Monday, August 31


Saturday, August 29

are you my Mother?

Eudocimis ruber

Scarlet ibis are natives to tropical South America. The Great Plains Zoo's aviary has flamingos and these ibis who are comfortable enough in the habitat to nest and raise young. There were 2 ibis nests in a small tree next to the water, ibis are among the colonial nesters. This little guy was fairly well grown when I saw him. His scarlet parent is pretty spectacular compared to his homely black self, another case of the caterpillar turning into a butterfly, however.
Scarlet ibis start out brown-black like this young one and gradually acquire their red plumage, becoming redder and redder as they age. Pigments come from the crustaceans they eat, similar to flamingos.

Friday, August 28

still on the African Plains

Balearica pavonina

Black Crowned Cranes share the same habitat here as they do in Africa, with giraffes, bongos and zebra for neighbors. This pair of cranes chose to build their nest adjacent to the "waterhole" in the Africa exhibit, just as they would have in the wild. The pair has three eggs, the female was just turning and adjusting them when I saw her, she resumed incubating in just a few moments after this picture.

Elegance and Serenity

Thursday, August 27

visit Africa

Giraffa camelopardis

I was intrigued watching this guy getting himself situated to have a postprandial drink of water. Getting your 15' tall self down to the water level involves a certain amount of gymnastic ability and yoga skill.

Wednesday, August 26

on to Australia

Dromaius novahollandiae

What the heck is that, you ask. You are looking at the tridactyl foot of an adult emu!
Emus are the largest birds native to Australia, and are ratites like the rhea. This tridactyl arrangement means the creature has only 3 toes, unlike most other birds which have 4. Since they have no need of a perching foot, the lack of the fourth toe makes running more efficient. These big birds are able to maintain a 30 mph pace for long distances. Looks suspiciously like one of the velociraptor's feet, don't you think?

Tuesday, August 25

to South America

Rhea americana

This handsome creature is a rhea, one of the ratites like ostriches, cassowaries, kiwis and emus. He is a denizen of the scrublands of southeastern South America in his natural habitat, not southeastern South Dakota. He and his kind are the largest birds on that continent, and are consumers of everything from seeds and leaves, to grasshoppers and carrion.

Here is the ultimate Mr. Mom. Rhea males build the nest, court several females (who lay their eggs in his nest and then leave) and incubate the eggs. Females have no further part in raising the young after laying and Mr. Mom may have upwards of 50 little ones to keep track of and protect. How's that for daycare?

Monday, August 24

sometimes, the world is a Zoo

The Great Plains Zoo, Sioux Falls is an AZA accredited zoo with 850 animals on 45 acres of simulated natural habitat. Creatures from all continents except Antarctica live and breed here, the zoo is active in breeding endangered species of many types.

Rangifer tarandus (caribou) N. America, Asia, Europe

In the early morning, the zoo is quiet, the keepers are feeding their charges and animals are active and a delight to watch. It was nearly a private party at 9am on a Sunday morning. I had the fun of talking to many of the keepers about the animals they care for. Pa Reindeer obviously gets fully involved with breakfast, Ma and kid had to wait their turn at the alfalfa. I'll introduce you to some the creatures we share the planet with this week, weird and wonderful.

Sunday, August 23

are you looking for your frog Prince?

I want this frog! He is currently the Guardian of the Butterfly Garden at the Outdoor Campus in Sioux Falls, he is sooo smug looking and has Attitude. It had just quit raining, so there were no butterflies to be had, but he was worth the trip.

I believe he lives in this pond directly behind the butterfly garden, with his court of Lord and Lady Kingfisher, the Marquis of Mallard and his lady and Grand Duke of Green Heron and the Duchess.

Saturday, August 22

growing more than soybeans Here

South Dakota Hwy 38, wanders through beautiful crop farms, raising corn and soybeans, between Mitchell and Sioux Falls. I opted to leave the interstate and construction zones and came this way looking for migrating shorebirds. Not many of them to see yet.

However, this partially flooded soybean field was hosting a group of great egrets, 18 dinner guests in all. I was astounded, I've never seen this many together in a group even when we were at Ding Darling NWR on Sanibel Island! They were suspicious of a stopped car and a curious onlooker.

This great egret is in the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary (Naples,Florida) in the Lettuce Lakes, much more comfortable with humans than the birds in a South Dakota soybean field.

Friday, August 21

across the wide Missouri

At 43* N 99* W, you cross the Missouri River on the journey east across South Dakota. This is taken of the River from a bluff high on the east bank, at the rest area where there is a neat display commemorating the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 2004. The Corps of Discovery would have had a similar view of the river when they camped here September 16-18, 1804.
They might have been grateful for this sign along a hiking trail, but I suspect they already knew about the rattlesnakes by the time they reached here. They reported seeing "buffaloe, deer, elk, buck goats(pronghorn), large wolves and villages of 'barking-squirrels' (prairie dogs)", when they camped here for 3 days.
This is the view looking downstream and over the abandoned railroad bridge that spans the Big Muddy. Just a bit further downstream, the White River, which is the creator of the Badlands flows into the Missouri as a tributary. The Corps of Discovery notes this as "Plum Camp" in their journals, mentioning vast numbers of wild plums growing along the river bluffs.

Thursday, August 20

what the Hay?

The West River prairie of South Dakota is prime grazing land and hay production gets the beef herds through the winter. There are huge round bales along the I-90 scattered as far as you can see. As Julie Zickefoose so perfectly described in her blog, "lurking like musk oxen". However,
there are some who see a completely different creature in the hayrolls....

The mythical, and famous, South Dakota Jackalope! This one lives in Oacoma, on the west bank of the Missouri River. For more information, see of, search "jackalope"

Tuesday, August 18

ancient Ones

I always look for this roadside art when driving on I-90, just west of Murdo. It makes me laugh every time I see it. Often the herd of Texas longhorn cattle that belong to the 1880 Town ( are grazing at their feet, a surreal sort of scene. Click on the photo to appreciate the humor of this life size creation.

west to east, South Dakota, August 15, 2009

On one August day, South Dakota, from the west river short grass prairie and badlands, to the corn and soybean fields of east river, there is an infinite variety of scenes that catch your eye from the highway. Some are modern day, some are the same landscapes that Lewis and Clark, the settlers and Native Americans saw in their daily lives.

This is a view looking west towards the White River Badlands, and Badlands National Park from south of Kadoka. It is the eastern edge of the moonscape landforms that travelers faced coming off the grasslands in covered wagons drawn by horses and oxen, a daunting prospect for easy travel.

Coincidentally, the Astronomy photo of the day is of the Badlands as well, but a day and night difference of perspective.

Monday, August 17

yellow Converse

This is one of my favorite Art Alley photos, words by a teen-aged friend, yellow sneakers, the trademark of my youngest daughter, the Queen of Converse.

Sunday, August 16

the morning Star

Taken in the slanting light of early morning.

Friday, August 14

woodbine as accidental Art

Greenery finds a foothold even in a sidewalk crack in the Alley. I liked the way it turned in to an accidental work of art via a misguided can of spray paint.

Thursday, August 13

more color in the Alley

power pole in turquoise

stairway to the stars

Wednesday, August 12

the view from Chez Swallow...

This is the view that the violet-green swallows chose for their youngsters to grow up with.

Tuesday, August 11

birds in the Alley

There are birds in Art Alley, some goofy, some symbolic, high up on the brick walls. They have company, chimney swifts forage over downtown for insects and roost in old brick chimneys in the area.

Then, there are the surprises. This violet-green swallow, who is supposed to be a creature of open woodlands and cliff-sides, decided on the "canyons" of Art Alley to raise a family! She and her mate found a wall where several bricks had fallen and made a convenient cave to build a nest. Here, she is carrying food to a very noisy brood of young ones and very suspicious of a human aiming a camera at her. She sat still only a few seconds before darting into the nest hole. Watch tomorrow for the view out the front door of Chez is a beaut.

Monday, August 10

enjoy a week in Art Alley

The alley between 6th and 7th Streets in Rapid City has been given over to the outdoor art community...the taggers, muralists, more traditional fine artists, and anyone who wishes to express themselves in a unique way. The businesses whose back walls these are, are wonderfully supportive of the project, the city has improved paving through the alley to encourage pedestrian traffic. It is a cool place to explore, lots of kids choose it for senior pictures and it is not uncommon to see wedding pictures taken in a funky setting either.

The "exhibit" is an ever changing being, some things stay for months, others are ephemeral, lasting only days. The remarkable thing is the respect that all the artists have for each other's work. Where other alleys nearby get graffiti of a sometimes uglier nature, these are not defaced.

This friendly face was on the pavement by the 7th Street entrance several months ago, it has now disappeared, one of the ephemerals. Enjoy the tour...

Saturday, August 8

bubbles in the Puddles

If there are bubbles in the puddles when it first begins to rain, that means it will rain tomorrow. I have no idea where that folklore originated, but we Booth kids were firm believers in the theory 50 years ago (we probably made it up ourselves). These are in our driveway puddle this afternoon, National Weather Service says we have a 60% chance of thundershowers tomorrow, so it must be true. :o)

Update 8/9 there are 0.2" in the rain gauge at the moment and threatening good as NWS prediction.

Friday, August 7

grandfather Cottonwood

An ancient grandfather cottonwood watches over the growing corn, offers a hunting ground for downy woodpeckers in its deeply furrowed bark, and tries to grab and hold the sun as it is setting on an August night. A guardian of the fields, seeded in from a long ago spring time "snowstorm" of cottonwood fluff, someone left him to grow, there he remains.

Thursday, August 6

plum crazy, canning Peaches

OK, sometimes you go a little crazy and buy 2 lugs of California grown peaches in Minnesota and haul them back to western South Dakota. They probably drove right by here on I-90 on the way east. :o)

Then you have to can them right now because they got ripe quicker than you planned! They are yummy, but after canning 27 pints of peaches and a batch of peach jam that didn't jam, they lose their glamor. Thankfully, half of the second box is still a little green, so they can wait a day or so. Trying a recipe for peach barbeque sauce on chicken, an attempted salvage of 1 of the 5 jars of the juicy jam. Any recipes for what to do with soupy peach jam are most welcome.

Wednesday, August 5

sun imitates Jupiter

This is what the camera saw as the sun was setting on the first of August over Cottonwood County, Minnesota. Camera's choice of how to expose stark light to dark contrast, not mine.

It made me think of the photos from Voyager I, passing by Jupiter and snapping pictures of the Red Planet, on the way out into the far reaches of the universe.

photo from NASA/JPL files of Voyager I

Monday, August 3

the farmer's Wife...

The farmer puts in beautiful rows of corn, and the farmer's wife grows gorgeous, tall, fragrant lilies!

not just in your Hair

If you have ever been on a cruise to the Caribbean, every port of call has nimble fingered ladies who will do cornrows and braids in your hair as a souvenir of your trip. Those folks are no more the artist than my son-in-law's family is with their huge farm machines when they plant out their real corn rows on southwestern Minnesota fields!