Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mammally Goodness

Red Crossbill. You can see the pried-open cone he's been working on.

I left Billings, MT before dawn, hoping to make it to Yellowstone at a reasonable time. I failed to do this. Why? The incredible scenery you pass through en route boggles the mind. You must stop. You must bird. And after a few stops you keep telling yourself that you have to keep going, that you'll never make it to Yellowstone at this rate....but that doesn't work either.

The Gallatin National Forest's proximity to Yellowstone is both a blessing and a doesn't get the attention it deserves, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. As we all know, there is something to be said about roaming around on your own.

Not every day you get to see crossbill tongue.

The drive to Yellowstone took much longer than expected. A flock of Red Crossbills were fun to spend time borrow a birder cliche, they were quite confiding. Of course, an old Midwestern tourist scared them all away, and I wished God's wrath upon him. Further down the road were American Pipits (not something most people are accustomed to seeing in summer), a hunting Red Fox, a Yellow-bellied Marmot and PIKAS. I couldn't believe it....I was getting stoked on mammals, of all things. How embarrassing.

If you plan on making a Yellowstone trip, be sure to check out the area between Cooke City and Red Lodge (this is the northeast access to the park), you will not regret it.

Golden-mantled Ground-Squirrels. Why do they have chipmunk stripes? Tell me.
Red Fox.


Marmot. Is nice, you like?
Pika pika pika pika pika pika.

Yeah, look at this thing. It doesn't even make sense. It's highly evolved to be cute though.

Botanists! Help me out! Cool flower at any rate.


  1. How could you not get excited about Pikas?!?

  2. Mammals!

    And ground squirrels have stripes in order to move faster.

  3. I'll go basic thinking on the ground squirrel because I don't know the answer. The stripes are an advantageous adaptation that has allowed this species to survive predation in it's habitat, being the ground. Is this pass/fail because I'm feeling pressured here.

  4. @JK The Pikas were great. Literally next to the road!

    @Corey Racing stripes are the best.

    @Anne I think you are right on....but why are racing stripes so advantageous?

  5. Bloody hell Steve, I'm out of practice. Raptor's hunt by eyesight and you're a bird man, so I'm guessing there's a connection. Let me Google these critter's habitat and I'll get back to you. I'm serious. I'll get back to you.

  6. Pikas are cool and all, but fucking A that's an awesome fox!!!! I am mildly obsessed with the article from nat geo awhile back about foxes being bred in Russia to be pets. I want one.

  7. @Anne - I'm waiting!

    @Jen - Yes the fox was good, one of the very few Reds I've ever seen. I wonder if it could have had some high-elevation native blood (I saw it in alpine tundra) instead of the low-lying European Red Fox genetics...but this is not something I know much of. I was impressed with that Nat Geo article too...good study, great pets!

  8. Found out where he lives Steve, and learned about his life cycle and then went on to learn about raptor vision. Christ, but their amazing. From a quarter mile away an eagle can see a rabbit's sides expand and contract with each breath and can even see the blink of an animal's eyes. So I'm stumped Steve. These stripes may help this squirrel blend in with the terrain and save it from other predators, but pitted against a raptor, this critter is toast. Steve my favorite bird is the owl and I'd like to learn more about them. So if you take requests, post some owls one day.

  9. Thanks for sharing your findings...raptor vision is truly incredible. Maybe the stripes serve to break up the overall color pattern...from close up it seems like this would not work well but if viewed from a distance, this could actually make them harder to spot?

    Owls...sadly, this is a group that I do not encounter often enough, let alone have many pictures of...I'll keep it in mind though.

  10. That was my thinking Steve. Not much info on these guys out there. The stripes may just be a side issue, like color vision is for humans. It's the acuity and not the ability to see color that keeps us alive. If you ever come up with the definitive answer, please post it. I'd really like to know.

    Respectfully yours,