16 April 2012

Iron Lightning

Random chair in field

We were back in the Iron Lightning Badlands today, courtesy of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Cultural Preservation Office. After a good three months of warm temperatures and clear days, today was cold, damp, muddy, and even snowy at times. Welcome to spring on the northern Plains. 

As before, it was incredible. 

Fossil shells


Timeless horizon



Early spring greening

Distant butte

Petrified wood weathering out


Bare tree with tiny buds

Unexpected blooms

More formations

Prairie dog jaw

Last year's grasses


10 April 2012

Time travel to Utah

Roadside sign

So we have a project at Dinosaur National Monument that may keep us busy for months. Years. The Monument has been through the ultimate institutional trauma over the past decade, being forced to close down a failing building and essentially tear it down and build it back at the same time. While protecting the quarry face full of dinosaur (and other) fossils. And satisfying the requirements for dealing with rebuilding buildings on the National Historic Register.

We are going to help figure out if the new building is doing its job, so that future generations of dreamy-eyed kids can continue to be stunned into speechlessness by the silent fossils on their precarious slope. This is one of the National Park Service's outstanding sites, along with Badlands and Agate and a host of others. I'll keep a running journal of our work there.

For me, it's like meeting a rock star (so to speak). Or being one.

Eastern view of the quarry face

Morning light

There are ~1500 fossils on the quarry face


Light through the new windows

Bone bridge

Earl Douglass's cabin

The new roofline from the hiking trail

Stegosaur vertebrae in the wild

Quarry sign. 

Escalante marker

A bone caught in a stilled stream

Cabin near Vernal

09 April 2012

Architecture of the open places: Highway 212

Cabin near Eagle Butte

Lots of travel lately, by my estimate 1700 miles in 5 days. I am still sorting out the shots of the longer trip to Utah. Today was a drive in the much-needed spring sun to Eagle Butte and back. 

Highway 212 is a long, straight line from Edina, Minnesota, to Yellowstone National Park. In South Dakota, it crosses an infinite landscape of hills and buttes, almost hypnotically. Buildings are startling, towns unexpected. It is a good drive for refocusing. 

Church, Dupree

Business, Dupree

Sign, Dupree

Sign, Eagle Butte

Prairie cabin

Ice house, Faith

Prairie house

Historic marker, the only one I have ever seen that is not site- or event-specific

Sign, Eagle Butte

House near Bear Butte

Prairie barn

House near Newell

02 April 2012

Sandhill cranes in the Nebraska Sandhills: 23 March

Cranes in the mists

Friday morning of the crane trip started with a heavy fog over our bridge. It was magic, though the drive there had its white-knuckle moments. As the fog burned off, we started surveying the fields and found the largest flocks we had ever seen, anywhere. As the day progressed, huge flocks broke off and spiraled upward. We were right there for the beginning of the final leg of their migration, north to the Arctic breeding grounds. An amazing day.

Pair overhead


Fog and cottonwoods


Cranes and trains


Trio descending

Trio descending



Hawk ruffling feathers

Cranes in the Platte River valley

Large flock

HUGE flock

From one end of the section....

...to the other. Solid cranes. 


Moving between fields

The first barn quilt I have seen!

Classic barn




Dancing, my favorite shot


Giant migration flock

Giant migration flock

Giant migration flock

Giant migration flock

Watching the migration start

High flyers

Smaller flock

High and low flyers



Small flock


Feeding flock
Flock at rest

Sandhills and Sandhills

Fog beads

Fog beads

Spider web