I didn’t have much luck at all with birds yesterday in the west desert canyons but I did spot and photograph a Rock Squirrel in Mercur Canyon. The squirrel is small in the frame but I love how much of the squirrels habitat shows in this photo.
Rock Squirrels are large ground squirrels that have speckled grayish brown coats, long brushy tails with white edges, pointed ears that rise above their heads and dark eyes with white rings around them. They can be 21 inches in length. They are active during the winter unlike many other ground squirrels though they may hibernate briefly in the coldest weather in the northern part of their range. They do estivate during the hottest times of the year. Rock Squirrels are nearly always found in rocky locales such as canyon walls, talus slopes, cliffs, boulder piles and hills. There are found in these areas where there are oaks, pinyon pines and juniper growth.
Mercur Canyon is a six mile Canyon on the west side of the Oquirrh Mountains and early on there were gold and silver mines there and the canyon was then called Lewiston Canyon but those mines failed for various reasons including the difficulty of extracting the gold from the ore.
In the late 1800’s Arie Pinedo, of German descent, obtained the property to mine for mercury, merkur is the German word for mercury and the canyon was named Mercur at that time and that name has remained until present day. Today cyanide is processed at a mine up the canyon past the locked gates.
Mercur Canyon is beautiful. There are pinyon pines, junipers and smaller shrubs like sagebrush on the canyon walls. I have seen Golden Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks and smaller birds like Black-billed Magpies, Northern Flickers, Mountain Bluebirds, Juniper Titmice and more while in the canyon. It is not a super birdy place but I do love going there.
This photo shows the Rock Squirrel on a rocky ledge and a plant at the lower right edge of the frame, that plant is an Ephedra, also known as Mormon Tea because the pant was used as a substitute for black tea and also for medicinal purposes.
I don’t yet know where I am going today but I hope I find a few more birds than I did yesterday.
Life is good.