Monday, May 24, 2010

Howdy from Rapid City, SD

I packed up my truck Sunday morning (5/23) at Lewis & Clark S.P. after some amazing sight-seeing, camping, birding, and learning. Some new life birds I added were Mountain Bluebird, Lazuli Bunting, Spotted Towhee, Say's Phoebe, Loggerhead Shrike, Baird's Sparrow (for real this time), Lark Bunting and Lark Sparrow, California Gull, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Bullock's Oriole (f), and Ferruginous Hawk.

I made pals with a really nice ranger who gave me a free 'pop', as they call them out here, for making a tally of the birds I saw while there. My list got to 149 species. My drive from Fargo to the park yielded my 3rd Golden eagle of the trip. The wind whipped off of the lake that laid right behind my tent. It reminded me of Long Island Sound... one morning it was glass, and I was able to scope several Western Grebes.... the next it was white-capped.

I can honestly say they only down side is driving 30 miles to get one bar of cell phone service to the closest town, Williston. Even that was alright because it drove me past a Prairie dog town.

Each night, and Elk 're-marked' his territory, right where I was during the night! Sharp-tailed Grouse and RN Pheasants called at dusk and dawn, coyotes sang out from the canyons, and my closest neighbors for the 3 nights/days were a Brown Thrasher, Orange-crowned/Yellow and Magnolia warblers, Clay-colored Sparrows, Western Kingbirds, a Screech owl, and Mr. Elk.... along with some passer-bys.

After saying my goodbyes and taking a few photos of the rising sun over the lake, I headed south to where I am now... Motel 6 in Rapid City, SD. About a half hour from Mt. Rushmore, Deadwood, and the Black Hills Nat'l Forest. I drove through Sturgis to get here, which was FILLED with Harley bars, dealers, shops and the like. Before I got that far, I stopped half-way at an really neat bar called 'The No.3 Saloon' in Buffalo, SD. Coincidentally, two identical twins came in, which is interesting to me because my good friend feeding my pets my mother won't even look at is a twin. I was outside talking on my cell phone to a different friend back home, and as they left, one of them tossed me a 65,000 year old turtle shell fossil as a souvenir for my trip. It went in the cup with interesting rocks and petrified wood I found on my own.

Unfortunately the ratio of living mammals (not live-stock) to road-killed mammals is around 300:1.... Dead:Alive. I did pass a few Pronghorn Antelope on the drive, and saw a few free-roaming Bison as well. The grassland and badland roads are all lined with wired fence to keep our burgers and lamb from getting out, and birds perched on what seemed like ever 100 feet of them. So again, unfortunately, I saw many road-killed birds too. One of which was a hawk of some sort.

I've now seen 3 sub-species of Red-tailed hawks on the trip, and the drive here gave me great looks at different morphs of Swainson's and Ferruginous hawks. I have another night here, and will probably do a bird tally tonight.... or today, as it will be heavily raining and storming, with winds up to 50mph. Tomorrow will be sunny and 65, though. There are caves to see, and gold to find, and Deadwood to enjoy while I am here. A lot of the stories and characters from the HBO show 'Deadwood' are based on real people/events, and I can't wait to see Wild Bill Hickock's grave... as he was killed in Deadwood. Not sure if Calamity Jane is buried in the same cemetery. I do know I will walk where they did, as well as Wyatt Earp.

The weather for Yellowstone N.P. is NOT what I had expected.... snow and sleet for the next several days, so camping there is out. I will do a drive through and tour, take some photos, then haul to Boulder, CO... where it will be 70-80 and sunny until Friday.

It is now 7:47am (now in Mountain time.... it follows the Missouri I believe.... zig-zags like crazy) in Rapid City.

Signing off for now,



  1. Hey Brian,
    That 65,000 year old turtle fossil is not your usual collectible item. It sounds like the weather has been a little rough, but you are still seeing some great country and getting some good birds. Next time we do the hawk watch, you should be the "go-to guy" for any question on Swainson's Hawk ID's.