only had 3/4 of an hour before Jeff stepped in to save the day.

To catch up with yesterday, we arrived Minnesota, St Paul's just a little behind schedule, but with still sufficient daylight to view a bird or two. I had guessed, as usual, that the first species to be seen would be Feral Pigeon, but that was beaten to the notebook by Purple Martin. A cloud of hundreds were easy to identify at distance as the only 'all dark' hirundine on the sub-continent, and similarly the American Crow is the only corvid hereabouts. So, with the daylight rapidly fading there were just 2 choices, either move on, if a Greyhound was available, or a motel. As luck would have it there was just a one hour wait for a service to Bismarck, North Dakota which not only progressed my journey but saved paying a hotel as well.

Before departing Minneapolis and the state of Minnesota there was a photo chance with Common Grackle, this one being of the 'bronze' variety and as the name suggests very common and gregarious. Also I had to activate my 15 days voucher for unlimited travel on the Greyhound coaches and all their connected operators.

Trip Ticks - 4 Lifers - 0

By 21-00 we were on our way to Bismarck capital city of North Dakota, which I was hoping to be the springboard for a southerly ride into South Dakota, but there was a change of coach at Fargo and a whole change of plan. It was there I met Jeff as he gave me a hand to change buses as he was the new driver for the rest of the trip. We seemed to hit it off immediately we got underway, and having told him my plan he was quick to tell me there might be some difficulty with a connection. Arriving Bismarck close to midnight, the clerk at the bus depot confirmed that although there was transport to Pierre it would cost me a further $40 as it was a shuttle not covered by my open ticket. There was another snag also as he checked that ticket, the young lady who had issued it had not entered an expiration date on the ticket making it impossible to issue another. This is where Jeff stepped in both suggesting I miss Pierre and a long delay and making several telephone calls to sort out the ticket problem. He also said that if I stayed on the coach with him I could do the change in Billings, Montana but while this was a longer distance it would take less time. I had a good sleep before waking just before we crossed the border into Montana
and this was the first photograph of the day as we continued through the grain growing belt.

Then followed the vast national Grassland, by which time Jeff had doubled as driver and personal tour guide, alerting me to much of interest on the way.

Then we drove through the Montana Badlands

and some of the wildlife included this American Bison which despite the fence this a truly 'wild' animal.

Until recently he was the alpha male but has now been ousted by a younger beast.

Swainson's Hawk

Through the Roosevelt NP where we found this

Ringed Turtle-dove at our first daylight stop.

Also on offer where several small groups of White-tailed & Mule Deer plus Prong-horn Antelope but both of the latter escaped the camera.

We had now arrived in Custer County, Montana and passed this stand of trees which is the area where General Custer's army camped for the last time before reaching the Little Big Horn some 100 miles to the south.

All of this time Jeff and I had been discussing the prospects of some birdwatching and had called his wife as she goes birding regularly in the area. He then suggested I use Mile City as a staging post and catch the ongoing coach to Billings this evening which in turn would meet up for the connection into South Dakota. Not only this. but once Jeff had handed over to his relief driver, he took me to

This Nature Reserve, collecting me 5 hours later.

The first thing I noticed were the number of Grasshoppers, Coneheads, Crickets etc, in what could be described as 'plague proportions'.

and I would say if this sort of thing continues there will be a lot more in the none to distant future.

Western Meadowlark

thought to be Nashville Warbler

House Wren

Red-breasted Nuthatch

What used to be my preference Myrtle (now Yellow-rumped) Warbler

Cedar Waxwings

juvenile Cedar Waxwing

young American Robin

adult American Robin

Dark-eyed Junco

The best shot I could achieve of a Brown Thrasher

After Doreen had driven back the 7 miles to pick me up, Jeff took me to the library to update this Blog. On the way he invited me to dinner with his family in their home, what a privileged! In the event the library doesn't open on a Monday so they allowed me to use their computer as well. At dinner we also had the pleasure of the company of Doreen's dad and mum who are 'rancher' further down state and in about an hour they plan to take me to the Bus Depot, ending a fantastic day.

Bon Apatite

From front left Doreen's father Roger, her mum Edith, Doreen, Jeff, Taylor, Rya and Kyle.

Additions, not already mentioned, to the trip list include:- Pheasant, Mourning Dove, Prairie Falcon* (3), Downy Woodpecker, Cliff Swallow, Northern Flicker (both Red-shafted and Guilded), White-crowned Sparrow, Blue Jay, Rufous-sided Towhee, Wilson's Warbler, Grey Catbird, Sage Thrasher*, Chipping Sparrow, Osprey, Turkey Vulture, Ferruginous Hawk and Red-tailed Hawk. * denote ''world lifer'.

Trip Ticks - 27 World Lifers - 3

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