Sunday, October 18, 2015

October 18, 2015

It has been interesting watching the wildlife in the southwest and comparing the similarities and differences to those in New England.  Some species are quite similar, yet have sometimes subtle differences as they evolved in a different environment.  A good example are the deer.  They are similar in size and shape, but their coloring is different.  In New Hampshire they are often reddish-brown to blend in with the colors of their New England forests, while here they are more gray, which is much better camouflage in this habitat;  they blend in so well I didn't even notice this group until I was right next to them, and even then, only  because they moved. 

This behavior is the same as our deer exhibit - even to the point of curiosity sufficient that they stood and watched me go by.

But their mode of transportation is much different;  our deer bound, leaping up with the front legs first and then pushing off with with hind legs so their bodies move in an arc.  These deer jump with all four legs at once, moving up into the air with their body horizontal, looking live overgrown rabbits hopping across the scrub - a very different and amusing sight!

The following day at Zion Canyon I spotted a deer in a most unusual spot, all alone in the middle of a cliff.

It wasn't until I expanded the picture that I discovered why it was there - do you see what's unusual?

Another animal similar to ours is the golden--mantled ground squirrel (Callospermophilus lateralis) which is almost identical to our chipmunk (Tamias striatus), but different enough to be considered a unique species. 
Golden--mantled ground squirrel (Callospermophilus lateralis)

There is also an insect here that is similar to our flying grasshoppers.
Mountain Meadow Grasshopper (Trimerotropis modesta)

I believe this is a Mountain Meadow Grasshopper, also known in Utah as a "Snapping Grasshopper".  But this western version is much more dramatic than ours when it flies, as it local name suggests.  Our version makes an occasional little "click" as it flies, and shows a little bit of yellow-green color, but the western insect makes a long series of clicks that is so loud it is startling.  And it displays a bright yellow abdomen that is completely incongruous with its drab gray body when stationary - more good camouflage when at rest.

I also saw signs of Elk, but haven't seen any yet.  We don't have elk in the east anymore;  the closest animal in New England might be the moose.

An insect I saw right on the trail in Zion National Park, a Jerusalem Cricket, is nothing like our cricket in New Hampshire:
Jerusalem Cricket
This insect is almost 2 inches long;  you can gauge the size somewhat by the footprint it is next to.

Finally, a reptile, nothing like which exists in New England, was beside a trail we hiked.
Sagebrush Lizard (Sceloporus graciosus)

I don't know anything about lizards, but I think this is a Sagebrush Lizard (Sceloporus graciosus).  Perhaps our salamander - an amphibian - is the closest relative living at Lake Wicwas.

All of these creatures, except for the three-legged deer and the Jerusalem Cricket, I saw in the area around Bryce Canyon in Utah - one of the most spectacular areas I have ever experienced!
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

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