May 14, 2018 Interior, South Dakota

Badlands Colors
Badlands Colors

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Probably not necessary to put a name to this location as most people are likely to know where these shots were taken. I arrived here last night and settled in at the Badlands Interior Motel and Campground. I hated to stay in a commercial campground when the Badlands has one of the best boon docking areas that exist, but I had to order new Tow Dolly Basket Straps  ( used to tie down the Prius’ front tires to the tow dolly ) or risk dropping the car somewhere along the highway. And I had to have an address to have them shipped to and this was what I came up with.  They should be here Thursday and then perhaps I will move on to the boon docking area.

( Right clicking on any image will open a larger, sharper version of the photo in a new tab or window )

Badlands Peaks
Badlands Peaks
Badlands Peaks
Badlands Peaks

I was here many years ago and really don’t remember much about the park, so this is sort of a new experience for me.

Badlands Colors
Badlands Colors

First thing this morning I drove west on the park loop road and was blessed with some sun and blue skies to the west after two days of rain.

Yellow Hills
Yellow Hills

Pretty spectacular colors along the drive, made more so by the presence of green, lush grass, thanks to the unusual amount of rain this area has gotten this spring.

Yellow Hills
Yellow Hills
Badlands Colors
Badlands Colors
Yellow Hills
Yellow Hills
Badlands Bighorns
Badlands Bighorns

I found some Bighorn Sheep not far from the road, some of then kind enough to settle in amongst some flowers.

Badlands Bighorns
Badlands Bighorns
Badlands Bighorns
Badlands Bighorns
Badlands Bighorns
Badlands Bighorns

At the end of the loop road, I drove the nine miles in to check out the changes at Wall Drug. What I remembered as an all but stand alone tourist trap years ago, is now surrounded by commercial development.

Because of the recent rains, some of the drives in the park are gated closed, most likely impassably muddy. Hope they dry out quick! More on the Badlands coming … I hope.

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May 10, 2018 North Platte, Nebraska

Abandoned Kansas Farm
Abandoned Kansas Farm

Poking Around Kansas and Nebraska

Old Kansas Barns

Over the past few weeks I have racked up a lot of miles in the Prius traveling the dusty back roads of Kansas and Nebraska searching for picturesque old barns and farmsteads.

Abandoned Nebraska Farmhouse
Abandoned Nebraska Farmhouse

Unfortunately, what I have discovered is that most of the old wooden barns have long since gone the way of the dodo bird. Most are just piles of rubble and all of them have been replaced with modern metal buildings, very functional, but surely lacking the aesthetics of the old wooden structures.

Abandoned Nebraska Farmhouse
Abandoned Nebraska Farmhouse

Abandoned farmhouses dot the landscape out here and I always wonder exactly what caused the owners to leave these these buildings to the elements.

Nebraska Barn
Nebraska Barn
Abandoned Nebraska Farmhouse
Abandoned Nebraska Farmhouse

I have not taken any images of the main streets of the many tiny towns you encounter along the back roads here for it is indeed a sad sight to see. The old brick or stone buildings are all vacant and most are crumbling, but the small towns probably lack the resources to demolish them. Needless to say, the general stores and small restaurants and hotels that supported these farming communities have all fallen victim to “progress”.

Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk

Wildlife Along the Backroads

Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk

Unfortunately, I have encountered very little in the way of wildlife in my recent travels …

Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk

… a Red-tailed Hawk or two, a few wild Turkeys and Ring-necked Pheasants strolling the remains of the harvested cornfields ( of which there are  a few acres devoted to that crop in Nebraska ) …

Nebraska Does
Nebraska Does

… and here and there I have encountered a few White-tailed deer, does only, no fawns seen yet.

Nebraska Sandhills
Nebraska Sandhills

I have driven to check out the Nebraska Sandhills, a vast expanse of sand dunes, disguised with a thin covering of grasses.

Endless Nebraska Sandhills
Endless Nebraska Sandhills

These dunes seem to go on forever and must have been something for the early westbound settlers to traverse in their wagons. You can right click on this image to get a larger version to get a better sense of the vast expanse  of the these sandhills.

Mare and Foal
Mare and Foal

One day, while traveling between North Platte and McCook, Nebraska, I saw a beautiful herd of horses grazing in a pasture along the highway. When I noticed a large number of mares with fairly new foals amongst them, I had to stop for shots.

Mare and Foal
Mare and Foal
Mare and Foal
Mare and Foal

A youngster enjoying a roll around on a gorgeous spring afternoon.

Mare and Foal
Mare and Foal

The differences in coloring of the moms and the colts was kind of interesting.

Mares and Foals
Mares and Foals

Unfortunately, the majority of the mares with young walked away when I approached the fence to take my pictures, probably to protect the youngsters from any possible threat an unknown presence such as myself might cause. Or it could have been Pearl’s few barks of alarm from the Prius when she noticed these huge beasts just outside the windows of the car.

Mares and Foals
Mares and Foals

This were absolutely gorgeous animals, as if they were brushed and carefully groomed just for these photos. If you right click on the image above ( or any image in these blog posts for that matter ), it will open a larger image in a new window, and you will see what I mean.

Nebraska Horses
Nebraska Horses

I wish I could have gotten this lone white horse to position itself right next to one of the black ones, would have been a neat shot, but I waited and waited and this was the best I could get.

I am probably headed to the badlands of southwest South Dakota next, while I await the release of winter’s grip on Yellowstone NP. Snow is still falling there as of this post and some of the roads are still closed by snow. Hoping I can get there to see some early season bear activity, assuming I can get a spot in the campground at Mammoth Hot Springs, something I have not had any luck doing the last two times I have attempted to visit Yellowstone.

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May 3, 2018 Hunter Cove, Alma, Nebraska

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

Snowy Egrets at Cheyenne Bottoms

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

A couple posts ago I mentioned that I had found some Snowy Egrets gathered at an outflow the refuge, but the afternoon light was all wrong for getting any great shots of them, as illustrated in the above image. I vowed to return the next morning when the rising sun would be at my back and hoped that the birds would also return in the morning.

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

And return they did. I hit the bonanza here!

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

I spent two hours here, shooting hundreds of shots, as the egrets fought for position, grabbed minnows, and sometimes larger fish that were stunned as they tumbled over the rocks.

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

At times, I felt this scene was almost too perfect, the birds often positioned themselves in perfect composition, the light was bright enough to give me some depth of field and yet still shoot at a high enough shutter speed to freeze wing action, and at one point, even a great Egret joined the fray.

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

And the action was continuous.

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

Love the “hair” of the bird in the lower right.

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

Aerial battles sprang up from time to time.

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

Finally the show had to come to an end …

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

… and that presented me with a couple more nice opportunities. A morning to remember!

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May 2, 2018 Cheyenne Bottoms, Kansas

Kansas Storm
Kansas Storm

Great Blue Heron and Scary Weather

I had planned to depart Cheyenne Bottoms for Nebraska Monday morning but decided to stay put when the weather forecast called for 40 mph winds with higher gusts during the afternoon. It is no fun traveling in the motorhome and battling winds that strong, and besides, I don’t really have to be anywhere at any particular time, so I remained here and drove out into the refuge and looked for something to shoot.

Great Blue Heron Catching Catfish
Great Blue Heron Catching Catfish

That something turned out to be this Great Blue Heron ( GBH ). I found him at the same outflow I had been shooting Snowy Egrets the day before ( those images coming next post ).

Great Blue Heron with Catfish
Great Blue Heron with Catfish

He nabbed this catfish and waded out away from shore a bit.

Great Blue Heron with Catfish
Great Blue Heron with Catfish

As usual with these guys, he agonized over swallowing a fish this size and must have played with it for about five minutes, dropping it then spearing it, turning it, flipping it, etc.

Otter
Otter

While I was concentrating on the GBH, out of the reeds came an Otter! He was moving too quickly for me to get any good shots and disappeared as fast as he showed up.

A Frightening Night Storm

Kansas Storm
Kansas Storm

When this area was put under a tornado watch late yesterday afternoon, I figured I had made a good decision to stay put and not travel farther north.

Kansas Storm
Kansas Storm

The area only seven miles north of here was given a tornado warning at 5:30. That warning extended up to the area I was heading for before I made the decision to stay put.

Kansas Storm
Kansas Storm

These storm shots were taken just after it turned dark and were the most impressive and scary lightning displays I have ever witnessed. The sky to the north was was filled with lightning, cloud to cloud as well as bolts to the ground. The lightning was constant for over an hour and a half! The forecast called for two inch hail and damaging winds in this storm.

Here at Cheyenne Bottoms, the sky was clear and filled with stars, but the scene to the north looked terrifying. I guess I made a good decision, and will be heading north towards Alma, Nebraska today.

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