We recently returned from a long road trip through several western states and spotted hundreds of pronghorn along the way. I’m a big fan of this antelope of the west and love taking pictures of them.
Pronghorn, Antilocapra americana,also known as antelope or pronghorn antelope, are quirky animals in many ways. Their scientific name means “American goat-antelope.”
In September of 1804, upon first seeing pronghorn, Lewis and Clark expedition members assumed they were goats. Captain Lewis noted the “superior fleetness of this anamal which was to me really astonishing.” Upon examining them more closely, Lewis referred to them as antelope, based on their resemblance to African antelopes.
In reality, pronghorn are the only surviving members of the North American Antilocapridae family. Goats and true antelopes are in the Bovidae family.
In this post, I’ll share more about their natural history.
Pronghorn range from the southern prairie provinces of Canada, southward into the western states of America and into northern Mexico.
When I entered the Under the Snow exhibition at the High Desert Museum on a busy weekend, I thought of one word: engaging. I watched young children dash from one part of the gallery to another, voicing their excitement the whole way. Adults paused and pointed out interesting facts and features. The interactivity of the displays drew everyone in. This exhibition, created by High Desert Museum staff members, displays information in English and Spanish.
Under the Snow presents information on twenty species of wildlife, plants, and fungi on large and small screens. They live in the area beneath the snow called the subnivium. The snow provides insulation, maintaining a steady temperature even when it’s below freezing outside.
Here are a few photos of wildlife sightings at Yellowstone from our trip in early June. Visitors have opportunities to see many furred and feathered creatures within Yellowstone National Park.
Sometimes you see wildlife, such as this snowshoe hare, that you may not have seen in the park before. This hare’s population peaks about every ten years and this must be a peak year.
Sometimes you’ll see wildlife interacting within close proximity of each other. This radio-collared gray wolf got a little too close for comfort to the bison calves in this herd. The bulls and cows quickly chased it away.
In these portraits of creatures, the lighting is a major part of the scene.
In the first picture, a family of Sandhill Cranes struts across a meadow in the morning light. The lead bird, in the strongest light, keeps an eye out for predators.
In the next photo, a bull elk grazes in a grassy field. Bright fluffy clouds and dark forest trees are major parts of this shot. The elk, with its bright back fur and dark legs, blends into that environment.
In this photo, a northern river otter drifts through the water. Mid-day sun cuts through the water and dapples the bottom surface. A trail of bubbles emphasizes the otter’s streamlined form.
It’s that time of year when you share some of your favorite pictures. As usual, I have a hard time narrowing it down. Please enjoy this selection of wild places, wildlife, history, and a pinch of art at the end.
I drew this stylized picture of a belted kingfisher in flight several years ago. These interesting songbirds nest in horizontal burrows near shorelines. The tunnels range in length from 1 – 8 feet. Tunnels as long as 15 feet have been found.
This drawing is of a male bird. Belted kingfishers are one of the few songbirds where the female is more colorful. They have an additional orange-colored breast band.
While out walking my dog on the Deschutes River Trail this morning, I caught a glimpse of a male belted kingfisher perched on a tree limb. A lucky sighting! He was kind of far away but I had time to snap a quick shot before he flew.
The Lens-Artists photo challenge today is “unique.” I thought of several unique sights I’ve seen in Oregon that fit this category.
Our guide in Harney County referred to this ancient petroglyph as the Super 8. Do you see a resemblance to an old movie camera? Petroglyphs are carved into stone while pictographs are painted onto stone.
I saw these hairy clematis flowers at the Hell’s Canyon Overlook earlier this month. This unusual flower has a lot of common names including lion’s beard, leather flower, vase flower, and sugar bowl. They look similar to prairie smoke flowers featured in a previous post.
I can’t help but think of the words “unique sights” when I recall this toad I found in my high desert yard. I thought it was so interesting that I wrote a short story about it called The Toad Queen.
I saw this bald eagle standing in the middle of a field this morning and couldn’t figure out why it was there. Then I noticed a couple magpies flying close by. Hmmm. Upon closer inspection, I saw a deer carcass several feet away. I guess everyone was there for a breakfast buffet.
As you wade through the waters of your life you often end up making a splash. Sometimes you make a big loud splash and other times you need to make a quieter one. Maybe only a ripple. Here are photos of quieter splashes I have seen in Oregon.
Learn about the natural world by visiting Sunriver Nature Center
Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory is a great place to learn more about the natural world. This small interpretive center is on the west side of Sunriver, Oregon. It’s in an area that includes pine forests, meadows, and the meandering Deschutes River. The “edges” between these habitats are good places to see wildlife.
You can observe local wildlife by walking the trails on your own or going out with a guide. The Sam Osgood Nature Trail winds around the property. In the spring and summer keep an eye out for trumpeter swans. Guided bird walks take place every Saturday morning in the spring, summer, and fall. I have been on several of the walks. You’ll see waterfowl in the pond, raptors flying overhead, and songbirds along the walk. Great gray owls have been spotted in the area occasionally. You never know what you might spot on one of these walks.
There are also programs for families and kids. There are Kids Nature Camps for kids 4-10 years of age at certain times of the year. Family programs might include offerings such as Family Birding, Aquatic Explorations, and Eco Bike Tours. During the school year, staff travel to nearby schools to give presentations.
After living a life full of leaps and bounds, she settled down in her favorite aspen grove. The bunchgrass waved goodbye. The rabbitbrush shaded her in her final moments. The rosebush provided fruit in celebration of her life. And finally, the aspen covered her in leaves of gold.
Do you need a little help with your garden? These three mule deer bucks showed up to help in our backyard. We often see deer here but it was unusual to see three bucks together. They just did a little pruning here and there and then left. Thanks guys!
Have you ever finally made it to a place that people had told you you HAD to go to? For me that place was Hosmer Lake. Why didn’t I go here sooner?!
We went early on a mid-weekday morning. I had heard about the crowds sometimes here on weekends. It can get very crowded – especially in the summer.
There is a concrete boat ramp leading into a bulrush-lined meandering lake. After boarding our kayaks, we were soon greeted by a bald eagle perched in a nearby tree. It was almost as if it had been planted there for a photo opportunity. We paddled on and took a channel to the left.
Did you know that you can surf on the Deschutes River? Yes, thanks to the creation of the Bend Whitewater Park you too can hang ten on the river that flows through Bend, Oregon. Maybe you would rather float down in an inner tube – you can do that too. Maybe you want to get a glimpse of some wildlife – that’s also an option. The river was split into three channels: the Habitat Channel for wildlife; the Whitewater Channel for kayaks, surfboards, and stand up paddleboards; and the Passageway Channel for inner tubes and small rafts.
A 100-year old dam was recently removed from the river near the Colorado Avenue Bridge and an “amusement park” was put in by Bend Parks and Recreation. At a cost of nearly $10 million dollars, some questioned its value. Bend Paddle Trail Alliance, one of the local groups in support of this park, contributed over $1 million towards the project. The voter-approved bond said that water recreationists would have “safe passage” once the project was completed. That’s a good idea since people were injured or lost their lives because of the dam.
If we learn to focus in on things and look closer, we sometimes find the unexpected.
In this case, it’s a double-crested cormorant and great blue heron rookery. These birds look and act so differently yet they manage to get along.
This rookery is located at the Sod House Ranch at Malheur NWR. It was built by cattle-baron Peter French in the late 1800’s. The ranch was the headquarters of the French-Glenn Livestock Company that at one time covered 140,000 acres.
Have you been pining away wishing you knew more about porcupines? Well today is your lucky day! Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about the North American porcupine, Erethizon dorsatum, but were afraid to ask.
The North American porcupine ranges throughout most of Canada and the western United States south to Mexico. They also live in the northern Great Lakes and northeastern United States regions.
Identification & unique characteristics:
North American porcupines are a large rodent with black to brownish-yellow fur and distinct quills that cover most of their bodies. They range in weight from 11 to 30 pounds and measure 24 to 36 inches in length. Porcupines are excellent climbers with short strong legs, long claws, and hairless soles on their feet. They have a small head and rounded ears.
There are certain members of the plant and animal world that I call successful invaders. Some are admired; others are reviled. A few are both liked and despised at the same time.
Where I live, the Western juniper, Juniperus occidentalis, fits into that last category. It is a native species but due to fire suppression and habitat destruction, it has spread like -excuse the reference- wildfire. Juniper has taken advantage of the situation and has significantly expanded its range. I have heard a lot about how much water it can suck out of the landscape – supposedly 30 gallons a day. Its root system taps downwards and outwards to effectively use the available water. Many people don’t like them for that reason and because at times they have a not-so-pleasant scent. I’ll always remember listening to a person that lives in the wealthy part of town saying that she eliminated all 18 junipers on her property as soon as she moved in. Eighteen trees.
However, juniper also has its good side. As it ages it epitomizes the image many people associate with the Wild West. I love to photograph them. The form of the tree generally changes from a pyramid-like shape to a twisted, sprawling irregular one. It can be covered by purplish berries (that are really cones) and these are used in gin production. Wildlife loves it for cover, nesting, and food. Its wood is bi-colored and long lasting.