The best thing about finding a prairie dog town is that you might also find some Burrowing Owls.  While these owls are capable of digging their own burrows they often nest in abandoned prairie dog holes.  We were lucky enough to spot two burrowing owls at a prairie dog town in South Dakota.  Notice the second owl in the burrow with only it’s eyes visible through the grass.  Burrowing owls eat insects and small mammals, but they also collect bison dung and use it as bait to catch dung beetles.  

Badlands National Park in South Dakota is an amazing place.  The geologic formations are breathtaking, but the wildlife is great too.  Scattered throughout the park are many prairie dog “towns”, where these highly social animals burrow tunnels under the prairies.  They’re fun to watch, especially when a predator is spotted in the distance.  The colony went into high alert when a coyote came in to check them out.  All the prairie dogs started barking, whistling, and standing up on their back legs to alert the town of the threat.  

Sandhill Cranes.  These majestic birds with crimson caps were quite a ways from me, but I was super excited to catch a glimpse of them.  Sandhills are known for their courting rituals that involve elaborate dances, as well as their mass migrations filling the sky with cranes.  These photos were taken at Grand Tetons National Park.  There were two chicks present as well, but I wasn’t able to photograph them.

Western Meadowlark.  We saw a bunch of these birds singing from fence posts and perches as we drove through South Dakota and Wyoming.  Meadowlarks are easy to identify with the bright yellow throat and black V.  They are very similar in appearance to Eastern Meadowlarks, but they song is a bit different.  

Tags: meadowlark

On a recent road trip through Yellowstone National Park we encountered an abundance of impressive wildlife.  For anyone who hasn’t been to Yellowstone I highly recommend the trip.  The best large mammal viewing is in Lamar Valley.

From the top we saw: bull elk, pronghorn (the fastest native land mammal in North America, they can sprint at 55 mph), hundreds of American bison (aka buffalo, but technically bison), bighorn sheep, and mule deer.

I saw this fuzzy butt snoozing in an oak tree.  Unfortunately the other side was thick poison ivy so I couldn’t get around to the front.  Looks like a raccoon to me, but I suppose it could be a fisher.

I saw this fuzzy butt snoozing in an oak tree.  Unfortunately the other side was thick poison ivy so I couldn’t get around to the front.  Looks like a raccoon to me, but I suppose it could be a fisher.

Oak trees commonly have galls growing on them.  A gall is essentially a tumor that the tree grows to wall off damage from an insect or other pest.  I believe this is a wool-sower wasp gall.  It was about the size of a golf ball and appeared fuzzy.  The tree probably had six or more of these.  Keep your eyes out for galls next time you’re inspecting a might oak tree.

Oak trees commonly have galls growing on them.  A gall is essentially a tumor that the tree grows to wall off damage from an insect or other pest.  I believe this is a wool-sower wasp gall.  It was about the size of a golf ball and appeared fuzzy.  The tree probably had six or more of these.  Keep your eyes out for galls next time you’re inspecting a might oak tree.

Anybody good at identifying odonates?  I am not.  Odonates are dragonflies and damselflies.  They are very skilled fliers, having the ability to hover and fly backwards.  Odonates are also top predators of the insect world.  

Anybody good at identifying odonates?  I am not.  Odonates are dragonflies and damselflies.  They are very skilled fliers, having the ability to hover and fly backwards.  Odonates are also top predators of the insect world.  

On a recent trip to Martha’s Vineyard we had a fantastic closeup flyby of a herring gull.  These are probably the most common gulls that you’ll see at the beach, or even in parking lots.  Probably the easiest way to identify them is by the red spot at the tip of their bill.  
Gulls are among the most difficult groups of birds to identify, so don’t get discouraged if you have trouble distinguishing them.  Also, they are not “seagulls” as many people call them; they’re just gulls.

On a recent trip to Martha’s Vineyard we had a fantastic closeup flyby of a herring gull.  These are probably the most common gulls that you’ll see at the beach, or even in parking lots.  Probably the easiest way to identify them is by the red spot at the tip of their bill.  

Gulls are among the most difficult groups of birds to identify, so don’t get discouraged if you have trouble distinguishing them.  Also, they are not “seagulls” as many people call them; they’re just gulls.

Barn Swallow.  On a recent trip to Ashumet Holly in Falmouth, MA I was able to get some nice photos of a barn swallow.  These birds are aerial insectivores, meaning they catch insects in mid-flight, so they are extremely quick and agile.  Ashumet Holly is a great place to see them, as they have an entire colony of birds in an old barn there.

Baltimore Oriole gleaning insects to feed it’s young.  Both the male and female were tending to the nest, but I wasn’t able to get a good picture of the female.  Notice the deep hanging woven nest.  These intricate nests are unique to orioles.  Sometimes they look like old socks hanging on a clothes line.  Look for them hung between a fork in a branch.

My brother, Tom, and I recently went SCUBA diving off of Sandwich beach.  We had a great time.  The dive is very shallow (15 feet), and the water was chilly (62 degrees), but we saw some great stuff.  Thanks to Tom’s girlfriend’s underwater camera I was able to capture a few good pictures.  Among other things we saw lobster, starfish, flounder and skate.

Baltimore Oriole gleaning insects from apple leaves.  It might just be me, but I’ve noticed a lot of orioles around this year.  They are fantastically striking.  Something about the black and orange is great.  You might see some drab looking birds around as well.  These are most likely one year old males.  They don’t get their bold colors until their second year.

Baltimore Oriole gleaning insects from apple leaves.  It might just be me, but I’ve noticed a lot of orioles around this year.  They are fantastically striking.  Something about the black and orange is great.  You might see some drab looking birds around as well.  These are most likely one year old males.  They don’t get their bold colors until their second year.

I’ve been watching this pair of wood ducks hanging around a nest box I put in a pond last year.  I’m still not sure if they’ve laid a clutch of eggs in the box or not.  Although it seems unlikely that both male (left) and female (right) would be off the nest at the same time.  I’ll keep my eye out for chicks in the next week or two. 

I’ve been watching this pair of wood ducks hanging around a nest box I put in a pond last year.  I’m still not sure if they’ve laid a clutch of eggs in the box or not.  Although it seems unlikely that both male (left) and female (right) would be off the nest at the same time.  I’ll keep my eye out for chicks in the next week or two. 

A family of painted turtles sunbathing on a log.  Notice the beautiful reds, oranges, and yellows. 

A family of painted turtles sunbathing on a log.  Notice the beautiful reds, oranges, and yellows.