Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Nature Notes: Arches Animals

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We saw quite a bit of wildlife at Arches National Park. The most spectacular for me was this Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer) - I had never before seen a snake in the wild. It was fairly docile and didn't seem all that disturbed by us. It's probably used to humans, living on one of the most popular trails of Arches.

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Lizards were everywhere. I don't know the species of the above, but below is a long-nosed leopard lizard (Gambelia wislizenii)
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One of those climbed right up on my hand and sat there for a while before it scurried off into the bush again.

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a prarie dog, I assume a Utah prarie dog (Cynomys parvidens) - I was a bit amazed at how many people did not know what it was, it got called everything from gopher to squirrel.

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If any of you know what species that bird is, please let me know.

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a big beetle, about one inch long. My best guess is that it's a stink beetle, Eleodes spec. I think it's a female because I saw another just like it that didn't have the long "tail", which I assume is an ovipositor (for placing eggs in the ground)

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some kind of desert plant, I would like to see it in spring or after rain when it blooms

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If you're in the desert and see stuff like that on the ground, don't step on it. It's a mixture of fungi, algae, cynobacteria, mosses and lichens. It's called biological soil crust and it's important because it anchors the soil and stores water and nutrients. It grows very slowly, so one misstep may destroy the growth of many decades.

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another reason to keep an eye on the ground: animal tracks. The big ones are from a desert cottontail rabbit I think and the small ones may be from a kangaroo rat. We saw one, but it was too dark to take a photo. It was very tame and came right up to us looking for food (but it didn't get any, feeding the animals in national parks is forbidden for good reason).
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more cottontail tracks and I think lizard tracks in the foreground, with the tail leaving a track between the footmarks

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods

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