On November 29th, 2010 I was in Valley of Fire and photographed the following wildlife:
Curious Facts from Desert USA
Hawks are carnivores (meat eaters) who belong to the category of birds known as raptors.
The Red-tailed Hawk is the most common member of the buzzard hawk family.
The eyesight of a hawk is 8 times as powerful as a human's.
Like all hawks, the Red-tailed Hawk's talons are its main weapons.
The Red-tailed Hawk has a hoarse and rasping 2 to 3 second scream that is most commonly heard while soaring.
85 to 90 % of the Red-tailed Hawk's diet is composed of small rodents.
The White-tailed Antelope Squirrel
These photographs were taken at the White Domes picnic area in Valley of Fire State Park.
Some fun facts about the White-tailed Antelope Ground Squirrel
The White-tailed Antelope Ground Squirrel of the Southwest is one of the smallest ground squirrels on the planet.
These squirrels practice what is known as "heat dumping". When their body temperature reaches its upper limits they will get into a cool shady spot and lay down spread-eagle with their belly pressed against the cool ground. This releases the heat from its body to help cool the animal down.
Here are some of my better Racetrack Playa photos. It is definitely one of my favorite Pink Jeep Tours. The Racetrack is a magical place. If you haven't been to the Racetrack yet, this blog will wet your appetite for sure!
Some interesting facts about the Racetrack Playa:
1. The playa is 1,650 acres.
2. The elevation of the playa is 3,708 feet.
3. It is assumed that the playa gets about 5 inches of precipitation per year.
4. 92% of the sliding rocks are dolomite. 8% of the rocks are granite.
Information came from Strolling Stones: The Mystery of Death Valley's Racetrack.
An interesting story about the Racetrack Playa:
One time I was guiding two photographers from Toronto out to the Racetrack. They wanted to get to the playa before the sun came up so that they could get pictures on the playa with the early morning light. I picked them up at Stove-pipe Wells at 2:30 am. We arrived at the Racetrack in pitch darkness. They wanted to get out to the edge of the rocks that have blown out from the nursery cliff so that they could photograph Northwest out over the playa without any rocks in the photos. I had only been there once before so when we stepped out on the playa it was all from my gut. I could just barely see the outline of the Cottonwood Mountains to the east. I pointed out in the darkness and said, "I think this is the way". About thirty minutes later, we stumbled onto the rock in the photo above in the darkness. It was the exact rock I had told them that I wanted to set up at. I have always had a good internal compass. The two photographers asked me how I got us to that exact spot without a GPS? Trying not to boast I said, " just a good sense of direction, I guess."
A few photos of the early morning visit to the Racetrack Playa.
I set my camera on the playa as the sky started to lighten.
The playa was absolutely beautiful as the dawn sky lightened.
The Toronto photographer clicking away as the sky brightened.
This is a photo that the photographers emailed me a week or so later. The man that is dying of thirst is crawling for a icy pitcher and glass of some beverage.
These photos of a Red-spotted Toad were taken at the bottom of the Grand Canyon along the trail from the helicopter landing area to the boat dock. It is about a half mile below the Quartermaster Point area. The Red-spotted Toad survives the hot and dry spells in the canyon by burrowing way down into the mud.
Red-spotted Toads absorb moisture from damp rocks.
Sierra is my 16 year old daughter. When we were in Zion's a couple of weeks ago, she took some photos of the changing leaves. The photos are beautiful and I wanted to display them on the blog. This is a photo of Sierra and I at the Las Vegas Pink Jeep 9th Anniversary party.
On September 28th, 2010, I was out at the South Rim between Yavapai Point and Mather Point. I walked out on a point where there was no fencing or handrail. It was a point that jutted out into the canyon 15 to 20 feet. It is very exposed and drops off hundreds of feet on all sides. I got down on my knees for safety as I crawled right out to the edge. As I looked down over the edge I saw a squirrel with its back turned towards me, gazing out over the expanse. I expected it to hear me and turn and scurry off but it seemed entranced by the view. I took several photos of the squirrel and then turned and told the folks that I was guiding to come take a look at this remarkable squirrel. A full 3 minutes went by until this squirrel finally noticed us and off it went.
What was it thinking? It was so funny and amazing. I was 4 or 5 feet above the squirrel but it was so into what ever it was doing that it didn't notice me for the longest time. It seems it was just taking it all in. Off all the acorns it could have been collecting; of all the trash cans the squirrel could have been investigating; it took a moment to enjoy the vastness and the beauty of the Grand Canyon. What a remarkable squirrel!
This is what happens when people drive to fast in the Desert at night.
I came upon this Gray Fox just outside of Death Valley NP on the highway between Furnace Creek and Death Valley Junction. Someone had run over it. The Gray Fox is nocturnal or crepuscular and dens in appropriated burrows during the day. Crepuscular means active during dawn and dusk. Nocturnal means active during the night. Driving slower at night will give these critters more time to react. I know that animals will always be killed on the highway by vehicles. But slowing down will help keep the populations of these guys healthier.
The tracks of a Gray Fox.
The fur of the Gray Fox is beautiful!
This photo captures some of the lower reddish coloration of the belly area.
The tooth is a canine from the Gray Fox.
The penny is for scale.
Gray Fox are the only Foxes that climb trees. The claws are designed for climbing.
Yesterday, I was in Death Valley at the Furnace Creek Inn. All the sudden a Roadrunner was standing 6 feet from me. It didn't seem bothered by my presents. I started taking photos as it made its way toward a hedge with a drop-off on the other side. I stuck my camera through the hedge and got some really close photos of the Roadrunner. I'm lucky I didn't lose a finger.
This photo is one of the first ones I took when the Roadrunner appeared.
The next two photos were taken through the hedge.
Facts about Roadrunners
Roadrunners can run up to 17 miles per hour
The Roadrunner is also known as the Chapparral Cock
Roadrunners are a part of the Cuckoo family
The Roadrunner's nasal gland eliminates excess salt, instead of using the urinary tract, like most other birds
The roadrunner is the state bird of New Mexico
The Roadrunner prefers walking or running places, and they rarely fly. If they do fly it's for short distances
The Roadrunner is very adaptable and can control its own body temperature
The Roadrunner is non-migratory
Click on the title "Roadrunner" below and you will be able to watch the video in full detail.
As you know, Bryan and I caught a Tarantula out in the desert on October 30th, 2010. Several days after we caught it I fed it a cricket. When I dropped the cricket in the cage it scared the Tarantula and it ran for cover. Then slowly it started to stalk the cricket until finally it snuck up close enough to pounce on the cricket.
They say that Tarantulas only eat about 6 crickets a month. Today I caught a big green grass-hopper out in the back yard. The Tarantula came after it quickly but when it tried to pounce on the grass-hopper, it kicked the Tarantula as it jump away. The startled Tarantula ran for its shelter. The big back legs of the grass-hopper are very powerful.
Throughout the day the same scenario would occur and the Tarantula would run away. Sometime this evening I looked into the cage and the Tarantula finally had the grass-hopper. I wish I would have seen the attack. It was interesting watching the Tarantula stealthily sneak up on the grass-hopper. It is also interesting watching the Tarantula's personality come to life.
Over the weekend, I climbed Angel's Landing in Zion National Park in Utah. This is a photo of me in Refrigerator Canyon on the way up. I was with my family and my son Bryan spotted a Jerusalem Cricket on the trail. Another one for eagle-eyes Bryan! I had walked over it (lucky I didn't step on it) and from behind me I heard Bryan say, "look, there's a giant bee on the ground".
As I glanced down at it I could see immediately that it was a Jerusalem Cricket. All of the photo's here were taken by me or my family.
Here is the guy! The latin name is Stenopelmatus Fuscus. He has many common names like Potato Bug, Red Skull Bug, and Child of the Earth.
Here is a photo with a penny to show scale.
Isn't that an alien looking head?
They are not poisonous but they bite hard. They eat roots and organic material. They stay underground a lot of the time.
This is a photo from up on the top of Angel's Landing. Zion valley is so beautiful.
This is from the top looking down on the Temple of Sinawava.
Caution sign at beginning of steep section of trail.
Gymnogyps Californianus - California Condor
While we were climbing the last 500 feet a California Condor was circling around Angel's Landing. Here are two photos that I took. California Condor's have the longest wing span in North America. It is 9.5 feet. I realize that these photos aren't very good but it is the best I could do.
It flew right over the top of me but I couldn't get the camera in time to get a shot. It landed in a tree right by a hiker and he told me later that the number on the Condor's tag was #52.
It was so fun watching that Condor soar with the air currents in the canyon.
In the 1980's there was only about 20 condors left on the planet. Through a good captive breeding program we now have somewhere between 300 and 400 condors.
On the way out of Zion Canyon we saw this big four-point buck Mule Deer right off of the highway.
The fall colors were absolutely beautiful! This photo is looking down into the bottom of Refrigerator Canyon.
Fall leaves in Refrigerator Canyon.
The Family on top of Angel's Landing.
From the right: me, Sierra, Denalee, Azure, And Bryan.