For my early June trip to South Dakota I brought along my big zoom lens in the hopes of capturing some wildlife.
If you want to see wildlife, western South Dakota has plenty of opportunities. Some were right in my parent's back yard. Deer and wild turkey were daily visitors.
The wild turkeys cracked me up. Their walk was so ungainly. And they have such a dumb looks on their faces.
|Big tom! (aka "Mr Thanksgiving")
Even their gobbling made me laugh. It was fun to watch the big toms boss the ladies around.
My folks had a family of tiny cottontail rabbits in their backyard. So cute! Thank goodness for my big zoom lens, because they weren't about to stick around for photos.
One day my parents and I drove through Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park in the Black Hills. One advantage to visiting South Dakota in the late spring - animal babies!
|Little horns starting to grow
The young buffaloes were so stinking cute! Reddish colored and fuzzy with baby fur the little guys were downright adorable. Their little horns, only nubs, were just starting to grow.
I spotted a few antelope off in the distance. But those graceful animals are fast, and weren't about to stick around for photos. Thanks goodness for a 600 mm zoom or I would've never gotten any decent images.
A huge herd of buffalo were dozing in a field near Wind Cave National Park's northern entrance. They didn't appear fazed by the hot day.
|"Mom knows I'm cute!"
My favorite image of the day was this capture of a baby buffalo tilting his head in contentment.
However, this young-un having lunch was a close second.
|Bighorn sheep in the Badlands
The following morning I got up super early and traveled to the Badlands. Although I just missed sunrise, the animals were out and about. Not far from the entrance, I came upon a herd of bighorn sheep, and they were right next to the road!
|Cute baby bighorns
Not only adult sheep, there were four fuzzy baby bighorns romping around.
|More bighorn babies
Talk about cuteness overload!
|The little guys were adorable!
I got out of my car and began shooting away. Not paying much attention to my surroundings, after a few minutes I looked behind me to see the mother sheep eyeing my warily. She didn't look happy in the least! Not wanting to get gored by her horns, I slowly backed into my car.
It didn't take long for the entire herd of sheep to move towards me until they were surrounding my car. There was no way I was getting out now. Instead I stared out the window and enjoyed my front-row view of these magnificent creatures. The best way to safely observe wild animals, I considered myself extremely lucky.
The sheep finally moved on, and I jumped out for a a few more quick shots. Seeing these sheep so close up and watching the babies frolic and play was definitely the highlight of my day!
The Badlands are home to numerous mammals. One of my favorite little critters are the prairie dogs. These rodent-like mammals live together in a large network of underground burrows and tunnels dubbed "prairie dog towns."
|Looking for danger
When danger approaches, the head prairie dog will make loud squeaking noises, and jump up and down to warn his fellow doggies. These frantic leaping antics are funny to watch.
|Ready to jump down his hole
I drove by several prairie dogs towns, but one near the western side of the park was by far my favorite. Here the little rodents didn't seem to mind if a woman pointed a gigantic lens their way.
Some of the best wildlife sightings (and photos) came from my parent's back yard. Like this beautiful butterfly posing on some purple flowers.
|Turkey resting place
Or this turkey duo resting on a downed tree.
|Love the red comb
Or this lone turkey with the longest, reddest comb I've ever seen.
During my time in the Black Hills, my parents were even visited by a male and female western tanager. These birds are so colorful they make great photo subjects. The problem was catching them feeding in my parent's backyard. You had to be vigilant. But one day everything aligned and I was able to get a few photos of this stunning, colorful bird.
Yes, South Dakota is a wildlife watchers dream. I'm beginning to realize late spring/early summer is a great time to spot critters, especially the little ones. I may just have to change the date of my annual trip next year!