We've had two nights in a row of no bear alarm frenzies from the Duo. Breakfast on the deck is peaceful again. K sleeps in the soft morning sun while the flycatcher family of two parents and four young call to each other from the forest edge. They've stayed nearby for about 10 days since the young ones learned to fly. What a joy to have their calls rising from the treetops!
Almost every outing, including my morning bike rides with K, starts with a visit to the meadow where the wildflowers are still singing.
A jungle of Horsemint and Mariposa Lilies blooms.
In the deeper pine forests, Pinedrops have begun to blossom. They're an odd plant that lives symbiotically with subterranean fungi rather than using photosynthesis to generate energy. The "blossoms", hanging like lanterns from the stalk, are tiny but a close look shows their beauty.
We've fallen into a predictable summer storm pattern with clouds building over the mountains all morning and exploding into wild storms in the afternoon. In a Front Range mountain community, more than 8" of hail fell yesterday afternoon. Snowplows cleared the streets (in July!).
Behind K, you can see the clouds already building in the morning. It makes running cooler for her so I don't think that she minds!
Today, after K and I took a mountain bike ride together, I headed east on my mountain bike. When I looked over my shoulder, I realized that more big storms would surely strike this afternoon as the Divide looked ominous even at that early hour.
I spotted a nearby deer with a huge velvet rack. When the sun's rays glanced off his antlers, the velvet fuzz assumed a golden glow.
Later in the ride, I rode along a very isolated trail where I haven't seen another soul in years and followed the obvious path of a black bear who had foraged there since my last visit two days ago. The bear had dug up ant hills, flipped rocks so huge that I couldn't nudge them with all my weight, left scat in the middle of the trail, and eaten berries.
I didn't eat the ones shown above because I wasn't sure what they were. But, I did forage in the wild raspberry patches at the base of a cliff. The cliff towers behind the bee on the Cone Flower shown below.
I must have spent 30 minutes eating raspberries below the cliff. These raspberries are completely wild and not escapees from gardens. Each berry is about half the size of a domesticated raspberry so 30 minutes of foraging might yield a few calories of energy but not much more. Bears must be much more efficient foragers than I am. Otherwise, they'd burn more calories picking berries than they gained by eating them!
After enjoying foraging for berries and some hard riding, I beat the storms home. They hit later in the afternoon when I could relax indoors while the rumbles of thunder shook the house.
During this wonderful summertime life, my remote wildlife cameras have been working hard. They haven't recorded any bears on Black Bear Trail in weeks. However, they caught the image of a mountain lion walking the trail the other night. While I was on the trail checking the cameras' memory cards, I noticed what I thought was a mountain lion "scrape", an area where the lion kicked dirt backward with his hind paws to mark the territory as his own. In the photo below, there are obviously the tracks of two paws, and they scraped from my toe toward my heel. I didn't know until I looked at the memory cards at home that a lion had actually been here! I'm glad that I got verification that I'm actually reading the signs in the forest correctly.
This is the second video clip of a mountain lion on this trail, and I think that it's the same hulking male as we saw previously. He has no radio collar and moves with the swagger of the king of the forest. The "Tom Cats" patrol huge territories so it is indeed possible that he's been absent from our neck of the woods for the past 7 weeks, only reappearing this week. In his previous appearance, he seemed to be limping. This time, he isn't obviously favoring one hind leg. That's good news. Just one more note - I believe that this lion is the same one as I got extensive footage of eating a mule deer last January.
On an eerie note, one male deer seems to be missing. We've seen a pair of bucks together in my recent wildlife footage, one with a bigger rack and a younger one with small prongs. Now, the younger one is traveling alone. It could mean that our lion made a meal of the older one... but I can't be sure.