Ever since I heard that cheerful chirping over fifteen years ago when I first hiked the John Muir Trail, I have been a huge fan (and advocate) of the intrepid little pika--as regular readers of this blog already know from my frequent entries about the critter.
I observe pikas occasionally during my wanderings in the Sierra, yet it's usually a quick glimpse of the animal scurrying over the rocks. It's more common to hear rather than actually see the pika, as his distinct "squeak, squeak" is unmistakable. One of the pika's nicknames is whistling hare and the term pika itself may be derived from the Russian word meaning "to squeak."
This has been the year of the pika for me, as the last three hikes have resulted in unprecedented encounters. While I lunched below the Dana Plateau, one little guy joined me for lunch for an hour and munched on lupine stalks while I ate my vegan chocolate chip cookie. At Townsley Lake near Vogelsang, a pika sat next to me on a rock for about five minutes and then joined his friend-they both gathered food for about 30 minutes while I sat and watched. And at Gaylor Lakes last week, four pikas frolicked on the rocks and foraged for food for an hour in close proximity.
Have pikas gone wild this year? My very unscientific theory—pikas are struggling with climate change and their numbers are dwindling in some areas. So maybe they are lonely and just happy for the company.
Whatever the reason for my witnessing some cool pika activity, below are some photos and video of my encounters. Warning-you risk cute overload by viewing!