Like A Blizzard, Only With Rain

Look! I found more bird mugs! The other side of this one also features a cardinal and a goldfinch. Oooooo, ahhhhhh.

Well, the weather has been interesting so far in North Dakota--even more interesting than last year.

Yeah, I don't know exactly what this hat a local rancher was wearing is trying to say either, but it made me laugh.

I'm staying at the absolutely lovely Pipestem Creek--more on that later. I'm in a double wide trailer that has been converted into a little, cozy cabin--it's just cute, perfect and surrounded by birds. It's called the Bobolink, so what could be better?

Last night, I called Non Birding Bill and asked him to check the weather--I don't have internet access, a radio or tv in the cabin, so didn't know what expect. He said that they were predicting storms for my area with a tornado watch. I went to sleep at about 11pm.

I had a strange dream about my next door neighbors installing a large blinking sign that read "Eat At Joe's". It just kept blinking and irritating me. Then I woke up--it was continuous lightening--not a flashing sign. I looked at my phone and it was now 12:45am. The wind had picked up considerably and the lightening was a non stop strobe light. I was half asleep still but noticed a distinct rumbling almost train-like sound. Crap! Had the tornado watch turned to a warning? I started a checklist in my head: Did I hear a tornado siren: no, could I hear hail: no, was I in a trailer aka tornado magnet: yes! I debated with myself if I should dash over to the owner's house or risk the trailer--the lightening was continuous, so it is possible it was just non stop thunder. I decided to go the bathroom where there was plumbing that went to the ground. After five minutes, the rumbling lessened. The lightening still flickered for another half hour. And I went back to sleep before my alarm went off at 3:45am.

When I met the field trip at 4:30am, I overheard someone say that a tornado warning had been declared last night in the county I'm staying in. Yikes! Makes me rethink that rumbling.

I've said something like this before, and I'll say it again: Prairie birding--the thrill of longspurs, the agony of wind...and rain...ugh. It was not the best day to go searching for soft singing grassland sparrows. I had a tough enough time digiscoping this yellow-headed blackbird clinging to this reed while trying to sing his scratchy song.

It started off just misty and chilly, but by late morning it was full on wind and very hard rain. The bus driver heard a weather report that said it was going to be pretty much like a blizzard, only with rain instead of snow. Awful, weather for birding. But we trudged on--literally. Here's a clip to give you an idea of the wind. I think the wind is so loud that you can't really hear the rain pelting my jacket and camera. It's only 14 seconds long:

Sound fun? Ah, yes, my glamorous lifestyle! We did see some really awesome birds. We found a field that was just chock full of Le Conte's sparrows.

While we were going through the field looking for the sparrows, one of our group flushed a mallard hen. We paused thinking a nest was nearby an we didn't want to step on the eggs. All of a sudden we heard faint peeping and a little shift of grass revealed chicks hatching! We decided to leave the nest, and I took a photo so folks could see the nest without all 32 of us disturbing the nest. I also took a six second video:

Don't worry, the hen made it back to them in plenty of time.

The winds were so strong that the lakes and ponds were cresting.

Even the birds like this American avocet seemed to be feeling the effects of the wind. It's gotta be tough to search around for birds in this weather. It's gotta be even tougher if you are a bird looking for food in the water.

The forecast is for perfect weather the next few days, so I'm hopeful to have some fantastico digiscoped shots.