While driving down the drive-way we spotted about 9 male pheasants scratching around one of the pastures. By the time we got home, I grabbed my camera and headed back down the road most of them were gone. The few remaining ones didn’t hang out for very long…
Pheasants, along with most members of the grouse family, have specialized, powerful breast muscles—the “white meat” that you find on a chicken. These muscles deliver bursts of power that allow the birds to escape trouble in a hurry, flushing nearly vertically into the air and reaching speeds of nearly 40 miles per hour.
While the birds normally don’t cover more than about 600 feet at a time, strong winds can extend their flights considerably. Observers in 1941 reported seeing a pheasant fly a record four miles while crossing a body of water.
Male Ring-necked Pheasants may harass other ground-nesting birds, such as the Gray Partridge and the Greater Prairie-Chicken. Female pheasants sometimes lay their own eggs in these birds’ nests. This may explain why some male pheasants have been seen chasing away male prairie-chickens and courting females—the pheasants may have been raised in prairie-chicken nests and imprinted on the wrong species.
Ring-necked Pheasants sometimes cope with extreme cold by simply remaining dormant for days at a time.
Pheasants practice “harem-defense polygyny” where one male keeps other males away from a small group of females during the breeding season.
On our last day of camping in the Tetons, we hooked up to our camper, headed down the road and had to make a decision as to which road to take to go back to Yellowstone. We decided at the last minute to veer closer to the mountains in hope of seeing more elk. While driving we saw a cow and calf elk come running full tilt out of the trees, we quickly pulled off the road and decided to wait and see what else would come out…
Here comes the rest of the herd…
With a nice bull…
We were definitely happy campers seeing these beautiful animals our last day in Tetons!
Garrett informed me that we had visitors soaring around the house…
Beautiful Red-tailed Hawks…
The Red-tailed Hawk has a thrilling, raspy scream that sounds exactly like a raptor should sound. At least, that’s what Hollywood directors seem to think. Whenever a hawk or eagle appears onscreen, no matter what species, the shrill cry on the soundtrack is almost always a Red-tailed Hawk.
Birds are amazingly adapted for life in the air. The Red-tailed Hawk is one of the largest birds you’ll see in North America, yet even the biggest females weigh in at only about 3 pounds. A similar-sized small dog might weigh 10 times that.
The “Harlan’s Hawk” breeds in Alaska and northwestern Canada, and winters on the southern Great Plains. This very dark form of the Red-tailed Hawk has a marbled white, brown, and gray tail instead of a red one. It’s so distinctive that it was once considered a separate species, until ornithologists discovered many individuals that were intermediate between Harlan’s and more typical Red-tailed Hawks.
Courting Red-tailed Hawks put on a display in which they soar in wide circles at a great height. The male dives steeply, then shoots up again at an angle nearly as steep. After several of these swoops he approaches the female from above, extends his legs, and touches her briefly. Sometimes, the pair grab onto one other, clasp talons, and plummet in spirals toward the ground before pulling away.
Red-tailed Hawks have been seen hunting as a pair, guarding opposite sides of the same tree to catch tree squirrels.
The oldest known Red-tailed Hawk was 28 years 10 months old.
The vibrant colors of fall were all around us until this past weekend when we had a severe weather alert. While we didn’t receive any snow, we did have high winds that pretty much disrobed the trees of their glorious colors. 😦 I’m afraid the long winter months are just around the corner. I always look forward to winter and snow, I do really enjoy the cool, crisp mornings and warm afternoons of autumn. The colors are a bonus!
On our recent trip to Yellowstone, we stopped to have a bit of a break and a picnic on the Firehole River….
The kids were able to explore the river and splash around a bit…
A curious on-looker begging for food….
Even a chance for a nap…
A “Camp Robber” decided to check things out too…
Otherwise known as, Clark’s Nutcracker, they are friendly, curious little guys…
The Clark’s Nutcracker has a special pouch under its tongue that it uses to carry seeds long distances. The nutcracker harvests seeds from pine trees and takes them away to hide them for later use.
The Clark’s Nutcracker hides thousands and thousands of seeds each year. Laboratory studies have shown that the bird has a tremendous memory and can remember where to find most of the seeds it hides.
The Clark’s Nutcracker feeds its nestlings pine seeds from its many winter stores (caches). Because it feeds the young on stored seeds, the nutcracker can breed as early as January or February, despite the harsh winter weather in its mountain home.
The Clark’s Nutcracker is one of very few members of the crow family where the male incubates the eggs. In jays and crows, taking care of the eggs is for the female only. But the male nutcracker actually develops a brood patch on its chest just like the female, and takes his turn keeping the eggs warm while the female goes off to get seeds out of her caches.
Not only do the lives of Clark’s Nutcrackers revolve around their pine seed diet, but the pines themselves have been shaped by their relationship with the nutcrackers. Whitebark pines, limber pines, Colorado pinyon pines, single-leaf pinyon pines, and southwestern white pines depend on nutcrackers to disperse their seeds. Over time this interaction has changed their seeds, their cones, and even the trees’ overall shape in comparison with other pine species whose seeds are dispersed by the wind.
The Clark’s Nutcracker tests a seed for soundness by moving it up and down in its bill while quickly opening and closing its bill, in a motion known as “bill clicking.” It also chooses good seeds by color: when foraging on Colorado pinyon pines, it refuses all but dark brown seeds.
Ounce for ounce, the whitebark pine seeds that many Clark’s Nutcrackers depend on have more calories than chocolate.
Clark’s Nutcracker is in the crow and jay family—but the first time Captain William Clark saw one, in August of 1805, he thought it was a woodpecker. He and Meriwether Lewis collected a specimen in Idaho on their return journey a year later. Clark’s Nutcracker was one of three new bird species brought back from their expedition, all of which were described by the naturalist Alexander Wilson.
The oldest Clark’s Nutcracker on record was at least 17 years, 5 months old.