One early Spring morning I was sitting outside enjoying the sunrise when I heard a strange chirping sound. Trying to follow the sound I saw a small rodent type animal sitting on a rock, looking up and chirping away. At first I didn’t recognize this little animal so I looked in one of my nature books and learned it was a pica. The normal habitat for picas is high elevation, 3,000 to 5,000 feet. What was this little guy doing living at sea level, in the rocks a few feet above the beach.
Every morning I was greeted by his chirping then he would nibble on grass and gather extra grass which he took back to his burrow. He never seemed to be bothered with me watching him but he always looked up. I finally figured out he was watching for flying predators, particularly eagles and hawks, both of which were residents on the property.
One morning I heard a different chirp approximately 100 yards away. The two of them chirped back and forth. I watched with curiosity as my little pica took off to go visit. He would scamper 50 feet or so at a time, hide and look up then move on for another 50 feet. It took him about 15 minutes to get over to the other pica. After a couple of hours he would take the same route back, get up on his rock and chirp away.
One day I had some visitors and was showing them my little friend and we decided we needed to name him. The property is located in Homfray Channel, so we named him Homfray Bogart. Little Bogart was like a little pet right in front of the house.
I contacted a researcher at the University of British Columbia, his specialty was studying the habits and habitat of the pica. Normally the pica habitat is in the Rockies, Cascades and Coast Mountains. He told me there was only one other sighting of sea level picas up the coast in Bella Cola. Turned out little Bogart was a rarity living on our beach.
In the fall he moved from his beach borrow to a craggy rock face right behind the house and right on time in the early spring his familiar chirp was back on the beach.
Little Bogart is just another example of what you see in a pristine ecosystem.