Very cute video of an elk calf playing in a puddle! Enjoy!
We have a newcomer to our little garden! A beautiful Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) has been a frequent visitor to our bird feeders this spring. Love the brilliant red splash of color on his breast that seems to drip down the center.
We always have lots of cardinals at the feeders and they can be a little territorial, but this brave little fellow holds his ground and is not easily chased off like some of the other bird species. Its really been a joy to watch him stake out his territory in our garden!
Looks like we have a standoff here!
While camping at Gum Springs a few years back we took a short hike down to the lake, and I decided to do a pan of the area when we spotted a disturbance in the water making its way across the lake. At first I thought it might be a beaver, but after the little fellow popped its head up to get a better view of us I'm pretty sure it was an otter. So exciting!
Just came across this cool video on You Tube which shows a classic battle for herd supremacy and breeding rights between an old bull, and his younger rival. Enjoy!
Prior to 1800, it was estimated that nearly 30-60 million Bison roamed the North American continent from Alaska and northwestern Canada to the Great Plains and Gulf Coast of the United States. and northern Mexico. Through excessive hunting during the 1870’s, the species almost became extinct and in the early 1900’s it was estimated that fewer than 1000 North American Bison (Bison bison) survived. In fact, fewer than 500 individuals served as foundation stock for the buffalo herds we see today. Of the estimated 500,000 bison found in North America, only 5 % are set aside in conservation herds. Over 95% of the Bisons today are to be found in private and commercial herds. 2 of the largest Conservation herds can be found in the Greater Yellowstone area, and Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta, Canada.
Through conservation efforts the species has rebounded after going through a severe genetic bottleneck that could have threatened genetic diversity. In the early days of conservation Bison were bred with cows to increase herd size, and commercial value through hybridization with cattle. Genetic studies & testing indicates that a high percentage of buffalo even in the conservation herds have cattle genes, and are not considered to be pure with exception of the Yellowstone National Park and Wind Cave herds. (Halbert, et all 2007, and Gates, et all 2010.)
Additionally genetic testing of various herds appears to indicate that despite genetic inbreeding, the relative genetic fitness of the American Bison is quite good, and did not show significant amplification of harmful genetic traits (with exception of the Texas State Bison Herd which has a relatively low viability rate due to sperm abnormalities, and high mortality rates in calves) possibly due to inbreeding and a decrease in genetic diversity. Inbreeding was shown to reduce fertility, lifespan, and even the survivability of juveniles (Frankham & Ralls, 1998). Despite all this, the comeback of the American Bison from near extinction has been one of the great success stories of conservation.
The following are pictures I took while we were camping at Aspen Creek of a very large colony of chipmunks. The kits were extremely hard to photograph because they were constantly on the move and wouldn't stay still long enough for me to get a descent shot. Some were so young they couldn't have been more than 3-4 weeks old, such as the little guy directly below. Still they were an absolute joy to watch while we were sitting around camp!
Another sentry in training!
The following are a couple of short videos I shot of one of the kits foraging for seeds. Keeping track of them in the tall grass was a major challenge!
This last video shows one of the colonies sentries nervously grooming himself. There were always sentries stationed an that rock because it sat on the edge of a tall rocky cliff that was honeycombed with chipmunk dens. One morning I even spotted a red tailed hawk sitting on the rock for a couple of seconds before it flew off and landed in some trees just across the creek. It was not an uncommon site to see raptors and even owls flying low through the narrow creek valley looking for game.