My Summer Travels in 2017

So far, it hasn't amount to much travel. I've been in the Black Hills helping with American Dipper Banding and now I'm in the Slim Buttes in Harding County. I have a Prairie Falcon pair with young on a cliff just a hundred yards or so away. Lots of butterflies around but so far not much that I need photos of. Now moving into a new moon period and I'm hoping for lots of clear nights. So far I've had two, but the moon is still coming up early. Last night I was up till 2 AM. I will add more photos and news as things happen. See links below for photos in those categories from the last couple of weeks.

Astrophotography     Birds     Butterflies and other things

June 20, 2017  Last night started out with high clouds, then it cleared for a couple of hours, then more clouds. I was up till about 2 AM. It looks like tonight will be about the same, so I may or may not get any shooting done. I put some new photos from yesterday at the LINK.

June 21, 2017 It is still windy but I went butterfly hunting anyway. I have some target species, Ridings' Satyr, Ruddy Copper, Purplish Copper, but so far I have not found them. It is still early though. Might have a county record for Harding County though, Bronze Copper. I'm checking with Gary Marrone on that. Some new images at the LINK.

June 23, 2017.  Last night it cleared off for awhile, long enough for me to get some good images of the Elephant Trunk Nebula. It was very windy, and that cost me some subs, but I have pretty good protection here from wind. If I had been out in the open, it would have been impossible. Forecast is for clear sky for the next 3 nights! I put some new images at the LINK.

June 24, 2017  Last night was absolutely perfect for night photography. Very dark, no wind, atmosphere was very stable and cool, so I stayed up late. It is too bad it takes so long to work on  objects, it takes up all night to just do four objects. These kinds of nights don't come along very often. It might be that way again tonight. During the day I tried for some Eastern Bluebird photos at the nest. The light isn't very good there and it is hard to get sharp shots of the female feeding the young. I put some new images at the LINK.

June 25, 2017  I was up all night, till it started getting light in the east. Another near perfect night, although the atmosphere wasn't quite as stable. This time of year, the nights are short and I don't get as much shooting time as I'd like to. I posted some new images at the LINK.

June 26, 2017   Yesterday I moved to the Reva Gap Campground. I wanted to try doing a mosaic of the Milky Way over Reva Gap. I was surprised to find three other guys there, with the same plan. Well, not exactly the same plan, but they were doing something with the night sky. Anyway, it worked out well for me, their light gave my image a little extra. For more on how I did this and to see my final image, go to the LINK.

June 28, 2017  Today the wind finally went down. Did a lot of hiking. Almost got bit by a rattlesnake. See LINK for photos.

July 7, 2017
  I've been in the Black Hills for awhile now, escaping the heat. I have no cell phone or internet at my current campsite at Rod and Gun Campground in Spearfish Canyon. Not much new to post, I look for butterflies but find nothing new. I have never seen so many people in the Black Hills, seems like they are everywhere, running around on ATV's and other contraptions. I will be glad to get to someplace quieter. Here's a few photos I took before leaving the Slim Buttes, see LINK.

July 15, 2017   I'm at my quiet spot southwest of Jewel Cave. I have not seen a soul in the area of my camp and I've been here since last Tuesday. Yesterday I met Rick and Susan at Hell Canyon and we did some birding, they got a lifer Lewis's Woodpecker. I have a hummingbird feeder out in Hell Canyon, so far just Broad-tailed Hummingbirds. This morning I visited the butte with a colony of Sagebrush Lizards, I mostly wanted to see if they are still there and get some photos. I put some new photos at this LINK and photos of the Sagebrush Lizards at this LINK. No cell phone or internet here, I have to go to town to get any service.

July 18, 2017  It has been hot! Finally, today, it has cooled down to more normal Black Hills temperatures. A thunderstorm with lots of lightning came through here last night. I've been photographing robber flies and yesterday I found a Lewis's Woodpecker nest on Elk Mountain. The nest is perfectly situated for photography in the early morning, so that's where I was this morning at sunrise. A flock of Red Crossbills has taken a liking to my little grove of pine trees at camp, right now there is a juvenile outside my back window, about 6 ft. away! I posted robber fly photos at this LINK and some bird photos at this LINK.

July 31, 2017   It has been awhile since posting anything. Spent a week going to a family reunion in Missouri where I managed to get a few life birds and a lifer butterfly as well as visit relatives, some of whom I've never even met before. The reunion took place in Lebanon and at Bennett Springs State Park. I put some photos from Missouri at this LINK. Since then, I've been staying at my spot SW of Jewel Cave. A few photos from this area are at this LINK. I haven't done any astrophotography this month due mostly to being gone during the new moon period or from poor weather, and the one night I did try it at Pierre, the mosquitoes drove me inside.

August 1, 2017  Ricky Olson was here today, we birded Hell Canyon and around Jumpoff Spring. Still no Rufous Hummingbirds. Found more Sagebrush Lizards at Jumpoff Spring, where I have seen them before years ago. I put a few new photos at the LINK.

August 8, 2017    I'm still in the same spot. On August 2, Rick and I drove through the Jasper Burn and counted 80 Lewis's Woodpeckers. That is probably nearly as many as I've seen in my life, all in one day. Been hiking alot, weather is nice. Birds are starting to flock up. I have seen Clark's Nutcrackers nearby but too far away for photos. Today I found a small flock of Pygmy Nuthatch, not very far from camp. I put some new images at the LINK.

August 10, 2017  Yesterday a juvenile male Calliope Hummingbird showed up at my feeder. I posted a message on the SD Bird list-serve. Apparently some people will be coming here to see it today. I put some photos at the LINK.

August 12, 2017   Only 9 more days to the total solar eclipse. I had been planning to just drive down early in the morning and try to find a place to set up my equipment. But I've been losing sleep over that, I don't know if there will be law enforcement telling people they can't park in the ditch or if there will even be anywhere to park. In addition to that, I would only be able to get a rough polar alignment with the mount, since I would not be able to see Polaris. Today I was searching online and found a private ranch that is taking reservations for camping or just a place to park. I called them up and they still have room, so I will be going down the day before. This is the best option for me, since I will be able to set everything up and get the tracking mount polar aligned on Polaris the night before. It located between Lusk and Torrington WY, only about 100 miles from where I am now. Now all I need is clear skies! On the way up to the highway to make the phone call, I found a Smooth Green Snake on the road, and took some photos, I did not have any very good shots of this species before. I put a few new images at the LINK.

August 14, 2017 
One week to the solar eclipse. I will be glad to finally be done waiting. I have had some good luck Pygmy Nuthatch and Brown Creepers. It is getting dry here again but rain is in the forecast for the next couple of days. I put some new images at the LINK.

August 17, 2017  As of now, the forecast for eclipse day at Jay Em, Wyoming is for mostly sunny sky. Last night, for the first time in about two months, I got the astro equipment set up and tried some night shooting. Today, I've been practicing on the sun. I've gotten a little rusty but it didn't take too long to get back into the system of doing it. I put some new images at the LINK.

August 19. 2017  Two more days to go. I'll be leaving tomorrow for Jay Em, Wyoming. I suppose there will be cell phone service there but I don't know for sure. Forecast still looks pretty good, but now The Weather Channel is forecasting partly cloudy while the NWS is forecasting sunny. I was up late last night, tried the Pelican Nebula and few other things. Also some new bird photos at the LINK.

August 21, 2017  The total solar eclipse was the most spectacular thing I've ever seen. Skies were perfectly clear, hardly any wind, my equipment performed flawlessly, although I almost forgot to start shooting when totality hit. All I had to do was push a shutter button on the cable release and turn a wheel for different shutter speeds, so I had plenty of time to just look. I used auto bracketing, set for 1 stop of light over and under the set exposure and it worked out well. I was pretty amazed to see what I got. Now if I can figure out how to stack layers and keep only the good parts of the images I have, I should have a really good image of the corona out to several solar widths. For starters, I put three photos at the LINK. There will be more.