Monday, January 29, 2018

Best Duck by a Dam Site

January 29,  2018  Pickstown, South Dakota, 10:00 am

Back in the days when America was a great country and we could multi-task, we built dams.  Authorized in the middle of an expensive war in 1944, Construction of Fort Randall Dam began in 1946 and President Eisenhower threw the switch  on it in 1954 just after the completion or at least the cessation of hostilities of another war.  The cost 200 million dollars.  How did we have all of this money to build things back then?  Oh wait, those WERE the good old days.

This dam, the first built from the Pick-Sloan Plan forever ended anyone doing what Lewis and Clark had done 150 years earlier, navigating the Missouri River into South Dakota and upstream at least to Great Falls.  In the twenty years that followed, 5 more large earthen dams would be built, one downstream at Gavin's Point and four more upstream.

Built for flood control and hydroelectric power, the dam makes lake Francis Case and generates 320 MW of power production, which as impressive as that may sound, the coal fired Big Stone powerplant near my house is rated at 474 MW, about 50% higher.

I'm not a real fan of dams.  The dam at Glen Canyon on the AZ / UT border, I, along with Edward Abbey, think it is among the biggest ecological nightmares ever concocted.  Yes, it generates 1300 MWs of power out of the Colorado, and none of this puts out any carbon, but I ask the people wanting a low carbon footprint, if destroying a wonderful canyon was worth this?  Is stopping the Colorado River from flowing into it's delta was worth it?  

What does blocking migration of fish on a major river in South Dakota do?

Okay, environment aside, one thing these dams do is keep the river open, and below this dam, and the ones upstream do is lead to places where waterfowl and gulls congregate.  One such bird that has appeared here, is the Barrow's goldeneye, in fact, this appears to be the 10th appearance of the bird in the ebird era, and as such, trying to get my South Dakota life list to my goal requires me to chase otherwise common birds.  

I should have went yesterday, but I got an attack of the lazies and the best I could do was to go out to hunt for owls, although all I found were finches.

My alarm went off at 4:30 and I arrived at 9:30 this morning after a 4 1/2 hour drive nearly to the Nebraska border.  I drove down to the tailrace and put my bins right on the bird.

TICK! it was feeding right in front of my car, SD lifer #290.

There were quite a few winter ducks hanging around, I got both goldeneyes, this flying common goldeneye got its picture taken.

There were red-breasted and common mergansers, this is a female common merg that was right in front of me....

and my wife's favorite duck....buffleheads.  I can never get a perfect photo of buffleheads, their contrast makes my camera go nuts

then I got another good bird with my Barrow's goldeneye, a lone glaucous gull, the only gull I saw while I was there.  Only my second one in this state and a good bird itself.

I watched the ducks for about an hour and then zig-zagged my way home, finding a good looking spot to dig out bobwhites possibly in the spring near Scotland, South Dakota, another bird I need

So yes, the Barrow's goldeneye, the best bird by a dam site, I've seen this year, but the year is early....

another day, another bird closer to the 300/800/850 club


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