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Searching for Spring
Apr 29, 2014
The last two years I have chronicled my search for spring in South Dakota in this column. In 2012, it was a very mild winter and an early spring. Last year saw a nasty April ice storm and spring seemed to tarry until almost mid-May. This year it seems like winter and spring are in a tug of war. A handful of beautiful and warm days are followed by gusty, cold winds that chill to the bone. I’m hopeful the last cold spell is done by the time this column is posted, but who knows. This is South Dakota, where the weather does what it wants when it wants.
With temperatures in Sioux Falls nearing 60, I went for a Sunday afternoon drive. The snow along the back road ditches of Kingsbury and Lake counties was dirty, dusty and full of rooster pheasants staking out their territory for the coming spring. Southeast of Lake Thompson just before sunset, I witnessed three flocks of snow geese converge in a cornfield. These were the first snow geese of the year for me.
I happened to catch the full Worm Moon rising through the hazy evening air in rural Turner County. It’s called the Worm Moon because it’s the time of year that earthworms begin stirring in the rapidly warming soil.
Spring-like showers moved through the area even though the temperatures only topped out in the mid 40s. North of Humboldt I happened upon a rare scene of spring and winter clashing. A rainbow with accompanying snow geese hung in the sky above a small lake with ice fishermen still on it. It is also the time of the year when the sun sets due west, which can be problematic when driving east/west roads in the evening or early morning. However, it can make for an interesting picture as I found at Island Lake on the border of McCook and Minnehaha County.
The first official day of spring. A co-worker told me she saw over 30 bald eagles near her home north of Hartford the night before. After work I investigated, and found 18 still there. One was perched on a tree not far from a county road bridge over Skunk Creek. After a minute or two of him watching me take his photo from the bridge, he decided he didn’t like the looks of me after all and flew to a new perch.
Two days into spring and it certainly didn’t feel like it. The temps only got up to the mid-20s and the wind was bitter. The sunset in southwest Turner County, however, looked warm and inviting.
A heavy wet snow fell most of the day. The weather system began to clear just before sunset allowing me to get some interesting images of Zion Lutheran Church and the area northwest of Wall Lake.
On my way to Fort Pierre, I saw thousands of snow and white fronted geese flocking at Lehrman Slough near the Spencer exit on I-90. It is always impressive to see so many birds concentrated in one little area.
Spring is knocking on the door again. The high temp is just under 70 degrees and I spotted my first pasqueflower of the year at Lake Vermillion Recreation Area. Only three blooms were showing and each was probably just a day or two old.
The temperature hit 81 in Sioux Falls. After work, I drove down to Newton Hills State Park to search for snow trillium. I’ve never seen or photographed this wildflower before, but according to the March/April 2014 issue of South Dakota Magazine, they grow on northward facing slopes under the trees. Sure enough I found several little clumps of the white flowers pushing through the dead leaf carpet. Another sign that spring is winning the battle of the seasons!
After work there was very little wind and the temps were hanging in the mid-60s, so I drove to one of my favorite known pasque patches in Hanson County. Clouds came up from the west to obscure the late sun, but the soft evening light and no wind made for unique conditions to take a portrait of our state flower.
A bright full “Pink Moon” began to rise just before sunset. It is called a pink moon because this is the time of the year when the wild ground phlox usually starts to bloom. Ironically this full moon turned to a blood moon just after 2 a.m., as a full lunar eclipse took place. I tried to use Sioux Falls landmarks to frame the moon shots including the Old Courthouse Museum clock tower and St. Joseph Cathedral’s spires. The night air was brisk, but the calendar now shows that April is half over. Spring must be here for good, right? Only time will tell.
Christian Begeman grew up in Isabel and now lives in Sioux Falls. When he's not working at Midcontinent Communications he is often on the road photographing South Dakota’s prettiest spots. Follow Begeman on his blog.