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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Springtime craziness and a hummingbird!

The natural world has disregarded the fluke snowstorm and is marching inexorably toward the race of summer.

Yesterday evening, the younger pups and I skied our trails, enjoying the falling light and the abundant signs of spring. A finch who had visited our feeders earlier in the day serenaded us from the top of a pine tree. Visually, I was unable to distinguish whether he was a House Finch and a Cassin's Finch - but I recorded his song using my camera. Based on that, I have no doubt that he was a Cassin's Finch, our most common high elevation finch who we see only in spring and summer. Sorry about the fuzzy photo - the distance was too much for my pocket camera.I was feeling lousy during our ski, with a pounding headache from bad discs and bone spurs in my neck pressing on the nerves serving my head. To burn off the young dogs' seemingly endless tank of energy without moving too far or fast myself, I did a ton of recalls. Below, K gallops toward me through the rapidly melting snowpack.Sometimes, I'd put K and R into 'sit-stays' and ski far ahead before calling them. Other times, I'd let them wander ahead of me, getting engrossed in exploring, before recalling them.

The recall games are great training for when I need to dogs to sprint to me pronto. Just as importantly, recalls involve full speed sprinting through deep goopy snow - a muscle-burning and exhausting proposition for most beings, but perhaps not for these dogs with superhero athletic abilities.

This morning, springtime drew me out the door onto the roads pedaling my mountain bike. As I ate breakfast, a heart-piercingly cute Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel, who'd dug his way out of his hibernation den, summoned me outdoors.

Amazingly, warm 50 degree air engulfed me within a week after a blizzard. I rode along, and then the unmistakable spring sound that I'd been unconsciously listening for over the past weeks: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. I heard the rising pitch as a male broad-tailed hummingbird zoomed toward me and then the falling buzz as he zipped past me. I practically jumped up and down with exuberant joy, much to the amusement of the jeep-driver from the city who'd just stopped to ask me if I knew of any trails that were free of snow. Nope, I replied, no dirt trails but the hummingbirds are arriving!

I think that a person's excitement about spring is in proportion to the length and ferocity of their winter. Having just survived a furious snowstorm, the buzz of a hummingbird sounded like the sweetest music to me. When I imagine how far he's flown in the past months, it's an astounding athletic feat, especially for such a diminutive bird.

Shortly later, another long-distance migrant, a tree swallow, swooped over me next to a melting meadow. In fact, three others swooped with him, forming an intricate spring dance. Summertime columnus clouds hovered in the background. I haven't seen these thunder-storm clouds since last fall!Under the swallows, two butterflies fluttered, a Mourning Cloak and an unknown species, perhaps a type of Fritillary, that I managed to photograph from a distance.I noticed that, on a small willow next to the wet meadow, some catkins, but not all, had progressed from gray fuzzy cylinders to tiny flowery heads. A closer look showed the brilliant yellow of the flowering catkin.I was in the midst of this gorgeous spring ride when I began to notice that I'd seen the same pick-up truck at least twice and perhaps more than that. Then, he slowly passed me, staring as he went by, going down a dead-end road, and I optimistically hoped that he was simply driving home. But, as I chatted with our friendly FedEx driver, the ominous red pickup drove back up the road, pulled to the side of the road just before passing us, and watched us talk.

As I started to pedal again, the red pickup pulled back onto the road and along side me. Uh oh. I should've pointed him out to the FedEx driver. At least I knew that the FedEx guy had to pass me again after his delivery because it was a dead end road. The ominous pick-up driver stupidly asked, "What are you doing?". "Riding my bike", I said. Duh. His baffling reply, "Are you OK?". "Fine", I replied, wondering if I looked like I was unable to take another pedal stroke or appeared on the verge of collapse.

He then tried to convince me to accept a ride - with my bike in the back of his pick-up. I wondered exactly how naive he thought I was. I put my hand on my grizzly-bear sized pepper spray cannister, and said "no thanks, good-bye". Unsummoned, I'd mustered my trusty 'don't-mess-with-me' defiance. My husband tells me that I exude angry energy when I take this tone. It worked - the wacko drove off - but he worried me more than the lions and bears who I meet on trails. I can't wait to get back into the forest! Melt, snow, melt!


  1. Well, yikes about the creepy pickup driver! I'm glad that you had bear spray with you. I hope the snow melts enough for you to get back to the trails (funny, I always think of the roads as being safer than the trails.)

  2. Oh wow...that's creepy. I'm waaaay more creeped out on the roads up here than the trails-the roads are remote enough with little to no traffic except during the morning and evening commutes! I always have my mace with me when I'm out and about. Glad you have that angry energy available!

    KB-was that Lance the FedEx guy you ran into? He's so nice :) I miss him-he doesn't come over to our canyon very often.

    Nice video of the pups! It's fun to see everyone's pups in motion!


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