Signs of Spring: Yellow-bellied Marmots

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Adult Yellow-bellied MarmotAdult Yellow-bellied Marmot – Nikon D810, f10, 1/640, ISO 250, -0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

As a bird photographer I get very excited during spring migration because I start seeing birds I haven’t seen since fall and it is easy to get swept up in all that excitement but there are other signs of spring that I celebrate too like seeing the first forsythia in bloom, hearing spring peepers calling, the first violets blooming in the lawn and so much more.

I get excited to see and photograph my first Yellow-bellied Marmots of the years, sunning on rocks, scurrying along a hillside, nibbling on fresh spring grasses or calling out an alarm because a raptor is flying overhead. A few days ago I did hear and see a marmot on a hillside calling out when an immature Bald Eagle lifted off from a rock high on a mountain and flew over where the marmot had been keeping a lookout.

I haven’t yet been able to take any nice photos of the marmots I have seen this spring but I am delighted to see them again. I keep hoping to photograph a marmot in a snowy setting in early spring but so far that hasn’t happened and I doubt it will happen this spring.

I do miss seeing them from about September through March when they are hibernating in their burrows.  These marmots are my furry, mammalian harbinger of spring and I am looking forward to photographing the adults and their pups this year.

Life is good.

Happy Easter.

Mia

A few Yellow-bellied Marmot facts:

  • Yellow-bellied Marmots are large burrowing rodents with brown fur, yellow bellies, white muzzles and small round ears.
  • Male marmots are larger on average then the females.
  • Yellow-bellied Marmots are found throughout the western U.S including the Rockies, Sierra Nevada and the intermountain west along with some areas in Canada.
  • The preferred habit for Yellow-bellied Marmots includes alpine meadows, steppes, rocky mountain talus slopes, semi-desert areas, pastures and forest edges.
  • Yellow-bellied Marmots eat grasses, leaves, blossoms of herbaceous plants, grains, fruit and occasionally insects.
  • Nicknames for Yellow-bellied Marmots include “rock chuck” and “whistle pig”.
  • Yellow-bellied Marmots have four pups in their litters.
  • Yellow-bellied Marmots live up to 13 to 15 years.

7 Comments

  1. Pepe Forte April 2, 2018 at 12:18 am

    Just a super pic Mia. I don’t know much about marmots…but your photo and narrative was really interesting and enlightening. Thanks.

  2. Elephants Child April 1, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    What an absolute cutie.
    On the forsythia front? My partner’s sister (who is seriously winter averse) was watching and waiting for its blooms to tell her that spring was finally here. Her husband pruned it to within an inch of its life, and eliminated any prospect of flowering for the year. Family harmony took a hit.

    • Mia McPherson April 1, 2018 at 1:17 pm

      EC, your story about your sister-in-law & how her husband trimmed back the forsythia to within an inch of its life reminded me of a story from when my boys were just little tykes and a gardenia bush.

      We lived in North Carolina at the time and all winter long I was anxious for spring because there was a large gardenia just outside my kitchen door. I love the smell of gardenias and I could see loads of buds on the bush. I kept checking it and trying my best to be patient for the first bloom to open, I knew it wouldn’t be long.

      Then one afternoon the boys rushed into the house with a shoe box and from the looks on their faces I could tell they were super excited to show me something and I was looking forward to seeing it. I thought they had caught a frog or a toad or something.

      Then they opened the shoe box and to my dismay they had picked every single bud off the gardenia bush and presented them as a gift to me. Oh, it was so hard not to cry out “oh no, what did you do??” and to keep a smile on my face as I thanked them for their gift.

      We were only in that house for less than a year so I never did get to see that gardenia bush actually bloom. But they were so proud of their gift to me.

      • Elephants Child April 1, 2018 at 1:30 pm

        That would have been heart-breaking. And even worse because unlike my partner’s sister you were totally unable to express your grief and rage. Your boys had obviously seen you watching the buds so it was indeed a generous gift. But…

  3. Patty Chadwick April 1, 2018 at 10:07 am

    Supposed to be curvy CUTIES..and was supposed to wish you Happpy Easter, but iPad had other ideas…NUTS!!!

  4. Patty Chadwick April 1, 2018 at 10:05 am

    These curvy curies are such solar sponges…they make sunbathing look so good!!! Especially when done on warm rocks!!

  5. Patty Chadwick April 1, 2018 at 10:05 am

    These curvy curies are such solar sponges…they make sunbathing look so good!!! Especially when done on warm rocks!!

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