Photo of the Day #736: Chipmunk with a chip

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A chipmunk gnaws on a sun chip in a parking lot in the Mount Naomi Wilderness in Utah. Free range cattle were also a common sight along the trail.


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A bison (Bison bison) photographed on Antelope Island, Utah.
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I always did find it bizarre that the U.S. allows cattle to range around their parks. I had thought parks were one of the places where they were trying to protect some biodiversity. Anytime I went looking for new plants to photograph I had difficulty finding them because the cattle had grazed them all. A couple of parks had fencing experiments to keep cattle out of a small area, and the pictures documented noticeable change even after one year.

I bird by ear (for point count and migratory bird survey contracts as well as for fun) so even if a bird calls once I will recognize it and know it is there. Many of the ground and shrub-nesting birds that should be in these forests are not there because the ground cover and shrubs have been eaten and trampled.

We were in Patagonia State Park in Arizona in March 08 as it is a great bird-gathering spot. We walked along the lakeside trail, saw numerous new birds and we were very excited. However, these birds were canopy, sub-canopy species.

The ground layer looked like an army of lawn mowers, weed-whackers and bush saws had gone through it. There should have been another dozen or more species of birds in the undercanopy feeding or setting up territories, but there was no habitat left for them.

I'm sure most people appreciate the "clean" manicured understorey and how it makes walking and viewing so much easier, or perhaps don't even notice that the system is badly damaged. Even we joked that we should thank the cattle because it made spotting birds so much easier. Overall though, we were saddened that even parks can't provide a refuge for many plant and bird (and other) species.

By Daniel J. Andrews (not verified) on 18 Oct 2009 #permalink

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