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Sunday, March 15, 2009

On the brink between winter and spring

The dawning of spring is undeniable. A red-winged blackbird hungrily ate breakfast at our feeder. He was the first that we'd seen since last fall. As K and I rolled past a tall aspen grove, we heard a robin singing a summer song rather than the raucous warning calls we've heard since they arrived a month ago. A little further along the trail, a mountain chickadee sang his two note breeding season call. Then, the drumming of two woodpeckers echoed back and forth. No doubt about it - the birds are getting ready for spring.

As K and I rode a northwest facing ledge trail, I noticed that the sun was peeking over the ridge to our east - for the first time on a morning ride since last fall. In the photo, I'm looking up the ridge toward the east, and the sun is burning through the needles of a pine tree.

Along the same trail, K was the first to notice a large digging. An animal had dug a hole where a tree had formerly been rooted. Big clods of dirt and rotten wood were strewn around the hole. Bears excavate holes like this in the summer but I haven't seen any bears yet. I examined the hole closely looking for clues like claw marks or fur - but found nothing. The phantom digger. K followed the phantom's trail down the hill before I called her back. No drooling from K - that's her reaction to smelling fresh bear scent - so maybe it was some other animal or the bear was long gone.

I thought that K lacked her usual verve today so I cut our ride short. Nothing obvious was wrong but she wasn't frolicking like usual. But, when I decided to turn around, she refused. She ducked under a fence that we usually go beyond and stayed there. I rode toward home, and she stubbornly remained frozen in place. Then, I became nervous because she was standing on the spot where I found lion scat yesterday so I called her - which may have been what she was angling for the whole time. The bottom line is that I think that I was wrong - she had energy to burn and wanted to go further!
After I rode with K, it seemed like a warm sunny day so I dressed for spring rather than winter. Then, a cloud bank rolled in and the wind picked up, and I rapidly chilled. I have Raynaud's Syndrome pretty badly in my hands and feet so getting cold is even less fun than for most people. It's the reason why I almost always have chemical handwarmers in my mittens even in mildly chilly whether. I left them home today and had white fingers by the end of the ride.I decided to cut my ride short - but still managed to enjoy the beauty around me. Here, clouds loom over the Divide.
Then, the cloud bank descends onto part of the Divide.
For some reason, it's the tiny glimpses of the Divide from unexpected places that intrigue me the most. Here, big rocky outcroppings block most of the Divide but a snowy mountain peeks out from behind them.
When I arrived home, an Abert's squirrel was eating seeds below our feeder. Check out his ears - they have pointy wild tufts. Abert's squirrels need a very specific habitat - they absolutely require Ponderosa Pines. Many of their favorite huge pines surround our house, and consequently, lots of Aberts squirrels entertain us. We see them only sporadically in the winter - the books say that they hole up in their nests when it gets very cold. Then, in the spring, they gorge on the seeds under our feeder. The funniest thing is that the Red Squirrels, who are less than half the size of Abert's Squirrels, terrorize their bigger cousins. We've seen many chases where the Red Squirrels scare away the Abert's squirrels. Abert's Squirrels come in jet black, cinnamon, and grey - and we have all three colors in the forest around our house.

Look mom, no hands!


  1. I love the tufted ears on your squirrels! We have mostly big fox squirrels here.

    I have Raynauds, too, and definitely stock up on handwarmers in cold weather. I usually have a pair of thinsulate gloves on under my fleece mittens!

  2. Dog_geek,

    I assume that someone has taught you the trick of putting your hands under warm running water when they're really bad. We had an appliance repair guy at the house watching me clutching a cup of tea but drinking little. He finally asked why, and then he told me the running warm water trick which he knew because his daughter has Raynaud's. I hate wasting the hot water but nothing else works as well. At various times, I've honestly worried about gangrene because I can't get the circulation going again.


    The really funny part, which I thought that I'd save for when it's the Abert's mating season, is that they mate when hanging upside down like that! It's quite a sight. Maybe I can get a photo this year - but that might be an invasion of privacy or even illicit...

  3. Yep - the warm running water always works the best for me, too!


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