Lazuli Bunting Beauty

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I’ve been birding a few hours here and there in three areas bordering each other along the Yellowstone River — the Riverfront Park, Norm Schoenthal Island, and the Montana Audubon Center.  The birds don’t know any fence boundaries, and all three places have been quite rewarding with awesome trails and a great variety of birds!

The Lazuli Bunting was a gem of a surprise for me; not only becoming #236 on my bird lifer list 💃, the males are handsome beauties!

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Lazuli Bunting (male)

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This bunting’s range is most of the western half of the United States.

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Lazuli Bunting (male) in song

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Yellow-breasted Chat

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What is this bird that I hear and finally locate perched in a tree near our RV?  A Yellow-breasted Chat who has become #235 on my bird lifer list!

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Yellow-breasted Chat (male)

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A widespread breeder found over most of the United States, the Yellow-breasted Chat is a bird seldom seen or heard except during breeding season where it will boldly perch in the open to belt out a varied repertoire of songs and calls.

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“Full of Song”

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This male did not disappoint on stage!

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A Sunshiny-Yellow Welcome

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Back to the birds!  🙂  We are now in Montana for a month of exploring, making our way eventually towards Glacier NP.

As we weaved our way to our first new campsite, flashes of bright yellow criss-crossed our path above in the trees.  During campsite set-up, warbler song could be heard from all directions.

It was a sunshiny welcome of Yellow Warblers!

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Yellow Warbler (male)

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“Ball of Sunshine”

What’s even more awesome is they weren’t just passing through.  They are residing here, breeding around the campground.

Life is indeed sunshiny-yellow good!  🙂

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Series: Take A Moment and Enjoy A Sunset

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A storm cell brushed past and missed us thankfully, as it was a doozy to the south.  I took this behind our campground when the sunset was giving a glow at the edge of the storm.

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Edge of the Storm at Sunset over Centennial Valley

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This post ends my South Dakota photos.  We’ve rolled on to adventure in Montana and work our way towards Glacier National Park.

Good night, South Dakota…..

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Big Skies and Dramatic Clouds in the Black Hills

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Those big skies with dramatic clouds just beg their photo be taken!  A few more of some of my faves from the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota.

I hope you see one you like!

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Black Hills Fun & Cool Stuff

Scenic drives, wildlife, mountain carvings…..and there’s so much more.  You cannot be bored in and around the Black Hills.  Here’s some quick peeks at just a few of my photos of fun and cool stuff also right in the middle of it all!

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With the first finds of gold in the town of Lead occurring in the mid-1870’s, the Black Hills gold rush began and created what became the Homestake Mine.  Lead has been called the richest 100 square miles on Earth.  Over a period of 126 years, miners pulled more than 41 million ounces of gold and 9 million ounces of silver from the Homestake Mine.

When it closed in 2003, it was the largest mine in the western hemisphere, with more than 370 miles of tunnels from the surface to the 8,000-foot bottom level.  Today, the Homestake Mine is used by the National Science Foundation’s Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL).

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As soon as the gold rush began, three miles down the mountain the town of Deadwood was quickly established.

Deadwood became famous with gunslingers, gambling, and brothels.  It was here Wild Bill Hickok was shot and killed while playing poker at Saloon No. 10 (he was holding two pair of black aces and black eights, today called the ‘dead man’s hand’).

Today Deadwood is a National Historical Landmark, with daily reenactments of gunfights and Hickok’s murder, and the trial of his murderer, McCall.  Lots of historical stuff to see here, it was a cool town to experience.

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Another nearby famous town very popular with bikers after cruising the Black Hills is Sturgis.

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About 25 miles north of the Black Hills in Belle Fourche is the Geographic Center of the United States.  I felt well-balanced when I stood on the center of the medallion.  🙂

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Something else fun to see, the world’s largest Smokey the Bear at 30 feet tall.  He was recently carved and erected in Hill City this past May.  It took 10 days to create him.

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Sometimes you come to a surprise at the end of a long paved road, before heading into the hills on dirt roads, in the middle of nowhere.  We ended by chance at such a spot called Moonshine Gulch Saloon and had lunch.  Two tasty burgers and four beers for $20.  Can’t beat that!  Even the owner’s dog greets you as you walk through the door.

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Throughout the scenic drives, there are seven single-lane tunnels through rock formations that were cool and very tight to drive through.  Here are three of them.

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Also cool on the scenic drives are three “pigtail bridges” (a particular form of spiral bridge) built as a solution to negotiate sudden elevation drops on the planning of the Iron Mountain Road scenic byway.

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Scenic drives, wildlife, gold mining, wild west history, and fun stuff.  And there’s even more!  I promise, you cannot get bored in the Black Hills.

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Two Mountain Carvings in the Black Hills

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There are two mountain carvings within 17 miles of each other in the Black Hills National Forest that are famous and amazing to see.  We’ve visited both before and wanted to again.

The first is Mt Rushmore National Memorial.

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Mt Rushmore National Memorial

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The U.S. Presidents’ heads are approximately 60 feet tall.

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Mt Rushmore was carved with government funding and completed on October 31, 1941.  Overall, the project cost $989,992.32 and took 14 years to finish.

The second mountain carving was started in 1948 and is still under construction, the Crazy Horse Memorial.  It is privately funded and the cost to date has not been disclosed.

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Crazy Horse Memorial

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Original sculpture being carved into the mountain

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Crazy Horse’s head is 87 feet tall

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If you’re interested in reading the history, visit the Crazy Horse Memorial website here.

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This beautiful gate is at the Crazy Horse Memorial, also created by the Korczak Ziolkowski family, depicting 219 animals (past and present) that are indigenous to South Dakota.  It is beautiful, my photos don’t do it justice.

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Patriotic Barn

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I captured this a late afternoon a few weeks ago during one of our scenic drives.

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Patriotic Barn, Centennial Valley, South Dakota

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Have a safe, enjoyable 4th of July weekend celebration!

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Spearfish Canyon

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One of the scenic byways in the Black Hills follows the canyon bottom of Spearfish Canyon.  Towering limestone cliffs, a waterfall, and a rushing mountain stream keep you company along the 19-mile drive.

Here’s some of the beauty I captured along the way from our cruises through the canyon.

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Bridal Veil Falls

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Spearfish Creek

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Spearfish Creek is a fly fishing paradise and holds one of the best populations of wild rainbow trout in the Black Hills.

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Wildflowers Along The Way

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Sharing a gallery of wildflowers I’ve discovered while exploring South Dakota’s Badlands and Black Hills.

I did my best to ID most of the flowers, and had help from Tom and Eliza in my comments, thanks!  Please correct any I may have identified incorrectly, I appreciate it!

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