Prairie Dog pair keeping watch. I see so many of these on my photo trips that I usually just ignore them. That isn’t always easy given how loudly they ‘bark’ when they feel like they are being threatened. 😉
Anyway, today I was out for a walk and crossing through a colony and the cacophony of noise demanded my attention. All were quite focused on alerting each other about the guy with the camera so I snapped a few images of them, including these two as they peered out from their burrow.
While I am oftentimes dismissive of these creatures, I do recognize the significant role they play in the ecosystem. They are a keystone species, so important to many other creatures.
It can’t be easy being one of these creatures on the Great Plains. Threats abound as they are a food source for a wide variety of predators from eagles and hawks to fox and coyote. Man is an additional threat in many areas as Prairie Dogs are viewed as pests and can carry the plague. They are however a keystone species in many locations and critical to the overall health of the ecosystem.
Not only do many other species rely on them as food but others use their burrows for dens and nests. This particular Black-tailed Prairie Dog was up soon before sunrise recently, seeming to scout the immediate area to ensure it was safe for the rest of the colony to come out.
We are all familiar with the bigger barking dogs in our neighborhoods. These guys prefer much less crowded environs but can be just as noisy when you intrude on their homes. Prairie Dogs are quite common here on the plains of Colorado and I usually completely ignore them. However, after having what was a less than successful photo day one day last week, I was desperate to capture pictures of something – anything. This little guy provided a good opportunity and I have to admit, it was kind of cute.
Sometimes just paying attention – and a bit of luck – yields some pretty awesome photo opportunities. Driving home from work yesterday I took a bit of a different route hoping something interesting might come along.
It was looking bleak and I had given up when I glance to my right and see an eagle in a tree of a county open space. I park and start to walk toward it and what do I see but a second eagle on a pole dining on Prairie Dog.
In the end I captured dozens of great images of both of them – this is the one that was eating.
I would have posted sooner but wouldn’t you know it but no sooner did I download these images yesterday evening than I suffered a hard drive failure on my computer! Thank goodness for backups although I have spent the past day slowly working to get things up and running again.
Taken in Thornton, Colorado.
A Bald Eagle ensures it has a good grip on its prairie dog breakfast as it flies off. Taken in Adams County, Colorado yesterday.
A very fun thing to witness. An adult Bald Eagle had snagged a prairie dog and as it attempted to fly off with it, three other eagles and a hawk chased it. One juvenile eagle managed to knock the prairie dog from the elder’s grasp but the adult dove and snatched it mid-air. The action was a good ways away so these images are cropped heavily.
Taken in Adams County, Colorado. Scroll down to view the complete sequence of images.
Not a favorite photo subject of mine but with as prevalent as they are, you can’t help but train your lens on them every now and then. This particular one was – as they all are – very wary of my presence as I sat watching its neighboring Burrowing Owls.
A young Prairie Dog appears to be giving its mom a smooch. She had NINE little ones with her so no doubt she deserved a bit of kindness having to deal with that large of a brood. ;-)?
A Burrowing Owl and Prairie Dog keep watch on a pair of Swainson’s Hawks that were casing their neighborhood.
I was taking pictures of these two today when all of the Prairie Dogs started ‘barking’ incessantly. A look up revealed why as the two hawks circled repeatedly, likely looking for a meal. The Prairie Dogs all soon disappeared into their burrows while the owl didn’t seem particularly worried.
Taken north of Denver International Airport.
Prairie dog. It’s whats for breakfast. This young Red Tailed Hawk was enjoying his meal in a lightly populated suburban area of northeast Denver this morning. Truly an absolutely amazing morning of picture taking (thanks once again to a friend’s tip) so there is much more to come.
Scroll down below the featured image for more of my encounter with this hawk.