Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Trip day three: Valentine National Wildlife Refuge

I woke to heavy overcast skies, bouts of spitting rain, and a steady wind that made it feel more like February than April. I bundled up and headed south into the heart of the Nebraska sand dunes. I have cut through the dunes many times in my drives from Minnesota to Colorado and back, and they were a large part of my decision to expand a long weekend with the family into a week long driving tour. Getting to explore them was much better than zipping by at 60.
Eastern Bluebirds were a species I hoped for but wasn't sure if I would see. There were two where I got this picture, and another Great Horned further back in the grove.

I also took several hundred pictures trying to capture the swallows hunting insects over the lake. This was one of the better efforts of a Tree Swallow, but they are a species that is going to need more light.

Leaving Duck Lake I headed back north past an evergreen windbreak, and stopped to enjoy good views of Cedar Waxwings. The color on their wingtips and tails can't be appreciated until seen live. Amazing.

The lakes were abound with waterfowl, no cranes or swans, but plenty to pick out nonetheless. Here a Bufflehead was getting a running start.

Valentine was a great place to experience the dune lake environments, and I logged a great number of lifers there driving the roads. Next time I visit I hope the sun can make an appearance though, just imagine the Horned Grebes above in full sunlight!

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