If you have a polydactylous cat, don’t forget to send it to me for our Super Scratcher Special. If you can, send two photos (cat plus paw), the number of toes, and a bit of information about the moggie.
And please send in your wildlife photos as well. Thanks!
Today’s photos come from ecologist Susan Harrison, professor at UC Davis. Her IDs and notes are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them. They’re all from the Great Basin, and divided by habitat.
Great Basin Wildlife
Birdwatching in the Great Basin in summer gives “flyover country” a new and improved meaning. These are sightings from Nevada, Utah, and Idaho in July-August 2021, sorted loosely by habitat and elevation. “Fun facts” are borrowed from Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s excellent site, allaboutbirds.org.
Conifer forest to alpine zone
Crossbills are specialized finches that eat conifer seeds. The Cassia Crossbill is found only in Cassia County, ID, and was split from the Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) in 2017. It’s a great coevolution story: in the two mountain ranges where it lives, squirrels are absent, lodgepole pines evolved serotiny (need for fire to open its seeds), and this species then evolved a thicker bill and lost the nomadic habit of the Red Crossbill.
Cassia crossbill, Loxia sinesciuris:
This species also eats conifer seeds, and says Cheese-bur-ger! [JAC: Go here and listen to the first song, from June 13, 2018, to hear “cheeseburger”!]
Mountain chickadee, Poecile gambeli:
These hummers are known for feistiness; we watched them chasing three other species away from a tree arrayed with dozens of feeders:
Rufous hummingbird, Selasphorus rufus:
This rabbit relative is confined to alpine and upper-montane zones and can’t tolerate temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius:
American Pika, Ochotona princeps:
This is the mountain version of a woodchuck or groundhog:
Yellow-bellied marmot or rock chuck, Marmota flaviventris:
Also called the hidden forest chipmunk, this species lives in pine-fir forest above 1400 m, while the very similar cliff chipmunk (Neotamias dorsalis) lives just below it in juniper woodland. Each one will happily take over the other one’s habitat if the other is absent.
Uinta chipmunk, Neotamias umbrinus:
Riparian forest and woodland
Like other sapsuckers, this is a woodpecker that drills holes in trees to drink their sap.
Red-naped sapsucker, Sphyrapicus nuchalis:
Only the location east of the Sierras reveals that this is not a Pacific-Slope Flycatcher (Empidonax difficilis). That said, all ten Empidonax species look nearly identical to us non-experts. But they do have different sounds – this one says “ps-SEET, ptsick, seet!”
Cordilleran flycatcher, Empidonax occidentalis:
“Bean-bean-DIP!” is this flycatcher’s call – though this individual and its three siblings were saying “peep peep peep”, translated as “feed us, mom!”
Dusky flycatcher, Empidonax oberholseri.
This unique songbird hunts by swimming and walking underwater in fast-flowing streams, and when above the surface, it “dips” to visually pinpoint its aquatic prey:
American Dipper, Cinclus mexicanus.
This one has a nice Latin binomial! When threatened it flashes a concealed “crown” of yellow to red feathers and shows a bright red gape.
Eastern Kingbird, Tyrannus tyrannus:
Looks just like an Oak Titmouse but has a different range and habitat –sound familiar yet?
Juniper Titmouse, Baeolophus ridgwayi: