Saturday, May 30

Cutleaf anemone

Most of the anemones seen in the Hills are white, so it's always nice to see the pink ones. The dark pink anemones have black stamens, not yellow.

I took this photo last year, having no clue what on earth this was, other than the stage following its flowering stage (fruit or seed)...I saw a few as my husband and I were zipping back out of the foothills trail Thurs., and realized this is the next stage of the cutleaf anemone, after flowering. My "botany Bible" calls it an aggregate of cottony achenes.

Thursday, May 28

Violet, Iris, Clematis, and Larkspur

More blues! The prairie violet is harder to find than the longspur violet, and the Northern bog violet is the least common...I saw all three today! This is the prairie violet.

The Rocky Mt. iris is just beginning to show up, probably the most showy of the blue flowers in the hills.

The low larkspur isn't very abundant in the area, but can be found here and there.

The rock clematis was growing all over in one spot along the trail in the E Hills today.

It was great to get up on the trail again after many months...this is just a small bit of what it looks like. The dirt road that leads to this trail is just a few blocks from our house. The Black Hills are covered in off-road trails.

Wednesday, May 27

Spiderwort and Crazyweed

The bracted spiderwort was growing, hidden in the tall grass, at the Lacreek Wildlife Refuge.

The lambert crazyweed, a legume, was growing just south of the Badlands Nat'l Park.

Tuesday, May 26

Lacreek Nat'l Wildlife Refuge

During our road trip Sat., Jayne was kind enough to drive us through the refuge just 12 miles from her hometown. It was a dark grey day, as you can tell...we saw so many birds, it was awesome! We saw a few Western grebes on the water.

We sighted just this one orchard oriole.
I took many pheasant photos, but those buggars are hard to capture. I took most,like this one, just outside of the refuge, where pheasant hunting is popular.

This American bittern, below, almost had me fooled, on the opposite shore of the waterway. It didn't budge.
We saw a few blue-winged teals on the water, too.

We saw a lot of pelicans, also proving difficult to capture.

This is my favorite shot; I just love shore birds! This is a willit, of the sandpiper species.

We saw several male yellow-headed blackbirds, first time I'd ever seen one; very distinct markings. They favor the dried cattails just like the red-winged blackbirds.

Even the female yellow-headed blackbird has a nice amount of bright yellow on her.

We saw mourning doves on the telephone wires, about the only bird that wasn't quick to fly away.

Monday, May 25

She Remembers

She remembers growing up in the little ranch house her mother made a home, during her childhood years, and beyond. She remembers her mother fondly, a caring, creative woman, and her rough, hard-working father who took pride in the rancher's way of life. She remembers a not-so-distant past, living on the ranch as an adult, raising her children, tending her own garden. She remembers helping out in the spring when the calves were born, and then at branding time, when neighboring ranchers helped each other to get the job done. She remembers that tight-knit community, where everyone knew everyone's business, good and bad.

She will never forget losing her mother to complications in surgery, on a Memorial Day weekend. And she will never forget watching her father slowly succumb to the darkness of Alzheimer's, a few years later. She can never forget not being able to say good-bye to either of her parents in their last days.

The ranch is silent now, a shadow of its former self, aging but solid as the prairie winds blow around the house, the tractor, the sheds and the corral. But I, a stranger to this land, can hear upon the wind their whispers, the souls of a rancher and his wife, telling her to keep on remembering where she came from, who she is, and what she is made of.

She is a country girl, a rancher's daughter to her very core. She is from the very heart of this land. She is America the Heartland.

To all of those remembering their mother and father this Memorial Day weekend, God Bless You. And to my good friend Jayne, I am truly blessed by all that my visit to your hometown, and you, gave me that day. Thank you, thank you.

J'ellen 2009

Sunday, May 24

Some Whites: Gilia and Gumbo

The ballhead gilia was on my list of flowers to find. I'd seen it in '07 but didn't get any good photos. It loves the dry, cracked clay soil of the Badlands area. It's from the phlox family.

This was a big find from the top of my wish list...the gumbo lily, from the evening primrose family. We came upon this flower in just one area just south of the Badlands, the same area of dry cracked clay earth. These flowers bloom, turn pink, and fade in less than a day.

This is the textile onion, from the lily family. We saw plenty of the onion growing in the south Badlands area. Nodding onion is another wild onion in the area, and both were used by Native Americans for food and medicine.

Friday, May 22

Shootingstars and Mt. blue-eyed Grass

Yesterday, on a whim, I drove up Hidden Valley Rd. at the west end of Rapid City, less than 10 miles from home...I'd been up this road before, during winter, taking photos on an icy day. I pulled over by a dry, rocky area when I saw the silver bladderpod (photo, May 18) spread all over. The darkthroat shooting star, a primrose, was blooming there also, looking a bit wind-worn. Finally, a red flower!

The Mt. blue-eyed grass is from the iris family...I saw one, just one yesterday...the flowers are actually quite small and not easily seen. This is the first blue flower I've seen so far.

Thursday, May 21

Fuji Wildflower Macros

While out and about last weekend, I took along my basic little digital Fuji camera, since taking macro shots of real small flowers with the DSLR camera doesn't work so well. I got this close-up of the Nuttall's violet with the Fuji FinePix A900, and the photo below also. Jayne and I were pretty excited to see that some of the pincushion cacti have blossoms! Last year, we found one cactus with one aging bloom on it, the last of the season, and didn't get any good photos. We've waited about ten months to see these blossoms! The pincushions are very low to the ground and small, and not so easily seen, but we know of a hillside in Custer Park that has the Mother Lode of pincushions!

Wednesday, May 20

Hot Springs, SD

There are a lot of old, historical bldgs. in Hot Springs, a small town at the south end of the Black Hills. There are a few natural springs in the area, thus its name...including the hot spring that feeds the local waterslide attraction, Evan's Plunge. The Blue Bison Cafe is hard to miss with its large blue bison on top of the bldg., keeping a watchful eye on things. I haven't eaten there yet, but hope to some day.

Freedom Trail winds its way along the banks of the Fall River, passing under this wisp of a waterfall, along Hwy 385, which runs through the town. The waterfall is across the road from the cafe, above.

Monday, May 18

More Yellows

More yellow wildflowers have appeared since last weekend; amazing! Here's the threadleaf musineon (carrot family), growing along Bethlehem Rd. in the NE Hills, at the base of a Ponderosa pine.

Last year the silver bladderpod (mustard family) was pretty scarce, unlike this year. It's now growing fairly abundantly in the So. Black Hills area.

This is the best-looking lambstongue groundsel I've seen in the past three years. Before, the petals have always been eaten off by who knows what. I found this in the So. Hills area also.

Sunday, May 17

Sunday in the Park...and Beyond

Before heading to Custer Park yet again...I can't help it, it's the magnetic pull...Jayne and I stopped at a wayside park near Hot Springs, where we saw many pretty birds, none of which I could get a photo of. This little butterfly was kind enough to let us take photos, though. It was flitting around among the chokecherry blossoms.
Later, it seemed as though all the wildlife in the park had been instructed to make themselves more easily visible and to try to wow the crowds today, since the park entrance fee was waived this weekend. Two white-tail deer were doing their part along the wildlife loop.

In one spot we found a small herd of buffalo right on the roadside, including a few calves. This fella still has a bit of umbilical cord attached and its
horns are budding.

Of all the trips through Custer Park, this was the first time I've seen buffalo in water. There were 4-5 buffs cooling off in a pond by the road near the east entrance to the wildlife loop. With all the people around, a ranger was on hand keeping an eye on things. When the buffs started moving out of the water, he cracked a whip to move them across the road away from all the on-lookers.

Finally, a decent photo of a turkey, though I'd love one with the tail feathers open. Even the gobblers were out and about and seemingly a bit less nervous today.

Saturday, May 16

Apple Blossoms & Starlings

The two apple trees in our back yard are starting to bloom.

The European starling is visiting the feeder now, and what a messy eater it is. It just jabs its beak into the seeds, scattering them wildly like a weed-wacker. We've put a suet cake up, which I think it prefers to the small, loose seeds. The blackbirds are liking it anyway. As if you can't tell, my husband and I are totally newbies to the art of bird feeding.

Friday, May 15

Wild for Wildflowers

I did find wildflowers yesterday; the pasqueflower is still alive and well, and in this case living on hillsides in the NE Black Hills.

Another yellow flower ~ the yellow rocket is from the mustard family. I found bunches of it (center) along Elk Creek.

I have no idea what kind of tree this is, but this looks like the achenes (fruit stage) of the Western virgin's bower, a creeping vine from the buttercup family. Whatever, it's awesome pretty! The tree is growing along Bethlehem Rd., by Elk Creek. Ok, it's not a wildflower, and it's not a wild-growing tree. But it was too pretty not to share.
If ya know what it is, feel free to comment!

Thursday, May 14

A Curious Red Squirrel

Mr. Squirrel here was as curious about me as I was about it! I turned off of Nemo Rd., NE Black Hills area, today to have a look around, something I do a lot of naturally when hunting for a photo op or ran up the tree when I drove by, and when it was safely above me it had plenty to say about my intrusion.
When I first moved to South Dakota, I knew I wasn't in 'Kansas' (or the NW) anymore when I saw my first red squirrel. In California, where I grew up, and in Oregon where I lived sixteen years before moving to S. Dakota, the squirrels are grey.

Birds in Paradise

After a blustery day yesterday (to put it mildly), I jumped at the chance for a drive in the Hills today. The sun was out and it was somewhat warm. I even took a new dirt road, County Rd. #168, or Renkle Rd., which turns onto Bethlehem Rd., where I found this meadowlark sitting and singing on a telephone wire. It actually blasted me as I drove by w/ the window partly down, scaring me stupid! I turned around and went back for a photo. This great blue heron was too far away to get a decent shot, but did that stop me from trying? Of course not! The heron is one of my favorite birds...ok, I have several favorites but really, this long, lanky fella is really cool. This one is wading in Box Elder Creek in the NE Black Hills. This red-winged blackbird was in the same area as the heron, along Nemo Rd. just west of my home. It too was a bit far away to get a decent shot, but I just keep trying. My first stop along Nemo Rd. and Box Elder Creek was just to have a look-see around. I realized I was being watched, and found this bashful Canadian goose eye-balling me from the tall grasses along the creek shore.

Tuesday, May 12

Ol' Blues and Patchworks

A gal's bluejeans are like an old friend, esp. that one pair that actually, by some crazy miracle, fit just right. Today I'm 'retiring' this ol' pair of just-right jeans with a touch of sadness. They've seen me through many photography outings. They're thread-bare and the inside seams are threatening to let go any day now. Still, I'm going to miss 'em. I couldn't remember where I'd bought them, but by sheer luck, yesterday I found them at Kohl's. I bought two pair.

This is the Yellow Brick Road lap quilt I mentioned earlier, the autumn-colored one my mom made me. The photo doesn't do it justice; the colors are deep and rich. Just thought I'd share. I'm feeling a bit sentimental, can you tell? Maybe because I've had three days in a row that were reeeally positive, nice days...not something that happens real often and I'm so grateful.