The class ended with a rigorous two and a half hour final yesterday. The second week of the class involved a lot of traveling and trying to hang on to pemas (Peromyscus maniculatus -- deer mice). We made a big rectangular circuit, studying mammals in different habitats: first Phantom Canyon, a Nature Conservancy preserve north of Fort Collins (plains grassland) then north, west through Wyoming, and south again to Brown's Park National Wildlife Refuge (shrubland) and then south to Colorado National Monument (pinion pine-juniper ecosystem). This week we were back at the Mountain Research Station looking at sub-alpine and alpine environments. I think my favorite part may have been just seeing all the different landscapes and ecosystems, of which the mammals were just one part. We also saw some cool birds, herons at brown's park, a ptarmigan above the research station -- mottled white and brown, halfway between winter and summer plumage, huddled against the earth and looking like an inconspicuous rock by the trail that I would not have noticed were it not for the people gathered nearby -- and some white-crowned sparrows that were hanging out in the shrubs up above tree line on Wednesday. There was some feeling of disappointment in the class that we didn't see the diversity of mammals that we hoped for, no moose, no red-backed voles, just a lot of pemas and a couple of kangaroo rats in Brown's Park. But I saw 17 mammal species all together, by my count, representing 5 orders and 8 families:
1. Order Chiroptera (bats):
Family Vespertilionidae: little brown myotis bats (Myotis lucifugus), big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus), a long-eared myotis bat (Myotis volans)*, silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans)*,
2. Order Artiodactyla (even-toed ungulates):
Family Antilocapridae (pronghorn): pronghorn (Antilocapra americana),
3. Order Rodentia:
Family Muridae (mice and rats): deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus)*,
Family Heteromyidae (pocket mice and kangaroo rats): Ord's kangaroo rats (Dipodomys ordii)*,
Family Sciuridae (squirrels): black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus), white-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys leucurus)*, a least chipmunk (Tamias minimus), a yellow-bellied marmot (Marmota flavientris) (briefly),
4. Order Lagamorpha (rabbits and hares):
Family Leporidae (rabbits and hares): desert cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus audubonii), black-tailed jackrabbits (Lepus californicus)*, snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus)*,
Family Ochotonidae (pikas): some pikas (very briefly),
5. Order Carnivora:
Family Mustelidae: a long tailed weasel (Mustela frenata)*, and
Family Felidae: a bobcat (Lynx rufus)*.
That's not bad :) Especially since I'd never seen 9 of those before (the ones marked with an asterisk). Also, I've now memorized the 8 orders and 25 families of Colorado mammals. If you'd like a recitation, just ask. Mammals are awesome.