Upland Sandpiper

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It’s hard to believe but the  Upland Sandpiper will begin its journey south less than a month from now. Upland Sandpipers breed in the northern prairies yet spend most of the year (8 months or so) in Central and South America. Standing about a foot tall with that big eye and relatively short bill these birds forage on foot through short grass habitats looking for insects.

“Upland Sandpiper’s association with native prairie is so strong that scientists consider it to be an “indicator species,” along with Sprague’s Pipit and Baird’s Sparrow, that can indicate the quality a habitat. Thus, the absence of these three birds in a patch of prairie would indicate to biologists that there is likely a problem with the habitat.1

We were thrilled to be able to watch this bird foraging for several minutes before they moved into the tall grass a short distance away and disappeared from sight. Now you see them now you don’t.

Reference:
1. All About Birds: Upland Sandpiper.

Hidden gems

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On a recent walk through sagebrush scrub and grassland we were treated to numerous hidden gems along the way. Lupines flowering amongst the grasses still mainly brown after a winters sleep.

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Shooting stars in clusters were dispersed along the way. Never a thick carpet, just a sprinkling, every now and then.

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Bluebells dangled in little clumps…

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and Penstemon light the way.

Hidden gems indeed.

An unassuming walk

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Just the grass greening up in a landscape filled with sage and juniper. Quiet, perhaps the sounds of Meadowlarks and Sparrows singing, an unassuming landscape in a quiet place.

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Yet upon closer inspection we were provided with quite a treat. Chocolate Lily – Fritillaria atropurpurea were hidden in theses still greening grasses. 

Loggerhead Shrike

Sitting on a fence post looking for his next victim is a Loggerhead Shrike. “These birds sit on low, exposed perches and scan for rodents, lizards, birds, and insects. They eat smaller prey (such as ground beetles) right away, but they are famous for impaling larger items on thorns or barbed wire to be eaten later. The species often hovers. When flying it uses bursts of very rapid wingbeats.”

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Loggerhead_Shrike/id

This time the victim was a large Grasshopper.

Which the Shrike Caught and them impailed on this barbed wire fence.

The Shrike let the Grasshopper be for a minute but quickly went to town on his meal.

Laramie, WY.

Wake up call

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Looks like somebody got a wake up call and right on time as well. With little holes poking through the still snow covered fields all through the valley the Prairie Dogs are definitely wake up. One big stretch, a quick look around and it time to go on this fine spring morning.

Sunrise on the Grasslands

It is easy to feel the connectedness when the sun rises over the vast expanse of grasslands. Getting the opportunity to experience the prairie sunrise is a wonderful opportunity and this project to provide a hut-to-hut experience out in the grasslands is worth supporting.

https://www.americanprairie.org/project/hut-to-hut-system

https://www.americanprairie.org

http://www.explorebigsky.com/infinite-landscape-exhibit-benefits-american-prairie-reserve

Loggerhead Shrike

Sitting on a fence post looking for his next victim is a Loggerhead Shrike. “These birds sit on low, exposed perches and scan for rodents, lizards, birds, and insects. They eat smaller prey (such as ground beetles) right away, but they are famous for impaling larger items on thorns or barbed wire to be eaten later. The species often hovers. When flying it uses bursts of very rapid wingbeats.”

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Loggerhead_Shrike/id

This time the victim was a large Grasshopper.

Which the Shrike Caught and them impailed on this barbed wire fence.

The Shrike let the Grasshopper be for a minute but quickly went to town on his meal.

Laramie, WY.

13 lined Ground Squirrel

The photo is a bit blurry but so was our encounter with the 13 Lined Ground Squirrel. We were watching a Prairie Dog Colony and there was one Prairie Dog that just did not seem like the others. He was thinner and smaller. They would stand up tall and then quickly dart to another location very rapidly. They were much more hidden in the grass as well. We tried over and over to get a good look but this is  the best we got that afternoon. A fleeting glimpse of a magnificent 13 lined ground squirrel.

http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Spermophilus_tridecemlineatus/

Seeing a new animal made me realize once again that life is so diverse and wonderful and there is so much yet to see.