Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Winter Readiness

At 9,400 feet on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada, summers are generally short, and winters can come on fast and frosty.

So, if you're a half pint animal that doesn't hibernate, a motto like "be prepared" is a bit of an understatement.

As is evidenced by this 1-month span of camera trap photos of an American pika gathering greens for its winter haypile.

pika at haypile
American pika at haypile, July 26th 2015, 6am

Littleleaf Creambush, Holodiscus discolor var. microphyllus, seems to be a popular forage at this location. At least for this particular pika - pika live solo and are strongly territorial, and only 1 will build, defend and use a haypile. Unless "disappeared."

pika building haypile
Pika returning with sprig of Littleleaf Creambush

pika building haypile
Pika adding foraged greens to its haypile under big boulder

pika building haypile
And stuffing them into every possible crack and crevice

Mountain Snowberry, Symphoricarpos rotundifolius, was also a fave, and packed in tightly.

pika building haypile
Pika adding Mountain Snowberry branches to it haypile

pika building haypile
Throwing all 6 ounces of its weight against the pile

pika building haypile
Tamp, tamp, tamp

Soda Straw, Angelica lineariloba, Sulphur Buckwheat, Eriogonum umbellatum, and Mountain Coyote Mint, Monardella odoratissima, were also on the pika's "buy local" grocery list.

pika building haypile

All sensible seasonal choices, since pika are herbivores, like their kin the rabbits & hares. And thus mostly eat leaves and grasses. And surprisingly few seeds or berries.

But the Soda Straw is interesting, as it's also called Poison Angelica, and is related to hemlock. Perhaps it's strategically added for the bushy-tailed woodrats, mice, squirrels and chipmunks that often try to raid the pika's pantry.

pika building haypile
Pika adding Soda Straw leaf to its winter larder

Occasionally they pause for a look around, or territorial call.

pika building haypile
Pika giving its "rock rabbit" look. This half pint cutie's ear notch is handy for ID. And note how perfectly matched their fur color pattern is to the rocky habitat.

But rest is for the wicked, and there's "ripe" Creambush and Snowberry to harvest and pile.

pika building haypile

pika building haypile

All leading to...

pika at haypile 1 month later
American pika at haypile, 1 month later, August 26th 2015, 11am

A whole lot of winter salad.

Maybe there is an El Nino coming.

Gotta go!

pika building haypile
Pika off to get more



  1. Out foraging and tamping in daytime only?

    1. No, all hours. Most often in day and during the crepuscular hours, but at night as well. The photo with the Angelica is at 12:45am. And, of course, these are a fraction of the photos.

  2. Super post! Fun to watch that hay pile grow. I think Pikas must be one of the cutest small mammals on earth! Great shots.

  3. Really great post and excellent photos. Fascinating creatures.


Please leave a comment, thought or question at any time.