While birding today at Killdeer, I could not resist the opportunity to do a photo shoot with this gorgeous Scots Pine, Pinus sylvestris (all too often mispronounced as "Scotch Pine"). I've driven by this tree myriad times; it has been there as long as I've been birding at Killdeer Plains and that's a long time. If you've been here, you've probably seen it. Jutting from the meadows along the northernmost road of the wildlife area, the pine is visible from afar and draws one's eye. Twisted and gnarled even more than are most Scots Pine, probably due to unmitigated impacts of fierce prairie storms sweeping in from the west, it for all the world resembles an enormous bonsai.
Scots Pine is not native. It hails from Eurasia, but is fairly common as a landscape tree. This one was likely planted long ago to grace the yard of some old farmstead. Now, it sticks conspicuously from the flatlands like a sylvan beacon; the only tree of substance in the immediate vicinity. I'm sure many an interesting bird has graced its boughs over the years, drawn to the pine's charisma just as are our eyes.