The weekend debate between candidates for North Dakota's only seat in the U.S. House didn't produce much to distinguish one from the other. Of course, it is early in the campaign. Whether subsequent encounters will differentiate these two is problematic, however; both Republican Kelly Armstrong and Democrat Mac Schneider played cagey at Saturday's debate sponsored by the North Dakota Newspaper Association and held at its annual convention.
At this time of year, nature puts on such an extravagant show that it's hard not to be prurient. A case in point is the courtship dance of the sharp-tailed grouse. This is going on with exceptional intensity this year, because the grouse were late getting about the business, due to the late spring. There was little activity at the local lek until mid-April, and that was rather subdued. With the onset of strong sun and warm weather, the mating rituals of this iconic grassland species took on real intensity.
For a moment last week, it looked as if Heidi Heitkamp might have caught a break — and from a surprising source, her U.S. Senate colleague Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana. Tester was the face of Senate opposition to Ronny Jackson, the president's choice to head the Department of Veterans Affairs. Trump vowed vengeance. Tester is one of 10 Democrats seeking re-election to the Senate in states that Trump carried. Heitkamp is another.
The northern harrier is underappreciated, I think. I seldom hear it remarked upon, and I doubt it stands very high on many lists of favorite birds. Yet the harrier is a remarkable bird in many ways, with a striking appearance and interesting behaviors that set it apart from other species. What's more, it is widespread, fairly common and easy to recognize. It would likely show up on the daily list of any casual birder who ventured outside the limits of a town, and probably anyone who has ever driven through any substantial area of grassland has seen one, or likely more than one.
Doug Burgum's picture was on the Herald's front page three days last week, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, and it was in the same spot each day, in the left-hand column just above the fold. Even the headline type was the same. The news was bad, for the most part. Tuesday's headline read "Auditors look at Burgum office flights." The article reported that the state auditor is looking at "travel related expenditures and use of state resources" by the governor's office, which is already defensive.
It's meadowlark season, even though the season is about a month overdue. The western meadowlark is easy to identify when it's sitting on a fence post with its bright yellow breast exposed, but you're likely to see meadowlarks in other poses, and the truth is that a meadowlark that hides its breast is a pretty plain bird. The meadowlark is a roadside bird, often occurring in ditches, especially those with extensive grassland beyond them. That means meadowlarks can be spotted from the windows of cars traveling rural roads.
Can this presidency be saved? That's the question being asked at UND, not least by the president himself. Mark Kennedy has said he hopes to regain the confidence of the campus community and the state. He's begun an effort to achieve that goal. The question isn't new, but it's gained urgency in the wake of Kennedy's unsuccessful application for a different presidency, the one at the University of Central Florida. He was one of four finalists. Kennedy has insisted that he didn't seek the job but responded to an invitation to apply.
A new species, the first in a fortnight, showed up at my feeder array early last week, and I was happy to see it. It was an American tree sparrow, not unexpected at this time of year. The tree sparrow is an early migrant. Those passing through our area are probably bound for northern Manitoba, where tree sparrows are common nesting birds. My view of it was clear and full on. The top of the bird's head was red or rusty; the back was streaked with brown; the wings had white bars; the breast was clear except for some smudges.
North Dakota's political party conventions both occurred at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, and the difference between them was apparent on entering the room. At the Democrats' convention, the corners were dark to obscure empty spaces while at the Republican meeting, they were lit to display overflow crowds. Greater numbers mean bigger vibes. The Democrats seemed compact and confident; the Republicans seemed large and in charge.
Standing at the window watching the weather can become a consuming activity. Even if the weather seems changeless, something will come into view. While so engaged one day last week, a large bird swept into sight over the tree line and headed straight for the window. It pulled up, veered away and disappeared. The bird was a red-tailed hawk, part of the "raptor surge" I mentioned last week and the first of its species I've seen this season.