Thursday, April 30

Just Ducky

This pretty dude is a resident at Canyon Lake, a man-made lake in west Rapid City. There's a park along one side of the lake, with a bridge between land and a tiny island with a gazebo and picnic tables. This male wood duck was busy telling his missus to quit getting so close to the crazy human w/ the camera...the female was a bit less shy than the male. She was looking for a snack, but I knew give one duck a tidbit, next thing you know, you're surrounded by greedy, aggressive ducks and geese of several varieties...

Let the Games Begin!

On my way home from Canyon Lake yesterday, I turned up a loop road that I'd been curious about, off the service road in west Rapid City that leads home. I found the pasqueflower blooming on the sandy hillside there! I took this first shot, of the open cluster, in early afternoon. Later, I took Jayne to see and get a photo op also. Both sets of photos I took only produced a few decent shots. While there the 2nd time, we discovered clusters of tiny white flowers scattered in one area. Turns out it's the plains phlox, a wildflower we didn't have photos of yet! I just love finding "new" flowers.

I went back to Canyon Lake today, and stopped for a third time on the hillside on the loop road. It was mid morning and the pasqueflowers were mostly closed up in buds. The bud shot (center) is the same cluster as in the photo of open flowers.

This white flower is the plains phlox, of the phlox family. More commonly seen in the Black Hills area is the leafy phlox, which is mostly pink or lilac, but can be white also.

Wednesday, April 29

Other States' Flowers

This is the pink-and-white ladyslipper, a gorgeous orchid that is the Minnesota state flower. (I did not take this photo, it's from the Internet.) I live next door to Minn., and am dying to find and photograph this flower! I have high hopes of doing so, and also of traveling into Montana and Wyoming this summer to find flowers that grow in those states but not here in S. Dakota.
I know it still may be a bit premature, but I'm also hoping that I'll find the first flowers of spring this weekend, here...or at least one!

Monday, April 27

Has Anyone Seen My Spring?!

Ah yes, more snow...two inches or so, to be more exact, on Sun. It's melting fairly fast but lawns and roofs still have a solid cover.
Yesterday, Jayne and I drowned our snowy sorrows with pizza and a good chick flick.

Friday, April 24

Yes, More Snow!

It's snowing today, after two days of temps in the 80's! That's how much the temp. can dip in less than 24 hrs. in S. Dakota. I took this pic of a cottontail in our backyard, nibbling grass under the snow earlier today. While taking its photo, a blackbird came along and landed on the bird feeder post. I really like this shot; the bird looks like an ornament. I'm also pleased how well the photos came out considering they were taken through the glass window.

Thursday, April 23

Two Seasons in So. Dakota

There's a saying here that we have two seasons: winter and construction. It would appear that this is very true, and once again, construction season is upon us. It's hard to go out without seeing orange cones and chaos on the roads anywhere you go within a 50 mile radius. UGH.
But, we also have some serious patriotism in So. Dakota...the American flag flies proudly in many places, in many sizes. This is the really large flag that waves over the gift shop at the entrance to Devil's Tower.

Wednesday, April 22

Devil's Tower, Wyoming

Ruben and I went for a ride in the Z4 yesterday, our first "real" trip w/ the top down in the new toy. It's about 80 miles to Devil's Tower, WY from home. It was about 70 degrees, and the sky was covered in white cottonball of the plus things about spring. We ate lunch at Quizno's in Spearfish on the way, and relaxed in the picnic area of the gift shop at the entrance to the US's first National Monument.

There were tiny yellow weed flowers in the grass there, yesssss! ;o) We took the back road thru Alva (pop. 50), back to I-90. A red fox ran across the road in front of us, and we saw many deer nibbling the new grass.

Monday, April 20

Needles Highway is Open!

The most scenic route through Custer State Park is the Needles Highway. It was closed this winter, a gate across the road at Sylvan Lake. Jayne and I were elated to see that the gate was open, as we had hoped, Sunday. The sun was out; a gorgeous day!

This is Cathedral Spires, one of many areas in the park with a hiking trail. This trail is strenuous, not something I plan to take on anytime soon!

The Needles Highway curves and winds through 14 miles of magnificent rock formations called 'needles.' One of the most prominent rock formations on the Highway is the Needle's Eye, reaching 30 to 40 feet in the air with a 3 foot wide slit.

Saturday, April 18

Another Flower ID'd

I'm on a roll...managed to find this flower online w/ an image search of wildflowers...have found this, a creeping bellflower as it turns out, the past two years in Spearfish Canyon. Am still not certain whether it's a wildflower or an escaped cultivated flower...
It's supposed to be 70 Tues.! Grow, my sweet wild things, groooow!

Well Heck, Two Mysteries Solved

So Jayne had a flash back (waaaaaay back) when she saw my post from yesterday, with the mystery seedpod. The memory involves a Christmas ornament she made in school. She did some snooping online and found she was right; it is that of the milkweed. Above is the showy milkweed, flower form. I took the photo June '08 in the S. Hills.
This is a seedpod photo I took in late Aug. '07 near Cascade Falls. Jayne sent me the link to an Audubon mag. blog about the milkweed, and it included photos of the pod when it has burst open to release the seeds inside...some serious bells went off in the back of my pea brain...

And here we have a photo I took in Sept. '08 in the E Hills that I'd forgotten about! This is a milkweed pod that has split open and released all but these two was a very windy day and they were barely hanging on...moments later they did blow away.

Tidbit from the Audubon site: The milkweed helped save the lives of American sailors and pilots on the Pacific front during World War II. With the supply of kapok from East India cut off, the Navy turned to milkweed silk to stuff life jackets. It was a good substitute. Those silk strands are hollow and coated with a waterproof waxlike substance. So the government encouraged farmers to plant milkweed seeds and paid schoolchildren to fill onion bags with pods collected from roadsides and fields, paying them 20 cents a sack, which bought a lot of bubblegum or sodapop in those days.

Friday, April 17

The Unidentifieds

Into every wildflower photographer's life must fall...(besides rain, snow, and wind)...a handful of plant life that cannot readily be identified.....

(Left) This is an interesting, large seed pod Jayne and I found at the Cascade Falls area (south of Hot Springs) this winter. C Falls is at the very south end of the Black Hills, an area more desert-like than the rest of the B Hills. I have no clue what this is....but it rang a distant bell.....

(Below) Aha! I found this weird plant, also south of Hot Springs, in Aug. '07. I'm pretty sure that both are the same plant species. It doesn't exist in my "Botany Bible," as I call my well-loved copy of "Plants of the Black Hills and Bear Lodge Mts." I need to keep digging, to find out what this is! We didn't see this plant in '08 even though we were down in the area in late Aug. Ok, so we were there at dusk, with the sole purpose of capturing the tenpetal blazingstar, a fabbie flower that only opens at sundown.

Tuesday, April 14

Think Green

Today I came across this photo I took in July last year, and made it my laptop's wallpaper. Look at that greeeeen! I can't wait to revisit the wetlands along Roughlock Falls Trail in Spearfish Canyon. Many fabulous wildflowers grow in this area, needless to say! The grass in yards and fields is greening up...if only Ma Nature would speed things up.

Sunday, April 12

Merry Easter!

This is Ross, a thank-you gift sent from my sis Ann, who lives in the Ross-shire area, in Scotland. In all fairness, this pic was taken a few days ago...the snow in that spot is still there, but it's a lot less deep.

We aren't celebrating Easter today, but we will be celebrating Orthodox Easter next Sun. with George the Greek, and his family. Hopa!

Saturday, April 11

Going Loopie

The hydrant today (see April 7 post)

Back to Custer State Park and the wildlife loop today! The birds are out in abundance, and this little Mt. bluebird actually posed for me...getting a clear shot was another matter. The 300 mm zoom works best on a tri-pod but when I happen upon a bird like this, it isn't about to wait for me to go to the back of the truck, pull out the 'pod, and set it up. We also saw and heard meadowlarks ~ they sing their hearts out! ~ and robins, king fishers (oh for the love of a photo, but they were zinging by at 50 mph while we sat eating our PBJ's), and the Canadian geese are heavily on the move. We also saw a mallard and drake on a creek, and we heard a woodpecker tapping out its two cents-worth. All signs of spring! Oh and we saw a yellow-bellied marmot; another critter that's hard to photograph. I didn't try. I was too busy trying not to drive over its head!

Jayne and I (it's a given she was w/ me) cashed in a two'fer coupon for milkshakes on the way home, throwing an order of fries in for good measure, at Arnold's, a 50's style diner, incl. waitresses in poodle skirts.

Did I mention that the So. Dakota wind has returned from its leisurely winter vacation? And, in a day or three, so will our hellacious lightning storms...I used to love the show, but we were struck last year and the garage-door opener was fried, so I'm not as big a fan as I used to be...or as brave.

Friday, April 10

Tilford Road

I went for a ride today, looking for a photo op...took the service road that we live off of, NW to Tilford Road, which heads E and is unpaved...I have been very curious to see what's up that way. I drove a few miles, passing ranches, and this interesting rock formation. The Black Hills have many of such rocks that form canyon walls and what's left of canyon walls, so I wonder what this looked like a zillion years ago.

Ruben and I also went for a ride today in his recently-purchased mini beemie, which isn't getting much use in winter...rode west to Spearfish for lunch, then back to Rapid City and south along Sheridan Lake Rd. We saw lots and lots of deer feeding on the exposed, greening grass. And wild turkeys, and some big horn sheep near Hill City. All hopeful signs that winter WILL end and we'll have summer before too long...I don't think we'll have much spring at all, at this point!

Thursday, April 9

A Snow Poem

"The cold was our pride, the snow was our beauty.
It fell and fell, lacing day and night together in a milky haze,
making everything quieter as it fell, so that winter
seemed to partake of religion in a way no other season did,
hushed, solemn." - Patricia Hampl
It snowed last night, some this morning...about 2-3", and we are shrowded in fog and chill. I took this photo today from the front side of our house. You can just make out the dark line of the eastern edge of the Black Hills in the background. I'm trying to be positive...ok, I found the poem above to go with.

Wednesday, April 8

Pass the Tissues Please

OH Turkey Feathers!!

I will not cry...I will not cry...the news that we are to get yet more snow tonight and tomorrow, has put me in a slightly fowl mood...I didn't realize how fowl until I bumped into a full-blown pet peeve of mine, a person standing right in the entrance pathway of a super busy, major superstore...I managed to mumble an "Oops, excuse me," but that certainly was not what I wanted to say. Then there was the woman w/ two kids tagging along behind her, walking right in front of me and the shelf I was eyeballing, without a single hint of an "excuse me." That polite blurp is practically extinct here. ARG!!

Ok, on the plus side...and this is very sketchy at best...I have yet to get a photo of a buffalo with snow on his hair (fur?)...a lofty goal of mine...and hope springs eternal even though I know the chances are Sat. any snow that falls Thurs. would be melted, shaken, or rubbed off...

Oh yes Jaynee-poo, we are going out Sat. into the wild blue (or gray) yonder, come hell or high water...or snow, dammit.

Tuesday, April 7

The Simplest Art Form

I noticed the fire hydrant across the street yesterday. There was a bit less of it showing then; it's a good way to gauge how much snow is melting each day, huh? Today, I went ahead and took the shot, hoping none of the neighbors saw me...cause really, it must've looked a bit peculiar, like maybe I plan on complaining to city hall about how snow blocking access to a hydrant must be a violation of city code...

I'm working on a photo memory book online finally, one that showcases all my favorite wildflower photos from '07 and '08 in one place. The 10 cheapie booklets I have already just don't cut it. I guess I'll do a seperate scenery and/or wildlife book, too.

Jayne and I plan on another field trip this weekend; can't wait! Ruby Vee is itching to go too...that's my tough little Honda CR-V, which, of course, is ruby slipper red. She totally gets me.

Monday, April 6

The Morning After the Morning After

The storm is over, the sun is shining, and the streets are well-plowed. This is what it looks like outside of our house today. Excluding snow drifts, this is the most snow we've had of the four storms. Somewhere between 10 and 12".

No snow is predicted for the next week, at least. I think if we have another storm, the police are going to start responding to an overload of cabin fever chaos that would rival that seen in "The Shining." Good forecast for this weekend, though, hooray! I'm getting my camera polished and pal Jayne has been notified (warned?)...

Saturday, April 4

And More Snow

I took this photo a bit ago of Ruben plowing our driveway, before the snow became too deep to be managable...barely. It has been snowing steadily since yesterday and the drifts in our yards are at least 2 feet, or higher. The good news is, the neighbor gave Ruben some brownies.

I was stunned to see the mail lady delivering the mail earlier! Junk mail and a's not worth it! Mark that off my list of great career choices in S. Dakota...

Friday, April 3

It's Snowing

This is George, our good friend and neighbor, and Ruben's boss as well...during the blizzard that hit a few days ago, plowing and shoveling our driveway. I mentioned earlier that after he did this, the next morning we had two feet of snow drift in this same spot.
It's late morning and it has begun to snow...I was hoping, or pretending, that the next storm wouldn't come in until late tonight or tomorrow. But, here we go again, NOW!
A year ago today, my mom and I were heading to Bryce Canyon in Utah, after having spent overnight at the Grand Canyon; her first visit there, my 2nd exactly a year later. Now's a good time to pull out and polish off those fond memories! Oh wait...that involved cold and snow too...

Thursday, April 2

Let There Be Light

The sun is out again, hooray! Normally most days of the year are sunny here, honest...but this year has been a lot more gray than usual. *SIGH*

Nothing new to say today but I wanted to post this photo, taken on the way to the Badlands Sun. As we were tooling down the hwy., scanning for the next photo op, Jayne and I both turned our heads as we passed this crumbling old shack on the side of the road. I quickly pulled over and turned around. I wish I knew the history behind this humble abode.

Wednesday, April 1

Meet Gus

The sun's out, the snow is melting...but it has a l-o-n-g way to go to become a distant memory, and the forecast for another storm on Fri. or Sat. is holding steady, though so far just how strong it will be has not been pinned down. The buzz is, this is what the winters here in western SD are "normally" like but, for the past several years, they have been much milder (until now). I don't know whether to be glad we were spared this course in Winter 101 for five whole years, or wish we'd experienced this up front so that milder winters felt a lot more "mild"! I think I'll pick the feelings behind door #1.

Ruben made it home yesterday by 3 pm. He's been stuck at work beyond his normal 24 hr. shifts during two of the three blizzards this winter. Having him here during these storms would be a lot nicer than going it alone, but I just keep donning my big girl panties and manage fine.

Well, at least I've had my haircut and hilights, I'm ready to face the next Arctic blast in style. You betcha!

This is a photo of my favorite wildlife subject, taken in early March in Custer Park, about 35 miles south. It's obvious that the park is my favorite place to visit in this area; I've been there countless times since moving to SD. Not only am I beginning to recognize certain individual buffalo, but I've named one of them Gus (above), in honor of Holly Hunter's tv pet pooch on "Saving Grace". Both critters tend to lounge around slobbering a lot, and aren't exactly the most perfect example of their breed.