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Monday, April 13, 2009

Snail or how

Yesterday afternoon, the skies opened and fired rainy and snowy pellets at the Front Range. I procrastinated as long as possible - and finally shuffled out for a hike with the dogs during a break in the aerial bombardment. The break didn't last long - and as the heavens pelted me, I trudged along and contemplated what kind of precipitation it was. It definitely wasn't rain because the pellets were frozen but it wasn't purely hail because flakes were mixed in. I decided that it should be called some combination of snow and hail - thus, snail or how.

Today, I awakened with a less angry cough so I eagerly headed out for a mountain bike ride. The stunning bluebird sky that typifies Colorado had returned. Birds fluttered and sang - simply a gorgeous day.

K and I were a study in contrasts today. She's flying high, happy to have her normal energy and confidence back. We briefly saw R and my husband on the trail, and K took off like a whirling dervish asking R to chase her.

In contrast, my energy and gumption sunk into a trough today. It feels like I spent all my energy reserves fighting off this infection. I ran into a friend on the trail and joked that I needed a portable espresso machine for rides like today's - or perhaps an implanted caffeine infusion pump would be ideal. K kept giving me funny looks when I stopped to rest - I don't usually stop unless I'm checking something out.I rode along a ridge that I haven't ventured onto for several weeks due to vacation and snow. It was mostly snow-free, although the snow swamped the trail in a few odd places.After yesterday's foggy shroud, I enjoyed a clear view of the snow-laden mountains.As I labored to roll along the spine of the ridge, I spotted a scat that caught my eye because of what I learned when I spent part of yesterday afternoon re-studying my animal tracking book. Yup - it's the scat obsession again. In reality, it's my obsession with visualizing what animals wander through our forests and how they behave - and scat is a major clue that they leave for me.

The left photo below shows yesterday's scat that was about 5" long, not broken into segments but had indentations at regular intervals. My reading says that when bobcats have access to lots of drinking water, their scat sometimes doesn't break up into segments but still has indentations at short intervals - this scat fit the 'well-hydrated' bobcat description but I couldn't rule out coyote. The scat contained no vegetable matter and lots of fur.

Notice the scratching to the left of yesterday's scat. It looked like the animal scratched a small depression but his aim wasn't perfect so the scat is only partway in it. Then, the animal scratched up some more dirt, some of which stuck to the top of the scat. Coyotes often kick up dirt after depositing scat but my books don't mention that they dig holes to cache their scat. However, bobcat are known for digging depressions and then leaving scat in them. A final source of doubt was it seemed like overly vigorous dirt throwing for a small animal like a bobcat - but, then again, they can kill deer so they're probably capable of tossing some dirt.

In my reading yesterday, the authors emphasized that bobcats particularly enjoy leaving scat on top of rocks along heavily used trails. These deposits serve as scent-posts to mark their territories. I thought it was odd that I'd *never* noticed bobcat scat high on a rock despite my tracking and scat obsession. Strangely enough, today, on the ridge, I spotted the masterpiece - bobcat scat prominently displayed on a big rock (right photo above).

I think that the bobcats have enjoyed having the trails devoid of humans after our recent snowstorms - and decided to assert their territorial authority in our absence.

Now you know how I spend a Sunday afternoon of 'snail or how' - reading about scat! It's a little twisted, don't you think?

As I slowly churned my way home, my legs feeling emptier and emptier, I stopped for a rest under a Ponderosa Pine tree when cawing erupted directly over me. When I jumped, the Gray Jay didn't move (he might've cackled over scaring such a big creature) but continued his speech. The boldness of Gray Jays around humans has earned them the moniker 'camp robbers' because they'll steal food left unguarded even for an instant. This spunky bird seemed to admonish me to get moving while his mate observed from a nearby pine. So, I took his picture, and then rolled down the hill toward home.

1 comment:

  1. I could go for the implanted caffeine pump - I think that's a fabulous idea. And I'm glad I'm not the only one obsessed with tracks and scat!

    I hope you are feeling better soon! I think you and I are a lot alike... I rarely take time off from work when I'm sick, because I know if I go home, I will definitely take the dogs hiking no matter how crappy I feel. And then I feel guilty that if I am well enough to go hiking, I shouldn't be taking sick time.


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