This morning, K and I sat on the deck watching the flycatcher parents deliver at least 2 flies per minute to their growing nestlings. The early morning air was already comfortably warm, a precursor to a hot day for the mountains where temperatures broke 80 degrees, leaving us cold-adapted mountain dwellers feeling hot and lazy.
After my morning coffee, K and I bolted out into a sun-drenched day with birds and rodents rustling through the wildly flourishing shrubs, grass, and wildflowers. Our overturned bear-proof garbage can suggested that an ursine visited last night but my nearby wildlife cameras didn't capture his image. I might point a camera at the garbage can soon. The bears seem to be persistently working on how to open it (without success yet) but have given up on the birdfeeders.
K and I headed straight up high to survey the mountains. K insisted on doing her favorite trick. I think that it's her favorite because her brother R can't do it yet!
Then, K made a funny face that I can't help but include in this post. Don't tell her that I put it here!
After a very brief stop in the hot sun, we headed for a deep pine forest, traversing through bountiful bear territory filled with myriad species of berry bushes. Yesterday, K told me, using her clear-cut body language, that a bear had walked the trail. Today, I noticed brilliant red currants on some bushes. I think that the bears will be back!
Now, if only I could figure out a good place on this trail for a wildlife camera, I'd install one. The trickiest part of my hobby is figuring out where to point the camera. If you choose any random spot in the forest, chances are that NO animals will ever pass across it for months and months (as I learned firsthand with my early efforts). So, I've been learning to read the signs left behind by wildlife to figure out the routes that they use regularly. Then, on those routes, I try to find the spots where the animals linger to eat or mark territory so I have a good chance of getting their photos. The problem is that if the animals walk too fast past my camera, it misses them due to the "trigger time" delay. I'm still no expert at camera placement - my current "berry camera" that I hope will photograph bears foraging on a berry-laden slope has only captured photos of me!
All around us, baby birds are taking their maiden flights. We saw a mother grouse, and I told K to stay next to me. I couldn't figure out why the grouse wasn't flying away until I saw the young ones, about the size of robins, waddling toward her and then barely taking off to land on low pine boughs. I didn't stay to take a photo - K and I discreetly exited to avoid stressing them.
Later in my ride, after I'd dropped off K at home, I passed a hole in an aspen tree that has harbored a Flicker nest since early June. I saw the parents entering and exiting the hole for weeks. Then, about 10 days ago, a nestling tried to peek at me but wasn't quite tall enough. All I saw was a beak sticking straight up in the air.
Finally, today, one of the Flicker youngsters flew for the first time, right before my eyes. First, he surveyed the world from the hole that is the only tiny slice of Earth that he's ever seen.
Then, I watched the baby take the leap of faith, heard the whir of wings, watched him fly and make an awkward landing in the soft deep grass a few yards away from me. I took one photo and fled to avoid messing up a very dicey moment in a young bird's life.
Imagine what courage it takes to leap from high in the air having never flown before in your life. I know from watching the flycatchers under our deck in past years that they sit on the edge of the nest tray, peering over the edge, for hours before they work up the courage to try to fly. The truly amazing part is that, so far, they've all discovered that they can fly after taking the leap. The wonders of nature never cease to astound me.