Monday, November 12, 2012

Yosemite Valley: Winter and Acorn Woodpeckers

It's such a beautiful place. Yosemite Valley has so many moods that seem to change daily. On Saturday, we had a glorious time exploring the freshly fallen snow and the golden colored oaks and dogwoods under the soaring cliffs. Yet with all the incredible scenery, we also got to see a bit of Yosemite's citizenry preparing for the coming winter. No bears (darn), but some interesting birds.
Picture by Mrs. Geotripper
It started with that solitary dead Ponderosa Pine that is situated in the Cook's Meadow between the old Yosemite Church and Yosemite Village. The dead snag gave us a frame for pictures of the dry Yosemite Falls, but we noticed that things were moving about the tree. We realized after a moment that there were at least three woodpeckers hard at work on the branches and trunk.
A bit of research later revealed them to be Acorn Woodpeckers (I'm a geologist, not an ornithologist; I'll try to remember their names in the future!). The birds collect acorns and store them in the holes they peck in old snags like the one we were looking at.
The woodpeckers live in groups. One will often be guarding the acorn supply while others are out foraging. They actually chase insects, but the acorns represent a secure backup food supply.
I guess the one below thought we looked suspiciously like marauding squirrels...
Photo by Mrs. Geotripper
The other birds we saw on Saturday were the ravens. They seem to do quite well in all seasons of the year, both here in Yosemite, and other parks across the American West, including Grand Canyon, Arches, and Death Valley.
Photo by Mrs. Geotripper

If you have to hang out on a cold day, it might as well be in a place this pretty.
The days are short, and the sun was getting low. We decided to head up to Tunnel View to see the sunset. That's next...
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