Today I was joined by one of my very best friends. Carl drove all night after getting off work and was asleep in his van behind the motel when I walked out. The nighthawks were calling when I went to sleep last night, and they were flying overhead this morning when we pulled out of the parking lot. We heard a Whip-poor-will singing from the ridge along the Minnesota River, but none were calling at stop 1. The route soon climbed out of the riparian zone, and we looked at corn and soybean fields for the rest of the morning, with a couple of fields of peas thrown in and one sugar beet field. The only chance for woodland birds was around the farmsteads that all have groves of trees that serve as windbreaks. Some are quite elaborate and are planned and planted with forethought - others seem to be just what was there or took root. Some of the cottonwoods are immense in people's yards.
The butterfly fauna was scarce as it has been for all routes in all 3 states. The best mammal sighting today was a Richardson's ground squirrel that ran across the road at a stop and disappeared down a sizable burrow. Also saw what I think are pocket gopher mounds. Also patted a mule on the nose at one stop - can't remember the last time I saw one. We watched as two sizable pockets of rain showers approached and then slid past - one to the north and one to the south -a fortunate turn in the route to the west for 2 miles helped immensely, and we only felt a few small drops. And for wide open country, the wind wasn't a problem.
This route has only been run twice before - in 1993 and 94. Those results didn't foretell much excitement for today, and this turned out to be an accurate assessment. The totals in those counts were in the 30s; we managed to tally 45 this morning. More than a quarter of the species were represented by only 1 individual. Excluding the one large flock of geese and the grackles that are present at almost every stop, the two most abundant species were Horned Lark (64) and Vesper Sparrow (52).
Carl will join me again for tomorrow's count, which hopefully will be more diverse, and then head back home through the Twin Cities. As I'm staying in some pretty small towns as I go northward in Minnesota, I may have trouble connecting the laptop to a local number, delaying some of my postings. If you enjoy the web site, you may wish to pass on a THANKS to Lennie Lichter who was responsible for its design and for posting my information.