Reader Ed Kroc sent us a passel of photos from a recent trip to Canada:
Here are a few pictures from a trip last month up to Whistler, BC. It’s known as an international ski destination (made famous recently by the 2010 Olympics), but in the summer it’s a convenient and beautiful place to do some alpine hiking. Of course, there are many fascinating animals running around up there too!
First up, the Hoary Marmot (Marmota caligata), North America’s largest ground squirrel. The town of Whistler actually derives its name from these guys: since they often emit high-pitched whistles in alarm, they are nicknamed “whistlers” or “whistle pigs.” To me, they look like giant guinea pigs; they’re about twice the size of the Yellow-bellied Marmot (M. flaviventris) so common to the American west.
Hoary marmot chomping:
Hoary marmot spying:
Next, a group of Melissa Blue Butterflies (Lycaeides melissa). I’m only mostly positive about the ID since there are so many different species of butterfly that look superficially similar, it’s hard to be certain if you’re not an expert. These tiny butterflies like to crowd together in large groups near the many mountain snowmelt streams.
Kind of a weird name, Clark’s Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana) is a high mountain relative of the jays and corvids. Apparently, they play a vital role in the creation and health of new pine forests: they bury thousands of pine seeds every summer, but don’t end up retrieving them all later. This particular individual was hunting for lunch at the end of a dead-looking tree branch. In the sequence of photos, you can see how well suited the beak is to a quick, precision dissection.
Finally, I included a landscape, just because it was too beautiful a day not to share. The shot was taken from Whistler Mountain, looking northeast toward Blackcomb Mountain. The wildflowers were in full bloom, with lots of Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja sp.) hugging the banks of the snowmelt streams.