I’ve been getting lots of contacts lately about my images of gophers. I think this is partly because it is spring on the prairies and these cute little critters are starting to appear again after a long winter underground. But I think it is even more so because they have been making the news a lot lately in Canada due to their recent designation as Pests in the Province of Saskatchewan. Inclusion in the province’s Pest Control Act means that it is now legal to exterminate these animals along with other pests such as Rats and Grasshoppers.
Although commonly known as gophers, these animals are officially called Richardson’s Ground Squirrels. They are often confused with Prairie Dogs, however that is an entirely different species. No matter what they are called they are very fun to watch and extremely photogenic. I have literally made thousands of images of these funny little critters and I’m always happy to make a few more!
The designation of gophers as pests makes me a little bit sad, because I really do enjoy watching them, but the simple truth is that the prairies are infested with these animals. In the areas where I roam I can scan the ground and see the typical grass and soil conditions in which they live and there are signs of their burrows everywhere. They are especially problematic for farmers because their burrows tend to collapse under the weight of the farm equipment, which can lead to significant damage and expensive repairs, and in areas where the population is particularly dense they can actually ravage the crops simply by eating. Unfortunately this is a man-made problem because our influence has allowed them to thrive on the prairie farmland in several ways: we grow lots of food, such as canola, that they love to eat; we till the ground which makes it easy for them to dig and survive; and we have significantly reduced the populations of their natural predators such as coyotes and foxes.
So does this make them a pest? I guess it does in the eyes of many. But I personally think that they are awfully cute and cuddly too, and I love to share my images of them!
This bird is a new find for me! I had heard several reports of Horned Larks having been seen in the area recently, which many take to be a good sign of spring approaching. So I was very excited when I actually saw this one perched on a post. It was singing away and at first I mistook it for a Western Meadowlark. Although the two species are very similar at first glance, the tufts on the head of the Horned Lark are a sure giveaway and make them very easy to tell apart.
It continually amazes me how the sunrise on the prairies can be so beautiful, and yet still so different every day.
The golden glow of the early morning light set up a great silhouette of these Grain Elevators way back on the horizon. the light changes extremely quickly at sunrise and I had only a few moments to enjoy it before it disappeared.
I pass by this farm almost every day while driving out of Calgary to the prairies to the East. I have only very rarely stopped to see it, and never from very close. The farm is nestled into a stand of trees, and I always assumed that I wouldn’t be able to make any good images of it from the perspective I would have when I was close. When I drove by the other day I saw the beautiful morning glow developing behind the farm, and so I decided that it was time to try.
I’m so happy that I did because the farm has never been more beautiful than it was that day! I’m a sucker for the indigo and magenta sky that forms to the West just before the sun rises (in the East) on a clear sky day, and I can’t resist the urge to make some new images. It’s nice when I can be near something that I’ve never photographed before, and this was one of those magical mornings!
The winter landscape on the prairies can be so beautful that sometimes I find it hard to decide what image to make next. This was one of those examples where I was torn between wanting to make images of the grain bins that I knew would be glowing a beautiful red as the sun rose, or to try to create the starburst effect you see here just as the sun peeked over the horizon. In the end I managed to do both, but I really only got to try one composition for the starburst shot, and then I ran back over to the bins to make a few more images there. Fortunately this old fence was close enough to the bins that I was able to use it to give the starburst shot some foreground interest.