Thursday, July 28, 2016

South Dakota Badlands (continued)

Our two night stay at Circle View guest ranch in the Badlands of South Dakota was a true wildlife watching adventure. I provided a taste of the experience in my PREVIOUS POST with descriptions of my observations on our first morning as I sipped coffee on the porch of our tiny "Treehouse" cabin.  

From our cabin, this is a view of the Badlands to the north:

View to north HDR 3-20160619

Later that morning, in full sun, a Bullocks Oriole appeared in the wet meadow just to the west of the cabin:

Bullock's Oriole 01-20160618

A Blue Grosbeak stood out against the vegetation:

Blue Grosbeak 03-20160619

A female Yellow-headed Blackbird landed on a nearby fence. She was gathering grasshoppers for her young. Her more brightly-colored mate showed up later but was too far away for a photo:

Yellow-headed Blackbird female 3-20160618

An Eastern Bluebird perched on a nearby tree. I had rather expected to see Western Bluebirds as we had in Colorado, but the latter species has a blue throat and lower belly and their ranges do not overlap this far north:

Western Bluebird 2-20160619

We set out on a tour of the main portion of Badlands National Park. The color of the rock formations varies considerably, from red...

Red Badlands HDR 20160618 yellow...

Yellow hills HDR 20160618 purple (accented by a Bighorn Sheep)...

Bighorn ewe on ridge HDR 20160618

...but were mostly multicolored:

Badlands Wall HDR 02-20160618

Badlands wide HDR 20160618

A Say's Phoebe is visible in this distant shot:

Say's Phoebe 20160618

Western Meadowlarks comprised the most common bird species we encountered on the open prairie:

Western Meadowlark 06-20160618

We watched for birds roosting on fences and utility wires in the National Grasslands which surround the rugged hills. Here is another Western Meadowlark, in flight:

Western Meadowlark 02-20160618

Western Kingbird:

Western Kingbird 01-20160618

An Eastern Kingbird provided a comparison. Its more extensive range overlaps with its Western relative:

Eastern Kingbird 2-20160618

Lark Buntings were a welcome sight, I had not seen any since we moved away from New Mexico. They were very shy and I had trouble getting a good photo:

Lark Bunting 2-20160619

Dickcissels perched and sang from the wires:

Dickcissel 02-20160618

I logged a new "Life Bird" when Roly, our son-in-law, spotted this Upland Sandpiper roosting along the gravel road. Unlike many other sandpipers, it nests on short-grass prairie away from water:

Upland Sandpiper HDR  01-20160618

Remarkably, two Upland Sandpiper chicks were walking along right in front of our auto. One quickly disappeared into the roadside vegetation. Note its cryptic coloration:

Upland Sandpiper chick 02-20160618

A second chick afforded a better view:

Upland Sandpiper chick 20160618

Later we saw another Upland Sandpiper:

Upland Sandpiper 20160619

We encountered a closely related dry-land member of the sandpiper family as we exited the grasslands. It was a Long-billed Curlew:

Long-billed Curlew 20160618

Probably the most unusual bird photo I have ever obtained is that of an almost unimaginable combination-- a Western Meadowlark with a Red-headed Woodpecker in close contact. Since there were no trees in sight we joked that maybe the woodpecker was asking for directions!

Unlikely couple on prairie 20160618

There were several large Black-tailed Prairie Dog towns in the grasslands. This one stood guard and yipped its squeaky warning "bark"...

Prairie Dog 2-20160618

...while another prairie dog seemed to be curious about our presence. Note that flowers tend to grow in the cleared areas around their mounds, probably because of years of fertilization by the rodents' wastes:

Prairie Dog 3-20160618 

Thistles predominated on the prairie:

Thistle 20160618

Bighorn Sheep were common on the rugged hills. These three ewes were standing in the road and suddenly were startled and all fled at once:

Bighorns startled 20160617

A large Bighorn ram grazed along the road and seemed oblivious to our presence. I could hardly fit him into my camera's frame:

Bighorn ram HDR  20160618

Finally, we witnessed a bit of drama as a very young Bighorn lamb seemed to be reflecting on whether to jump from a very high cliff to a pinnacle which was about 10 feet away. Note its mother watching-- her head is barely visible in the background:

Bighorn ewe watching lamb 20160618

The lamb decided not to jump across the chasm...

Bighorn lamb decides not to jump 20160618

...and returned to its mother:

Bighorn lamb comes to mama 2-20160618

Bighorn ewe nursing lamb 20160618

Once again, I could not find any good reflections among the many photos I took in the arid Badlands. I don't think the picture of the car mirror meets the standard, so I must reach back into the archives. This is a storm which was developing over the Everglades, taken in our local Florida wetlands the week before we departed:

Storm over Everglades HDR 20160529

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

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. What an awesome collection of photographs. Loved seeing the Prairie Dog, the colorful beauty of the Badlands, all the gorgeous birds and different animals. The feathers on that Sandpiper are gorgeous. A treat for the eyes. genie.

  2. i got maybe half to load today. :) but i saw some great fence-sitters and some lovely landscape. the chicks are adorable as is the lamb. :)

  3. i would love to see the badlands one day, so amazing...and as always, impressive wildlife! love that cute little prairie dog!

  4. Kenneth! You amped up the wow factor. Loved all the critters, but must say that shot of the curlew is my favorite. And now I have to go research the ancient geology of the Badlands. Was it part of the inland sea? Or swamp that eroded when the land lifted? Geology rocks. I wish they taught it in grade/high school.

  5. ahhhh both inland sea deposits and uplift.

  6. You certainly found lots of wild life there.

  7. Hello, awesome variety of birds, scenic shots and the bighorn lamb is adorable.
    Enjoy your weekend ahead!

  8. Glorious series of fascinating photos. Loved the story and images of the rams. The badlands are certainly intriguing.

  9. Wow, what a great post!! I think my fav is the close-up of the bighorn ram at the side of the road. They are so rare and elusive here in the desert. Wonderful photography!

  10. What a wonderful mix of birds, wildlife and scenery!

  11. What a wonderful post, with really great photos! I thoroughly enjoyed this, we have the same badlands where I live!

  12. Oh wow this post was filled with so many awesome sights. Tha Badlands are amazing, all the critters were wonderful. I'm so glad that little sheep didn't try to jump. Wonderful birds on fences too. I truly had a blast viewing this post.

  13. Stunning captures, Kenneth!

  14. These are awesome shot. The landscape is prettys tunning.

  15. What amazing rocky scenery and gorgeous sky shot.

  16. Beautiful nature shots and it's a lovely sunset too!

  17. Thanks for taking us with you on this trip to the badlands! Wow, so many changes to see in terms of landscape - love all the animal captures, especially of the Bighorn mother and lamb. Have a great weekend!

  18. What an amazing place! Great photos!

  19. Wonderful Badlands photos. I am really impressed at the birds you were able to photograph. I've been in the Badlands many times, and never seen half the species you saw and photographed.

  20. What a delightful collection of images Kenneth. I especially like the attractive plumage on the Sandpiper, the vibrant colour on the thistles, the unlikely companions and the stunning reflection shot. Thank you for sharing & happy weekend.

  21. awesome landscape photos...awesome bird photos! And a lovely reflection too.

  22. Hello Ken, wonderful critter post. I love the Upland Sandpiper. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend!

  23. All so fascinating and not seen here but oh that sandpiper chick made my morning

  24. Wow! Those Badlands look - well - bad! And good at the same time. Love the lost woodpecker image!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  25. How I remember having bighorn sheep in our backyard in Colorado!! Fantastic images.

    The array of birds...that too is fantastic. I especially liked the meadowlark and woodpecker together on the fencing. And the Upland Sandpiper chicks!

    Your contribution for us birders at I'd Rather B Birdin' this weekend has been an awesome experience...thanks!!!

  26. Wow! Just amazing photos! Your views of the Badlands are just stunning. And what a wonderful array of wildlife and birds! Great post! I am seeing it was a great trip! :-)

  27. Awesome clicks of those birds and majestic mountains.

  28. Fantastic job, KCS!

    The Bighorn sheep and his what a few moments!

  29. Your photos are a delight for the eyes!
    Thank you for joining the party and linking up at

  30. Amazing variety of beautiful birds.

  31. fantastic rugged landscape. Loved the Bighorn sheep and i am glad that baby did not jump. Loved the shots of the W. Meadowlark and Wooodpecker.

  32. Love, love your photos! This is the reason why I adore National Parks. The scenery is great (and unique) and there are tons of wildlife. You do not know how much I would like to visit this park.

  33. Hello Ken!:) What a delightful mix of flora, fauna, birds and the most amazing landscape scenery. Loved them all!:)

    I also enjoyed your story about your grandfather's chickens.:)

  34. Fantastic series of photos Ken. Enjoyed them all, especially the little one deciding not to jump and going back to its mum :) I went to the Badlands years ago but was not as much into birding as I am now, though still a novice. I can see I missed a lot and it will be a good excuse to go back again. Thank you so much for your very heartwarming comments on the passing of my father-in-law.

  35. What an incredible array of birds. Congratulations on the lifer too.


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