Category Archives: Mammals

Of all the classes in the animal kingdom, mammals can be some of the most difficult to find and observe, but they are also crowd pleasers. Just go to Yellowstone National Park in the summer and look at all the people trying to see wolves. Most mammals are shy, so observing with a spotting scope will get you your best views.

Winter Birds of Calgary Canada

Gray Partridge

♫ and a partridge in a pear tree ♪ … oops no pear trees.

I took a very brief trip (5 days) to see the winter birds of Calgary Canada at the end of January and beginning of February. My primary reason for traveling to this area was to look for Snowy and Hawk Owls since these two owls are not overly common in the continental U.S. even though small numbers usually show up most years in the northern states. Hawk Owl would be the most uncommon of these two species and the one I had most wanted to find. Along with the owls, the mammals and winter birding this far north promised to offer other species that I would not find in Southern California and some that may not be very common in the lower 48 states at all. New to me, I was pleased to run into several coveys of Grey Partridges while in the area. They are fairly common this far north but I had never seen one. Since I have been singing 🎼 “and a partridge in a pear tree” ♫ every Christmas since I was a kid it was a pleasure to actually have a picture in my mind of how they really act and what they look like. They seemed quite similar to our quail being in groups running around on the ground (missed any in pear trees!). I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity bring a pair of Zeiss Victory SF 10×42 Binoculars with me for review. For now all I will say is “WOW, The views through these binoculars are incredible”.

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Garter Snake vs. Vole

garter snake vs vole

A Mountain Garter Snake captures a California Vole.

We’ve written before about the featherless joys of birding (Desert Bighorn SheepWestern Zebra-tailed Lizard) – those occasions when being out birding puts us in the right place to see other animals doing what they do. So on a recent Sea & Sage Audubon trip to the eastern Sierra Nevada, we were treated to the spectacle of a garter snake that had just captured a vole.

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American Pika – unmercifully cute alpine furballs

American Pika in Sierra Nevada Mountains

American Pika in Sierra Nevada Mountains

Finding American Pika

On a quest for the American Pika (referred to below as just Pika) we recently hiked above the tree line into the alpine zone of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We chose the high elevation region near Conness Lakes just outside Yosemite National Park for our search. Our arduous hike to almost 11,000 feet was rewarded with the bustling activity of the Pika (Ochotona princeps), preparing for the rapidly approaching winter months. Continue reading

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Featherless Joy of Birding

The joy of birding doesn’t always include birds. After a successful three hour drive to Baker, California to see a White Ibis, we decided to check some other spots in the area that can often be productive. White-faced Ibis are the common species in California. Glossy Ibis is very rare. And this was the first White Ibis I’ve seen in the state in nearly 20 years of birding.

One of the stops was at the California State University Desert Studies Center at Zzyzx. The place was virtually bird-less, but on our way out, we chanced upon this particular joy of birding, a flock of Desert Bighorn Sheep. These animals are frequently very reclusive, so we stopped to get some photos and video. We were rewarded with some footage recording some behavior that few people get to see. The video was taken with a Nikon CoolPix P6000 camera through a Kowa TSN-884 spotting scope.

The advantage of digiscoping here is that we were able to keep our distance and avoid spooking the sheep. That turned out to be a good choice as we were able to get video of Desert Bighorn Sheep doing things that are not often seen. Be sure to follow along with the narration in the video as we point out such behavior as the ram asserting his dominance and insisting on submission from one of the younger males.

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