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In Full Swing

May 15, 2019

For the last seven years, I’ve tried to visually document the first signs of new life in "spring journals." From the first wildflowers to the arrival of songbirds, rambling nature walks through parks in southeastern South Dakota have become increasingly fun. In years past, I usually started documenting signs of spring in March — and sometimes as early as February — but the last two winters have been long and trying. This time, I started my journal entries on the day after a major blizzard struck on April 12. It is amazing how much changes on the Great Plains in a 30-day window. We've gone from feet of snow on the ground in mid-April to a near 80-degree day in mid-May, with birds and bumblebees in the air instead of snowflakes. All this change makes it quite difficult to not get caught up in spring fever … and I’m OK with that.

April 13

I found a patch of snow trillium in Newton Hills State Park living up to its name standing strong above the recent snow accumulation.


 

April 15

I decided to take a walk around Palisades State Park. I discovered a mixed flock of golden-crowned and ruby-crowned kinglets foraging in the cedar trees above the quartzite cliffs. These tiny birds were fearless and foraged all around me as if I wasn’t there.


 

April 19

The evening sun warmed the first butterflies of the season at Union Grove State Park, including this eye-catching Eastern comma.


 

April 21

On Easter Sunday I travelled through the glacial hills between Eureka and Leola in McPherson County on my way home from visiting family. I took a couple gravel road detours to look for pasqueflower stands and was not disappointed.


 

April 24

For only the second time ever, I found blooming white fawn lily (or trout lily) flowers at Union Grove State Park. Although not a rare wildflower in general, it is rare for our state. It has only been documented along Brule Creek in Union County.


 

May 2

My first spring hike at Big Sioux Recreation Area near Brandon turned up brush flowers and yellow rumped warblers catching insects out of mid-air above the hiking trails.


 

May 4

While returning from a hike at Newton Hills State Park, I pulled off I-29 at the Canton exit to go west a few miles. I caught a striking spring sunset over West Prairie Lutheran in rural Lincoln County.


 

May 7

Another hike at Palisades State Park turned up a rare look inside a raccoon den in a hollowed out tree. This young coon looked like he was just waking up from a nap, and I was a bit jealous. He looked quite cozy in there with his siblings.


 

May 9

I took a walk around sunset at the Japanese Gardens of Terrace Park and saw a female common yellowthroat warbler frolicking on the edge of Covell Lake.


 

May 10

While walking a trail along the northeastern cliffs of Palisades State Park, I was buzzed by my first ruby-throated hummingbird of the season. I turned to follow and found a good nectar source (Missouri gooseberry shrub blossoms). I waited for more than half an hour as the sun sank lower in the sky. Just as I thought I had missed my chance, the hummingbird returned with a couple friends; one of them allowed me to get this photo. It was a memorable close encounter with nature, and I was thrilled to come away with a photo (in focus) to remember it by.


 

May 11

There is a lot of water around this spring. Too much water for many people. I was crossing a very full and fast moving Skunk Creek just west of Ellis at sunset, and the colorful sky reflected on the rushing water looked like an abstract painting.


 

May 12

After church on Sunday morning, I took a walk at the Sioux Falls Outdoor Campus and got a nice look at this blackpoll warbler. He, like the majority of warblers migrating through this time of year, has made his way north from as far as Central America and won’t stop for the breeding season until reaching the boreal forests of Canada.


 

May 13

There are few aromas I like better than plum blossoms on a spring breeze. This orange-crowned warbler at the Big Sioux Recreation Area also likes flowerings because they attract nectar-seeking insects that must be quite tasty.


 

May 14

The temperature was near 80 degrees in Sioux Falls, and I spent some time walking through a very busy Terrace Park after work. With lilacs just beginning to open and ducklings on Covell Lake, spring appears to be in full swing on the upper Great Plains, and that is very good news.

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.

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