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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Winter rules but Sapsucker arrives

The snow gently built up all day yesterday, and the dogs and I went out for a ski in puffy new powder around sunset. S started 'reminding' me of our upcoming outing about 3 hours early. His enthusiasm still sparkles!

R struggled to master tree-climbing, for the second time of the day. He stretched fruitlessly to try to reach a deer leg that hung in the tree. I snapped the photo too late to capture his tree-climbing but the deer leg is visible.

This morning dawned with crystal clear beauty. The instant that I glimpsed the snow-purified world outside our window, I turned on the turbo chargers to hurry out. For me, that means that I moved slightly less slowly than a snail - because I go through a 'walking hibernation' phase like a bear every single morning.

My husband and the trio of labs zip out the door like gazelles compared to my sluggish morning progress. So, I was the straggler and intercepted them near the end of their ski. Our full pack of five skiied together briefly. Then, we wanted the two younger ones to follow me for more skiing and S to follow my husband home. It's amazing how strongly our dogs resist dividing the pack while in the forest - but eventually I had two crazy labs with me as I glided and they bounded through the puffy powder.Shrews (below left), deer, and a small carnivore (below right) foraged and hunted last night. The shrews and deer both traveled from one 'tree well' or 'shrub well' to another. The relatively thin snow layers under these plants must make it easier to find food, like dried grasses, than on the open meadow or forest floor. The third animal had short enough legs that he plowed a path up an open hillside, leaving no clear tracks but an obvious trail. Based on the snow depth and the leg lengths of various animals, I'm guessing that he was a bobcat, fox, or coyote.

Shortly after seeing these tracks, the pups and I crossed a powerline and heard the drumming of a woodpecker. At this time of year, I stop in my tracks to see if our first sapsucker has arrived. Both Williamson's and Red-naped Sapsuckers breed here, after spending the winter many miles to the south. After the bird swooped off over my head, his distinctive yellow belly and red throat told me that he was a Williamson's Sapsucker. I whooped a welcome - I love each sign of spring. The photo on the utility pole is from today, and the better photo is borrowed. Usually, the order of high-profile arrivals is Mountain Bluebirds (a month ago), Williamson's Sapsuckers, Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, Hermit Thurshes, and finally Cordilleran Flycatchers. However, this Sapsucker might head back south and tell the other birds to hold up their migrations because it ain't spring here yet! Every year, the Sapsuckers use the same nest holes in aspen trees along our trails so I'm looking forward to watching them raise their families this summer.

The right photo above captured an unknown, finch-sized, bird sitting on a power line next to a meadow. None of our winter birds perch on power lines so this little one caught my eye as a likely recent migrant. I have no clue who he is (and the photo isn't good). Does anyone else?

We finished our ski adventure with a visit to the highest lookout point that we achieved today.I paused to hug the two younger dogs while soaking up the brilliant view. The hug warmed my heart in light of what has happened to our pack in the past week.Throughout the ski, my body reminded me with lightning bolts of searing pain down my left leg that my spine dislikes skiing. So, as usual, I needed to spin on my bike to free up the nerve that was being squashed by degenerating discs or bony spurs in my spine. Since the frigid air was only 15 degrees - making road mud unlikely in my short-sighted view, I decided to try riding my Fatback on the roads. The roads stayed snowy, my favorite condition, only briefly. Then, despite the frigid air, the sun started brewing the evil slurry of mud, slush, and water. My sunglasses, face, clothing, and bike ended up caked with mud. When I arrived home, my jacket zipper was literally frozen and had to thaw before I could upzip. I learned one valuable lesson from my slushy mud-dominated ride: keep your mouth shut while riding through muddy slush. I'm sure that lesson will serve you all well in your everyday endeavors!


  1. I saw you over at Mountain Musing and wanted to say hi to a fellow Colorado blogger. I am down in longmont, so we don't have all that snow. I guess we should take a drive up to see it one more time this year. Loved the pictures.

  2. Ha - I go through that hibernation phase in the morning, too. My first few minutes after getting out of bed are spent running into walls and muttering incoherently.

    I was so sorry to read more bad news about the prognosis for S down below, but at least he is comfortable and happy for now. Give him an extra hug from he!

  3. Our best wishes for all of you, especially S. Whatever time there is is truly a gift. Plenty of time for love and for saying goodbye and thank you and all that.

    Still ... I hope it warms up soon so that he can enjoy spring.


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