Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Refuges, Refuges, Refuges,

North Dakota has more refuges than any other state. There are at least 63 refuges here and we are visiting as many of these refuges as we can. We drove over 500 miles yesterday to visit three of them.

Our first stop was J. Clark Salyer where our youngest son was an intern in the late 90's. He is now the South Texas Zone Biologist for the service.

It was interesting to see and walk in the same area where he had spent time while working there.

With 58,700 acres, it runs 45 miles and is the largest refuge in North Dakota. It is nestled in the lakebed of glacial Lake Souris surrounded by coteaus. The mixed-grass prairie support a great diversity of prairie wildlife.

A view from the overview by the contact station.

We were a little disappointed with our reception. The fellow did not know where the refuge stamp was and really did not care to look for it without my insistence. We were interested in driving the 22 mile auto tour, but he could not find the guide with the numbered spots!!! We did not stay long and soon left. Not to say we won't be back though.

A quick lunch stop at the Homesteaders in Minot. The building has petrified wood, which was beautiful. The food was okay.

On to the next refuge!!!

What a different reception we got here. Patty, the receptionist got up out of here chair with a nice smile (the way it should be) and enthusiastically welcomed us. Even the refuge manager came out to visit with us.

We took the short auto tour with a numbered guide explaining what we were seeing.

What a beautiful, picturesque drive that turned out to be. We found steep, native grass-covered hills, shrub-filled "coulees" (another French word meaning ravine) and a meandering river lined with hardwoods. Souris is another French word meaning "mouse" as there were many mice found in the meadows.

There are 32,034 acres and it extends for 35 miles along the beautiful Souris River Valley.

From this vantage point, we found many wildflowers blooming.

There were wood lilies scattered all around.

We spent so much time at this refuge...we liked it a lot...we were late getting to the next one, and they were closed, meaning we didn't get our book stamped...bummer.

Finally, we got to Lostwood.

We were running out of time, but picked up some brochures and headed out on the auto tour.

With 26,904 acres, it has many unique species of grassland birds that are prairie dependent such as Sprague's pipits and Baird's sparrow...and we still don't have the Baird's sparrow!!! 

This is as far as we drove on the auto tour route. The fire tower is 100 feet tall, but we could only go up halfway...that is as far as they allow. BUT, what some incredible views.

The auto tour goes for seven miles...we were ready to head home. Don't know if we will return this year to do it justice, but if we come back for a second season, it will get visited again...maybe we can get some of those grassland species early in the year when they make an appearance from the grass to sing!!!

I am always curious to know how the refuges are named. The first settlers in this area found very few trees on the prairie. At one time, a small grove of trees was located near Lostwood Lake. They were cut down for fuelwood...a blizzard buried the wood and could not be found...hence the name.

How about this baby willet? Mama was close by guarding all three of them.

I could write so much more as there is so much more about these refuges...this is just a condensed version of our time we spent visiting these three refuges.

Thanks for visiting and we hope you found it to be interesting.

Until next time...

Saturday, June 27, 2015

State Capitol Complex

November 2, 1889, North Dakota became a state with Bismarck being the State Capitol.

Fire destroyed the first Capitol Building.

With a 2 million dollar budget for the new one, builders sought a style that would be efficient in space and operation, Art Deco. The 19-story building sits on 132 acres with the Administrator Tower standing 241 feet and 8 inches tall.

We were given a private tour as we were the only ones there to take one.

The first floor, Memorial Hall, was quite impressive with its 40 foot ceiling. The chandeliers (12 feet long), represent a head of wheat with each one weighing 1000 pounds and contains 109 light bulbs, turned on only at night.

The raised sculptures above the revolving brass doors represent two of North Dakotas largest industries: farming and mining.

The ceiling in the House of Representatives is the only thing different I will mention. The lighting is called "Stars and Moon at Night." In the Senate, it is called "Sunrise or Sunset."

Our guide took us to the top of the tower. As we entered the elevator, she talked about the bronze door sculptures depicting "The Pioneer Experience." 

There were beautiful kinds of wood used throughout, and lots of marble from various states.

We looked for the Liberty Bell and found out it was on loan...was not there!!!

From the top, we were able to see for 35 miles away. 

We stopped near the entrance to get our book stamped to validate our visit.

We were surprised to see there was no security. Wallace always empties his pockets of his knife and fingernail clippers, but it was not even necessary here.

We had a little time to check out the Heritage Center where we found the statue of Sakakawea, "The Bird Woman." She guided the Lewis and Clark expedition.

We really liked the Buffalo sculpture made from rebar.

The Heritage Center is mind boggling. We did not have time to do it justice, but I might cover it in another post.

This State Capitol was not the most beautiful, but there were some interesting things to see...if you go, ask to see the "monkey room."

Oh yes, we recently had another person to join our blog...welcome to you, Mollie.

Until next time...

Friday, June 19, 2015

Day With Drew

In an earlier post we told you about running into Drew Williams working here...he invited us back for a refuge tour. That tour took place soon after, and I am just now reviewing the pictures and making our story about it.

The first stop was at Chase Lake and it covers over 2000 acres. It is highly alkaline meaning there no freshwater fish or invertebrates living in the water.

All that white color we see...all American White Pelicans.

We get our scope out...that is Drew trying to find a chick for me. Below is as close a look as we could get. 

Chase Lake is an important nesting area for American White Pelicans since the early 1800's. By the time over hunting them ceased, there were only 50 birds left. That is when the refuge was established in 1908. The population now fluctuates between 4,000 and 35,000 breeding birds. Drew is concerned this island won't be here much longer because of water levels, but feels something will all work out for the birds.

Being that there is no food in the lake for the pelicans, they must travel up to 100 miles for food.

Pelicans are not the only birds they manage for.

While traveling around the refuge, we spot this Upland Sandpiper. It was quite comical watching it try to perch on this pointed post.

Then this Wilson's Snipe gave us a good look.

This is the first one we have seen in North Dakota so we ticked him off. ha!!! The only duck we had not seen was the wigeon and Drew was determined to get us one on "his" refuge.  And he did!!! 

Oh, and a pheasant made his appearance, and added some color.               
We saw much more, but the highlight for us was the tipi rings.

I am standing in the center of a tipi ring where native American Indians once stood.

The rocks held the tipi's down. There is an adjoining one to my right with many more in this area. They are on a little hill with a good view of things around. One can see why this was a good spot for them.

Drew even hopped over a barbed wire fence to check out a flower I had spotted.

We had a wonderful time touring the refuge, and spending time with a great guy learning so much from him. We have made plans to get together here at Sullys Hill around the 5th of July. He has never been here so it will be our turn to show him around.

This caught my eye...on the mailboxes in this little town, sculptures depicting the agriculture of the area.

On our way back to our refuge, this is a sign we saw.

We did not even cross over a hill!!!

Until next time...

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Few Tasks

We have a list of things to get accomplished while we are here at Sullys Hill. Following are the ones we chose to do today.

This overlook is shaky. We took 4 2X4's and other tools to fix it.

We should have taken some rope to tie off to as the bank is steep!!!

We discovered one of the main 4X4's was not very deep in the ground.

So, down the hill we go with supplies in hand, trying not to slip down the slope as we take care to keep away from the poison ivy.

We brace all the areas we think needs it.

Cut the brace at a 45 degree angle and screw it into place.

We went all the way around the base of the overlook, then trekked up to the top to check it out.

I struggled as I picked up trash, holding onto a small woody tree to keep from sliding down into the lake below.

All part of the job.

Next was a trip to Lake Alice to work on signs.

Colleen asked if we could take down the plexiglass from in front of the signs, move them to the back, then wash and wax the signs down.

Wallace is removing the frame.

We have a bucket of water to wash the signs, then I begin to wax them.

I think this is a great idea...had never done this before...using a marine type wax on the signs. 

All kinds of c___! gets behind that plexiglass including moisture. This way, we can keep it clean.

One caption I saw while in school, and I will never forget..."put on the finishing touch after a job."

We took a broom along with us. After taking down all the spider webs, the concrete pad got swept.

Moving right along. The cable that held the backdrop for the archery needed repairing.

Our work truck served as a ladder.

This concludes some of the tasks this week.

Colleen shared her secret stash of asparagus...the area where you can find it.

We had checked several times without luck, but today...there it was!!!

Until next time...

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Cookies Anyone?

Wallace was sent off to mow a trail, and my job was to make 35 tree cookies for an event that was held yesterday.

After finding the right tree to cut down (choke cherry), I had to ask Colleen to cut it down...I am not certified to use a chain saw.

Next, using the drill press to make the holes for the leather straps in order to hang them around their necks.

Wallace finished up just in time to snap these shots before I was finished with them.

This is just part of the mess I made, but it was fun doing this little chore even though it was a little messy!!!

I think Colleen thought I could not handle this job, but it got done.

You can see the tree cookie hanging from this little girls neck. They were given the freedom of decorating it themselves.

They even got an added bonus of lichen on the bark.

The classroom was filled with children and they all enjoyed their tree cookies.

Cookies anyone??????

Until next time...

Friday, June 12, 2015

Potholes, Prairies, & Coteaus

What is a coteau, you ask? It is French for "little rolling hills." 

North Dakota is called the "Prairie Pothole Region" of the United States. Glaciers formed this area, creating all these potholes (wetlands). Not only potholes, but coteaus. We are enjoying our travels through this varied scenery.

Try as hard as I might...I just cannot come up with a really nice picture of the coteaus. You can see some rolling hills, with prairie, and of course some potholes, all created from the glaciers. There are a few moraine piles farmers pile up in their fields...rocks left over from the glaciers. There are a couple of them in this photo.

Devils Lake Wetland Management District covers the Northeast corner of the state, and is managed by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. These areas provide spring and summer nesting, feeding, and resting for the hundreds of thousands of waterfowl. The District manages over 45,000 acres of wetlands and other wildlife habitats located on approximately 201 separate Waterfowl Production Areas (WPA's). Lake Alice NWR (12,200 acres), Sullys Hill NGP (1,674 acres), Kellys Slough (1,867 acres), 11 easement refuges, and 154,000 acres of wetland easements. These easements protect wetlands from draining, filling, and burning.

We are having fun doing our little part for this huge area.

Until next time...

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A Day at Kellys Slough

Kellys Slough is about 100 miles east of Sullys Hill NGP. It is one of the refuges in this complex where we have volunteered to drive to to take care of the area as well as replace some of the signage.

This is the sign box where everything one needs is at the ready...all organized. The signs we put up here are put up using rivets and a rivet gun. Now, this is not the first trip we have made here. Our first trip, we discovered the rivet gun was broken. They knew this but did not share that with us. We now have one that works. Wallace likes installing the signs this way over bolts and nuts. Now, all the bad signs have been replaced.

Does this sign need replacing?


Wallace also replaced the waterfowl signs. For this he had to put on waders to cross some of the ditches. Maybe I need to do a post on some of the difficulties we go through to get the jobs done. This one is minor, but there have been some doozies!!!

While Wallace weed whacked the parking area, I worked on the restroom...putting in toilet paper, sweeping, and picking up the trash...one little trash can inside the restroom. I make sure all the spider webs are swept down off the walls, inside and out.

Then I move over to the trails leading to the overlook.

Wormwood is an invasive, the plant you can see to the left of the photo. I have time to pull these. After that, I birded while I waited for Wallace to finish.

Not a bad view from the overlook where I watch the waterfowl. There are Canvasback, Common Merganzer, Redheads, Canada Geese, Lesser Scaup, etc. An eagle flew over menacing the ducks.

The birding has been phenomenal!!! Here is a Western Flycatcher posing for me.

North Dakota has changed our opinion...we are really liking the area.

This is a ten hour day...but we don't mind. Wallace was bone tired and slept well last night.

Kellys Slough doesn't get visited much...there is no one there manning the area. It is a unit of the Devils Lake Wetland Management District (WMD). The 1,270 acre refuge is surrounded by 2,500 acres of Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs) which were purchased with Federal Duck Stamp funds. Twelve species of ducks nest on the refuge with mallards and gadwalls making up about half of the ducks.

Until next time...