Audubon Dakota names Kellys Slough NWR as ‘Important Bird Area’

Add Kellys Slough National Wildlife Refuge to the list of North Dakota lands recognized as “Important Bird Areas” in the state by Audubon Dakota.

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Three ducks make their way across Kellys Slough National Wildlife Refuge on a calm April morning in this photo shared by David Hanson of Grand Forks. The refuge west of Grand Forks has been named by Audubon Dakota as an Important Bird Area in the state.

Matt VanThuyne, manager of Kellys Slough, sent me a news release this morning about the designation. Kellys Slough joins the Oakville/Fairfield prairies in Grand Forks County and the Grand Forks Greenway on the list of Audubon Dakota’s “Important Bird Areas.”

Sites are designated based on their bird species diversity and significant breeding bird numbers.

“The sheer volume of songbirds, waterfowl and other avian species that use this area is just incredible,” Marshall Johnson, executive director of Audubon Dakota, said in a news release. “The presence of such abundant bird life speaks volumes about the ongoing management and partnerships with private cooperators that make these areas so vibrant.”

Reasons for listing Kellys Slough as an IBA included:

  • Use of the area by more than 50 different species of birds including greater prairie chickens, dickcissels and northern pintails.
  • Important habitat conservation and management practices that aid migrating and resident avian populations.

Audubon Dakota has identified 39 sites across the state as IBAs, six of which are recognized for their global importance.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is honored to have Kellys Slough National Wildlife Refuge recognized in this way by Audubon,” VanThuyne said in a statement. “The refuge is a truly unique place in the Red River Valley, and we are very proud of its role in providing critical habitat for migrating shorebirds and waterfowl.”

Back from Alaska — jet lag and all

Limited Internet access and problems with the Area Voices website prevented me from posting as many blog entries as I’d planned during my recent trip to Alaska, but I’m back in the flatlands, mildly jet-lagged but invigorated from the epic 10-day adventure I was fortunate enough to experience.

Our last day on the water was Saturday, and the four of us — Bob Jensen and Jerry Stanislowski of Grand Forks, Keith Omlie of Lankin, N.D., and myself —  finished the trip in style. Jensen, a veteran Alaska fisherman who organized the adventure and captained the “C Dragon,” our rented 25-foot boat, for the duration of our stay, put us on a veritable halibut mother lode.

With calm seas for the second day in a row, Jensen steered us some 50 miles from our home base in Seward, Alaska, and the bite was on as soon as we dropped our baits some 200 feet below.

I didn’t keep count, but by some estimates, we landed 100 halibut up to about 30 pounds in a couple of hours. That’s relatively small by halibut standards — the biggest fish are farther offshore than we dared venture — but the fish gave us everything we could handle just the same.

Anyone who says fishing isn’t exercise has never fished halibut.

“I’ve never been so tired from reeling in fish that I just wanted to quit,” Omlie said later.

We rarely were off the water before 9 p.m., but Saturday, we headed for port early to begin cleaning up the boat and preparing for the 125-mile drive north to Anchorage on Sunday.

We got back to Anchorage about 1 p.m. Sunday, and disaster was averted when a wheel bearing went out on the boat trailer just a couple of blocks from the house of Jensen’s older brother, Jim. Bob Jensen, who was driving the 30-foot RV that towed the boat, limped the rig the last few blocks, and Stanislowski, a mechanic by trade, was called on to put his skills to work yet again. Luckily, auto parts stores were open, and he was able round up the replacement parts needed to get the trailer back in commission. If the bearing had gone out somewhere along the mountainous Seward Highway, we would have faced a lengthy delay or perhaps lost a wheel, which could have been disastrous.

Our Monday flights from Anchorage to Minneapolis and from Minneapolis to Fargo were right on schedule, and we landed at Hector Airport shortly before midnight. The salmon and halibut we brought home, along with the photos, videos and countless stories we accumulated along the way, will serve as reminders of our Great Alaska Adventure for a long time to come.

Sunday, I’m planning a photo page featuring some of the photographs I took during the trip, and I’ll follow that up with stories from the adventure July 26. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, here are some more photos from a trip that flew by:

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Jerry Stanislowski of Grand Forks earned bragging rights for the trip with this 60-or-so-pound halibut.

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A mountain goat effortlessly walks along a cliff that towered above the Pacific Ocean near Seward, Alaska.

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A fishing boat is dwarfed by snow-capped mountains and glacial ice Saturday afternoon on the Pacific Ocean near Seward, Alaska.

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Bob Jensen of Grand Forks shows off a black rockfish he caught Saturday afternoon on the Pacific Ocean, the last day of a 10-day fishing trip to Seward, Alaska.

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Wilderness camping it’s not, but the campground in Seward, Alaska served up plenty of scenery for an evening meal of fried halibut, rockfish and — yes — even veggies.

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Safely back in Anchorage — bad wheel bearing and all — Sunday afternoon at the home of Jim Jensen, older brother of Bob Jensen, Grand Forks. Thanks to the mechanical savvy of Jerry Stanislowski of Grand Forks, the wheel bearing — which went out just a few blocks from Jim Jensen’s house — was replaced a short time later. Bob Jensen, a veteran Alaska fisherman, organized the trip and drove the RV that served as home for the 10-day adventure.

DNR names new assistant manager at Hayes Lake State Park

Hayes Lake State Park in northwest Minnesota has a new assistant manager, the Department of Natural Resources announced today.

Jack Pellinen began his new job June 19 and has been with the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division since 2002.

Hayes Lake State Park offers a variety of recreational options. (Minnesota DNR photo)

Hayes Lake State Park offers a variety of recreational options. (Minnesota DNR photo)

Hayes Lake State Park is located in southern Roseau County on the edge of Beltrami Island State Forest.

Pellinen began his career as a mine interpreter and parks worker at Soudan Underground Mine State Park in northeast Minnesota. He became a parks worker at Bear Head Lake State Park nearly Ely, Minn., in 2008, and then the administrative specialist. He went on to work as a park specialist at Temperance River, Tettegouche, and George H. Crosby-Manitou state parks in 2013 and 2014.

Most recently, Pellinen worked as the assistant park manager at McCarthy Beach State Park.

“We are excited to have Jack with us to help manage the Northwest Region Parks and Trails operations,” said Allen Lego, manager of Lake Bronson State Park in Kittson County, which has handled management of Hayes Lake. “He brings diverse experiences to our team and will be a big asset and great addition.”

Pellinen holds a bachelor’s degree in social studies from Bemidji State University. He enjoys sailing, blacksmithing, reading and playing music.

“I’m very excited to have the opportunity to work at Hayes Lake State Park. It’s a position I’ve been working hard to obtain,” Pellinen said in a news release. “The park offers fantastic recreation opportunities and a great variety of camping options. There’s something for everyone here.”

Pellinen adds he is looking forward to learning more about the horse and ATV trails that connect to Beltrami Island State Forest via the Bemis Hill recreation area.