Short-eared Owl - Photo Alan Schmierer

Our February statewide OYBC field trip attracted excited birders from all chapters to icy Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area, eager to spy winter favorites like Merlins and pheasants. Despite the BSBO “bird bus” refusing to start, the young birders, unwilling to miss out, divided into smaller carpools. Creating a train of cars, we drove to all the best Killdeer Plains hotspots, hopping out whenever someone noticed a bird and communicating via walkie-talkies.

There was some discussion as to whether the Northern Bobwhite spotted under the shelter of a roadside plant was a pet, but we enjoyed observing it anyway. Stopping by a frozen-over pond, we watched as a flock of Trumpeter Swans skidded onto the ice. The flock included one lovely pair performing a courting dance. We scoured a patch of woodlands for the elusive owls but found only pellets.

As the sun began to set, we reconvened at headquarters and began to pack up. Just as groups began to leave, a beautiful Short-eared Owl made an appearance in a nearby field. The rapidly increasing dark and distance made photographing the owl difficult, but everyone agreed; it was a perfect finale to a wintry day of birding.