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Pika

Big whiskers on a little Pika

Such fun creatures to photograph but not always easy to do so. They are always on the move, scrambling to gather food before winter arrives. Yesterday, this little American Pika was kind enough to take a break and pose about five feet away. I can’t help but be struck by how darned long those whiskers are!

An American Pika takes a break from gathering food for the winter on Mount Evans in Colorado.  (© Tony’s Takes)

An American Pika takes a break from gathering food for the winter on Mount Evans in Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

American Pika picks a tall watch tower

When you are one of the smallest creatures in the big mountains, it is tough to see around, particularly for a Pika who lives in talus fields with rocks that for us would be the equivalent size of a house. This little guy (or gal) had a nice solution.

One particular rock that almost seemed to be turned on its end stood tall above the surrounding landscape and made the perfect perch for the Pika to check out those gorgeous Rocky Mountains.

An American Pika keeps watch from a tall rock on Trail Ridge Road.  (© Tony’s Takes)

An American Pika keeps watch from a tall rock on Trail Ridge Road. (© Tony’s Takes)

Head on with an American Pika

If this were a bigger critter, it might be intimidating. 😉

Always one of the highlights of my high altitude visitors are these little dudes. Staking out some of my usual spots among the rocks on Mount Evans yesterday, I could hear them frequently but was only able to get good pics of one. This guy (or gal) was unbothered by my presence and came right up to me. Here you can see it as it approached.

Usually found above timberline in western North America, these tiny residents are among the high altitude’s most active – during the summer. Despite their size, they are among the toughest mammals, spending their entire lives in the harsh, high altitude environment.

It is said this species of pika may become a victim of a warming climate. Studies suggest the American Pika is being driven to higher elevations in search of cooler temperatures. As it moves higher however, it could eventually run out of places to go.

An American Pika approaches head on. (© Tony’s Takes)

An American Pika approaches head on. (© Tony’s Takes)

American Pika licks its lips

Such a cutie! I had a rather charmed encounter with this little critter back in August. I hiked into a talus field near the top of Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park hoping to catch images of some of the Pika as they scurried about. This particular one proved to be highly entertaining.

It was quite tolerant of me, approaching at times within a foot of me, sometimes pausing to check me out and make sure I meant no harm but largely going about its busy work. This afforded me the opportunity to get some great captures, including this one as it cleaned up after having a morning snack.

An American Pika licks its lips in Rocky Mountain National Park.  (© Tony’s Takes)

An American Pika licks its lips in Rocky Mountain National Park. (© Tony’s Takes)

Extreme closeup of one of the high country’s smallest creatures

It is pretty rare that the tiny American Pika stops long enough for you to compose a nice closeup. This particular one though did just that for me back in August. Despite the fact I was hanging out mere feet from its den, it seemed to revel in all the attention I was giving it and was very comfortable with me.

More than once we shared the same rock in the talus field as it would scurry right by me, sometimes pausing, sometimes rushing about gathering food to stash in its den for the season.

One time it made me a bit uncomfortable by actually stopping and resting on my foot! I couldn’t help but worry about the little dude scurrying up my pant leg. Ha! Unfortunately that was too close for my lens to focus to get it sitting there but it was kind of fun.

Right now these little ones are staying warm inside their dens, many probably under the snow by now. They don’t hibernate so rely on food they gathered during the summer months to sustain them.

Closeup of an American Pika in Rocky Mountain National Park. (© Tony’s Takes)

Closeup of an American Pika in Rocky Mountain National Park. (© Tony’s Takes)

Well, that’s a mouthful!

This cute American Pika provided me an hour worth of entertainment last month. It knew the change of seasons was coming and was busily gathering food for the coming winter. Back and forth it would go from its burrow to the small patches of grass and flowers that dotted the talus field where it lives. As you can tell, it tried to make the most out of each trip. 😉

With snow now having fallen in the high country at their homes, these little guys are going to be furiously working to prep for their long wait until spring.

With a mouthful of food in its mouth, an American Pika works its way back to its home.  (© Tony’s Takes)

With a mouthful of food in its mouth, an American Pika works its way back to its home. (© Tony’s Takes)

Little critter, big bark

Arguably one of the most entertaining creatures you will find in the high country – the American Pika.

These little guys are incredibly animated and always on the move. From the time they emerge from their burrows in the spring, they immediately begin preparing for the next winter, gathering food and stashing it away.

This past weekend, I spent an hour or so with this particular one near the top of Trail Ridge Road. It was quite tolerant of me, approaching at times within a foot of me, sometimes pausing to check me out and make sure I meant no harm but largely going about its busy work.

On one trip looking for food, it paused nearby, looked at me, and gave me a quick ‘bark’ – the distinctive sound that is almost like a chirp that they make. I’m not sure what message it was trying to convey, perhaps just letting me know how tough it was and that I better not pull anything. 😉

An American Pika barks, sounding off a warning to anyone and anything nearby.  (© Tony’s Takes)

An American Pika barks, sounding off a warning to anyone and anything nearby. (© Tony’s Takes)

“And just what do you think you are doing?”

Life at 14,000 feet isn’t for the faint of heart as conditions can be tough. Temperatures are oftentimes quite cold, even in the summer. So, when that sun comes up and finally starts to warm things up a bit, the wildlife takes advantage of it. This little American Pika was quick to emerge when the sun hit near its home and it then spent some time just taking in the warmth. However, it seemed a bit less than thrilled about the human with a camera intruding on its morning peace. 😉

An American Pika checks out the photographer. (© Tony’s Takes)

An American Pika checks out the photographer. (© Tony’s Takes)

Posing Pika

When I go to the high country, I always make time to pay these little ones a visit. They are so energetic and entertaining. This one was taking a very brief brake from gathering nesting material while at the top of Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park back in August.

It is said this species of pika may become a victim of a warming climate. Studies suggest the American Pika is being driven to higher elevations in search of cooler temperatures. As it moves higher however, it could eventually run out of places to go.

An American Pika poses for pictures on a rock near the top of Trail Ridge Road. (© Tony’s Takes)

An American Pika poses for pictures on a rock near the top of Trail Ridge Road. (© Tony’s Takes)

Playing hide and seek with one of the high country’s smallest residents

These little guys are highly entertaining, when you can get them to cooperate. The American Pika is typically found above timberline in talus fields darting up and down and around the big rocks. I’ve found that it is usually best to just plop your butt down in the middle of a spot where they likely are and wait. It doesn’t take long for them to forget you are there and they then go about their business.

This little one popped its head out only 10 feet from me and sat there, contemplating what the big form was intruding on its domain. It quickly backtracked finding another route that wasn’t quite so close.

An American Pika peers out from its hiding spot. (© Tony’s Takes)

An American Pika peers out from its hiding spot. (© Tony’s Takes)