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A river runs through it

Posted by: charlotte-chang | July 30, 2009 | No Comment |

This morning, Amy and I went prospecting for another potential MAPS site. John suggested that we find a site both closer to town (obviating the need to wake up obscenely early to get to a far-away site by dawn), and closer to the major river to compare avian community composition at varying distances from a permanent running water source.

The main river here is the Milk River, so named (at least I think) because of its opaque—i.e. milky—color and quality. It’s a slow-moving river, so it makes for fantastic invertebrate breeding grounds, and as such, attracts many flycatchers and other insectivores. We chose to go to Faraasen (alternatively spelled Faraason) park, a tract of public land lying adjacent to the Milk.

We saw our first Belted kingfisher of the season at the park. Based on the rusty flanks and triangular patch on the upper breast, we identified it as either a female or a juvenile. It was perched close to the water, and when we approached, it quickly flew away. It has a magnificent crest and striking coloration. (A picture of a kingfisher in flight can be found here, courtesy of the National Parks Service: http://www.nps.gov/prsf/naturescience/images/belted-kingfisher1.jpg.)

We also saw quite a few (>10) bank swallows throughout the park and perched on telephone wires running through the grassland flanking the park. They are North America’s smallest swallow (according to David Sibley), and they were being hassled by two very bold Eastern Kingbirds. Amy and I have noticed that the Eastern Kingbirds around here have a fairly outgoing or foolhardy/courageous personality for they will perch and call very loudly, content to not fly away until you are within 5 or less feet of it. Charles Carlson—John’s father—has some great pictures of bank swallows here: http://www.pbase.com/mccownii/image/115477782 and here: http://www.pbase.com/mccownii/image/115477741.

All in all, this site was very productive, and it certainly appeared to have a higher proportion of insectivores. With any luck, this will be a MAPS station in 2010!

Filed under: Prairie
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