The tolai hare is the only rabbit/hare species found in Mongolia. They’re usually seen in rocky or semi-desert areas. My subject was one that I saw one evening at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve. I was positioned up in the rocks above the spring-fed stream waiting for argali sheep to show up when this hare hopped out from behind some rocks into plain view. What made it even better was there was a hoopoe perched on a rock not far away. Both species are very skittish and bolt at any movement. Here’s a couple of photos of hares I’ve seen during my trips to Mongolia.
Also at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu. You have to see them before they see you to have any chance of getting photos. Sometimes they wait until you’re so close that you’ve almost stepped on them and then they explode from right at your feet, which really boosts one’s heart rate!
During the 2016 WildArt Mongolia Expedition we were enroute to the Great Gobi A Strictly Protected Area to explore critically endangered Gobi bear habitat (saw tracks and scat but no bears, not surprising when the total population is currently estimated to be 40 of them). The Fergon van that carried our equipment was stopped by a blocked fuel line. We all got out of the SUV and poked around while that was attended to. I spotted this tolai hare right away and got some decent photos before it bounded off.
Not all good tales come from exotic locales. You don’t have to have a passport to get to somewhere worthwhile. And good adventures don’t all have to be exciting, much less life-threatening. Just getting out into nature wherever you live or travel to can yield fun, amusing and interesting stories. I’m known for my adventures in Mongolia, but I love to get out in nature and animal watch wherever I am. For instance, last March I spent over a week exploring southern Georgia and also some of the northern Florida barrier islands like Amelia Island and the town of Fernandina Beach, Florida, which turns out to have a wonderful and clearly much-loved community amenity, Egan’s Creek Greenway, a park braided with trails that run right through the town. Kudos to the townspeople who had the will and vision to set aside this natural area. You can read more about my March 2016 trip here and here.
We live in a rural coastal county in northern California, where the biggest reptile one is likely to encounter are large but harmless gopher snakes or a watch-your-fingers-cause-they-bite Pacific giant salamander. So it was a bit of stopper to see this sign upon entering what is essentially a town park…
It was late afternoon and the light was getting better minute by minute.
The trail split. I followed the one to the left, saving the one along the stream for the way back.
It was March but a few wildflowers were already blooming.
I really liked the three different textures of the grass, water plant, and trees.
I saw a movement around twenty yards ahead. I had my long lens so was able to get some good photos of what I believe are marsh rabbits (Silvilagus palustris). I noticed that they stayed in the shade, which makes sense for a prey animal. They are similar in appearance and size to the brush rabbits we have here in Humboldt County.
Turtles! This was a big deal for me since I’d never seen any in the wild before other than sea turtles in Hawaii. They are yellow belly sliders (Trachemys scripta scripta).
These were to the right of the ones in the first photo, all catching some last rays before sundown.
I had learned about this trail while chatting with my Airbnb host and this was my only chance to check it out. I couldn’t have come at a better time since the light was great and there was almost no one else around.
I came upon a great egret in soft cool light.
It took off and I got a good shot of it in flight.
After that sign at the trailhead, this log stopped me for an instant.
I came to another open area adjacent to a deep water-filled depression where the trails went off in different directions, I was getting pretty close to being back to where I’d started. I happened to look down into the pond…
And what do you know? An alligator! At least six feet long, also catching the last of the day’s sun.
Can you spot the gator?
I walked on and a short time later came upon another grazing bunny who quickly hopped into the brush. I caught up to where I thought he’d gone and there he was, holding very still.
A few minutes later I spotted this male cardinal. We don’t have these where I live so I always get a kick out of seeing them even though I know they’re quite common.
A short distance more and I was out of the greenway into the open and here was a big pond with not only a great blue heron (we do have them here on the west coast, too), but more turtles!
As I photographed the heron and turtles, I spotted something in the sky. It was a red-tailed hawk circling around. I took a lot of photos and finally got a few of the bird as it turned and caught the light.
What a day. But there was one more treat in store.
As I walked back to the parking area I spotted a small bird hopping around in the chain link fence and managed to get this one photo. It’s a palm warbler, a new species for me.
The whole walk was at most three hours. I had nothing in mind, just to explore a new area and see what was there. What places are there where you live that you’ve never gotten around to exploring? We tend to take where we live for granted, but nature is ever-changing and no walk or hike will ever be exactly the same. If you’ve discovered a local gem where you live tell me about it in the comments!
About 1:30 yesterday afternoon, while I was importing images to my iMac, it started to snow! Not powder, just wet icy stuff, but snow nonetheless. Here’s a couple of photos of the garden and yard. I really like the juxtaposition with the flamingos (they’re part of my in-progress “tropical” garden; the place where all the plants with hot colors will go).
For awhile it was really coming down
The painting below is called “Warmth of Spring”, which we’ll all be ready for soon, if not right now. It’s from reference that I shot a few years ago when we lived on 20 acres some miles north of where we are now. I loved the warm light coming through the brush rabbit’s ear and the variety of plant textures around him or her.
The original of this painting is available, as is a limited edition giclee.