From the moment I saw them I was in awe! Don’t let the name fool you…the Badlands are far from bad. The peaks and gullies, ancient rock formations and bands of color are mesmerizing and beautiful. Particularly in the golden hour of early morning and late afternoon, when soft low light throws shadows and brings the landscape to life. During those hours the true beauty of the Park reveals itself.
Our trip was in early September and surprisingly the number of tourists and traffic was pretty low. One morning I was up well before sunrise and in the park and to my delight barely saw any other people. I felt like I had the Badlands all to myself, but for the distant howls of a pack of coyotes.
On the first day I felt a bit overwhelmed by what seemed like an endless expanse of ridges, spires, buttes and otherworldly terrain but slowly, as time passed, I began to focus on smaller areas and take in the more subtle aspects of the area and appreciate its detail. We had 3 days…we needed three times that.
In addition to the fascinating landscapes, there is a variety of wildlife in the Badlands. We saw Bison, Bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, jack rabbits and deer, but there are also rattlesnakes, black-footed ferrets and coyotes to name a few, not to mention, many species of birds.
It was a short trip, just 3 days. A good start to many more treks to South Dakota and into the Badlands.
I’ve only seen a green heron one other time while out shooting but this past Saturday morning I had the pleasure of three. Compared to other herons I’ve seen they are quite a bit smaller and stocky with short legs. There color is quite striking up close, with a green back, chestnut body and dark cap. They occasionally raise there crown feathers which to me, makes them resemble a kingfisher from a distance (of course Kingfishers are a lot different in reality). Like other herons, they stand motionless for long periods, then strike suddenly, snatching their prey with there dagger like bill. Click on an image to view a slideshow of a few shots I was able to get.
“The largest and most powerful raptor found in the Americas.”
Arguably the largest of the Eagles in the world and therefore the biggest predatory bird living today, the Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja) is a Neotropical species of eagle. It is sometimes known as the American Harpy Eagle to distinguish it from the Papuan Eagle which is sometimes known as the New Guinea Harpy Eagle or Papuan Harpy Eagle. It is the largest and most powerful raptor found in the Americas, and among the largest extant species of eagles in the world. It usually inhabits tropical lowland rainforests in the upper (emergent) canopy layer. Destruction of its natural habitat has seen it vanish from many parts of its former range, and it is nearly extirpated in Central America. In Brazil, the Harpy Eagle is also known as Royal-Hawk (in Portuguese: Gavião-Real).
Although the Harpy Eagle still occurs over a considerable range, its distribution and populations have dwindled considerably. It is threatened primarily by habitat loss provoked by the expansion of logging, cattle ranching, agriculture and prospecting. Secondarily, it is threatened by being hunted as an actual threat to livestock and/or a supposed one to human life, due to its great size. Although not actually known to predate humans and only rarely a predator of domestic stock, the species’ large size and nearly fearless behavior around humans reportedly make it an “irresistible target” for hunters. Such threats apply throughout its range, in large parts of which the bird has become a transient sight only: in Brazil, it was all but totally wiped out from the Atlantic rainforest and is only found in numbers in the most remote parts of the Amazon Basin; a Brazilian journalistic account of the mid-1990s already complained that at the time it was only found in numbers, in Brazilian territory, on the northern side of the Equator. Scientific 1990s records, however, suggest that the Harpy Atlantic Forest population may be migratory. Subsequent research in Brazil has established that, as of 2009, the Harpy Eagle, outside the Brazilian Amazon, is critically endangered in Espírito Santo, São Paulo and Paraná, endangered in Rio de Janeiro, and probably extirpated in Rio Grande do Sul and Minas Gerais – the actual size of their total population in Brazil is unknown.
Globally, The Harpy Eagle is considered Near Threatened by IUCN and threatened with extinction by CITES (appendix I). The Peregrine Fund until recently considered it a “conservation-dependent species”, meaning it depends on a dedicated effort for captive breeding and release to the wild as well as habitat protection in order to prevent it from reaching endangered status but now has accepted the Near Threatened status. The Harpy Eagle is considered critically endangered in Mexico and Central America, where it has been extirpated in most of its former range: in Mexico, it used to be found as far North as Veracruz, but today probably occurs only in Chiapas in the Selva Zoque. It is considered as Near Threatened or Vulnerable in most of the South American portion of its range: at the Southern extreme of its range, in Argentina, it’s found only in the Parana Valley forests at the province of Misiones. It has disappeared from El Salvador, and almost so from Costa Rica. (From Wikipedia)
Here are some images of several Pronghorns I took recently on a trip through Wyoming and Montana. We saw a lot of them, though most were to far off to get any good shots. Until I started writing this post, I was under the impression that Pronghorns were antelope; however, researching them a bit has revealed that they are not really Antelope but an artiodactyl mammal often known colloquially in North America as the prong buck, pronghorn antelope, or simply antelope, as it closely resembles the true antelopes of the Old World. They live predominately in grasslands but also bush-land and deserts. This was a mixed herd but mostly males.
Beaver are typically nocturnal; however, this one was busy feeding in the late afternoon in Montana when I photographed him. He was so busy feeding, in fact, that he didn’t seem to mind me being in such close proximity to him at all.
Did you know…In the 17th century, based on a question raised by the Bishop of Quebec, the Roman Catholic Church ruled that the beaver was a fish (beaver flesh was a part of the indigenous peoples’ diet, prior to the Europeans’ arrival) for purposes of dietary law. Therefore, the general prohibition on the consumption of meat on Fridays during Lent did not apply to beaver meat. The legal basis for the decision probably rests with the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas, which bases animal classification as much on habit as anatomy. This is similar to the Church’s classification of the capybara, another semi-aquatic rodent.
I rarely get the chance to see 1 fawn, let alone 3, so I was fortunate to come along this family of deer as they were dining in a bean field one evening. As usual they didn’t stick around to long once they saw me, heading farther into the field. It was quite a treat!
A Dickcissels natural habitat is in grasslands where they forage for seeds. I photographed this one as he was perched on a fence post. He was kind enough to let me take multiple shots. This one appears to be a fledgling. Click on the images to view them larger.
This little guy (or girl, not sure) let me get pretty close to him as if not scared at all. Possibly due to being very hungry or inexperienced-maybe both. Mom was no where in sight. He sure seemed to be enjoying the tender vegetation.
I’d never seen a Bobolink before so I was pretty excited to get these pics. This is an adult male who was kind enough to give me several poses and even bend down so I could see the white markings on his back. The Bobolink is the only American bird that is black underneath and white on the back. They are extraordinary migrants, traveling thousands of miles each autumn. Bobolinks are also one of the few songbirds that undergoes two complete molts each year. Please click on the images to view them larger.