30 March 2013

Spring still life with sleet storm

Cottonwood, Kiplinger Road

On a whim, we left at 5:30 a.m. to chase sage grouse on the high plains. Note: if your whims routinely drag you out at that hour on a Saturday, you either have very peculiar whims, or else have stumbled into the world of birding. Those are not necessarily contradictory. We are at the edge of Greater Sage Grouse territory and have to travel a bit to see this spring display up on the higher plains where there is...wait for it...sage.

Sage grouse are normally seem as specks in the distance, and this year was no exception. What was exceptional was the closeness of the lekking we saw last year. Rather than post a picture of an animated speck, I'll refer you to this post. We were close enough to see and here the male go through the booming and strutting motions, but not nearly as close this year.

We think it's spring, but the appearance of a storm with rain, snow and sleet mid-day has us questioning that. The birds seem to have no questions.

Paired geese

Barbed wire still life

Sign, Kiplinger Road

Post office historical marker. We found three of these today. 

First sign of the storm

A tiny monument north of Belle Fourche. It was worth going 15 miles out of the way to see. 

Just in case you had any doubts. 

Bear Butte as the clouds begin to form

Minuteman missile silo still life

Permission to trespass? 

Truck memories

Sign, Orman Dam



Bear Butte as the storm builds

Storm front on the plains

Immature bald eagle, trying hard for the white head

The point at which the trip was effectively over

Bear Butte eternal

23 March 2013

Crane songs

Cranes in flight, moving north

I haven't been here in far too long. I was looking forward to catching up with a long newsy description of the annual trip to the Platte River to watch the sandhill cranes in their ancient flyways. It's a healing and life-affirming trip. relaxing and schedule-free.

Nature had a different idea.

Since we began this trip five years ago, we have seen our tiny rural bridge site in sunshine and shadow, in ice and wind..but never in the first moments of a fierce snowstorm bearing down on the region. The cranes noticed it, too. They were nervous and edgy, gazing north and testing the wind.

It is spring for them in their lives without winter. We had to leave early to miss the worst of the storm blasting across the West, but still had one of the best crane shows yet. Life is here, now. That was the message I needed, and it was enough. Happy equinox.

Facing the north

Moving on

Cabin, Nebraska

Lone crane

Yellowlegs, a bit early

Restless circling flight

Testing the wind

Our favorite car, year six of the documentation project

Rising on an early storm wind

Circling upward

Huge flocks, high wind

Close-up of flight

Catching the light

Moving away

Cranes in the Platte at sunrise as the snow moves in. 

Cranes rise, snow falls. The camera is fine. This is now it looked this morning. 

Visible cold pouring in

Nebraska rest area. Did I ever mention that I love Nebraska? 

Nebraska road crew. That is snow piling on their backs.