For over a week now, I’ve wished I was back in Colorado. We had a wonderful family vacation to the Rockies to visit relatives and see the mountains (a first for my boys, aged 6 & 7). I did manage a bit of photography and will be posting 3 or 4 blogs about the trip. We concentrate on the wildlife unique to the Rockies in this blog post
MOOSE CALF in ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK. Got a very close up look at a cow and calf Moose on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. The kids even looked up from their activity books!
Dusky (Blue) Grouse hen at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
We spotted this western species of grouse along the park drive. While photographing her in the roadside flowers, I saw something small scurry towards her…It was a tiny chick, not more than a few days old. The chick was busy picking insects off the flower stems.
My LIFER Collared Lizard(s) (Crotaphytus collaris baileyi) …Western subspecies. Found 2 of these most stunning reptiles at Chimney Rock National Monument in SW Colorado. These 8-14 inch long lizards actually run on their hind legs like mini T-Rexs in pursuit of smaller lizards (including Horned Lizards) and insects to eat. They scamper on all fours until they have the speed to run on 2 legs. They resemble iguanas because they are actually closely related to iguanas. The pale one above, with orange markings may be a gravid female. All are beautiful!
Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel (Callospermophilus lateralis) near Bayfield, Colorado
Though these small rodents appear similar to chipmunks (small size, back stripes), they are actually ground squirrels. Note the lack of facial stripes that chipmunks almost always show. Found from lower elevations all the way to above treelike. They hibernate in winter. I think they are among the most beautiful of all ground squirrels.
Abert’s Squirrel (Sciurus aberti) near Bayfield, Colorado.
This funny looking tree squirrel is also known as the “tassel-eared” squirrel, though this one is lacking the ear tufts. Note the white underbelly and rusty patch on the back. Named for 19th century American naturalist John James Abert, it is native to cool Ponderosa Pine forests of the southern Rocky Mountains, especially the Grand Canyon area of Arizona, New Mexico and SW Colorado (where this one was photographed).
Western Yellow-rumped Warbler; Sprague Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.
Like the Northern Flicker shown below, this species also used to be split into two separate species; the eastern was called “Myrtle Warbler” and the western species called “Audubon’s Warbler.” Note the yellow throat that distinguishes the western “Audubon’s” from our eastern “Myrtle” which has a white throat.
Northern Flicker near Bayfield, Colorado.
When I started birding as a kid in the 1970s, this western woodpecker was known as the “Red-shafted Flicker.” In Minnesota (and the rest of eastern North America) we had the “Yellow-shafted” Flicker. But ornithologists soon discovered that these two “species” freely interbreed in their zone of overlap in South Dakota, North Dakota, Alberta, British Columbia, meaning that they are actually the same species, and hence, we now just have one species, the Northern Flicker. Note in the photo above that the male “Red-shafted” has a red “mustache” while the Yellow-shafted has a black “mustache.” In the top photo of the preening female you can see the red shafts of the wing feathers that gives the western subspecies its old “red-shafted” name.
Bull Elk high up in Rocky Mountain National Park. This big boy already has enormous antlers for this early in the season. He will be thrashing shrubs and brush in August and September to remove the velvet and burnish the antlers.
[PHOTO NOTES: All images taken with Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens and Canon 70-200mm f4 lens; handheld (I did not bring a tripod to Colorado due to packing light for airline travel)]