Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Nature Notes: Squirrels and a Deer


A Golden-Manteled Ground Squirrel (Callospermophilus lateralis) at Bryce Canyon NP. Note the lack of face stripes that sets it apart from chipmunks. It's also quite a bit larger, up to twelve inches long. During winter, they hibernate in ground burrows.



This guy lived next to our campside and he would go and hide in the hubcaps of our RV ... who knows why. It might just have been nice and cool in there. At least he didn't bring anything to eat with him, that would have made such an awful lot of noise when driving.


Another one, we saw it on a hike through the canyon. Which is a spectacular place:


A Uintah chipmunk (Neotamias umbrinus) also rather charmingly named Hidden Forest Chipmunk, also lived in the canyon. This species is common at Bryce Canyon and while it spends some time on the ground to forage, it lives mainly in trees and has its nest there. Unlike ground squirrels, all chipmunks will be active during winter from time to time and will spend summer and autumn with hiding and storing food for this time. Uintah chipmunks, uniquely among chipmunks, will also fatten themselves up to get them over the winter.


My dad and a mule deer. Click for a bigger version if you can't find the deer. A young buck, not afraid of us at all - he wandered all across the campground and settled down for a nap less than ten yeards from us.


Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle over at Rambling Woods

Golden-Manteled Ground Squirrel
Bryce Canyon NP

Uintah Chipmunk
Bryce Canyon NP

ABC Wednesday: T is for Turkey


Wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) at Capitol Reef National Park - there are many orchards around Fruita and the turkeys foraged there.


They are actually quite impressive birds. I would have liked to see them in flight, but no such luck.


It's not quite clear how they got their name, but it does have something to do with the country Turkey. Theory number one: when imported to Great Britain, the trade route took the turkey first to Constantinople and pretty much anything coming from that direction was bestowed the moniker turkey, whether it came from Turkey or not. Theory number two: the turkey looks a bit like the guinea fowl or Turkey coq, a bird known to the first English settlers and so they continued to use the name.

See what else T stands for with ABC Wednesday

How the turkey got its name
Internet bird Collection

Saturday, November 24, 2012

I'd Rather B Birdin': Western Bluebird


A Western Bluebird at Bryce Canyon NP. The blue throat distinguishes it from the Eastern Bluebird (orange throat) and the Mountain Bluebird (no orange at all).


It's a gorgeous bird, especially when the blue feathers catch the light.

More birds at I'd Rather B Birdin'

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Nature Notes: Rabbit and Hare


A rather adorable desert cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus audubonii) - at least I think it's a desert cottontail, there are quite a number of species. This one lived at Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. Note the small ears and short legs compared to this

Black-Tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus). A Jackrabbit is not a rabbit, but a hare and hares and rabbits belong to the same family, but not the same genus. so they are related, but not all that closely.

The jackrabbit shows of its long legs and black tail. Hares live out in the open, creating just small indentations in the ground to lie in, most rabbits build burrows and live underground (cottontails don't). Hares give birth to babies that are ready to leave the nest soon after birth, but rabbit babies are naked, blind and helpless for some time.
Oh, and neither rabbits nor hares are rodents!


I encountered the jackrabbit at Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada.
Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods

Jackrabbit at Animal Diversity Web
jackrabbit at Encyclopedia of Life
Jackrabbit at Wikipedia
cottontail at Wikipedia
Hares and Rabbits at Wikipedia

ABC Wednesday: S is for Sheep


A bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) at Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada. We encountered him a couple of times lying by the side of the road. He didn't seem in any pain or discomfort and he still was alert and able to move, so he was probably just old.

Bighorn sheep had almost been extinct, with only a couple of thousand animals left in the 1930s. Today, there is a healthy population, especially in protected areas like national parks. Habitat destruction remains a problem, though.

The horns, of course, are their most striking feature and the males use them to do battle in late autumn over females.

Our ram probably fought many such fights and his horns still carry the traces. Females have much smaller horns, but with males, they can weigh up to 14 kilos, which is about as much as the whole sheep's skeleton.


Bighorn sheep are rather shy and that's why, despite their growing numbers, many people never get to see them. I also learned that there's another North American sheep species called Thinhorn Sheep, to be found in Alaska and over much of Canada.

See what else S stands for with ABC Wednesday

Bighorn Sheep in the Ruby Mountains