Readers’ wildlife photos

September 13, 2014 • 7:06 am

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 chomping

Hoary marmot spying:

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.

Melissa's Blue

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.

Clark's Nutcracker hunting

Clark's Nutcracker fishing

Clark's Nutcracker with lunch

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.

Alpine meadow

15 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous Whistler. I am lucky enough to have my son living there and visited last July. Have been also in May and October. So many beautiful things to see there. Love the last shot on Whistler Mtn. You must have taken the Peak-to-Peak gondola at some point?

    1. Yes, the Peak-to-Peak Gondola is truly impressive, both for the views and the engineering. I love taking the open chairlifts up and down the mountains though; especially in the summer months, the sights, smells, and sounds are beautiful.

  2. That’s a lovely telephoto (looks like) landscape. 🙂

    And those butterflies are really out-of-this-world – LSD flashback sort of out-of-this-world. Thanks for sharing those!

    1. I’m still quite a noob – no telephoto magic yet! These pictures were all taken with a Canon Powershot SX50 HS. I like the camera, it’s very easy to use, but it doesn’t allow for switching out the lens unfortunately.

  3. Thank you for the butterfly ID. We had a bunch of those this summer, and I’d never seen them before, and wondered what they were.

    A little research tells me that they feed on lupine. We had a bumper crop of lupine this year, so that’s probably why they were here.


  4. Lovely photos! I think the butterfly is actually Anna’s Blue, Plebejus anna. They’re very similar but melissa is not typically found that far west. Also, the orange band on the forewing usually extends the full length of the wing on melissa, while it’s often incomplete on anna.

    1. Ahh, yes, I think you’re right! Thanks for that correction! Looking at some of my other photos too, the orange bands all look somewhat incomplete.

  5. The various species of blues are a member of a very large family of small butterflies. One interesting thing that is widespread in this family is that their caterpillars form various close associations with ants, and can often be seen, looking like a greenish slug, surrounded by their ant guardians b/c they provide honeydew secretions for ants. Many species in the family have taken this far, and are carried into the ant nests where they feed on ant larvae while still being protected.
    Maybe these blues, looking all cute and pretty, are really adult forms of social parasites.

Leave a Reply