“What kind of nest is that?”

The Missouri weather has not been good for kayaking for the past few days … high winds, lots of rain, cold … so until things settle down, I’m going to get back to posting some images and adventures I experienced on my recent roadtrip to Yellowstone NP and the Badlands NP.  Today’s post comes from the Badlands NP, located in South Dakota.

As we drove through the park, we rounded a curve on an “s-curve” portion of the road, surrounded by beautiful formations of rock. But as we rounded the curve, I noticed a strange-looking nest in a single tree that happened to be growing here. Before I could say anything, my wife asked “What kind of nest is that!?”, pointing to the same object I was looking at. Immediately, I replied “I’m not sure, but I don’t think that’s a nest.”  Here is what we saw (this image was taken from the road, after we stopped to investigate):


Porcupine in tree


Looking for a pullout, I saw there was none in the area. And being in the middle of an “S” curve, I wasn’t really fond of parking in the road. But this was a weekday. And temperatures in the morning were hovering ~0°F. The result … very, very few people were driving through the park. So what’s a nature photogapher to do? Answer … stop, anyway! I decided I had to find if this was a nest … and if it was, try to figure out what made it. And we weren’t really in a blind spot. And the speed limit was only ~35 mph in this area. OK, OK, so I justified I could stop for a moment!

Getting out of the truck, I made the previous image. Seeing and hearing no approaching vehicles, I decided to tramp out in the snow a ways to get a closer look. Once I got a bit closer, I started grinning … “Looks like a porcupine!” I yelled back to my wife. I proceeded to get a bit closer … not close enough to scare the critter, but just enough to try to get a clean shot through all the branches of the tree he was occupying (anyway, I had my 100-400mm lens in place, with a 1.4x TC, so I didn’t need to get real close). Here are a couple more images I made of this cute little guy:


Porcupine in tree


Porcupine in tree


I made a few images and quickly headed back to the truck, and still no traffic! This was a first for me. I had seen/photographed a young, captive porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) a few years ago, but had never seen one in the wild before today … another “wild lifer”! Got a few more wildlife and landscape posts coming up from the Badlands, so stay tuned.


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