South Dakota Badlands

The park’s brochure makes a statement about this place that we can appreciate but did not experience. They wrote, “For centuries humans have viewed South Dakota’s celebrated Badlands with a mix of dread and fascination.” For us, the place was simply fascinating! We did not sense the dread, but perhaps it is because we came in spring when the temperatures were mild and the grasses lush and green. In this place one can marvel at the eroded peaks and pinnacles, gullies, buttes and wide prairies. The skies were interesting and the light played with colors that seemed to change by the hour. There is a sense of vastness. Best of all, this is a great place to photograph!

In many places one can see layering in the rock formations; the result of broad cycles of climates and geologic processes that have shaped the region over the past 75 million years.

In many places one can see layering in the rock formations; the result of broad cycles of climates and geologic processes that have shaped the region over the past 75 million years.

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We saw plenty of Big Horn sheep. They are very used to tourist traffic and will pass within feet of photographers.

We saw plenty of Big Horn sheep. They are very used to tourist traffic and will pass within feet of photographers.

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Taken during a late afternoon golden hour.

Taken during a late afternoon golden hour.

Taken later in the same place with some late light reflecting on just this one hill.

Taken later in the same place with some late light reflecting on just this one hill.

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When the black hills were formed in South Dakota the ancient sea drained away. Once exposed to air, the black ocean mud was weathered into a yellow soil and this can be seen in mound-like structures in the park.

When the black hills were formed in South Dakota the ancient sea drained away. Once exposed to air, the black ocean mud was weathered into a yellow soil and this can be seen in mound-like structures in the park.

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This is the only standing water we saw in the park. It is a small pond inhabited by vocal frogs. I suspect that by late spring it will have dried up.

This is the only standing water we saw in the park. It is a small pond inhabited by vocal frogs. I suspect that by late spring it will have dried up.

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This spot reminded me of Zabriski Point in Death Valley.

This spot reminded me of Zabriski Point in Death Valley.

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Sunrise gold!!

Sunrise gold!!

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This is a prairie dog. I would have been thrilled to spot a black-footed ferret. The ferrets were once thought to be extinct but were discovered in the wilderness of Wyoming. A program to save them in captivity and then reintroduce them to the prairie in the Badlands National Park seems to have been successful.

This is a prairie dog. I would have been thrilled to spot a black-footed ferret. The ferrets were once thought to be extinct but were discovered in the wilderness of Wyoming. A program to save them in captivity and then reintroduce them to the prairie in the Badlands National Park seems to have been successful.

This is such a typical photograph representing the richness of the prairie grasses in the park. There are 60 species of prairie grass in the park. I imagine these grasses turn yellow and brown in the extreme summer heat, but for now following significant winter and spring rains, the prairie is flourishing.

This is such a typical photograph representing the richness of the prairie grasses in the park. There are 60 species of prairie grass in the park. I imagine these grasses turn yellow and brown in the extreme summer heat, but for now following significant winter and spring rains, the prairie is flourishing.

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Boats, Piers and Sunsets

Rockport got its name from the rock ledge that runs along the shore of bay. Its main economic drivers are tourism, shipping, and fishing. We have been here for three months and spent many hours at various marinas and scouted out interesting piers. Here the marinas are filled primarily with what we call ‘working’ boats. Very few boats are fancy. Boats go out to dredge for oysters and then when the shrimping season opens they trade their dredging buckets for shrimping nets. Both activities are highly regulated and areas where either oysters or shrimp can be harvested are limited and the quantities are also restricted. Both industries have suffered major setbacks in the past few decades from the effects of flooding (too much fresh water dumped in the bay), pollution such as oil spills and then hurricanes! On August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall over Rockport. The devastation was horrific! While some areas in Rockport are fully recovered there are many areas where one sees destruction that can only be attributed to a major hurricane.

There were not nearly enough sunsets to suit us. But this one, with the marina as a foreground, was a keeper.

There were not nearly enough sunsets to suit us. But this one, with the marina as a foreground, was a keeper.

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Just about every time we went out to photograph the piers we saw people fishing.

Just about every time we went out to photograph the piers we saw people fishing.

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This old boat is still working. There is not enough money in oysters and shrimp to allow owners to spend money making them ‘pretty’. If it floats, a boat is put to work!

This old boat is still working. There is not enough money in oysters and shrimp to allow owners to spend money making them ‘pretty’. If it floats, a boat is put to work!

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There are a few pleasure boats docked at this marina. Some of them are used as full time homes. No tires, just sails.

There are a few pleasure boats docked at this marina. Some of them are used as full time homes. No tires, just sails.

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This is the USS Enterprise which is now a floating museum just outside of Corpus Christie.

This is the USS Enterprise which is now a floating museum just outside of Corpus Christie.

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Fog is very common along the shore. Sometimes it burns off by noon, but there are days when it lasts all day.

Fog is very common along the shore. Sometimes it burns off by noon, but there are days when it lasts all day.

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Dredged oysters are thrown on tables where they are sorted. Undersized and dead oysters are thrown back into the water. Fishermen are fined if they keep too many undersized oysters.

Dredged oysters are thrown on tables where they are sorted. Undersized and dead oysters are thrown back into the water. Fishermen are fined if they keep too many undersized oysters.

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Bags of oysters are loaded into trucks that take them to distribution centers and a market near you.

Bags of oysters are loaded into trucks that take them to distribution centers and a market near you.

Every spring an Oyster Festival is held with the proceeds to benefit the Rockport Volunteer Fire Department. theses lovely oysters are shucked as you watch and sell for $1 each. They were very popular, with some folks walking off with a tray of 30!

Every spring an Oyster Festival is held with the proceeds to benefit the Rockport Volunteer Fire Department. theses lovely oysters are shucked as you watch and sell for $1 each. They were very popular, with some folks walking off with a tray of 30!

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Hurricane Harvey destroyed every single private pier. You can drive along the coast and see hundreds of piers like this one.

Hurricane Harvey destroyed every single private pier. You can drive along the coast and see hundreds of piers like this one.

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Steve’s take.

Steve’s take.

Carol’s take. I am smiling because one of the real treats in being here for three months is parking next to my brother and having him stand right next to me and click away. Difference? He uses Canon! Hahahahaha!

Carol’s take. I am smiling because one of the real treats in being here for three months is parking next to my brother and having him stand right next to me and click away. Difference? He uses Canon! Hahahahaha!

Tom’s take. Tom’s is a little fishy, don’t you think? Nope, turns out that this is a three photograph pano!

Tom’s take. Tom’s is a little fishy, don’t you think? Nope, turns out that this is a three photograph pano!

A foggy pier offers a different feel on a cold night.

A foggy pier offers a different feel on a cold night.

Rock and cement barriers such as his one offer protection from rough waves, leaving the marinas with smoother water.

Rock and cement barriers such as his one offer protection from rough waves, leaving the marinas with smoother water.

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These are shrimping nets. The shrimp season starts in November.

These are shrimping nets. The shrimp season starts in November.

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We took the ferry across to Padre Island. There, along a deep channel, is a long rock and cement barrier. It is used by fishermen to get out into the gulf and fish.

We took the ferry across to Padre Island. There, along a deep channel, is a long rock and cement barrier. It is used by fishermen to get out into the gulf and fish.

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Oh, look how the sun lights up that bridge!

Oh, look how the sun lights up that bridge!

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Juguete caro translates to “Expensive toy.”

Juguete caro translates to “Expensive toy.”

Beach foam! I know . . . .

Beach foam! I know . . . .

This area is known for its live oak trees. This is a decent representation of the trees here, some even withstood Hurricane Harvey.

This area is known for its live oak trees. This is a decent representation of the trees here, some even withstood Hurricane Harvey.

Birds of Aransas County

Rockport is located just across a narrow bay from Padre Island on the Gulf Coast in southern Texas. This whole area is appreciated by birders for its huge numbers of birds supported year round and being a stopping point for thousand of migrating birds in spring and fall. Steve (S. Bates) has been in Rockport, TX since last July. Tom and I arrived here in January. None of us are ‘birders’ as we know little about them and have not pursued bird photography with any seriousness. Our bird photography is largely the photography of ‘opportunity’. If we are fortunate to have an opportunity to photograph one of these gorgeous creatures within the limits of our lens we will do so. When it works we get all excited! Below is a collection of photographs that have opportunistically crossed our paths while staying in Rockport. Our apologies to our wonderful birding friends if we have mis-identified one of these birds. Let me know and I will set it right.

White Ibis adults and juveniles (the juveniles are molted brown)

White Ibis adults and juveniles (the juveniles are molted brown)

Tricolor Great Heron

Tricolor Great Heron

Male and female adult Whooping Cranes. They migrate north in the summer. Photographs of the Whooping Cranes were taken using a borrowed Canon 600mm prime lens.

Male and female adult Whooping Cranes. They migrate north in the summer. Photographs of the Whooping Cranes were taken using a borrowed Canon 600mm prime lens.

Red-billed Coot Moorhen

Red-billed Coot Moorhen

Roseate Spoonbills, referred to as ‘rosies’ around here

Roseate Spoonbills, referred to as ‘rosies’ around here

Brown Pelicans

Brown Pelicans

Cooper Hawk

Cooper Hawk

American White Pelicans

American White Pelicans

Female Cardinal

Female Cardinal

Brown Pelicans

Brown Pelicans

Red-headed Aythya americana (salt water diving duck)

Red-headed Aythya americana (salt water diving duck)

Cooper Hawk

Cooper Hawk

American Coot

American Coot

Great Egret

Great Egret

Great-tailed Crackle

Great-tailed Crackle

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

White Ibis

White Ibis

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

Tri-colored Heron

Tri-colored Heron

Tri-colored Heron with Sheephead fish

Tri-colored Heron with Sheephead fish

Red-headed Aythya

Red-headed Aythya

Laughing Seagull with Sheepshead

Laughing Seagull with Sheepshead

Great Egret in breeding plumage

Great Egret in breeding plumage

Sanderling

Sanderling

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

Whooping Crane

Whooping Crane

Tri-colored Heron

Tri-colored Heron

American Pelican

American Pelican

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Herons atop tall live oaks where they have. built their nests

Herons atop tall live oaks where they have. built their nests

Colt (juvenile) Whooping Crane

Colt (juvenile) Whooping Crane

Colt Whooping Crane

Colt Whooping Crane

Colt Whooping Crane (dancing!)

Colt Whooping Crane (dancing!)

Brown Pelican waiting for his lunch at a fish cleaning station

Brown Pelican waiting for his lunch at a fish cleaning station

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

American Finch

American Finch

Brown Pelican (here’s lookin’ at ya baby!)

Brown Pelican (here’s lookin’ at ya baby!)

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Long-billed Curlew

Long-billed Curlew

Tri-colored Heron

Tri-colored Heron

Morning Dove at Steve’s feeder

Morning Dove at Steve’s feeder

Whooping Cranes

Whooping Cranes

Great Egret

Great Egret

Male Cardinal

Male Cardinal

American Pelicans

American Pelicans

Long-billed Curlew

Long-billed Curlew

Herons atop live oaks

Herons atop live oaks

Adult Whooping Cranes with their juvenile ‘colt’

Adult Whooping Cranes with their juvenile ‘colt’

Whooping Cranes

Whooping Cranes

Whooping Cranes

Whooping Cranes

Great Egret

Great Egret

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

American Pelican

American Pelican

Front bird is a Kingfisher and the back bird is a Laughing Gull

Front bird is a Kingfisher and the back bird is a Laughing Gull

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

Coot

Coot

Osprey

Osprey

American Pelican taking food from a Brown Pelican

American Pelican taking food from a Brown Pelican

Osprey (we think)

Osprey (we think)

Tri-colored Heron

Tri-colored Heron

Turkey Vulture (where a hundred hang out on a nearby microwave tower)

Turkey Vulture (where a hundred hang out on a nearby microwave tower)

Snowy egret

Snowy egret

Whooping Cranes with a coyote nearby (he does not consider them prey and they ignore him)

Whooping Cranes with a coyote nearby (he does not consider them prey and they ignore him)

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Great Egret

Great Egret

Crackle

Crackle

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Wilson’s Snipe (we think)

Wilson’s Snipe (we think)

Split-tailed Fly Catcher

Split-tailed Fly Catcher

Split-tail Fly Catcher

Split-tail Fly Catcher

Tufted or crested Tit-mouse (lots of discussion on this one’s identity)

Tufted or crested Tit-mouse (lots of discussion on this one’s identity)

You might imagine the conversation in trying to name these birds. We have reference cards. “Well, that one has yellow feet so that makes it a . . . Now that bill curves down so that suggests it is . . . That red face makes it a . . . Hmmmmm . . . . . not sure about that hawk. . . . “