Thursday, July 21, 2016

Badlands and Birds

Following our 56th Wedding Anniversary family reunion in Colorado, we took a road trip with our daughter's family back to Illinois. Our route took us through South Dakota, where we spent one night at Custer State Park in the Black Hills

We then traveled a hundred miles eastward to Badlands National Park, where we spent two nights at Circle View guest ranch. I had expected South Dakota to be mostly flat cattle-land planted in field crops. This is not the case in the southwestern corner of the state. After leaving the high forested ridges of the Black Hills the land did turn flat, but within an hour the rugged and forbidding peaks of the Badlands loomed up in the distance.

Badlands HDR 01-20160618

Before checking in at the ranch we took a detour through Badlands National Park and drove 23 miles to Wall, the nearest town. Smokey Bear greeted us:

Graci and Cari with Smokey 20160618

The Wall Drug Store is a hodge-podge of vendors selling anything a tourist might wish to have as a remembrance of this unique part of the USA. It is famous for free chilled water and 5 cent coffee:

Wall Drug Store 20160617

After stocking up at the only supermarket in town we checked into our lodging. We grilled some steaks, made pasta and salad and enjoyed the repast. On the working ranch our accommodations were indeed spartan. As advertised, both of our cabins had nice propane-fired barbecue grills. 

Our primitive "Treetop Cabin" had electricity, running water, air conditioning, a tiny refrigerator, two beds and clean linens. At our only tap, in the bathroom, the water smelled of rotten eggs-- very likely (we hoped) just naturally occurring sulfur from the well. We brought lots of water bottles so this was not a problem: 

Schneider Tree House Cabin 20160617

In our daughter's adjacent "Cowboy Cabin," her family enjoyed four beds, a kitchen sink, a hot plate, coffee maker and toaster, as well as assorted dinnerware and a couple of pots and pans. 

Orama Cowboy Cabin at Circle View 20160617

Since Mary Lou must have her early morning coffee, we borrowed the Cowboy Cabin coffeemaker, forgetting that our cupboard was otherwise bare. Up well before sunrise, she had the coffee brewing before I woke up, just as she was asking "Where are the coffee cups?" 

We had forgotten to bring some disposable cups from next door! I crept out to the Cowboy Cabin in semi-darkness and quietly tried to open both doors but they were locked. Leaving the occupants in peaceful sleep, my recourse was to retrieve two discarded plastic water bottles from the refuse container. I cut off their upper half and washed them. They did not melt and served us well! "Necessity is the mother of invention:"

Cowboy coffee cup 20160618

I sat on the little front porch, drinking coffee and listening to mostly unfamiliar bird songs. A Black-tailed Jackrabbit did not see me as it moved out from behind the cabin and hopped a couple of feet past me. I took one poor iPhone photo before my movements scared it away:

Jackrabbit Blue Bell SD 20160617

The sun's early rays coursed the dark sky. 

Sunrise Badlands SD HDR 20160617

One persistent song sounded vaguely familiar, somewhat like that of an Indigo Bunting. As darkness abated, I located the songster and discovered it was a Blue Grosbeak:

Blue Grosbeak 04-20160619

Another song was really new to me, but I suspected it came from a member of the sparrow family. Indeed, as the light improved I recognized several Lark Sparrows:

Lark Sparrow 06-20160618

Lark Sparrow 04-20160618

A Western Meadowlark, which looks almost the same as its Eastern counterpart, sang its distinctive song from a fence post (Westerns warble "look-a-diddle-deedle do" while Easterns whistle "swee-till-see-dee" (I translate their songs respectively as "Look at me I'm a Meadowlark," and "Spring of the Year.)"

Western Meadowlark 01-20160618

A Dickcissel chanted his name from a dooryard treetop:

Dickcissel 01-20160618

In the meantime I watched a drama unfold as a large female White-tailed Deer emerged from the far side of the meadow to the east. She seemed to be paying much attention to a wooded area adjacent to the meadow. She huffed and snorted as three smaller does joined her. 

White-tailed large doe 20160619

Suddenly all took flight. A bit later I heard more deer sounds and the largest doe bounded out of the wooded area with a Coyote on her heels. The predator would have no hope of taking down an adult deer and risked being injured or killed by her sharp hooves if it tried. Either it was playing a game or, more likely, the doe was leading it away from her fawn. I got only one poor shot of the Coyote through the tall grass:

Coyote 2-20160619

The doe soon returned, and this time I could see she was carrying enough milk for two fawns:

White-tailed large doe 3-20160619

These were just a few of my observations on the first morning of our stay. I will save more for a subsequent post, including my photo of a new "Life List" bird species.

Again, searching for a photo of a reflection, I remembered six years ago, when we celebrated our 50th Anniversary with family, also at YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park. Our children, grandchildren and great-grandson presented us with this plate. At the time we did not realize that it was reflecting the snow-capped mountain peaks:

Anniversary Platter 20100615

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to GOOD FENCES by Tex (Theresa). 

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy


Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to Today's Flowers Friday by Denise

Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue

Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display


  1. i'm once again unable to load your photos. :(

  2. i love the cabins and all the critters that came to see thinking on the coffee cups!

  3. Hi, Theresa--Is my blog the only one which gives you trouble? You mentioned this problem earlier and thought that maybe it was an issue with your computer or ISP, but this sounds as if it is specific to my site.

    My photos are all hosted by FLICKR at

    I will be interested to know whether you (or any other readers) are able to access my photos on FLICKR . If so, this may be the problem, and I may need to change my FLICKR settings.

    I usually have a fairly large number of photos so they do take up much more bandwidth than does text.

    I will post this reply on my blog and ask others for feedback about their ability to view my photos and any unusual delay in loading them. Thanks so much for this information!

  4. so many lovely captures. I'm gaga over that sunrise.

  5. Thank you so much for your nice writings and the amazing photographs. The birds we haven't here. So cute to see this sorts. Love it. Also the deer and the fox. O no, you wrote it is an other animal. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  6. Your photos are so beautiful, Kenneth, and it sounds like a wonderful time! One of the most relaxing and enjoyable experiences for me is being in nature and listening to the birds.

  7. came back to try again. got more than half to load that time. i've had some bad connectivity lately, but even on 'good' weeks, i often have trouble loading your blog photos. not sure if it is the amount of them in your post or that they are linked from flickr - i think that delays it a bit and my lousy country connection falters with it. still, i saw some wildlife and birds and even a bear with kids. :)

  8. Congratulations on your 56th anniversary! I like those make-shift coffee mugs!!

  9. This sounds like my kind of trip. I was in this area quite a few years ago and would love to go back.

  10. Thanks for sharing those Wonderful pictures...I particularly loved the feathered and four-legged friends who had come visiting you :)

  11. Wonderful photos, and the shot of the sky is excellent!

  12. You got some great photos in the Badlands and Wall, SD. The coyote photo is rare and special. They are notoriously camera shy. Looks like a fine vacation.

  13. What a wonderful trip, Ken! Congratulations on your anniversary. Like you, I had preconceived ideas about what to expect in South Dakota. How refreshing to see the real story! Beautiful series of birds.

  14. Good job with the coffee cups, KCS.

    And the birding!

  15. Great photos, especially the birds look so great. This Friday I'm also birding in Lithuania on the Curonian spit.

  16. The Badlands are amazing. You saw quite a bit of wildlife in one morning.

  17. What a fabulous reflection.I think those coffee cups might be the start of a new trend.

  18. Happy Anniversary! Fabulous adventure. Necessity is the Mother of Invention ... well done! Loved seeing all the wildlife through your eyes. Have a fun filled week!

  19. I really enjoyed this post!

    It's funny because I was just marveling about how long I've been married. Then I come here to see that you've been married twice as long. :-)

  20. Good old smokey wonderful wildlife enjoyed it

  21. I smiled when I saw how you 'engineered' some coffee cups! It would have been important to me too. And you really saw a lot back in the wilderness. Love the mama deer and even that wild coyote! Enjoy your weekend!

  22. Happy anniversary ~ and what gorgeous photography ~

    Happy Daze to you ~ ^_^

    ps. Have been to Wall Drug and the Badlands and surrounding area ~ what got me was the signs on the highway advertising Wall Drug miles before you got there!

  23. Awesome adventure! My father was born in the great state of S.D. so all the territory you mention is very familiar!

    Beautiful sunrise, fantastic images of the landscape, cabins, birds.

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us birders at I'd Rather B Birdin'. Have a glorious week ahead.

  24. What an adventure, I loved hearing about it (and seeing the pictures, of course)

  25. What a great trip. So many animals and landscapes. I really like the picture of the Dickcissel on the barbed wire. It's wonderful. The Badlands National Park is gorgeous. I sure hope Washing does not ever sell off the national parks. That would be a sad day in the US. When I saw Estes Park,I remember 15 years ago staying several night in our tiny, tiny cabin at the Tiny Town Cabins. It was like a little doll house...and we were always seeing elk jams. We were on our way to Cuchara for our son's wedding. Really enjoyed your post and thanks for your visit to my blog. genie

  26. What a great anniversary trip & congratulations! - Loved all the wonderful photos. How neat to see the deer and the coyote, so glad that it turned out great (at least for the deer.)

  27. What a time! Now, this wouldn't be MY idea of fun, but you enjoyed it, I'm sure!
    (ツ) from Cottage Country Ontario , ON, Canada!

  28. Lovely images!
    Thank you for sharing at

  29. Beautiful place with lovely birds. I like that colorful bird Indigo Bunting.

  30. Hello Ken, what a great critter post. Some of my favorites are the Blue Grosbeak and Meadowlark. Thank you so much for linking up and sharing your post. Have a happy day and week ahead!

  31. Congratulations on your wedding anniversary! What a great way to celebrate. I love the scenery and wildlife on your post. I need to get to these areas soon ;0)

  32. Happy Anniversary!! I love that picture of the meadowlark :)

  33. A wonderful series of photos!
    Congratulations on your anniversary!

  34. Congratulations to you both! Looks like you had some wonderful birds. I love the shot of the dickcissel and Blue Grosbeak. As for the coffee incident, smart thinking. Hope you have a fun weekend planned!


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