There's a prairie dog town making their home near the house where we are staying, and it took me a surprisingly long time to get some good photos of them considering they have dens right next to the driveway and in the backyard. But, they're pretty skittish little guys. I believe they're Gunnison's prairie dogs:
I've also seen a second type of lizard, but I can't figure out what type it is. It doesn't seem to match any of the species listed in the reptiles and amphibians checklist for the park....anyone have any ideas?
In the morning we went to Matheson Wetlands to do some birding in a rare high desert marshy habitat. Birds have been pretty few and far between since we arrived in Utah. Other than the ravens and occasional junco or house finch, there hasn't been much to report. At the wetlands, we saw a wider variety of species (15) and number of birds than on the rest of the trip combined. The highlight was a large mixed flock (well over a hundred birds) of sparrows and finches feeding on the seed pods of a bloomed-out wildflower. In the mix were house finches, American goldfinches, pine siskins, song sparrows, white-crowned sparrows, and the best find of the day, a single Lincoln's sparrow.
In the late afternoon and evening we made another excursion into Arches National Park, and our first stop was at Sand Dune Arch. We were surprised when we started on the trail to learn it wasn't the arch visible from the road; instead, we got hike through a couple of tall fins to the arch:
The arch itself was completely dwarfed by the surrounding fins, but was still a pretty cool sight:
After the Sand Dune Arch we went to the Skyline Arch, where we decided to hang out for the hour or so until sunset. That led to taking way too many pictures of the same thing, because after a few minutes of sitting it was inevitable you would get up and snap a few more photos. I'll only post two of those 80+ photos here. The arch doubled in size in 1940 when a huge boulder fell out of the left side:
I did find a few other things to photograph while waiting for the sunset, like this landscape look through a hole in a pile of huge boulders:
It was too cloudy for too much of a sunset, but what we did see was still pretty:
It was amusing to see how many cars were all leaving Arches in a long line just after sunset. We briefly separated ourselves from the pack a bit when we pulled over so I could take this dusk photo of Balanced Rock: