April 25, 2017


By Jack Dura
Farmer Staff Writer

Two bighorn rams reared up and knocked heads, cracking together with the sound of a gunshot.
A dozen sharp-tailed grouse locked into pairs, raking each other in midair, flaring feathers and air sacs.
Two tom turkeys puffed up into full displays, strutting through the grass after two giddy hens.
Some real Kodak moments (NoDak moments, truly).
Wildlife in North Dakota is a treasure to observe. Imagine rolling along a backroad to come along 15 sharptails domineering a lek.
It’s like flipping through TV channels on a Sunday afternoon and finding “The Godfather” just started.
Sit back and watch the show because it doesn’t get better than this.
For the lack of habitat in North Dakota, the state has amazing wildlife, both big and small.
Like two dung beetles rolling a ball of feces through the rustling mixed grass prairie.
Or a Canada goose poking its head out of an eagle’s nest atop a Missouri River cottonwood.
My parents’ north Fargo backyard has been a great draw for fauna: Two mallards found comfort in our kiddie swimming pool, and my mother’s bird dog once chased a hen pheasant out of a bush.
Of course, the kestrel that visited the bird feeder was a highlight too.
And best of all: The pileated woodpeckers and northern cardinals which have, respectively, found their way to the Duras’ backyard.
But I digress.
Bighorn sheep don’t rut around Mom’s birdbath. You’ll have to take to the wild.
On my first visit to Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s North Unit, I counted 23 bison crossing the Little Missouri River below River Bend Overlook.
Like Kathy Bates’s character said as the cinematic Titanic sank into the sea, “Now there’s something you don’t see every day.”
Seven hundred thousand snow geese swirled around Lake Tewaukon in a blizzard of birds one March day, stopping along their great migration north from Texas.
What a sight.
I wonder what kind of wildlife documentary PBS could put together for a North Dakota “Nature” special.
Ruddy ducks courting near Minnewaukan’s shores?
Bald eagles cavorting in the Cayuga countryside?
Find a paddlefish and profile that monster of the Missouri River.
Or put a GoPro on Mom’s bird feeder. She counted 33 species one season (kestrel included).
In my humble opinion, those sharp-tailed grouse are on par with birds of paradise. Just watch their mating display.
Ring-necked pheasants? Naahh.
Listen to the soft, rapid slice of a flight of teal racing past you for splashdown in a slough. Witness the tens of thousands of pelicans at Chase Lake.
North Dakota has one species of bird for about every day of the calendar year.
But what about bison?
They’re OK. Give me sharptails every time.