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A Most Welcome Spring

May 13, 2020

Since 2012, it has been tradition for me to journal the transition of winter to spring in South Dakota. The exercise has become something I look forward to more and more each year. Maybe it’s spring fever manifesting itself in a new way, or maybe I’m getting more sentimental as I age, but you just can’t beat this time of year for beauty and wonder out of doors. This year, 2020 (a number which is also synonymous with perfect vision), things have been a bit different. The “new normal” of living in a pandemic has affected the world. Nature, however, appears to be unfazed by human health concerns. The winds are still as wild, the flowers as beautiful and the transition from death to life as wondrous as it ever was. Maybe the 2020 vision metaphor is correct. Maybe the uncertainties and changes we face this spring can help us see a little clearer. Maybe we can see a little more perfectly that beauty remains. That hope truly does spring eternal.

March 28

I traveled to Badlands National Park to take advantage of dark night skies to capture the Milky Way rising. One of the signs of spring in the heavens is when the core of the Milky Way makes its reappearance in the early hours of early spring mornings.


March 29

After shooting the stars in the Badlands, I started the journey back to Sioux Falls as the first rays of sunlight painted the Bad River breaks south of Midland.


March 31

I found the year’s first tiny pasqueflower (for me) near Lake Hanson south of Alexandria.


April 4

A thirteen-lined ground squirrel enjoyed the early spring sun at Lake Alvin Recreation area. Later the skies were painted with a signature South Dakota sunset near Hartford.


April 10

While looking for spring birds migrating through Palisades State Park near Garretson, I heard a peculiar noise from inside a hollowed out tree base. I glanced over and saw a raccoon sow looking back at me. My guess is that she had cubs in there, but it was too dark to see inside and I didn’t want to stress her out by investigating further.


April 17

Hiking Union Grove State Park revealed trees beginning to bud and bloodroot wildflowers doing their best Jedi Knight impersonations.


April 21

I discovered an eastern comma butterfly sunning itself at Union Grove, as well as Dutchman’s breeches just starting to bloom.


April 25

I got the itch for a day trip on a sunny Saturday. I set my sights on the glacial hills of McPherson County, where I know of a couple nice pasqueflower patches. When I arrived, the chorus frogs were singing along with meadowlarks and red-winged blackbirds as the flowers waved and danced in the wind. Here is a short video of the scenes accompanied by an original Jami Lynn song called “Mayflower.”


April 26

One of the most heavenly smells of spring is in the air as plum thickets blossom at Union Grove State Park.


May 1

A day with temperatures in the low 80s caused this squirrel to stretch out and take it easy on a branch at Elmwood Park in Sioux Falls.


May 2

Migrating sparrows have arrived in great numbers, including this clay-colored sparrow who posed on a plum thicket branch at the Dells of the Big Sioux near Dell Rapids.


May 3

A solitary sandpiper at the Sioux Falls Outdoor Campus was reflected in the near still waters of the oxbow on a calm and quiet spring evening.


May 5

After a rainy and dull gray day, the clouds parted for just enough time around sunset to paint the cloudscape above Willow Creek Lutheran southwest of Dell Rapids.


May 6

The quintessential aroma of spring was in the air at Terrace Park in Sioux Falls as the lilac bushes began their bloom. Later in the day, I discovered a handful of hoary pucoon plants in bloom on a hillside at Newton Hills State Park.


May 8

While looking for spring warblers, a blue jay flew out of a mini-canyon at the Dells of the Big Sioux and preened. When he left he let loose a call, and I heard a diminutive answer further up the cut. Sure enough, a female blue jay was on a nest in the tangled branches and thickets. Later on the hike, I accidentally frightened a robin off her nest, so I snapped a couple photos of her beautiful blue eggs and left her to it as quickly as I could.


May 8

Driving the backroads of northwestern Minnehaha County near sunset, I spotted a great horned owlet hanging out on an old cottonwood tree and just to the south was a small pond on a game production area filled with ducks and wading birds. The chorus frogs were singing as the setting sun painted the northwestern sky. It was another near perfect spring evening on the high plains.


May 9

By chance, I discovered a “new to me” tiny wildflower while looking for warblers at the Sioux Falls Outdoor Campus. This little beauty is called false Solomon’s seal, or feathery false lily-of-the-valley.


May 10

Exactly one month after I saw the raccoon I was back in the Palisades and sure enough, there were now three pretty good sized cubs with their momma. They were mostly interested in their mother’s milk or playfighting, but for a few special moments I made eye contact and snapped a photo or two. Also, the wild gooseberry bushes were in flower, attracting bumblebees along the Palisades cliffs.


May 11

A very vocal Baltimore oriole and a handsome little yellow warbler brightened the evening with their color and song. I like to think of these birds as spring ornaments decorating the trees as they burst forth with new life.


Christian Begeman grew up in Isabel and now lives in Sioux Falls. When he's not working at Midco he is often on the road photographing South Dakota’s prettiest spots. Follow Begeman on his blog.


01:56 pm - Thu, May 14 2020
Viola Ottowa said:
I love all of your pictures and the great narrative that you put with them. I especially enjoyed your 2020 vision metaphor with your camera capturing the amazing and comforting beauty of God's creation in this stressful time. Please keep snapping pictures and sharing your thoughts!!
06:25 pm - Mon, August 31 2020
barbara horner said:
The pictures were so beautiful and breathe taking looking at each one so amazing thank you for sharing those pictures Thoughts on Viola Ottowa

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