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Monday, May 21, 2018

Drama within the elk herd

When we first moved here, an old-timer told us that we'd "get sick of the elk" within a few years. That has never happened.
Oftentimes, we'll hop in the car to go see the elk when they're hanging out and grazing nearby. We usually don't need to drive because they're less than a half mile away. However, we've learned that they are spooked far more easily by people on foot than people in vehicles.

When we're in a vehicle, they often stand and stare at us impassively, with apparently no worries about us.
It always makes me laugh when we have an "elk traffic jam". When the entire huge herd is present, it can take a long time for them to cross the road, which makes for a humorous excuse for being late someplace.

The other evening, they were crossing in twos and threes. These two started across the road together.

Then, the front one turned around to look at the the other one. Notice at how their ears are back, suggesting that they weren't entirely on good terms.

Then they both reared up onto their hind legs, looking each other in the eyes.

Soon, their front hooves started flying toward each other. Look at how flattened backwards their ears are.

They continued taking swipes toward each other. I was amazed by how long they could balance on their hind legs.

None of their blows appeared to hurt the other. I think that their hooves might have touched during this spat but that was all. Like so many animal behaviors, I suspect it was ritualistic, with neither elk wanting to cause injury.

Then, they both returned to their normal four-legged lives.

During their spat, they forgot that they'd been trying to go from right to left across the road. They walked back to the side of the road that they'd started on.
For the occupants of the two vehicles stopped by the elk crossing, it had been intriguing to watch the mini-drama between two cow elk.

Nope, I don't think that we'll ever be "sick of the elk"! Instead, we'll probably always go watch them when they are hanging out near our house.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Black Dog Sunday

We love our Black Dog!

Friday, May 18, 2018

Glorious Cacti!

Our Ball Cacti are continuing to wow me with their blooms!It never ceases to surprise me that they do so well at higher than 8,000' in the mountains.

The range of flower colors surprises me. These are the light colored ones.

And these are the darker magenta ones.

Some have one flower on top (like the first photo) while others have up to 16 flowers clustered on the top of the cactus.

Always, when you look closely, you can see the pollen dust released by the flower lying on the petals just waiting for a pollinator to carry it to another flower.

There are two disadvantages to having cacti. One is the dogs' paws... it hurts to step on a cactus spine with bare feet!
The other is my bicycle tires... which go flat when punctured by a cactus spine.

Despite those downsides, I love our cacti flowers!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Thankful for moisture!

It's been raining and raining!

The meadows are getting more green, and the elk are overjoyed. They barely look up from the grass when people pass.

We found a frog (Boreal Chorus Frog) in one of our garden beds.

It must be mighty wet outside for him to have left the safety of a nearby pond.

The world is looking healthier everyday.
I'm glad that our elk can finally fatten up before they migrate to higher elevation for the summer.

And I am so thankful that the fire danger is less extreme, at least for now.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Wordless Wednesday - Desert Memories

This desert rat never ceases to wish for more days in the desert!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Bears marking and sniffing!

Our bears have started their active season more slowly than usual. A number of our usual bears haven't shown up yet, leaving me feeling a little worried about whether they're okay. The most notable one is Milton, one of our two big dominant males. I am watching closely for all of them.

In the meantime, some bears who I don't recognize have been active. Do you see the reflection of this bear in the pool?

Nearby on that same day, a male bear was busy marking trees. This is the same tree that Tiny marked a few weeks ago. This bear is not as big as Tiny.

He went straight uphill to another marking site that is also a new site for a cam for me. You can see a bent over tree in the next photo. I noticed that there was fur stuck to the bark on the downward facing side of the trunk.

My cam told me why!
As you can see, I set the cam to be pointed too low. I expected that the bears were marking the tree by walking under it and rubbing their back on it as they walked. I was wrong. They were actually standing up on their hind limbs to mark it just like they mark other trees. I fixed the cam after I saw the footage of this first bear.

Then, the bear walked a few miles by an unknown route, marking many trees along the way. When he stood up to mark one of them that had a cam close to it, I knew for certain that he wasn't Milton. There was no white patch on his chest.

Back at the leaning tree, a smaller female bear came along to check out the tree a few days after the male marked it.

She delighted me when she stood up to sniff up where the male had left his mark. Look at her round belly after a full winter without eating. She reminds me a bit of a bear who I called "Dot" who died a couple of years ago. I'll tell you her full story in a future post. I still miss Dot who brightened so many days for me with her feisty way of living. I believe that she was going to have her first cubs in the den the next winter.

I have put together a short video of this bear activity. You can watch it here or at Youtube.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Black Dog Sunday

I think that our Black Dog has luxuriated in the sun for the last time for a little while. The entire ten day forecast is for rain.

The clouds have moved in and have reduced the visibility to about zero, except for a few brief moments when the clouds part.

Both of our dogs adore this weather. It's not hot so they can run as hard as they want to. Usually, warmth is what slows them down.

I don't love this weather as much as they do but I'll be hoping that the rains mean that our meadows are filled with golden flowers before too long!

I'm going to take a min-break from blogging. I'll post a few times per week but not as frequently as usual.
I'll be back to my normal schedule before too long. I just need to recharge after working hard for a while and consequently feeling exhausted.

Saturday, May 12, 2018


Today, we are reflecting on our last trip to the desert. The desert is so different from our home in the forest, which you can see reflected in Shyla's eye below.

 We camped in other-worldly places like this one, with the sun warming us up.

It was a rainy phase in the desert, and the depressions in the slickrock filled with water. Shyla loved the water, as you can tell by her wet fur. I loved the water because I enjoyed seeing the reflections in it.

I found it to be ironic that I had to go to the desert to learn to photograph reflections!

It was fun seeing Shyla and the clouds reflected in the puddles. 
The puddles stuck around for a long time after a rain, perhaps because there was no porous soil below them to absorb the water. Various tiny animals live in the bottom of these depressions just waiting for water so that they can start their life cycles. For that reason, I did my best to keep Shyla from disturbing the water holes too much.

I can't wait until we visit the desert again. It's so fun to spend time in a place so different from where we live.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Flowers in Springtime

Springtime blooms have progressed slowly here although they might be speeding up now. This field where Shyla ran today has just acquired some green grass. Before spring is over, it will be filled with yellow flowers (assuming that they bloom despite our drought).

It's been sunny and warm, and the Pasqueflowers have opened their petals wide to soak up the sun and attract pollinators.

Willow bushes have gotten their tiny flowers clustered together into catkins. These gems are among my absolute favorites!

I love watching spring unfold, one miracle at at time. The flowers are among the miracles but the arrival of migratory birds is another. I love watching the bird species arrive one-by-one. One of my favorites is the hummingbird. Ours are back!
Happy Springtime!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Thankful for our World

I am thankful that this is the main "traffic congestion" that I encounter when driving on our roads.

And then, when I am home, I am thankful that our world is quiet enough that even Shyla can relax.

Most of all, I am so grateful that Mother Nature gives us the most stupendous shows that I can imagine!
Happy Thankful Thursday!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Wordless Wednesday - Shyla at Sunset

Shyla's normal look

Shyla's look when she spots a treat!
Running toward the treat!