Sunday, June 24, 2007

Nebraska Sandhills, Day Four

For some reason, the motel wifi wasn't working part of the evening Wednesday night. By the time I got my photos uploaded to the photography site, I just went to bed. Then Thursday night we had a beautiful thunderstorm. Spent at least an hour outside with my motel-mates chatting and watching the storm. Friday I came home and had to deal with problems with my elderly mother before I could even get the car unpacked. Sigh.

Wednesday was a cool morning and I wished for a pair of jeans and a lightweight jacket. By noon, I was glad to be in shorts. The days destination was Valentine NWR

Valentine National Wildlife Refuge lies in the heart of a vast area of undulating sand dunes which stretch across north-central Nebraska. The region, called the Sandhills, is the largest remaining tract of mid and tall grass prairie in North America.

Eons ago, receding waters exposed the bed of a huge inland sea located west of Nebraska. West winds attacked the sea bed and transported the sand to north-central Nebraska. Here the sand was deposited in the dunes which comprise the Sandhills....

Numerous lakes, productive marshes, and tall grasses on hills and meadows provide habitat for many kinds of wildlife. Blue-winged teal, mallards, pintails, gadwalls, redheads, ruddy ducks, and shovelers nest on the Refuge in large numbers. During fall and spring migrations, many other species of ducks stop to rest and feed. Sometimes as many as 150,000 ducks can be found on the Refuge, with peak numbers occurring in May and October.

More than 260 species of birds have been sighted on the Refuge. Herons, terns, shorebirds, pelicans, and many songbirds nest on and migrate through the Refuge. Long-billed curlews and upland sandpipers call from hill and fence post. In early spring, prairie chickens and sharp-tailed grouse gather on dancing grounds for their elaborate courtship display. Sandhill cranes pass over in spring and fall in great numbers filling the sky with trailing V's and musical rattling calls. Winter storms and cold weather bring the bald and golden eagles to hunt the snow covered prairie.

There are two roads that run east-west across the refuge. The northern road is called Little Hay Road Wildlife Drive. It is graveled and fairly well maintained. The southern road is the Pelican Lake road. Most of it is hard packed sand. The brocure you pick up at the information kiosk says four wheel drive in parenthises. There are some soft spots on the road, and since my 4WD kicks in automatically, I don't really know if it is necessary. But I thought I would mention it, anyway.

Barn Swallows had a nest at the information kiosk.

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I saw lots of dragonflies and damselflies. This one is a Twelve-spotted Skimmer.

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I have visited this refuge many times, and it never fails to disappoint.

The rest of the days photographs can be seen here.

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