Thursday, July 30

bur oak imitating Marilyn

In the classic 1955 movie,"The Seven Year Itch", starring Tom Ewell and Marilyn Monroe, there is the famous scene of Marilyn standing over the subway grate and the breeze lofting her skirt. The picture caused a sensation and is still sold as posters today.
A stiff south wind lifted the skirts of this bur oak, not quite as sensational as Marilyn, but an interesting view anyway. :o)

Wednesday, July 29

cussed Out

Tamiasciurus hudsonicus

Ever been cussed out by someone? Here's what it looks like...nobody does it better than a red squirrel!

Tuesday, July 28

mighty oaks from little acorns Grow

Quercus macrocarpa

Bur or mossycup oak is a the common oak found growing in the Black Hills, producing acorns favored by wild turkey, blue jays, and others for food. These tiny July acorns will disappear in a hurry into blue jay caches once they ripen in the fall.

Curiously, I found that the word acorn is not a contraction of "oak" and "corn" as is commonly believed. It is actually an Old English word "aecern" meaning berry or fruit.

The first variant of the well known proverb is attributed to Geoffrey Chaucer, author of The Canterbury Tales we struggled with in some high school English class! According to the Oxford English dictionary,

Quoth Chaucer in 1374:
'as an ook cometh of a litel spyr"

Monday, July 27

shadow Puppet

This caught my eye when I was out mowing the other evening.

Sunday, July 26

they are off into the wild blue Yonder

Tachycineta thalassina

My little violet-green swallow babes flew out into the world yesterday morning. The deck is quiet for the first time in weeks, my parakeets have no one to chat with when they are outside in the sunshine. Safe travels, little guys.

Mrs. Feather can finally feed just herself lunch and not 4 hungry and demanding nestlings.

Saturday, July 25

Happy Anniversary, DS
love, CBS

Friday, July 24

calf in the Coneflowers

Bos primigenius

Often in late July, the pasture has turned from lush to crunchy. Not this year, drought conditions have eased and the local Angus calves do a "lion in the African bush" imitation in the morning sun.

Thursday, July 23

the ultimate confidence Decoy

Ardea herodias

Waterfowl hunters setting a spread of decoys often use a confidence decoy to add realism to the scene they have created. Ducks know that great blue herons, coots and crows are among the wariest of birds. If they are mingling peacefully with the "ducks" on the water, then there is no need for alarm and the passing flock will often come in. They have been in use since the nineteenth century by waterfowlers hunting ducks and geese.

I discovered a company that even manufactures "confidence cows"! Apparently, in agricultural areas, cows are viewed by wild turkeys as benign beings, and snow and Canada geese will come in to a harvested field populated with grazing cows , to the benefit of turkey and goose hunters hiding in blinds. The manufacturer claims the "confidence cow" works for deer hunting as well. Deer will avoid cows, so strategically placed cows can steer those big bucks in the direction you'd like them to travel, kind of like those orange traffic cones!

The fake bovines only weigh 5 lbs, and you can order one for $49.95, plus shipping, if you'd like a change from pink plastic flamingos for your yard decor or decoy collection.

Wednesday, July 22

variations on a Theme

On any given day in July, the skies can show you anything,

from this:

to this:
to this:

Tuesday, July 21

haiku for baby Robins

Like yellow crocus
Growing in small earthen bowl
Baby robins wait

Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a Celebrate Urban Birds/Funky Nests project going on. If you look at you will find the "view entries" button. Check out Mary Todd and Mr. Lincoln's story, we are entry #187! Very cool for Lincoln School. :o)

Monday, July 20

me, myself and I

Branta canadensis
Did you know?? Canada geese go through a mid-summer molt where they lose all their primary flight feathers. They become pedestrians for several weeks while new feathers mature. This lone Canada is keeping company with blue-winged teal and mallard families and a great blue heron while he is waiting. The pond that is temporary quarters for a grounded goose, is a magnet in the spring for migrating shorebirds and ducks and usually has swallows and dragonflies skimming the water's surface. You never know what you might find on any given day. It is one of the areas that I census on International Migratory Bird Day in May.

Sunday, July 19

fancy Man

Hey, look at Me!

Vanessa atalanta

For the third summer in a row, a male red admiral butterfly has chosen the front of our house as his dancing ground and display arena. Red admirals are known to be territorial and claim a bright, sunlit area to show off and attract a mate. Our gray and white color scheme, catching the late afternoon sun, apparently is the perfect place to show off your fancy duds.

The "red admiral" comes from red chevron-shaped markings on the topside of the wings, someone thought they looked like the stripes on a Petty Officer's uniform. Oddly, admiral's uniforms have gold bars, not the red of a Petty Officer.

Saturday, July 18

them is Ducks.....

Aix sponsa (female Wood duck)

There are ducks, and then there are ducks!

Webfooticus ginormous (fundraiser duck)

Friday, July 17

waiting for rufous, ruby and Calliope

The hummingbirds come through the Black Hills on their migration back to warmer climates, usually arriving about August 1. In the mean time, we grow fuschias, petunias, morning glory and salvia and wait for the real thing to show up.

To my great surprise, an early traveler showed up on Tuesday evening! A feisty little male broad-tailed hummingbird has taken possession of the backyard and the feeders. He seems to think chickadees and violet-green swallows are a threat to
his feeders. The distinctive "trilling" sound from his wings is diagnostic for identification, kind of like having a demented cricket zooming around the yard, you can hear him even inside the house! If he will co-operate, I will get his picture, in the meantime, I have borrowed one from Isn't he gorgeous!

Thursday, July 16

birth of a Thunderstorm

This whole sequence took about 90 seconds in the early evening light. A juicy atmosphere and fast moving cold front built up dramatic thunderclouds in a matter of moments. This fella eventually spawned a couple of tornadoes out over the South Dakota prairie east of us, thankfully no injuries or damage reported.

Wednesday, July 15

new existence for a dead Tree

When that old pine or cottonwood in your yard finally succumbs to old age or calamity, you don't have to turn it in to firewood. Just find an artist with a chainsaw. Who knew these creatures were living in those trees!

Tuesday, July 14

an Alliteration

a vivid, violet viola becomes...

a strange, (p)sychedelic scene, when you play with Photoshop.


Monday, July 13

very Punny

Would this sign make you want to take your critter to this vet's office? We saw it this morning on the way to town. First the pun made us groan, then we wondered if someone should have run a spell check. The sign is on the main drag to Mt. Rushmore, right out there for all the tourists to see on their way by.


Sunday, July 12

seashell Pink

Sometimes on your birthday, when you turn 17, your big sister sends you roses which are a perfect seashell pink.

Saturday, July 11

happy Birthday

Happy Birthday, Sweetie!

Friday, July 10

the noisiest of Neighbors

Cyanocitta cristata

Although our human next door neighbors are friendly folks who happen to ride Harleys, the real noisy next door neighbors are these guys. During the winter of 2008-09 there were up to 9 of these blue rascals that came for peanuts on our deck railing.
Apparently we are a desirable neighborhood, as one pair chose to set up housekeeping in the big ponderosa pine in their front yard, despite the Harley traffic in and out of the driveway below.

Pinus ponderosa

They have recently fledged 5 offspring from up here among the top branches. Anyone who has ever had a hungry, demanding infant has nothing on the blue jay parents! The young ones are as big as the parents and seem to think they are going to starve to death before they take another breath. The young chickadees, house finches and robins that also are around the yard are beggars, but the blue jay youth are the absolute Champions of Whine and Complain.

Thursday, July 9

on the deck, first cup of the Morning

View from the little deck while watering tomatoes, accidental still life on the big deck. Coffee in the early morning outdoors, nice way to start the day's work. Neighborhood is quiet except for the spotted towhee inviting "come and drink your tea" and the insistent violet-green swallows young'uns demanding breakfast in the birdhouse overhead.

Wednesday, July 8

summer skies at 44N 103W

I bought an end of season, 75% off, label missing, sad looking delphinium last year. It survived the winter, the deer left it alone (a miracle in itself), 2 hailstorms this spring and is featured in my 4th of July post. I think it is a variety called "Summer Skies", that is speculation only. I got my money's worth on this one!

Some ancient botanist thought the buds with the long nectary resembled a dolphin, hence the genus name delphinium, derived from the Greek delphis, meaning "dolphin". Look like a dolphin to you?

Tuesday, July 7

still life with blue pot, geraniums and Turkey

Meleagris gallopavo (miniature version)

The commotion in the back yard about 7 this morning was incredible! A quick check revealed the north end of our neighbors' southbound dog and the air full of feather dusters! Ma Turkey and 11 poults were at my birdbath and foraging on spilled sunflower seed from the feeder. She gave the order, the little ones headed into the pines and she drew Spencer off in another direction.

I grabbed the camera and found all of the little ones in the trees, and not willing photo subjects at all. One little guy chose a different place of refuge on the deck railing. Spencer was called home, little Turkey stayed only a moment, the family reassembled and continued on their way. Wish his portrait were more formal, but not bad for a grab shot.

What do the rest of you have planted with your geraniums?

Monday, July 6

celebrations of Blue

Laurentia axillaris "Beth's Blue"

She who wears Raider Blue turns 17 this week. To celebrate her birthday, we'll celebrate blue.
Aquamarine, azure, cerulean, cobalt, cornflower, gentian, indigo, lapis, navy, peacock, periwinkle, royal, sapphire, sky, teal, turquoise.

Sunday, July 5

approaching the full Thunder Moon

The full moon of July is the Thunder Moon, for obvious reasons in this part of the Black Hills. The seventh month started out with thunder and lightning in the wee hours of the very first morning. Cirrus clouds drifting by just before sunset were the teaser before the big boys rolled in. Full Moon: July 7.

Saturday, July 4

Friday, July 3

here be Dippers

The Black Hills and Spearfish Creek are just about the easternmost point that the American Dipper (formerly know as the water ouzel) ranges. It is a rare treat when one appears in front of you doing his namesake "dipper" dance. I have borrowed the image below from the South Dakota GFP website, as our modest little dipper chose to dance and bathe under the willows in the top left of the picture above. He didn't give us the same lovely pose that Doug Backlund caught.

A second bird literally flew under my feet as I stood on the cross creek bridge to take the downstream photo. They are known to nest in this area, possibly under this bridge. Dippers make you think of a sort of over-sized underwater wren who doesn't seem to mind water that feels like it is coming directly off some glacier. It was bone-numbingly cold even at the beginning of July.

Wednesday, July 1

Ma Nature can be one powerful Lady

The high canyon walls and deep stream bed of Spearfish Canyon are sandstone, shale and limestone, formed originally as an ancient ocean floor. As the inland sea receded and the Black Hills rose, the creek began its work, carving a canyon with walls towering to 1000' above the valley floor. Kind of like looking at a huge block of Neopolitan ice cream above you, chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. There were violet-green swallows riding the air currents up this cliff face and turkey vultures drifting over the cliff tops.

Note for movie buffs: some of the scenes from the Academy Award winning film, "Dances With Wolves", were filmed here. It is easy to see why an Oscar went to the cinematographer when you have raw material like this to work with.