Friday, June 26, 2020

One Small Rodent with a Huge Impact




I've been stepping out farther
this week into neighboring
Red-tailed Hawk Park.

Many people enjoy
its picnic area, playgrounds,
and sports facilities,
but I go for its boardwalk,
cottonwood stands,
and prairie dog colony.
Red-tailed Hawk Park 
Aurora, Colorado, USA  June 20, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved



Since I don't come from a Colorado ranching family, I love prairie dogs!
Red-tailed Hawk Park's noisy, energetic little critters are​​​​​​​ black-tailed prairie dogs
(Cynomys ludovicianus), and they have lived along the Front Range
for thousands and thousand of years.  At one time their "towns" or colonies
covered as much as seven million acres in the eastern third of Colorado.
They typically live east of the foothills at elevations below 6000 feet (1828 meters).

Black-tailed Prairie Dog
Red-tailed Hawk Park 
Aurora, Colorado, USA
June 20, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved





The black-tailed prairie dog is one of three species in Colorado,
and it can be identified by the black tip on its tail and where it lives in the state.
It's not very big, weighing one to three pounds (about a kilogram)
and reaching 14 to 17 inches (36 to 43 centimeters) in length.
The prairie dogs have tan fur tinged with reddish-brown,
short ears, large eyes, and a long, round head.  These animals are rodents,
burrowing ground squirrels with sharp claws perfect for digging. 


Black-tailed Prairie Dog
Red-tailed Hawk Park 
Aurora, Colorado, USA
June 20, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved





Black-tailed prairie dogs are highly social animals,
and they live in large colonies of close knit family groups or coteries
consisting of a male, two or three females, and their pups.
They are active during the day and do not hibernate in the winter.
They dig extensive burrows underground
and mound the excavated dirt around the entrances to their burrows.

These mounds help to protect the burrows from flooding
and allow the prairie dogs to see approaching predators.
Typically the prairie dogs clip the plants around these mounds
to spot predators more easily.
Lots of predators hunt black-tailed prairie dogs:
coyotes, hawks, eagles, badgers, rattlesnakes, owls, bobcats, foxes, and ferrets.



Prairie Dog Town
Red-tailed Hawk Park 
Aurora, Colorado, USA
June 20, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved






Entrance to a Prairie Dog Burrow
Red-tailed Hawk Park 
Aurora, Colorado, USA
June 20, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved





Prairie dogs are very vocal.  They have a complex system of communication
of yips, chirps, whistles, growls, and barks
that rivals the languages of chimps, dolphins, and orcas (Scientific American).
It's almost impossible to sneak up on a prairie dog.
They are constantly on the alert, and the moment one spots you,
its short, shrill barks ring out repeatedly.
Step a little closer, and the prairie dog dives into its burrow
and others farther away take up the alarm cry.
Their calls identify the type of predator and describe what it looks like.


Black-tailed Prairie Dog
Red-tailed Hawk Park 
Aurora, Colorado, USA
June 20, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved





Prairie dogs eat grasses, leaves, stems, sedges, roots, forbs, and seeds.
They obtain water from plants such as the prickly pear cactus.

Prickly Pear Cactus
Red-tailed Hawk Park 
Aurora, Colorado, USA
June 20, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved





Black-tailed prairie dogs are a keystone species in the short grass prairie.  
They provide food for many predators, and their foraging and burrowing activities
increase the diversity of plants and animals in their area.
They overturn, aerate, and enrich the soil,
help to move rainwater down to the water table,
and encourage the growth of native grasses by clipping vegetation.
Over 150 species of birds and animals depend on
the food and shelter provided by prairie dog ecosystems.

Black-tailed Prairie Dog
Red-tailed Hawk Park 
Aurora, Colorado, USA
June 20, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved





Black-tailed prairie dogs have decreased drastically in number
because of habitat destruction, poisoning and shooting, and the sylvatic plague.
It's unfortunate that many people don't appreciate the importance
of this animal to the health of the short grass prairie ecosystem.



Black-tailed Prairie Dogs
Red-tailed Hawk Park 
Aurora, Colorado, USA
June 20, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

 








Till next time ~
Fundy Blue


On the Bay of Fundy
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved




    








For Map Lovers Like Me:


Location of Aurora, Colorado, USA




Area Where I Took the Photographs
(by the asterisk in the lower middle)
Map Data © 2018 Google United States


Southern Aurora and Northern Parker
Map Data © 2019 Google United States





Adapted from a Sign in the Park
Red-Tailed Hawk Park
Aurora, Colorado, U.S.A.
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Friday, June 19, 2020

Here's to a Lovely Summer Morning!


I've been struggling with social-distancing this past ten days or so.
Self-isolation seems to stretch into the future with no end in sight.
The weather has been hot and windy, 
and yesterday the air was heavy with wildfire smoke.

After days at home wallowing, I forced myself out of the house this morning
and went for a long overdue walk in the open space along Piney Creek.

This is the lush, fecund season with female mule deer dropping their fawns,
cottonwood trees releasing their seeds, and wildflowers springing up everywhere.
Birds are winging back and forth, catching insects and ferrying them to their young.
The earth is alive and filled with promise.
Here's to a lovely summer morning!  

Cool Green Beckoning
Along Piney Creek 
Aurora, Colorado
June 18, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved







Male Goldfinch 
Aurora, Colorado
June 7, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved






Best Guess:  Lacy Tansyaster
Along Piney Creek 
Aurora, Colorado
June 18,, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved






Cottonwood Seed Capsules
Plains Cottonwood Tree 
Aurora, Colorado
June 18, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved






Bursting Cottonwood Seed Capsules
Releasing Seeds (cotton) on the Wind
Plains Cottonwood Tree 
Aurora, Colorado
June 18, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved





Bursting Cottonwood Seed Capsules
Caught in the Grass
Aurora, Colorado
June 18, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved








Cottonwood Seeds
Scattered in the Grass
Plains Cottonwood Tree 
Aurora, Colorado
June 18, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved





Middle Pond
Along Piney Creek
Aurora, Colorado
June 18, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved






Grackles in a Cottonwood Tree
Along Piney Creek
Aurora, Colorado
June 18, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved






Showy Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa)
Along Piney Creek
Aurora, Colorado
June 18, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved






Showy Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa)
Along Piney Creek
Aurora, Colorado
June 18, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved





Summer Meadows
Along Piney Creek
Aurora, Colorado
June 18, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved






Spiderwort 
Along Piney Creek
Aurora, Colorado
June 18, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved






Mule Doe with Fawn
Along Piney Creek
Aurora, Colorado
June 18, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved







Mule Doe with Fawn
Along Piney Creek
Aurora, Colorado
June 18, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved







Same Mule Doe Hiding in the Grass
Along Piney Creek
Aurora, Colorado
June 18, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved





Upper Pond
Along Piney Creek
Aurora, Colorado
June 18, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved




Prickly Poppy
Along Piney Creek
Aurora, Colorado
June 18, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved





Prickly Poppy
Along Piney Creek
Aurora, Colorado
June 18, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved







House Finch 
Aurora, Colorado
June 7,  2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved






Musk Thistle
Along Piney Creek
June 18, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved






Male Robin
Along Piney Creek
Aurora, Colorado
June 18, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved





Summer Leaves
 Plains Cottonwood
Along Piney Creek
Aurora, Colorado
June 18, 2020
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved




I hope you are staying safe and healthy!
All the best to you!









Till next time ~
Fundy Blue



On the Bay of Fundy
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved




    








For Map Lovers Like Me:


Location of Aurora, Colorado, USA




Area Where I Took the Photographs
(by the asterisk in the lower middle)
Map Data © 2018 Google United States


Southern Aurora and Northern Parker
Map Data © 2019 Google United States





Adapted from a Sign in the Park
Red-Tailed Hawk Park
Aurora, Colorado, U.S.A.
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Friday, June 12, 2020

A Promise Kept


Did you ever have to jostle at work for a project you really wanted?
Guaranteed there was jostling on my third grade team
when it came time to teach our geography unit on Europe.
 
Usually we team taught this unit, dividing countries among us 
and teaching our chosen countries to all of our students
who rotated from teacher to teach in class groups.

That way each teacher prepared lessons for only one or two countries,
while the students got to know all the teachers, and we got to know all the students.


First Glimpse of My Chosen Country 
June 11, 2014
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved




My colleagues jostled over who would get to teach France, Italy,
the United Kingdom, or other popular countries.

Me?  No jostling.  No one ever clamored for Iceland but me.  
I wanted Iceland for three big reasons, all contained in this photo:


Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park
June 12, 2014
Photo by Terry Barbour
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved




First, Iceland has the oldest surviving Parliament in the world, the Althing.
It dates back to 930 AD, and in 1930, on the Althing's 1000th anniversary,
Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park was established on the site
where the Althing met until 1798.


19th-century rendering of the Law Rock in Þingvellir
by W.G. Collingwood




Second, I loved the delicious irony that Iceland is not continental.
It is oceanic and straddles the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
Even if no one else in the world found humor in this (including Terry),
I took great delight in it.


The Trace of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge Rift Valley
Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park




Third, I'm a geologist, and the one story I remember from my grade two reader
was about an Icelandic family that went on a picnic 
and boiled eggs in a hot spring near a geyser for their lunch.
I fell in love with Iceland, its marvelous landscapes, and its geology. 
Right then and there, all of eight years old, I swore that I would go to Iceland.


The Calm Before an Eruption
Geysir, Iceland
June 12, 2014
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved





The Geyser Erupts
Geysir, Iceland
June 12, 2014
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved





So there I am in that photo:  in Iceland 
standing in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge Rift Valley,
with my hand on the North American tectonic plate 
where the Althing met for hundreds and hundreds of years.
Am I thrilled or what?

I never had the opportunity to boil eggs in a hot spring,
but I did something even better.
I soaked in the Blue Lagoon with Terry,
a man-made pool heated by geothermal water from the Mid-Atlantic Rift. 


The Blue Lagoon
Iceland
June 14, 2014
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved





Terry
Blue Lagoon, Iceland
June 14, 2014
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved





Me (Louise)
Blue Lagoon, Iceland
June 14, 2014
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved



I always had a blast teaching Iceland to the kiddos.
I covered everything required by our curriculum and standards,
but I squeezed in a lot of extra material, especially geological.
My goal was to awaken my students wonder about our amazing planet and how it works.
And I'm sure there's more than one kiddo who became passionate about geology
and promised himself or herself a trip to Iceland someday.
It's important to keep those early promises you make.







Till next time ~
Fundy Blue



Happy in Iceland ~ A Promise Kept
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved