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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Birthday Boy

Our handsome puppy, R, just had a birthday!
It blows our minds that our little puppy is now the "King" of the pack.
He's gone from being the youngest of three to being the eldest in our current Duo. However, much to our delight, he certainly is not the most mature dog in the house!
Despite his glorious lack of maturity at some times, he's an incredible big brother to Shyla. He has helped teach her that the world is not as scary as she first thought.
And he lets her "lean on him" whenever needed.
R and Shyla are perhaps the most bonded of the many pairs of Labs we've had in our family. It makes my heart happy to watch them interact so lovingly.
Happy Birthday, R! Both the Runner and I think the next photo (taken a few weeks ago) truly shows R's spirit. When he's out running in the forest, he is the embodiment of joy.
Here's to many more years of that puppy-like glint in your eyes, sweet R!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sunset - The Labraduo and the Mountain Lion Duo

One evening recently, the Labraduo and I were enjoying a quiet evening hike up on our plateau.  R waved goodbye to the sun as it dipped toward the horizon.
And I was in awe of the deep red color that the setting sun brought out in Shyla's fur.

At almost the same time, a mother mountain lion and her kitten were in the middle of a long walk nearby. I caught footage of them at five trail camera different sites (about 600 photos and a minute of real video). I think I've figured out their favorite route!

Today, I'll share just one set of photos that is kind of funny. Here, mom is walking up a gully. She has a GPS and radio collar around her neck and tags pinned to her ears for a study she's in. She looks small. My guess is that she's a young mother.
Because she was in a shaded area, my camera went into infrared mode, glowing with a soft red flash and yielding black and white photos. Mom seemed to notice the soft red glow of the camera.
She licked her lips while she waited for her kitten.
Her kitten appeared behind her. My expert friend and I are guessing the kitten is somewhere between 4 and 8 months old.
At another camera, Kitty showed us her underside, and I'm pretty she's a girl (you'll see all the footage over the coming week or so). Kitty also focused on the camera.
For an instant, they both alerted on something else - maybe a sound in the forest. The kitten doesn't have a collar for the study (yet).
The curious kitten stared at the camera.
Her eyes squinted, as she seemed to contemplate it. I actually wish it didn't attract their attention at all. I have one camera with an invisible flash (no red glow), and I might move it to this site.
Then, Mom decided to leave, and the kitten started sniffing a spot often marked by wild cats.
Very interesting, she thought...
Then, unfortunately for me, she really focused on the camera.
With determination, she moved toward it.
And then the camera captured a whole series of photos like this one - a closeup of cat fur as the kitten rubbed very hard against the camera.
After a little while the kitten backed away, but you can see that the camera view is now skewed.
Indeed, the camera then fell to the ground, face down.
And that was how I found it. You can imagine, after the recent theft, that I felt very anxious when I glimpsed the camera lying on the ground. But, I quickly figured out that it was probably a wild animal's work because the strap holding the camera case in place had been broken. The cable lock between the camera and the tree was still intact. Phew.

When I looked at the photos, I laughed out loud. The antics of a kitten!!!!

I feel so privileged to be able to see the lives of our most elusive animals up close and personal. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Silhouette Sunday

I love seeing a dog silhouette against a beautiful sky.

This morning around sunrise...

Later this morning...

At sunset one day last week...
Happy Sunday!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

An autumn-winter morning

Today, we finally made it out for actual sunrise, and the light was beautiful. The winter is the season when our small slice of the world gets a direct view of the actual sunrise - and I love it.
A thin layer of clouds sat to our east, dimming the sunrise light just slightly and making the forest look even more peaceful than usual.
It was a quiet morning, without anyone else around, even though it is the first day of rifle season for large game around here. Shyla reflected my watchfulness.
Both Shyla and I were clad in blaze orange, and my eyes and ears were alert for hunters. I simply worry about being in the wrong place at the wrong time when people are roaming the forest with powerful weapons. I thought that today might be tense because we've had hunters cruising the road near our house all week, looking for the biggest deer and elk. I'm glad that my prediction was wrong.
Just the other night, a beautiful buck was mesmerized by a trail camera that is very far from any road. He is wearing a big rack! I'm not sure how to count points, but he has either 4 or 5 per side!
He moved in closer to examine the soft red glow of the infrared flash, and then he vanished.
He must have lived a lot of years to get such magnificent antlers. I hope he knows to lay low for the next few weeks so he survives to pass along his genes to another generation.

Happy Saturday. Be safe.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Good Luck to offset Bad Luck

You might remember that I had a trail camera stolen a couple of months ago. I thought it was gone without a trace, until a couple of friends found some pieces. After their discovery, I went back to the site, and I sifted carefully through the leaves and other debris on the ground. I discovered small pieces of the camera, including tiny LED lights. Based on what I found, I think that the camera was probably destroyed.

It was a trail camera that had brought me lots of joy over the years - because it was pointed at a spot where so many animals visit. Like this bear who was marking a tree during mating season...
And this mother mountain lion seemingly scolding her kitten...
I was super sad to lose that trail camera... but, believe it or not, I lost yet another camera there early this summer. It was a small pocket camera that I dropped. I searched extensively for days on end, and I didn't find it. Then, about a week ago, lo and behold, there it was lying in the trail.
Obviously, it had been through a big ordeal - it's covered in new scratches and scrapes. It had been pelted with rain, hail, and snow over its 3 months lying in the forest. Plus, animals had obviously played with it. Those are tooth marks, likely from a curious bear, on the far left of the camera. Squirrels gnawed off a few plastic parts of the case. I was glad that I had a UV filter on the lens so it was protected from being scratched.

I brought it home, and I recharged the battery - with almost zero expectation that the camera would work. I put the battery in, and believe it or not, the camera works!!!!!!!!!! I was astounded. It's not even touted as a weather-proof camera. It's a Fujifilm x20 (currently replaced by a new model, the x30).

So, although I now feel certain that I'll never see the stolen trail camera again, I did have the good luck to find my compact camera! This was one of the bears who passed both the lost compact camera and the trail camera. In this photo, he was about to give the trail camera a serious once-over - sniffing, licking, and rubbing against it. Fortunately, I always put my trail cameras in protective metal cases to save them from curious bears. I wonder if he was the one who left the tooth marks on my compact camera?
I'm glad there's been some good news to offset the bad news of the stolen-and-probably-destroyed trail camera.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! Have as much fun as sweet Shyla with her red ring toy!
Actually, I'm not sure that's possible.
But I hope your weekend is good!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Autumn Sunset Light

It appears that this year's season of golden leaves is drawing to a close. There are a few small pockets of autumn color but that's it.
So, as a photographer, I am transitioning my photo locations so that I can take advantage of the low angle of the sun, especially around sunrise and sunset. It brings out a coppery color in the dogs' fur.
The other evening, we played some recall games just before sunset. Since Shyla's recall has been a little less strong lately than usual, I like to use R as competition. Here, they accelerated out of a sit-stay toward me. 

Whoever gets to me first gets the huge jackpot of treats, and the second-place dog gets one treat. R knows every trick of the recall game. He cuts in front of Shyla within the first few steps and tends to "win" most of the time even though Shyla has a faster top speed. He's teaching her about the importance of a fast recall, no matter what!

When I'm out with the Duo for photos around sunset, I focus on Shyla when the sun is barely above the horizon. The sun's light brings out the nuances of chocolate fur.
I love the warm reddish color of her and of the world around her. I know from experience that the red hue will become more intense as we get closer to the solstice.
Just after sunset, when the world is still quite light but there's no direct sunlight, I focus on R because black fur shines in this light. Last evening, we stood in front of one of the few remaining aspen trees that has leaves. R was intensely focused on a sound in the forest.
But, in an instant, his eyes turned soft. His intensity can almost be too much for me at times but I love that he can "turn it off" when we're alone.
Even though the autumn leaves have mostly fallen, I am rooting for a few more warm sunny days when I can ride my bike in shorts before winter sets in!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014