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Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Eastern Bluebirds are one of the first birds to return in the spring. This year they spent their first few weeks back checking out the real-estate. They concentrated their efforts on two bird houses in the back yard. They appeared to have made their choice but then the Tree Swallows returned.Eastern-Bluebird-14-6-_6513

Typically the Tree Swallows are more aggressive and once again they pushed the bluebirds out of their first choice for a home and kept them from using the second house that was only 10 feet away.

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

The bluebirds ended up picking another birdhouse in another location where they raised their first clutch. Meanwhile the Tree Swallows continued to occupy one of the original houses the bluebirds had staked out. Their young were still in the nest when the bluebirds started showing up and were, once again, at the house next to the Tree Swallows.

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

Surprisingly the Tree Swallows didn’t seem to mind the presence of the bluebirds. This is the first time that I’ve seen this happen. The swallows and bluebirds lived in peace for a couple of weeks until the fledgling swallows left the nest.Eastern-Bluebird-14-6-_6461

I assumed that the bluebirds had already built a nest in the second birdhouse so I decided to setup my bird blind near the birdhouse so I could take some photos. I left the blind unoccupied for a day so the birds would get used to it being near their house.Eastern-Bluebird-14-6-_6679

It has been raining almost every day but early the next morning it was a relatively clear day so I set my camera up in the blind and waited for something to happen. There wasn’t any activity for a while so I started reading my book. It wasn’t long before I noticed a bird on the bluebird house. It turned out to be one of the fledglings from the first clutch. The parents were nowhere to be seen.Eastern-Bluebird-14-6-_6412

Soon I noticed the female bringing grass to build the nest. I had assumed the nest was already built but it had not been and the female started working hard.Eastern-Bluebird-14-6-_6355

I watched for about half the morning while the female gathered dead grass from a pile of grass in the garden. I opened a side vent in the blind so I could see the female bluebird leave the garden and head for the nest. This gave me time to get ready. I turned the camera on to high burst and as soon as the bluebird approached the nest started taking photos.Eastern-Bluebird-14-6-_6346

As the day wore on here loads of grass became larger. In some cases they were so large that she couldn’t get through the hole in the birdhouse. This is when it became interesting because the female kept trying to get in the nest and the grass she was carrying was too big to fit through the hole in the birdhouse. She would then perch on the house before making another try.Eastern-Bluebird-14-6-_6827

The male would occasionally go in the house and would come out with a piece of grass. Mainly he followed the female to the garden and watched while she gathered grass. He would then fly back to the house with her and watch while she worked on the nest.Eastern-Bluebird-14-6-_6366

One time they both were attempting to get into the house. Apparently traffic control didn’t catch the conflict in approach patterns and they both ended up at the birdhouse at the same time. The female peeled off at the last minute.Eastern-Bluebirds-14-6-_6839

I was worried that the presence of my bird blind would scare the bluebirds off but they started using it as a perch while I was in the blind. At one point both of the fledglings were on top of the blind.

In the mist of building a nest in one house the female started looking at the house the Tree Swallows had abandoned. She would land on the roof and went into the house several times. The male also started looking at this house.Eastern-Bluebird-14-6-_6237

The two fledglings from the first clutch were hanging around but the parents didn’t seem to pay any attention to them.Eastern-Bluebird-fledglings-14-6-_6422

We headed out early in the morning to do some hiking around Sylvan Lake in the Black Hills. The trail starts out on the Sylvan Lake Trail. As we walked around Sylvan Lake there was some nice light and a couple of fishermen out on the lake fishing.Sylvan-Lake-14-5-_3108

Our initial plan was to hike the Sunday Gulch Trail but we found it blocked by high water just below the Sylvan Lake Dam. I took a few shots of a waterfall but that is as far as we could go.Sylvan-Lake-Trail-14-5-_4444

We backtracked and continued on the Sylvan Lake Trail. About two-thirds of the way around the lake it started to rain fairly hard so we headed back to the car. We drove out of the park a little way and checked the radar on our phone. Rain, Rain, Rain.Sylvan Lake Trail 14-5-_3128

In an earlier post I had posted some landpool shots from the Duluth Ship Canal. Because the water was so calm I walked over to the harbor area and took a few more shots. This is a shot of the convention center reflected in the harbor.Harbor-Reflections-14-6-_5040

These two shots are of the William A. Irvin reflected in the Waterfront Plaza Marina.Harbor-Reflections-14-6-_5115


The final shot is of the Vista Star anchored in the harbor.Harbor Reflections 14-6-_5038

More photos from canal Park can be found on my website.

After Breakfast we headed back out to the Badlands to hike some of the trails.Badlands-National-Park-14-5-_3360

It’s a little scary when the first thing you see on the trail is a sign warning you about Rattlesnakes.Badlands-National-Park-14-5-_3384

On the trail you walk through some grasslands. The spring flowers were out it large numbers. I’ve hike these trails many times and this was the most flowers I’ve ever seen.Badlands-National-Park-14-5-_3396


Part of the trails are through dirt and rocks. We had asked the ranger on the way in if there had been any rain. Fortunately the trails were mostly dry. If they had been wet we wouldn’t have made the trip. The dirt in the Badlands is commonly called gumbo. It sticks to everything and is very difficult to get off of your shoes.Badlands-National-Park-14-5-_3487


This shot is a closeup of the above formation.Badlands-National-Park-14-5-_3494

We didn’t see all that many other hikers. The day before we had see lots of old people (people our age) at the rest stops but on the trail we didn’t see anyone over 30. Most of the hikers were young people including a large class that we met on the eastern end of the trail.Badlands-National-Park-14-5-_3500

More photos from the Badlands National Park can be found on my website.

About ten years ago I stopped at Wall, S.D. on the way to Colorado. I got up early but there had been a storm and I figured the sunrise wasn’t going to be that great. But as I drove toward the Black Hills I could see that the sun was going to rise through an opening in the clouds on the horizon. It was the most spectacular sunrise I’ve ever seen but I was on the freeway and wasn’t able to photograph it. I never made that mistake again.

This time it was a different mistake. I set my phone alarm to wake up about an hour and a half before sunrise. As were driving out of the motel parking lot my wife asked why we were getting up at 3 am . I pointed out that it was 4 am. After some discussion I realized that my phone was still on central time and the Badlands are on Rocky Mountain time. For some reason my phone hadn’t switched. We drove around the block went back to bed.



On this morning the sunrise wasn’t all that spectacular. It was great being out in the morning and as the sun came up there were deer and antelope roaming through the prairie. Deer-Badlands-National-Park-Sunrise-14-5-_3271
I managed to photograph some Yucca plants with the sun coming up in the background. When my son way younger he always called them the bad hair day cactus Badlands-National-Park-Sunrise-14-5-_3317

After viewing the Sunrise we headed back to Wall to have breakfast at Wall Drug.

More photos from the Badlands National Park can be found on my website.

Recently I was photographing the sunrise in Duluth, Minnesota’s Canal Park when I notice some nice reflections in the Ship Canal. This is a frequent photography location and landpools are a favorite subject of my but for some reason I have never taken any photographs of the Aerial Lift Bridge or the South Breakwater Inner Light reflected in the Ship Canal.Ship-Canal-Reflections-14-6-_5009

The above shot appeared in on the Duluth Daily Photo website a few days ago.Ship-Canal-Reflections-14-6-_5000

I was photographing the reflections when a Double-crested Cormorant popped up in the middle of the photo. The Cormorant had been fishing up and down the Ship Canal.Ship-Canal-Reflections-14-6-_4986

The next day I realized why I don’t have a lot of landpool photographs in the Ship Canal. The waves were so high that the water was flowing over the sides of the Ship Canal.

More photos from Canal Park can be found on my website.


After Checking into our motel and grabbing a bite to eat we headed back out to the Badlands to view the sunset. It was not the most spectacular sunset but it was still worth staying out until dark.Badlands-National-Park-Sunset-14-5-_3839




More photos from the Badlands National Park can be found on my website.

We arrived at the eastern entrance to the Badlands at mid afternoon. We decided to drive though the Badlands on way to our motel in Wall, S.D.Badlands-National-Park-14-5-_3794

On the way we encountered a Prairie Dog town along the road. This fellow was particularly friendly.


We also encountered several herds of Bighorn Sheep along the road. All of them were ewes the males are off by themselves this time of year.Bighorn-Sheep-Badlands-National-Park-14-5-_3775

We then headed for Wall to check in to out motel and grab a bite to eat before heading back out to the Park to view the sunset.

More photos from the Badlands National Park can be found on my website.

On my many trips west I had always wanted to stop at Blue Mounds State Park because of the Buffalo. On our first day in Luverne we stopped at the park to look around. I was a little disappointed to find that the buffalo were penned and there was not an opportunity to drive or walk out among them. On the first visit they were quite a distance away so I couldn’t get any photos.Buffalo-Blue-Mounds-State-Park-14-5-_3661

The next day, after leaving the Touch the Sky Prairie I had to change out of my wet filthy pants so we drove over to Blue Mounds State Park. As it turned out the Buffalo were near the fence so I was able to get a few photos of them including several calves. Buffalo-Blue-Mounds-State-Park-14-5-_3655

I had seen a video of kids doing extreme sports at Falls Park and I love waterfalls so we decided to stop in Sioux Falls to spend some time at Falls Park. It was more spectacular than I imagined. There was a good flow of water over the falls.Falls-Park-14-5-_3746

We spent some time walking around of the falls and had lunch at the Sioux Falls Light and Power Company which overlooks the falls. A nice place for lunch and a nice view of the falls. It’s on the left of this photo.Falls-Park-14-5-_3758

We also walked along the river to downtown to see how Sioux Falls was taking advantage of the river as a gathering place and magnate to draw people to the downtown area. What they have accomplished so fare is very impressive. The still need to remove some of the industrial area along the river.

Queen Bee Turbine House

Queen Bee Turbine House