Readers’ wildlife photos

November 12, 2022 • 8:30 am

Today’s photos come from reader Susan Harrison, an ecologist at UC Davis. Susan’s narrative and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Piute Pass in the high Sierra Nevada

These photos are a companion piece to my pictures of the arid White Mountains and their ancient bristlecone pines. In August 2022, just after visiting the White Mts, I crossed Owens Valley and hiked up Piute Pass Trail — one of the shortest ways into the lush meadows and glaciated granite of the high Sierra Nevada. The trail starts at North Lake (9,276’), soon enters the John Muir Wilderness, and ascends to Piute Pass (11,423’) in four steep miles.  From there, the trail traverses Humphreys Basin and reaches  the splendid section of the Pacific Crest Trail known as Evolution Valley.

Historical side note:  Evolution Valley was named by Theodore Solomons, who explored and mapped the Sierra Nevada, and who named some of its tallest peaks for Darwin, Wallace, Haeckel, Huxley, and Spencer because these evolutionary pioneers were “at one in their devotion to the sublime in Nature.”

Even in the late summer of a drought year, the Piute Pass area abounded in water, wildflowers, and animal activity, a far cry from the austerity of the nearby White Mts.

Humphreys Basin from Piute Pass:

Sierra Gentians (Gentianopsis holopetala) and Lemmon’s Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja lemmoni):

Monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus/Erythranthe guttata) – this widespread wildflower and its many close relatives are a “model system” for eco-evolutionary research:

Baby Elephant’s Head (Pedicularis attollens), an alpine specialist plant:

American Pika (Ochotona princeps), an alpine specialist animal:

Yellow-bellied Marmots (Marmota flaviventris):

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel (Callospermophilus lateralis):

Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), which were abundant on and around the Limber Pines (Pinus flexilis):

Williamson’s Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus thyroideus), a subalpine forest bird that was a “life-lister” for me:

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata):

Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) on a streamside Tower Larkspur (Delphinium glaucum):

A Sierra Lily (Lilium kelleyanum) overhanging a stream:

8 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. In case anyone wants to follow up on this :

    I’m pretty sure John Muir is associated with John Burroughs through Burroughs’ naturalistic writings – recollections of the experience of exploring the natural landscapes. Another writer associated with – at least Burroughs :

    Walt Whitman.

    Perhaps also associated with Muir.

    Anyway, I find those types of connections fascinating.

  2. Beautiful photos of a beautiful area. I grew up (ages 7-19) in Reno, NV and have enjoyed many backpacking trips in the high Sierras.
    Congrats on your “life-lister”.

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