For us, North Dakota is a pastiche of great people, wonderful birds, quietly stunning grass and skyscapes, and pure silliness.
This is a Dakota Growers pasta Plant. (Thanks, Rick, for the ID.) This photo, taken through the windshield as I drove, doesn't even come close to showing how big this plant is. It is just huuuuge. North Dakota grows the best hard durum wheat which is the best for pasta since it has so much gluten in it. Those who are allergic to gluten probably shouldn't even look at this picture.
A classic mirage, the road disappearing into watery nothingness. You don't often see good mirages back East, though Westerners probably get used to them. We squealed and drove into the depths. The kids loved that. And then I loved trying to explain what a mirage is. One of those moments when the mom starts out confidently and then kind of trails off...it's outside my area of expertise. Something about a reflection of the sky onto the road caused by heat wave distortion, uh...anyway, it's a mirage.
I was pleased to find that Bill and I are not yet quite perfectly matched in a seesaw sense
and the kids have a bit of biomass to gain, too, before they can send Daddy flying.
Did I mention wonderful birds?
Well, here is one of the Most Wonderful North Dakota Birds: the ferruginous hawk.
We were flying along a highway when we spotted this enormous bird sitting on a low surveyor's marker.
He sat for quite awhile, then spread those magnificent wings, crouched and leapt up.
The light was worse than terrible, but we got an eyeful of this stunning almost-eagle
which I believe should be called the Rufescent Hawk-eagle, because I always think of the Ornate Hawk-eagle when I see it. Splendid Prairie Hawk-eagle would be a good name for it, too.
Look at those glorious red thighs, all that white in tail and wing.
Away he flapped, leaving us open mouthed, stunned.
A lot of birders on that bus had hoped against hope to glimpse a ferruginous hawk, but never dared dream of such a show.
I'm happy with these photos, even though it was dark as a dungeon that day and spitting rain. I love my Canon Digital Rebel XSi with its 70-300 image-stabilized telephoto lens.
I carry it everywhere without even feeling its weight, and hand-hold it for virtually all my grab shots of birds and butterflies, deer and giant otters. If you like what you see on my blog and want to upgrade your photo equipment, you can thank me by clicking these links when you're finally ready to buy. Direct sales from links on my blog send a very small kickback my way, and won't cost you a cent more.
That's North Dakota--always surprising, always a blast. If you're thinking of hitting the prairie in June 2011, check out the Potholes and Prairies Festival website. You may see someone rawther familiar there. And Bill, Phoebe, Liam and I would love to see you in Carrington, North Dakota in '11! You do not have to know anything about birdwatching to go to a birding festival and see fabulous birds. We take care of all that. That's what birding festivals are for. Just bring decent binoculars and a desire to be thrilled.
But wait. There's more! I'm in ad mode now. Don't worry, it'll pass soon.
My wonderful WebWitch has added another clickable feature to an already active blog homepage. Look in the right sidebar to find a mini photo-album of Chet Baker, poised right above a small donation button. As I creep up on five years of steady blogging for your viewing and reading pleasure, the pull of gainful activities (my next book) always on the yoke, I'm ready to find some ways to ask the blog to give a little back. My dream job would be just to run around and find fabulous things to photograph and share with you, but to date the dream job has been a volunteer position. And it's finally sunk in on me that it will remain so unless I do something about it. If I've learned anything about potential corporate sponsors, it's that they don't answer their mail.
This blog, thanks to my gifted and delightful WebWitch, is lively, fun and beautiful, and I don't want a bunch of ads for timeshares and diets and masculine enlargement products and Lord knows what else flashing away in the margins. But I do have to pay her to make it beautiful, keep developing it, and help me look like I know what I'm doing here on the Web. You all quietly and generously helped me through the rabies shot debacle. Then you helped my friend Debby as she rebuilds her life, post-tornado. I'll always be deeply grateful for your generosity. Heck, I'm grateful that you're here, reading, at all.
So there he is, Chet Baker with his little paw out, his Mether slowly feeling her way down the dark and twisty alley of monetizing her blog without wrecking it. A little stab at promoting Canon cameras here, an appeal there. Down the road, some unique products to sell, if my ideas pan out. Kept under the glass terrarium of natural history blogging, I doubt I'll ever be lucky enough to be one of those "pro-bloggers" you hear about. But I've been cobbling together a career since 1981, and it's bound to change shape over time. Maybe it'll all add up to something in time.
Too bad there is not a street corner we could sing on, Mether. Nobody would hear us on our street.