I love fall in South Dakota. It’s my favorite time of year, by far. Yes, I know what’s coming in a couple of months, and I’m not exactly thrilled when the snow flies and it’s 10 below! But nothing beats the gorgeous fall weather here, with cool nights and perfect fall days. I’m not particularly fond of heat and humidity, and while summers in eastern South Dakota are usually relatively pleasant, this past summer was an exception, with many more days of >90 degree heat and humidity than we’ve had in the past several summers. The cooler fall weather is certainly welcome!
The birding is pretty good in the fall as well! I’m a bit of an oddball, in that one of the big attractions for fall birding for me are the many varieties of sparrows that move through. Yes, the primary color you’re going to see on most of the sparrows is brown, but there are some truly beautiful sparrows that move through in migration, birds that to me rival the more colorful songbirds in beauty. Today I was trying to find and photography Le Conte’s and Nelson’s Sparrows, two species that are generally uncommon here in migration. I saw a Le Conte’s, but no Nelson’s and no photos of either. It was still a beautiful and productive day.
One of the things that’s so amazing about fall migration are the concentrations of birds you run into. There were gulls by the thousands in western Minnehaha County, mostly Franklin’s Gulls. Huge flocks of mixed blackbirds (mostly Common Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds, but I also saw a handful of Rusty Blackbirds in a wet field) were gathering for the fall migration. Sparrows were abundant in both variety and number. No real rarities for the day (although I don’t see Rusty Blackbirds often), but a nice day nonetheless!