Today, I began my day feeling certain that our Flycatcher nestlings would fly the coop today. So, I took one more photo before departing on our bike ride. Sure enough, the nest was empty when I returned. I can hear the flycatcher parents calling to each other in the forest around our house as they feed the young and try to keep them together. Yipee, a young quartet of flycatchers has entered the big world!
My morning started with a pack mountain bike ride/run, following the tails of the Labraduo on a tire-width thin trail through a meadow.
We climbed up high in the stifling heat of the morning, and the Duo agreed to just one photo in the hot sun. However, they didn't agree to keep their eyes open for it!
We kept the run short for the dogs due to the heat, and I headed out to explore on my own. Several of you asked what kind of blue flowers appeared in the lush aspen grove in a recent photo. Believe it or not, they were 3' tall Columbines.
The Columbines have peaked at our elevation and are starting to wane. At the same time, the Mariposa Lilies are going wild. This high meadow was a virtual forest of them!
I headed to an area that almost no people ever visit now that no motorized travel is allowed. Indeed, I visited there one week ago, and my mountain bike tire tracks were untrampled by any other people. Amazing! I've been searching this area for potential bear dens with some success. I first returned to the one that I found a few weeks ago. From a distance, the terrain covers the entrance.
Once I dropped my bike and hiked uphill, the dark opening became more obvious.
No doubt, bears had been all around it. They'd dug gaping holes into the hillside, about the right size for a bear who was searching for underground food. They'd ripped apart stumps, and they'd gone into the den. Coal black fur hung from the entrance rock. In the upper left of the photo below, the ceiling rock for the entrance has been rubbed clean of lichens and mosses by animals passing through unlike the rest of the rock surfaces. I'm learning that bears start searching for dens very early in the summer so I wonder if someone toured this one recently.
I found other caverns that initially looked promising but didn't seem quite deep enough for bear hibernation. This one looked promising from a distance. The entrance is in the lower right of the photo, next to the pine tree trunk.
But, close up, I realized that it was probably too shallow for a bear or a bear family. Moreover, the entrance is too big and would release too much heat. I'll keep searching... I hope to have a number of potential sites to check for inhabitants this winter.
To my utter surprise, a check of my remote wildlife camera on Black Bear Trail during my mountain bike ride revealed that a young cow moose has passed it twice in the last few days. Wildlife officials introduced moose to western Colorado in 1978 and 1979 by releasing about two dozen into the wild. They've gradually expanded their range and crossed the Continental Divide. In recent years, we see moose occasionally up high on the eastern side of the Continental Divide. However, I've never seen one on the trails that I mountain bike daily.
When I checked my wildlife cameras, I noticed huge two-toed hoof tracks on the sandy trail, and I assumed that it was a bull elk who was summering in our neighborhood. That's not unheard of - the big males stay down at our elevation until mating season when they migrate up to the high meadows near the Divide to find females. It didn't even cross my mind that a moose had meandered along the trail. So, now I've captured images of black bears, mountain lion, bobcat, mule deer, and a moose on this wildlife corridor. Wow!
Check out this video. Notice the "dewlap", a flap of skin hanging from the moose's chin and the gangly legs relative to the body. My guess is that this is a young female moose, perhaps a yearling, who is exploring new territory. Yearlings weigh about 300 lbs!
Remote wildlife cameras are teaching me things that I otherwise would NEVER know about our forest and its surprising inhabitants!