Also see the PHOTO GALLERY following the summary



June 15 - 22, 2019

I can’t recall for sure, but it certainly seemed like we saw at least some rain on each day of this MBWeek, although it never really interfered that much with our birding. Windy days weren’t much of a problem either, which is pretty remarkable given that wind is so characteristic out on the Great Plains. And the high temperatures thoughout the trip were mercifully on the moderate and cool side without anything much above 80 and nothing in the 90s. So, we had no meteorological excuses to fall back on if the birding hadn’t gone all that well.

But our week was indeed successful as we turned up no fewer than 179 species in all, with 31 of these “non-Minnesota” birds (see list below). Among these, eight have never been recorded here (Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Red-naped Sapsucker, Dusky and Cordilleran flycatchers, Plumbeous Vireo, Pinyon Jay, Pacific Wren, Virginia’s Warbler), and about the same number have only been seen a time or two ever before in MN (Common Poorwill, White-throated Swift, Violet-green Swallow, Pygmy Nuthatch, American Dipper, Brewer’s Sparrow, MacGillivray’s Warbler). In addition, we saw at least a couple dozen more which at best are only rare-Regular or Casual in our state. Consider as well that virtually all of our total represents species within their nesting ranges – there were no migrants to enhance our lofty trip total (just a handful of summering Snow Geese).  

True, there were some disappointments as we were unable to come up with any sage-grouse or McCown’s in ND, but you can’t really call these “misses” since eBird shows there was only one sage-grouse report in the Dakotas in 2019 (one lone bird in April in Harding County, SD) and no reports at all of the longspur. But I guess I’d have to classify the Canyon Wren and Cassin’s Finch as missed, and we never did officially list Prairie Falcon – though the unidentified falcon circling over Hell Canyon was probably this species. It was disappointing, too, that the Clark’s Nutcracker and Virginia’s Warbler were heard-only, that the Pygmy Nuthatch was only seen by a few of you, and it sure would have been nice if more than those lucky four in the Martin car could have seen that quite unexpected Pinyon Jay (there have been no other eBird reports in the Dakotas in 2019!).

But I would say that all of our highlights easily outweighed the few birds we missed. Some of these favorites in South Dakota would include: that amazingly visible Common Poorwill that put on quite an aerial show by the Picnic Springs Campground entrance (the best flight views I’ve ever had); the male Broad-billed Hummingbirds “trilling” along a Hill City side street; Lewis’s Woodpeckers at a nest along Four Mile Draw Rd in Custer State Park; our first good Red-naped Sapsucker views, an unexpected American Three-toed, and Clark’s Nutcrackers calling along the trail to Black Elk Peak; good looks and listens at both Dusky and Cordilleran flycatchers; singing Pacific Wrens, our best MacGillivray’s views, and even another three-toed woodpecker or two at Ward Draw; an American Dipper pair and low-flying White-throated Swifts at Roughlock Falls; and vocal Red Crossbill flocks almost everywhere in the Ponderosa pines (those I recorded at Jewel Cave and Picnic Springs were identified as Type 2).

And on the North Dakota side of the line, I’d consider some of our best finds to be: a very responsive and visible Sprague’s Pipit posing on a Slope County road north of Bowman, both Baird’s and Brewer’s sparrows singing along the Camp Crook Rd (as a Long-billed Curlew tried to distract us from the Baird’s posing on a fence wire), three oriole species (including Bullock’s) nearly simultaneously at Cottonwood Camppground in Teddy Roosevelt Park, and all the additions to our MBWeek list on the last day en route back to Morris (Least Terns and another Piping Plover at Kimball Bottoms near Bismarck; a large nesting colony of Cattle Egrets, White-faced Ibis, and Franklin’s Gulls at DeWald Slough; and nice views of Clark’s Grebes at Eckelson Lake).

Finally, in addition to all the birds we saw, there was an abundance of impressive scenery provided by the rugged Badlands of both Dakotas, the forested canyons and mountains of the Black Hills, and the endless horizons of vast national grasslands. There were even several interesting mammals along the way (see list below) – plus one reptile species which was especially memorable when we heard its rattle at two places.


June 15 – Meet in Morris MN by 8:00 am; drive to Wall SD via Snowy Egret on Hwy 28, Say’s Phoebe on Traverse CR 2, Wilmot Information Center, Aberdeen, Roscoe Lake, and below Oahe Dam (Piping Plover); night in Wall & dinner for most at the Red Rock.

June 16 – Badlands Nat’l Park from Pinnacles Entrance to Ben Reifel Visitor Center & Cliff Shelf Nature Trail, Hwy 44 to Buffalo Gap Nat’l Grassland, Spring Creek Rd to Hermosa, and first of 3 nights at Rockerville Lodge; dinner at The Gaslight.

June 17 – Tepee Gulch pre-breakfast option, Hill City (hummingbirds), Jewel Cave Nat’l Monument, Roby & Boles canyons (heard-only Virginia’s), Hell Canyon, and return to Rockerville via Mt Rushmore; dinner for most at The Gaslight.

June 18 – Tepee Gulch option, Sylvan Lake & Black Elk Peak Trail 9, Custer State Park Wildlife Loop & Four Mile Draw Rd (Lewis’s nest), and return to Rockerville via dinner at Lintz Brothers Pizza.

June 19 – Drive to Hanna Rd via Rapid City and Hwys 44 & 385, Long Draw Rd & Ward Draw (Pacific Wren), Roughlock Falls and Iron Creek in Spearfish Canyon (dippers); drive to Bowman ND for first of 2 nights via Hwy 85 & Picnic Springs Campground (Pinyon Jay for some).  

June 20 – Camp Crook Rd & connecting side roads between Marmarth and 4 mi N of SD state line (Baird’s & Brewer’s), incl alleged sage grouse lek & Rhame Prairie; return to Bowman, and picnic dinner for most at Picnic Springs Campground (incl a poorwill display for dessert!).

June 21 – Slope Co grasslands NE of Amidon along 140h Ave (Sprague’s Pipit), Painted Canyon Visitor Center, Theodore Roosevelt Nat’l Park, and drive to Dickinson via Patterson Lake; night in Dickinson & dinner at Los Cabos / El Sombrero.

June 22 – Return to Minnesota via optional stops at Kimball Bottoms S of Bismarck (Least Terns), DeWald Slough in Kidder Co (egrets & ibis), and Eckelson Lake in Barnes Co (Clark’s Grebes); night in Morris or return home.

Bird List

• SD = seen/heard in South Dakota

• ND = seen/heard in North Dakota

• boldfaced species = “non-Minnesota” birds (Casual, Accidental, or absent in MN)

Snow Goose          SD,ND

Canada Goose          SD,ND

Wood Duck          SD

Blue-winged Teal          SD,ND

Northern Shoveler          SD,ND

Gadwall          SD,ND

American Wigeon          SD,ND

Mallard          SD,ND

Northern Pintail          SD,ND

Green-winged Teal          SD,ND

Canvasback          SD,ND

Redhead          SD,ND

Ring-necked Duck          SD

Lesser Scaup          SD

Bufflehead          ND

Hooded Merganser          ND

Ruddy Duck          SD,ND

Gray Partridge          SD

Ring-necked Pheasant          SD,ND

Sharp-tailed Grouse          SD,ND

Wild Turkey          SD,ND

Pied-billed Grebe          SD

Red-necked Grebe          SD

Eared Grebe          SD,ND

Western Grebe          SD,ND

Clark’s Grebe          ND

Rock Pigeon          SD,ND

Eurasian Collared-Dove          SD,ND

Mourning Dove          SD,ND

Common Nighthawk          SD,ND

Common Poorwill          SD

Chimney Swift          SD

White-throated Swift          SD

Broad-tailed Hummingbird          SD

Sora          SD,ND

American Coot          SD,ND

American Avocet          SD,ND

Piping Plover          SD,ND

Killdeer          SD,ND

Upland Sandpiper          SD,ND

Long-billed Curlew          ND

Marbled Godwit          SD,ND

Wilson’s Snipe          SD,ND

Spotted Sandpiper          SD,ND

Willet          SD,ND

Wilson’s Phalarope          SD,ND

Franklin’s Gull          SD,ND

Ring-billed Gull          SD,ND

California Gull          SD

Least Tern          ND

Caspian Tern          SD

Black Tern          SD,ND

Forster’s Tern          SD,ND

Double-crested Cormorant          SD,ND

American White Pelican          SD,ND

American Bittern          SD

Great Blue Heron          SD,ND

Great Egret          SD,ND

Snowy Egret          ND (also seen in MN)

Cattle Egret          ND

Black-crowned Night-Heron          ND

White-faced Ibis          SD,ND

Turkey Vulture          SD,ND

Osprey          SD

Golden Eagle          SD,ND

Northern Harrier          SD,ND

Bald Eagle          SD,ND

Swainson’s Hawk          SD,ND

Red-tailed Hawk          SD,ND

Ferruginous Hawk          SD,ND

Great Horned Owl          SD,ND

Burrowing Owl          SD,ND

Short-eared Owl          SD

Belted Kingfisher          SD,ND

Lewis's Woodpecker          SD

Red-headed Woodpecker          SD,ND

Red-naped Sapsucker          SD

Am. Three-toed Woodpecker          SD

Hairy Woodpecker          SD,ND

Northern Flicker          SD,ND (both “Red- shafted” & “Yellow-shafted”)

Pileated Woodpecker          SD

American Kestrel          SD,ND

Peregrine/Prairie falcon, sp.          SD

Great Crested Flycatcher          SD

Western Kingbird          SD,ND

Eastern Kingbird          SD,ND

Western Wood-Pewee          SD,ND

Least Flycatcher          ND

Dusky Flycatcher          SD

Cordilleran Flycatcher          SD

Say’s Phoebe          SD,ND (also seen in MN)

Loggerhead Shrike          SD,ND

Plumbeous Vireo          SD

Warbling Vireo          SD,ND (both Eastern & Western types)

Red-eyed Vireo          SD,ND

Canada Jay          SD

Pinyon Jay          SD

Blue Jay          SD

Clark's Nutcracker          SD (heard-only)

Black-billed Magpie          SD,ND

American Crow          SD,ND

Horned Lark          SD,ND

Purple Martin          ND

Tree Swallow          SD

Violet-green Swallow          SD

N. Rough-winged Swallow          SD

Bank Swallow          SD,ND

Cliff Swallow          SD,ND

Barn Swallow          SD,ND

Black-capped Chickadee          SD,ND

Red-breasted Nuthatch          SD

White-breasted Nuthatch          SD,ND (Western type)

Pygmy Nuthatch          SD

Brown Creeper          SD

Rock Wren          SD

House Wren          SD,ND

Pacific Wren          SD

Sedge Wren          ND

Marsh Wren          SD,ND

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher          SD

American Dipper          SD

Golden-crowned Kinglet          SD

Ruby-crowned Kinglet          SD

Eastern Bluebird          SD

Mountain Bluebird          SD,ND

Townsend’s Solitaire          SD

Veery          SD

Swainson’s Thrush          SD

American Robin          SD,ND

Gray Catbird          SD,ND

Brown Thrasher          SD,ND

European Starling          SD,ND

Cedar Waxwing          SD,ND

House Sparrow          SD,ND

Sprague's Pipit          ND

House Finch          SD,ND

Red Crossbill          SD (Type 2; IDs by Matt Young at Cornell)

Pine Siskin          SD

American Goldfinch          SD,ND

Chestnut-collared Longspur          ND

Spotted Towhee          SD,ND

Chipping Sparrow          SD,ND

Clay-colored Sparrow          ND

Brewer's Sparrow          ND

Field Sparrow          SD,ND

Vesper Sparrow          SD,ND

Lark Sparrow          SD,ND

Lark Bunting          SD,ND

Savannah Sparrow          ND

Grasshopper Sparrow          SD,ND

Baird's Sparrow          ND

LeConte’s Sparrow          ND (heard-only)

Song Sparrow          SD,ND

Swamp Sparrow          ND (heard-only)

Dark-eyed (White-winged) Junco          SD

Yellow-breasted Chat          SD,ND

Yellow-headed Blackbird          SD,ND

Bobolink          SD,ND

Western Meadowlark          SD,ND

Orchard Oriole          SD,ND

Bullock's Oriole          ND

Baltimore Oriole          ND

Red-winged Blackbird          SD,ND

Brown-headed Cowbird          SD,ND

Brewer’s Blackbird          SD,ND

Common Grackle          SD,ND

Ovenbird          SD

Virginia's Warbler          SD (heard-only)

MacGillivray's Warbler          SD

Common Yellowthroat          SD,ND

American Redstart          SD,ND

Yellow Warbler          SD,ND

Yellow-rumped Warbler          SD (“Audubon’s” type)

Western Tanager          SD

Black-headed Grosbeak          SD,ND

Blue Grosbeak          SD

Lazuli Bunting          SD,ND

Indigo Bunting          SD

Dickcissel          SD

Significant Others:

Eastern Cottontail

White-tailed Jackrabbit

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Fox Squirrel

Red Squirrel

Eastern Chipmunk

Black-tailed Prairie Dog


White-tailed Deer

Mule Deer


Bighorn Sheep


Wild Horse

Prairie Rattlesnake

*          *          *


Clark's Grebe, Eckelson Lake, Barnes County, ND

– Kathrynne Baumtrog photo –

Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Hill City, SD

– Roy Zimmerman photo –

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND

– Roy Zimmerman photo –

Rhame Prairie, ND

– Roy Zimmerman photo –

Black Elk (formerly Harney) Peak, highest point in SD (7242 feet)

– Roy Zimmerman photo –

Badlands National Park, SD

– Roy Zimmerman photo –

Black-tailed Prairie Dog, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND

– Roy Zimmerman photo –

Pronghorns, Custer State Park, SD

– KRE photo –

Lazuli Bunting, Painted Canyon Visitor Center, ND

– Carla Bates photo –

Black-headed Grosbeak, Black Hills, SD

– Roy Zimmerman photo –

Bullock's Oriole, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND

– Denny Martin photo –

Baird's Sparrow, near Camp Crook Rd, Bowman County, ND

– KRE photo –

Brewer's Sparrow, Camp Crook Rd, Bowman County, ND

– KRE photo –

Spotted Towhee, Badlands National Park, SD

– Roy Zimmerman photo –

Chestnut-collared Longspur, Rhame Prairie, Bowman County, ND

– Carla Bates photo –

Sprague's Pipit, 140th Ave, Slope County, ND

– Roy Zimmerman photo –

American Dipper, Roughlock Falls, SD

– Roy Zimmerman photo –

Red-naped Sapsucker, Black Elk Peak Trail 9, SD

– Roy Zimmerman photo –

Lewis's Woodpecker, Four Mile Draw, Custer State Park, SD

– Denny Martin photo –

Cordilleran Flycatcher, Black Hills, SD

– Roy Zimmerman photo –

Western Tanager, Black Hills, SD

– Roy Zimmerman photo –

Bighorn Sheep, Badlands National Park, SD

– Roy Zimmerman photo –