May 18, 2008

A Prairie Afternoon

After spending most of the morning enjoying Sonja's urban p-dogs, we headed north of Flagstaff into the short-grass prairie of the San Fransisco Volcanic Field to find their country cousins (still the same species, just less apt to encounter humans). We found two. Two prairie dogs, that is. Not colonies. But even though we struck out on p-dogs, there was plenty of other stuff to keep our interest piqued.

Of course, no prairie afternoon is complete without a visit from a pair of Burrowing Owls. We watched these two for a while as they flew back and forth, called to each other, and occassionally disappeared into their burrow. This was particularly exciting for me, since my only other Burrowing Owl sighting was along I-25 in New Mexico at about 75 mph.

The Horned Larks were everywhere today. We didn't even bother trying to count how many we saw.

I enjoyed seeing the larks' creativity in finding any perch that gave them a bit of a view over the short grasses. This one choose a much more scenic perch than most. The most popular, by far, were the numerous cow patties.

And then there were the lizards. I'd been wanting to see a collared lizard for years, so I was super psyched to see this female Eastern Collared Lizard (Crotaphytus collaris) hanging out next to the dirt track we were driving down. She was amazingly tolerant of us approaching close to her as she clung to her little tuft of grass.

To give some perspective, you can see her standing in the grass in the far lower right hand corner of this picture (you might need to click on the image to see her better).

As we were leaving the area we spotted another collared lizard hang-out, with numerous individuals running around on the volcanic rocks. This male happened to be right next to the car...and once he got sick of me hovering over him, decided that being UNDER our car was the best place to sit. Sonja had to poke him with our window scraper a couple times to encourage him to get out from under there.

The last, and perhaps most exciting, lizard we saw was this Long-nosed Leopard Lizard (Gambelia wislizenii). We didn't get much time to enjoy him, though, as he very quickly dashed off into the grasses.

Yeah, today rocked. Tomorrow I'm leaving for Harpers Ferry, WV, to help out with an interpretive training broadcast. So I probably won't be posting again until next weekend. Not that it will be any different than my normal posting frequency, but I figured I'd at least mention it.


Steve said...

that first lizard is cool. have fun at Harper's Ferry.

Patrick Belardo said...

Great pics!