.  The
Prairie Chicken Management Area consists of several tracts owned and managed by
North Dakota Game and Fish. The tracts are intermingled with private lands,
much of which is also grassland. In the past the area has been considered too
wet to convert to cropland. Some private lands are enrolled in the Conservation
Reserve Program; others are grazed. These lands are located in the northern
part of Grand Forks County, north and northwest of the towns of Mekinock and
Manvel, respectively. Smooth brome grass dominates much of the grassland while
stands of cattail have expanded greatly since the wet period began in 1993. The
landscape is rather flat with numerous depressions that hold water for several
weeks after snowmelt and heavy rains. Soils tend to be saline and there are
artesian flows. Much of the area is subject to flooding during spring melt. A
prominent north-south drainage ditch traverses the area.

Ornithological Summary


The Prairie
Chicken Management Areas were established to benefit the Greater
Prairie-Chicken and comprises about 4000 acres. This species was extirpated in
the 1970s, and then successfully reintroduced in the early 1990s. This
population is only one of two in North Dakota, the other one is in the Sheyenne
National Grasslands. The area also hosts a large population of Sharp-tailed
Grouse.


Establishing the PCMAs has benefitted an array of grassland species that prefer wet meadows, ephemeral wetlands, and shallow
marshes.


Because several species (Sedge Wren, Yellow Rail, Le Conte's Sparrow, and Sharp-tailed Sparrow) vocalize much more at night than during the day, night surveys over the last 20 years have revealed that exceptional numbers of these species are present. 


 


Other
breeding species that prefer wetland habitats include Northern Harrier, Marsh
Wren, Common Yellowthroat, and Swamp Sparrow.


 


The area
includes some grazed areas and drier habitat that supports breeding populations
of Western Meadowlark and Bobolink. Historically there have been records for
Baird’s Sparrow and Sprague’s Pipit, but not in recent years.


 


Following
snowmelt, large areas of grassland are flooded and attract a variety of
migrant waterfowl (not well documented) and shorebirds. Some of these, notably Northern Pintail (a D1 species) remain to breed. One of the more interesting
records is for a pair of Black-necked Stilts, which were present for about a
week in 2011. This pair may be the same as seen later in the spring at Kellys Slough
where they established a nest and were incubating
until a rain event flooded them out.


 


The PCMAs
are very important as a stopover and foraging area for raptors. The number of
44 shown for Rough-legged Hawk is not particularly unusual. This species occurs
in large numbers in both spring and fall migration, and several sometimes
winter. Short-eared Owls are also seen in good numbers and in years when there
is a high vole population, several pairs will remain to nest.


 


The
documentation provided here includes a total of 93 species for the years
2010-2013, and is taken from reports to e-bird. I think these reports fall well
short of documenting the bird life of this area because of lack of coverage in
both time and space. Most of the area is well-beyond a quarter mile from a
usable road. The area is crossed by Country Roads 3, 33, and 1.


 

Ownership

This area of about 21760 acres includes
approximately 4000 acres that are owned and managed by North Dakota Game and
Fish as Prairie Chicken Management Areas. Privately-owned lands include those
enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program. Some parcels are tilled, some
grazed, while others appear to be idle. Private parcels that are planted in
corn and soybeans benefit grouse and chickens by providing food, especially in
winter. The WPAs that include Lake Lunby and Stewart Slough lie to the east of
the PCMAs and these are include in the IBA nomination for Kellys Slough. North
Dakota Department of Trust Lands owns a quarter section adjacent to County Road
1 that is typically leased for grazing.Much of this area is essentially roadless. The owners of private tracts mostly live elsewhere. At present there are only two, occupied home within the site as defined, with four farmsteads located on the periphery (literally, across the road).

Habitat

Except for parcels that are tilled that
generally lie on the periphery of the area defined here, the area is contiguous
grassland that includes ephemeral wetlands during wet seasons. During the wet
period that began in 1993, stands of cattail have increased dramatically. Very
little if any of the grassland is native prairie although native grasses can be
found in parts. The area has been extensively invaded by brome and blue grass.The area is marked by shallow depressions that hold snowmelt and runoff from rains for several weeks at a time. These type of wetlands need to be characterized. They are listed here as sedge meadows.

Land Use

Most of the area has the appearance of being
idle as it is not used for either grazing or haying. A high percentage (amount unknown) is enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program. In general the prairie chicken management areas are neither grazed on hayed. The one-quarter of school trust land is grazed.

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