Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

April 19, 2009

Pocket Gopher

Filed under: behavior, digital benefits, favorite places, Gilbert Water Ranch, light, Non Birds — richditch @ 9:04 pm
Pocket Gopher partially emerged

Pocket Gopher partially emerged

Birding was pretty good this morning at my most frequented location, the Water Ranch in Gilbert, AZ. I managed 50 species in just under three hours, including five warbler species: Yellow-rumped, Orange-crowned, Common Yellowthroat, Townsend’s, and Black-throated Gray. Five warblers would be embarrassing back in New Jersey, but its quite a haul here in he desert around Phoenix. I probably could have added a few more species to my day list if I hadn’t been distracted by this Pocket Gopher, who occupied my attention for an least 30 minutes.

Birds may be my first passion, but like most birders I have a strong interest in everything else I see in nature. I’d noticed this curious hole along a main trail a couple weeks ago and wondered what owned it, but figured it would turn to be a snake. Then a couple days ago a friend sent me a photo and I knew I’d want to look closer.

I found the hole unoccupied when I arrived at the spot a little after 7:00 AM, but by the time I got the tripod lowered a little and the 300/2.8 and 2x pointed at the hole I was treated to the head of the gopher poking out a tiny bit and then quickly withdrawing. ISO 200 was just too slow for the situation – this part of the trail was in shadow. I increased the ISO to 400 and was able to get reasonable shutter speeds with the lens wide open at f/5.6. The lead mage was taken at 7:24 AM at a shutter speed of 1/90th second. The image is 91% of full frame (trimmed slightly on te left edge only for proportion).

This is about 1/2 of the gopher, and I never got to see more of it. It was very shy, even when I remained completely still and quiet. It was quick to withdraw any time another person came along the trail.

Pocket Gopher, view showing teeth

Pocket Gopher, view showing teeth

I took a lot of shots (digital is free, after all), which gave me better chances of usable frames at this slow shutter speed. This shot shows the always exposed teeth and gives a good view of the large powerful toes used for digging.

Pocket Gopher

Pocket Gopher

This final image was taken just over an hour after the previous two, with full direct sun.

For more information on this interesting species see this article at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.



  1. Great pix, Rich!

    Comment by Sheri — April 20, 2009 @ 5:58 pm

  2. Thanks for sharing your wonderful talents Rich! Judy in Alexandria,Mn

    Comment by Judy Clayton — April 20, 2009 @ 7:01 pm

  3. Great images Rich. We are back in Spokane and will be chasing the birds along the northern tier this summer. Hope to see you this winter.


    Comment by Jim Prudente — April 20, 2009 @ 9:37 pm

  4. Hi Rich,

    Great pics. I guess I got to start looking for more than birds 🙂


    Comment by Larry Selman — May 3, 2009 @ 9:55 am

  5. Do you know what kind of gopher it is?

    Comment by Hannah — February 27, 2010 @ 2:34 pm

  6. Based on the Kaufman Focus Guide to Mammals of North America (Nora Bowers, Rick Bowers, and Kenn Kaufman) I’ve been calling this Botta’s Pocket Gopher (Thomomys bottae).

    Comment by richditch — February 27, 2010 @ 3:33 pm

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