The Grassy Knolls

I’ll wager that the Dog Ear Buttes of South Dakota rarely appear on anyone’s vacation sightseeing list. I only know of them because of my love for driving on gravel roads and my habit of scanning atlases for potentially interesting geographical features.

These two relatively small mounds, south of the town of Winner, certainly stand out in an otherwise flat expanse of prairie studded with cows and the occasional farmhouse.

I first visited the buttes several years ago and I went back again this past October. The place is still as peaceful and idyllic as I remember.

This a prime example of the kind of thing I’ll see from the driver’s seat and will feel a strong desire to park the car and climb to the top. Sadly, as is the case in most of these situations, the buttes are fenced off on private land. Perhaps on my next visit, I’ll track down the landowner and ask for permission to cross the fence and hike to the summits.

I’d truly enjoy living close to something like this so I could walk to the top each day to enjoy the view. Man, that’s the life.

Raptor’s Delight

As Thursday was going to be another beautiful (and rather warm) October day in the Davis Mountains of western Texas, I made a point to be up and out the door at first light to enjoy a few hours of leisurely motoring before breakfast. As I rolled out of Fort Davis, I watched a glorious sunrise paint the sky and the desert floor. I then turned west, into the hills.

After several miles of peaceful riding, I was presented with the option to turn left on Ranch Road 505. This narrow strip of asphalt is just 8.8 miles long, connecting Texas 166 with U.S. 90. It has no shoulder and, happily, little to no traffic…

I took the turn and drove on, enjoying the fact that I was the only driver on the road that morning. But I wasn’t truly alone; a crowd had gathered, and that crowd made the scenery even more compelling. Once I reached U.S. 90, I made a U-turn and parked the car so I could attach my 80-200mm zoom. As I began to retrace my route, I knew that I was about to fire off a few hundred shots with the Nikon…

Birds. Big birds. And lots of them. Hawks of many different shapes, sizes and colors, lining the 505. It looked like a raptor convention. Most of them were perched on fence posts; some on metal posts…

Some on old wooden posts…

We fell into a groove; each bird I stopped beside would pose for about five seconds after my arrival, giving me the stink eye while I grabbed a few frames…

And then leap into to air, having seen enough of me…

I would then roll forward a hundred yards or so to greet the next contestant, and the pattern would repeat…

A few of the hawks had found a vantage point superior to that of a fence post; the tall mast of the Yucca elata makes an excellent perch…

And a hawk leaping into the air does a nice job of dispersing the yucca seeds…

Incidentally, that gray blob you see in two of the above images…it’s not a speck of dust on the camera’s sensor. It is a tethered blimp, near the city of Marfa; part of the Tethered Aerostat Radar System, which scans the border for low-flying aircraft…

But enough about the blimp; I was much more interested in the things flying closer to the ground…

Aside from the raptors, there were other creatures out and about that morning, such as this fine fat vulture…

And these bold little sparrows, basking in the sun. (Bold? Maybe just oblivious, or, perhaps, unappetizing…)

Even some four-legged Pontiac fans came down to the fence to say hello…

So, if you ever find yourself about to turn onto Ranch Road 505, be sure to have your camera at the ready. The fish are waiting in the barrel.