Tag Archive | wildlife photos

West 2016: Custer State Park

Day 5: August 9, 2016

Both before and after we went to Wind Cave, we made our way through Custer State Park. Custer State Park was basically right on the way, since you have to drive through the park in order to get to Wind Cave. So, just for the sake of full-disclosure, this post covers multiple times that we were in the park; early morning, mid-day and evening too.  It doesn’t matter for the sake of the post, but just know that you are more likely to see some of these animals if you go early, or at the end of the day.

Me – Sign Posing

Custer State Park is a huge park, with lots to offer. It has camping, lakes, scenic drives, and when we headed to Wind Cave, we took a little time before to check out part of the Wildlife Loop since it was early morning, and we hoped to see wildlife! We weren’t disappointed!

Right after entering the Wildlife Loop, we saw pronghorn! A small herd of them! They were just hanging out, and there were young ones along with the herd. I loved seeing them. We took some photos – even one with a peeing pronghorn! I can’t help it – animals doing more than just standing there is fascinating to me – yep, that’s me…  I am weird.  Historic toilets – peeing animals…

Pronghorn

 

Even better – peeing pronghorn!

After watching the pronghorn, we found a prairie dog town. They were quite active then, scampering around and eating grass. They were darker in color than some of the other prairie dogs – I liked seeing the color variation.

Custer State Park’s prairie dogs had darker fur. I am becoming quite the prairie dog connoisseur.

We saw wild turkeys too! There were about a half dozen turkeys roaming around in a few different places in the park.

Wild Turkeys!

As we continued on the way to Wind Cave, we saw a couple of deer, more pronghorn, and then we saw a coyote too! Even though I see coyotes at home from time to time, even in my own neighborhood, it was a treat to see one out in the wild.

An early morning coyote sighting

After Wind Cave, which I posted about here, we headed back out into Custer State Park, and decided to do one of the scenic drives – the Needles Highway. The highway is a crazy, windy road, with a ton of switchbacks and several one lane tunnels. They had people who directed traffic through the tunnels, allowing travel in one direction and then the other. The whole highway made my mom nervous, but I enjoyed it! I would have like to stop at some of the viewpoints, but there were so many Sturgis bikers on the road that it would have been difficult to pull over easily.

One of the tiny tunnels on the Needles Highway

Later in the day, we headed back into the park and traveled on the part of the Wildlife Loop that we hadn’t seen before. We found bison, lots and lots of bison. Custer State Park has about 1,500 bison at the peak each year; they manage the herd through round ups and sales. We watched them for a while; I never got tired of them.

 

A bit further on, we found the other famous animals of the park – feral donkeys! There was a group of them hanging out right in the parking lot, begging for carrots from the tourists, despite all the signs that say you shouldn’t feed them. Apparently they are known as the Begging Burros, and there are about 50 donkeys in the park.  There was another group of donkeys that kept their distance, and it was fun to watch them playing out in the field and being more wild.  I think the donkeys were my favorite of the animals we saw in the park – well, if you don’t count the peeing pronghorn…  Nope – I’m still going with the donkeys as the favorites…

 

 

 

We didn’t do any of the other recreational activities that Custer State Park has to offer, but it would certainly be a great place to camp, and spend some time. It was a worthwhile park!

A bison just hanging on the road in the evening.

West 2016: Theodore Roosevelt NP Wildlife

Day 2: August 6, 2016

In addition to hiking and exploring the scenery at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, my mom and I also got the chance to do lots of wildlife spotting.  TRNP has a lot of critters, big and small!  Soon after entering the park, we came across the first of many prairie dogs towns.  These guys are so cute!  The little sentries watching out for the others!  They scurry around and chew on little blades of grass.  So much cuteness!  I was absolutely enthralled, and we spent a lot of time just watching the little guys from the car.

A Prairie Dog running!

A Prairie Dog running!

These were some of the first prairie dogs we saw on the trip, but I never got tired of them!  Dear Readers, by the time this trip series is over, you might be tired of prairie dog pictures!

Prairie Dogs with their Sentry

Prairie Dogs with their Sentry

When we got our fill of managed to tear ourselves away from the prairie dogs, we moved on to our next order of business – large animal spotting.  It didn’t take long.  Just a few miles into the park we drove right into our first bison jam!  And we were right at the beginning of the line, so we got an amazing view!  Mamas and babies and big male bison too!  They were literally just wandering down the middle of the road, and were entirely unconcerned by the presence of the cars.

A bison baby trying to bully "Daddy"

A bison baby trying to bully “Daddy”

 

A brand new baby!

A brand new baby!

My next order of business was wild horses.  A whole herd of wild horses!  Technically these horses are feral horses; animals that that have returned to an untamed state from domestication.  After the Spanish brought modern horses to the new world, some animals escaped or were left and bred and ran wild throughout the West.  The horses in the park are descended from those.  The Park Service did try to round up and remove horses from the park until 1970, when it was acknowledged that they were a part of the cultural history of the park. Now they manage the herds, but mostly let them be.

Wild horses on the hill

Wild horses on the hill

We drove down the scenic loop in the park, and at one point considered driving down a gravel road where my mom thought she remembered seeing them on a previous trip to the park, but ultimately we decided to stay on the main road and there they were! Many of the horses in the bands are paints and blue and red roans, adding quite a bit of color!  They hung out on a hill together and I was able to get some really awesome photos of them.  I have seen wild horses on my travels before, but it has generally just been a solitary horse far away.  This was a great experience, being so close to such beautiful creatures!

I loved the color variations of the horses at the park

I loved the color variations of the horses at the park

 

Bison wandering

Bison wandering

After finding yet another huge herd of bison, and more wild horses, we made our way back to the exit, and got some photos with the entrance sign.  We headed east to stop at the east entrance of the park, for a special assignment.  During the summer of 1978, when I was two years old, we had been to Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park and had taken pictures of the entrance sign – I really am my mother’s child!  It is a little different now, because it has since become a National Park, but they still had the same sign!  You can see the remaining holes where they removed the metal letters  for the Memorial Park sign…

It looks like I dressed myself - dress shoes with that getup?!

It looks like I dressed myself – dress shoes with that getup?!

So this time we found a nice couple with their kids who helped us pose and create the photos, trying to match them as much as well could to the photos from 1978.  My mom stood in for my brother, so they aren’t perfect, but it was the best we could do as my brother couldn’t go on the trip with us.  I don’t think we did too badly!  Even though I am still really short, I was obviously much shorter when I was two…

Mom got the easier challenge. My dorky pose in 1978 was a hard act to master...

Mom got the easier challenge. My dorky pose in 1978 was a hard act to master…

After our picture taking extravaganza, we had a two hour drive to Belle Fourche, South Dakota; on the way we stopped in Bowman, North Dakota at Windy’s Bar and Grill.  I had a Swiss Mushroom burger and salad, it was very good and very reasonably priced!

Along the drive to Belle Fourche we started seeing the first of many motorcycles that we would encounter on our trip; we were going to be in South Dakota during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally!  We also saw quite a few pronghorn and mule deer.  And one dead porcupine…  It was a gorgeous sunset too!

We passed fields of sunflowers on our evening drive

We passed fields of sunflowers on our evening drive

Gas: $2.35/gal.  – $26.02 for the fill up.
Distance for the Day: 253 miles (4 hours)
Hotel for the night: EconoLodge – Belle Fourche, SD

Twin Fawn Cuteness

 

One of the neighborhood does had twins this year, and they are out and about with their mother.  I was lucky enough to get some photos of the babies the other evening!

One fawn peeking out from behind a tree

One fawn peeking out from behind a tree

Both looking the same way!

Both looking the same way!

I might die from cuteness overload!

I might die from cuteness overload!

Aren’t they adorable!?

 

 

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in Winter

On the way home from Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Jon and I stopped for a short visit at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. My mother and I had visited on the hottest day of July, when no animals in their right minds would be outside in the scorching sun.

This time, the refuge was transformed. The huge grass field from July was now under several inches of water, flooded by seasonal rainfall and the tidal system. There were ducks and geese all over, enjoying their winter feeding grounds. Visitors can look at the birds from the viewing platform, or can walk further out on the boardwalk. We did both, but there weren’t very many birds out further on the open water of the field. Plus, it was cold and windy (although not really raining), so we only took a brief walk before heading back to dry land.

A Great Blue Heron at Nisqually

A Great Blue Heron at Nisqually

On land and in the water close to shore were lots of American Wigeons, Mallards, and Canada Geese (or maybe Dusky Geese, who knows…).

There were lots of American Wigeons at Nisqually

There were lots of American Wigeons at Nisqually

This goose was having a great time eating or playing in the fluff of these reeds.

This goose was having a great time eating or playing in the fluff of these reeds.

I spotted a white bird far off in the distance – I wasn’t sure if it was a bird or a plastic bag at first (my far vision really is getting crummy these days – I blame my mom). I was able to zoom in and get a closer look (and some photos) at a white goose. I identified it later with my bird book and the internet – a Snow Goose! He was hanging around with several ducks, and it was odd to see him without any other Snow Geese. I hope he wasn’t injured…

The Lone Snow Goose on our visit.

The Lone Snow Goose on our visit.

We couldn’t hang out too long though, as we still had a long drive home.

When is a Vacation Not a Vacation?

I was talking to a coworker the other day, and she mentioned that she would be on vacation beginning the next day. So, of course, I asked where she was going. She responded that she wasn’t going anywhere; rather she was staying at home and would be doing a few little hikes and just hanging out with her daughter.

That reminded me of a question I am frequently asked when I say I’m going to Georgia, or Arizona, or Ohio, or anywhere I happen to be going off to. “Oh, do you have family there?” More often than I would like to think, people are genuinely puzzled by the fact that no, I do not have family there.

These scenarios just got me wondering – When is a vacation really a vacation? Of course, I can only speak for myself, but a vacation must include a destination – generally with a plane ride but a road trip can certainly count too. I know the concept of a stay-cation has been much in the news lately, but to me, hanging around home is sheer torture. I look at all the organizing projects I should be working on, all the clutter I should be tackling, all the deck painting, de-mossing, gutter cleaning, weeding, car waxing, light fixture changing that I should be doing and it just makes me depressed. I can only truly unwind if I’m not stuck staring at all that stuff, thinking about what I should be doing.

That isn’t to say that I never want to do these things, but I just don’t want to use my vacation time to do it. It is a conundrum. A friend of mine only considers it to be a vacation if it includes 5 (consecutive) days off work.

Sadly, I have no vacation on the immediate horizon (under either the destination/plane ride theory or the 5 day theory) – just a couple of weekend trips nearby for the usual – a wedding, a birthday party, a baby shower. All fun, all looked forward to, but all not vacations. Now a destination wedding is a different matter! Although I have to admit that a wedding in Washington, D.C. would be more of a vacation than one in Arkansas.

Over the years, I have been on some fantastic vacations – I have had some wonderful experiences and made some great memories.  Here are just a few from the last couple of years.

Crater Lake, Oregon - August 2011

Crater Lake, Oregon – August 2011

Relaxing with a Glass at Schmidt Family Vineyard - August 2011

Relaxing with a Glass at Schmidt Family Vineyard – August 2011

Gold Beach Whaler

Gold Beach Whaler – August 2011

Slate Run Living Farm

Slate Run Living Farm – Winchester, Ohio – August 2008

The Hanoi Taxi

The Hanoi Taxi – National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, Dayton, Ohio – August 2008

The front entrance of Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle – San Simeon, CA – August, 2010

See, no snow on the sidewalks (or the roads)

Antietam National Battlefield – Sharpsburg, MD – February, 2008

The Biltmore Estate

The Biltmore Estate – Asheville, NC – June 2012

The Joseph Manigault House - Built in 1803 - Federal Style Architecture

The Joseph Manigault House – Charleston, SC – June 2012

Savannah's Colonial Cemetery

Savannah’s Colonial Cemetery – Savannah, GA – June 2012

Benson Vineyards and Estate Winery Patio Seating

Benson Vineyards and Estate Winery – Manson, WA – September 2012

An Elk Herd

Elk Feeding Area, near Hamilton, WA, September 2012

Male California Quail at Point Reyes National Seashore

California Quail at Point Reyes National Seashore – Point Reyes Station, CA – March 2013

Harbor Seal Outside Monterey Bay Aquarium

Harbor Seal – Monterey, CA – March 2013

The Lone Cypress - Estimated Age 250 Years

The Lone Cypress – near Pebble Beach, CA – March 2013

So, how about you? What defines a vacation?