Animals Birds Landscapes mountains Rocky Mountain National Park

July 21, 2012 … last lingering look at the Rockies

Our last day in Colorado.

With Mary at her the conference, I decided to utilise the multi-day ticket to the Rock Mountain National Park for the third and final time. As in my last visit I chose the highest roads available. The breathtaking nature of the views from up there are due only in part to the lack of oxygen above 12,000 feet. Mountain views move me, as does the very structure of the earth laid bare.Near 12,000' in the Rocky Mountain National Park

I was a bit surprised at the extent of the shattering in the exposed rock, imagining that in any seismic event, much of it might topple and fall. Not so, apparently.

But I promised you “critters” today. Any North Americans amongst my readers should  feel free to skip over the rest, since the things that fascinate me are probably commonplace, bordering on the irritant level for you.

First, I saw a ground squirrel outside the boundary of the park. This was just as well. since it was snacking on peanuts and peanuts do not grow naturally in this area. And,  as everyone knows, it is illegal to feed or approach the wildlife. But who can resist a squirrel skilfully opening the husk of a peanut to get at the kernels within?

Ground squirrel with tourist -supplied peanutMarmot scurry from rock to rock on the high tundra

Higher up in the park, near the maximum altitude on the road, I saw a marmot. These things “waddle” and it gives the appearance of a tail waggling, as it scurries form rock to rock. It’s not very sharp, but I counted myself lucky to see almost the whole animal out from behind the rocks.

And then I saw what I took to be a very large dragon-fly  which was a surprise at this extreme altitude. I took the shot and it was not until later that I realized what I had caught.

Rufous Hummingbird at high altitude in Rocky Mountain National Park

I think,  but am not absolutely sure, this is a Rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus), but either way, I was amazed that even a shutter speed of 1/1250 second, did not stop the motion of those amazing wings. Unfortunately this was quite a distance way and the image is a small section of a much larger picture.

But the star of yesterday’s show for me was the tiny Pika. Someone commented on an earlier post that these are extremely rare now. Well, I have to report that I saw several, maybe six or more, in this one little spot. The one that caught my attention was clearly on guard duty, and emitted regular barks (more like shrieks) to warn the community of approaching danger. What was fascinating to me was the way that, with each squeak, its ears would fold back, only to rebound to the forward position when the bark was done.

Pika barkingPika with ears reset after the bark

Today was spent in transition from hot high dry Colorado, to hot humid overcast Louisiana. More tomorrow