Friday, August 24, 2018

South Dakota ... In A Nutshell

After breezing through our residency process in Sioux Falls we were excited to get to exploring some more prairie lands.

First up was Aurora Prairie.  We booted up and set off into the fields.

IMG_8103 Western-tailed Blue Butterfly (3)
Right off the bat we spotted what appeared to be a Western-tailed Blue Butterfly.  However, it was very worn with age which makes that questionable.

Right after that we realized that we were getting covered in mosquitos!  We were in the grasslands so their numbers were confusing.  

So, Aurora Prairie proper was nixed.

IMG_8089 Meadowlark Bird
Instead we walked down the road where we spotted a Meadowlark on the fence.

IMG_8107 Swamp Sparrow Bird
Then we spotted a Swamp Sparrow.  Given their name is a product of their favored environment, the mosquito theory was more aptly explained by this sighting.

IMG_8117 Pearl Crescent Butterfly (4)
Sticking to the mosquito free road we spotted several familiar things like this Pearl Crescent Butterfly before deciding to move on.

We knew that we would be driving through the prairie grasslands for the next few days. What we didn't know was that the section we were going through was Pothole Prairie.

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The pothole prairies are mid to tallgrass prairie lands that contain thousands of shallow wetlands.  Some are small like a pothole and others appear more like shallow lakes.  When the glaciers of the last ice age some 10,000 years ago receded they left behind millions of shallow depressions that are now wetlands, known as prairie potholes.

Agricultural and commercial growth has drained many of the potholes over the years and 40% or fewer of the original pothole prairies remain today.  Not only were they a beautiful addition to our prairie grassland drive but 50% of migrating waterfowl depend on them so we were happy to learn that many are being preserved or restored.  We saw evidence on many farms of plantings being done in such a way that the pothole remains.

Nicole was at the wheel and we were cruising at our normal 55 mph when she spotted something out of the corner of her eye.  "New Bird!", she said and instructed Darlene to prepare her camera as she did a three point in the middle of the empty two lane road.  Nicole described to Darlene where the bird would be but as we snuck up on it the bird made for the skies.  Darlene started shooting.

DSCN2727 Black Crowned Night Heron Bird
Shew!  Thank goodness one came out.  Our first Black-crowned Night Heron.  LIFER - with a cow and cattle egret backdrop!

At this point we decided that it might be nice to pull over and walk along the road to check out some of the potholes.

IMG_8174 American Pelican Bird (4)
One thing we never quite get used to seeing flying over the prairie is a pelican - the American White Pelican.

Driving along again, we spotted either a large lake or an extremely large pothole (it is sometimes difficult to tell) and got out to take a walk around. 

Come to think of it, perhaps this post is explaining why we typically only make it 100 miles in one days drive!

IMG_8275 Pectoral Sandpiper Bird (6)
There we again saw many familiar things and we also spotted our second lifer of the day - the Pectoral Sandpiper.

Next, we made a stop at Waubay National Wildlife Refuge to take a walk on one of their trails.

There we spotted a new moth that we still have not identified.

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Also seen was this cool new insect known as Pelecinus polyturator - the American Pelecinid Wasp.

We enjoyed the views as we walked spotting many familiar things.

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We sat for a bit overlooking the water and watching the storms start to roll in which prompted us to speed up our walking and get done with the trail.

After a quiet evening spent in a local city park we headed off for our last stop in South Dakota.

Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge has a beautiful wildlife drive.

IMG_8317 Orchard Oriole Bird (2)
We had only just started out when we grabbed a front shot of the new-to-us Orchard Oriole.

There were few new sightings on this trip so we just relaxed and enjoyed the scenery.

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Some of the critters really wanted to be seen like this midge on our mirror

and this chickweed geometer - Haematopis grataria, that had found its way inside the van.

Alongside the road

yellow and white Clouded Sulphur Butterflies were abundant

and we finally got a reasonable shot of their topside pattern.

For the most part it was just nice to be able to drive slowly through the grasslands

and down by the water.

An Eastern Kingbird surveys

beautiful fields of yellow.

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We finally managed a shot of the American White Pelican - not flying.

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We were pretty sure we saw both pheasants and grouse crossing the road

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but usually we only caught their backsides entering the brush.

There were loads of waders and shorebirds in this area but the distance prevented our identifying them.

It was nice to see White-faced Ibis again and to get an improved shot over the ones we got years ago.

There you have it.  South Dakota in a nutshell.  We've moved on down the road so stay tuned...