A Family of Bighorn Sheep in Badlands National Park

Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis), South Dakota
Pair of Bighorn Sheep, Badlands National Park, South Dakota
While driving through Badlands National Park in South Dakota we came upon what appeared to be a nuclear family of Bighorn Sheep: a young ram, his apparent mate, and a small lamb.  In the mountains near our house in Colorado, we are accustomed to seeing Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis) in herds. Occasionally we see a lone ram.  But in our experience, a threesome such as this is an unusual sight.

Now, there may have been more sheep nearby that we did not see.  These three individuals were quite near to the road, so perhaps the rest of the herd was just over the ridge that rose up behind them.  But that day we saw only these two young adults, a male and a female, and the little lamb.  The lamb was young enough that the vestige of its umbilical cord was still visible on its belly!

Below are some close-up photos of each of the individual sheep.

Bighorn Sheep ram (Ovis canadensis), South Dakota
Bighorn Sheep ram

Bighorn Sheep ewe (Ovis canadensis), South Dakota
Bighorn Sheep ewe

Bighorn Sheep lamb (Ovis canadensis), South Dakota
Bighorn Sheep lamb

Yellow Cinquefoil in Rocky Mountain National Park

Yellow Cinquefoil (Potentilla sp), Rocky Mountain National Park
Close-up of a yellow Cinquefoil flower
It is wildflower season in the mountains of Colorado.  Flowers of every color imagineable are scattered in meadows, on mountain slopes, beside streams, and along hiking trails.  I spotted this pretty yellow Cinquefoil (Potentilla sp.) at an elevation of nearly 8,700 feet, beside a trail  near Sprague Lake  in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Cinquefoils belong to the Rose family (Rosaceae).  The Cinquefoil in these photos -- exact species uncertain -- grows low to the ground.  Other species have stems that may be more than a foot tall.  In some areas Cinquefoils are considered to be noxious weeds, invading gardens and agricultural fields.  To hikers in the high Rockies, these Cinquefoils are seen simply as delightful yellow wildflowers.

Yellow Cinquefoil (Potentilla sp), Rocky Mountain National Park
Yellow Cinquefoil growing in Rocky Mountain National Park

Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)

Female Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)
Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) - adult female
I photographed this Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) near the edge of a forest in a mountainous area of Larimer County, Colorado.  This individual is an adult female.  The markings of the male of the species are very similar, but the male has a red patch at the back of its head.

The diet of the Hairy Woodpecker consists mainly of insects, although they also will eat seeds and fruits. They are known to eat the larvae of the bark beetles that infest Ponderosa Pines in Colorado, so these birds are a welcome sight.

Female Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)
Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) - adult female

Ground Squirrel Says: "I Haz a Cornz"

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel (Callospermophilus lateralis)
Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel (Callospermophilus lateralis)
I had been out photographing wildflowers, and on the way home I stopped at a scenic overlook near the edge of the town of Estes Park, Colorado.  I saw a man sprinkle an assortment of seeds and nuts on the ground for the squirrels and chipmunks known to hang out there.  A dozen or so critters showed up in a flash and began picking through the scattered bits searching for their favorites.

While most of the animals scampered about, stuffing their cheek pouches with as much as they could, this one little guy, a Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel, picked up a single item at a time and daintily nibbled at it.  By a stroke of luck, my trusty macro lens was already mounted on my camera, so I was able to snap a couple of close-up shots of the corn-eating squirrel.

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel eating corn
Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel eating corn

Butterfly: Milbert's Tortoiseshell

Milbert's Tortoiseshell Butterfly (Aglais milberti)
Location:  Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

On an early Spring day, we walked the trail around the perimeter of Sprague Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.  At a point where a boardwalk section of the trail crosses over a marshy area, we paused to take in the view.  Fortunately I looked down just in time to see this pretty butterfly land on some vegetation just below the boardwalk.  It is a Milbert's Tortoiseshell (Aglais milberti), a member of the Nymphalidae family.