Sunday, June 11, 2006

Sacred Places

Sunday, June 11, 2006
Male chestnut-collared longspur, singing in his sacred place, which he kindly shared with me.

Every now and then I stumble across a place that just feels right to me. A place where I could simply sit for hours doing nothing but soaking in everything around me. Today I found just such a place about an hour and a half west of Jamestown.

I headed out in the late morning, my only destination: a place with lark buntings. I had some general directions from one of the local ND birders and so I roared west on I-64. I did stop in the town of Steele to see the world's largest sandhill crane (more on that in a subsequent post). Getting off 64, I ambled north into the dry, rolling prairie of Burleigh County. This was as far west as I've ever been in ND, so it was new territory.

I stopped at a likely spot and as soon as I got out of the car, my ears were greeted with the raspy warbled song of the lark bunting--two males were settling a border dispute. Then I noticed how lovely the land was all around me.

The lark buntings were too shy to get good photos of, but they seemed to get along well with their neighbors.

Grassy rolling hills stretched from horizon to horizon. And the bird song, even with the strong wind, was like a symphony. Chestnut-collared longspurs, lark buntings, clay-colored, grasshopper, and vesper sparrows, horned larks, western meadowlarks, marbled godwits, willets, upland sandpipers, and sky-high overhead, a Sprague's pipit.

This marbled godwit chased every car that passed down the road, protecting his turf.

The weather was still poor for digiscoping, but I remained undeterred, snapping of frame after frame that I knew would be soft.

Due to the high winds, the kingbirds were laying low, grabbing insects off the ground.

Small piles of round granite stones were scattered here and there, piled up by farmers during plowing. I chose one pile to photograph and remember, touching the cool stones and wishing I could take them home for the garden or front stoop. The stones seemed to vibrate in my hands.

Plow-cast piles of rocks are everywhere. I loved this one especially.

Despite the cold wind and the occasional drizzle, I spent more than two hours at this spot. I just seemed to resonate with this particular piece of the planet. It wasn't just the landscape, or the birds, or the rocks, or the weather-beaten wooden fence--it was all of that and then some.

It felt so good to be alone in this sacred and magical place. I hope to go back again one day.

This upland sandpiper promised to watch over my sacred North Dakota place for me until I return.


On June 11, 2006 at 12:17 PM Anonymous said...

Bill:It is so nice to read your posts about N.D.Your appreciation for and your spiritual connection with the prairie and the couteu region is such a pleasure to read.Many here in ND fail to appreciate what we have.Thanks,l.james lantz

On June 16, 2006 at 12:06 PM Bill of the Birds said...

Thanks LJL.
I DO love ND. Every time I go there I feel very at home. And every time I leave, I feel as though I leave a part of me behind.

It's an easy part of the world to love.

On June 19, 2006 at 3:02 PM Rob said...

Oh man! You made me remember how much I love the plains! Thanks.