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An early May sunset beyond historic Benton Lutheran near Crooks.
An early May sunset beyond historic Benton Lutheran near Crooks.
The promise of spring with a rain shower and rainbow near Dolton.
The promise of spring with a rain shower and rainbow near Dolton.
A prairie windmill with a rainbow background in rural Lincoln County.
A prairie windmill with a rainbow background in rural Lincoln County.
A yellow-rumped warbler at the Sioux Falls Outdoor Campus.
A yellow-rumped warbler at the Sioux Falls Outdoor Campus.
The first plum brush blossoms of spring at Newton Hills State Park near Canton.
The first plum brush blossoms of spring at Newton Hills State Park near Canton.
A yellow warbler at the Dells of the Big Sioux near Dell Rapids.
A yellow warbler at the Dells of the Big Sioux near Dell Rapids.
Sunset reflected in the Big Sioux River between Dell Rapids and Trent.
Sunset reflected in the Big Sioux River between Dell Rapids and Trent.
A magnolia warbler found at the Big Sioux Recreation Area near Brandon.
A magnolia warbler found at the Big Sioux Recreation Area near Brandon.
A broad-winged hawk looking a little perturbed that I disturbed its watch at the Big Sioux Recreation Area.
A broad-winged hawk looking a little perturbed that I disturbed its watch at the Big Sioux Recreation Area.
An American redstart found at Lake Hiddenwood State Park between Selby and Java.
An American redstart found at Lake Hiddenwood State Park between Selby and Java.
A black-poll warbler at Lake Hiddenwood.
A black-poll warbler at Lake Hiddenwood.
A rose-breasted grosbeak at Palisades State Park near Garretson.
A rose-breasted grosbeak at Palisades State Park near Garretson.
Baltimore oriole at Palisades State Park.
Baltimore oriole at Palisades State Park.
An unknown (to me) wildflower growing near the cliff tops at Palisades State Park.
An unknown (to me) wildflower growing near the cliff tops at Palisades State Park.
Wilson’s warbler at Palisades State Park.
Wilson’s warbler at Palisades State Park.
Yellow warbler surveying his lunch options at the Dells of the Big Sioux.
Yellow warbler surveying his lunch options at the Dells of the Big Sioux.
A chestnut-sided warbler at Elmwood Park in Sioux Falls.
A chestnut-sided warbler at Elmwood Park in Sioux Falls.
Driving home from Palisades State Park among lilacs and dogwood in bloom.
Driving home from Palisades State Park among lilacs and dogwood in bloom.
The first dame’s rocket blossoms of the year at Elmwood Park.
The first dame’s rocket blossoms of the year at Elmwood Park.
A young bunny grazing on fresh grass at Terrace Park in Sioux Falls.
A young bunny grazing on fresh grass at Terrace Park in Sioux Falls.
A northern cardinal amongst the blossoms of a decorative tree at Terrace Park.
A northern cardinal amongst the blossoms of a decorative tree at Terrace Park.
Nashville warbler at Terrace Park.
Nashville warbler at Terrace Park.
A female Baltimore oriole with nesting material at the Dells of the Big Sioux.
A female Baltimore oriole with nesting material at the Dells of the Big Sioux.
A ruby-throated humingbird sipping from the buds of a blooming Siberian treeshrub at the Dells.
A ruby-throated humingbird sipping from the buds of a blooming Siberian treeshrub at the Dells.

Chasing Birds

May 30, 2018

Spring in our part of the world is like a runner’s reward after a long distance race. During winter we hold breath, and when the south wind and longer days finally chase away the cold, it is time to exhale and breathe in the new season. We got a late start to spring’s festivities this year and subsequently all the new growth, fragrant blooms and birdsong seemed to burst on the scene all at once. Bear in mind I’m not complaining, because I was out nearly every evening for three straight weeks looking for spring scenes to photograph.

If you’ve followed my column over the last few years, it is no secret that I like to seek out and photograph the migrating warblers in May. I am tempted to call them war-blurs, because more often than I like to admit, that is all I get when trying to photograph them. They are tiny, fast and usually found in low light situations such as tree canopies, even on a sunny day. If anything, this new found spring obsession has taught me to listen first and look second, walk slowly, carry plenty of insect repellent and have patience … a LOT of patience. Hardly anything is more frustrating to a photographer than having your subject move away from the camera. So in warbler season, I’ve learned to pick a couple spots where I have reasonable views into the canopy and simply sit and wait for one of the little buggers to move into view. Sometimes it works wonders; other times I get skunked.

Even on days when I don’t get much warbler action, I’m still outside. I still see the landscape bloom and get to breathe in the clean fragrance of wild plum blossoms, chokechery flowers and lilac. All of these aromas have a tendency to conjure a flood of memories of growing up on the farm/ranch near the Moreau River. Since we had a small dairy operation, there are other smells that take me back too, but I’d much rather be amongst the lilacs and plum brush than the corrals this time of year.

Springtime in South Dakota also means planting season, spring showers and late evening sunsets. The nice thing about chasing warblers at our many state parks and recreation areas is that it gives me the opportunity to drive home during the golden hour of the evening. There is nothing quite like a slow drive down a country road with the window down, your elbow out in the breeze and a favorite song on the radio. I particularly enjoy the smell of dew in the evening. Not only is it a pleasant aroma, but oftentimes meant “quitting time” back on the farm and taking a short drive home as evening rolled over the high plains.

However you enjoy springtime, here are a few favorite photos of my bird chasing and evening drives from the month of May. I hope you enjoy them even half as much as I did capturing them.

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.

Comments

12:19 am - Fri, June 8 2018
Lottie Walker said:
I love the story about childhood memories in S.DAK. I too have memories of picking bluebells to take home to my mother on my walk home from school in the country. And I still love to remember seeing and hearing the meadowlark in the early morning in spring time .
I was recently visiting my family in Philip, S.D and did hear a meadowlark while there.
Thanks for all the bird photo's --Lottie [Kroetch] Walker

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