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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sunset and distractions

Yesterday evening, the Duo and I hiked up to Hug Hill for a view of the sunset and the fire. The light dwindled much faster than I expected, and we arrived to a glorious sunset.
For a few minutes, I focused on the sunset and the Duo.
It was one of the most spectacular sunsets that I've ever seen. The smoke doubtless contributed to the brilliant streaks of light over the jagged peaks of the Continental Divide.
To my northeast, I could see fire trucks zooming around the fire zone. One house had four trucks surrounding it, and another house had one truck next to it. I'm learning the lingo - the firefighters were doing "point protection" - specifically defending a residence against nearby flames. I could barely see the flames on the other side of a ridge. It was too dark for photos by that time.

Overall, both last night and this morning, the fiery front closest to us looked more benign than it has in days.
However, red alerts are being sent to everyone in our area to prepare to evacuate. A wind storm is moving in and will bring up to 50 mph winds. We're being told that no one can predict where embers might fly so a gigantic swath of people must be ready to leave.

For this morning, I forgot about all of that. I enjoyed my girl K, during our mountain bike ride. I whispered reassuring things to her.
And she gave me a kiss in return.
I noticed that, despite my distraction with the fire, autumn is marching forward. Some trees wear their full fall colors.
Each leaf is a jewel.
Yesterday, I showed photos of a bobcat. He checked out the ground in front of a camera that's in a brand new location, pointed along a very faint animal trail. I've read that the faint trails tend to be made by non-hoofed animals, like cats and bears, so I staked one out. There was no bobcat scent post in front of the camera when I first placed the camera. However, yesterday morning, a bobcat carefully sniffed my scent before marking the spot with his scent (see his posture in yesterday's last photo of him).
He left behind a classic "scrape" of dirt, created by him kicking back with his hind paws. Then, he deposited scat in it. I have video from when a bobcat marked a trail previously showing his motions.
This is a classic example, I think, of how it's impossible for any person to observe natural wildlife behavior without affecting it to some extent. When I visit my camera, I leave scent behind. That scent triggered the bobcat to reassert his authority over the area in the classic cat way, with a scrape and scat. I wonder if he'll visit this spot on his next patrol, to tell me again that it's bobcat territory.

I didn't realize until recently how much animals respond to the scents of other species. Previously, I assumed that they only attempted to communicate with their own species via scent. However, I have video of a bobcat rolling all over the area that a bear had just scent marked. The bear rubbed his back on a marking tree and probably simultaneously dribbled urine as a further signal. Then, the bobcat came along and rolled in the grass at the base of the tree. I've also noticed that our local coyotes leave scat on top of my dogs' scat, probably a subtle territorial message. So, I guess that I shouldn't be surprised that the bobcat marked the area where my scent was.

I wonder what the mule deer think of my scent. Below, you can see a well-used animal trail that I'm monitoring, hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the bobcats or lions whose tracks I've seen here. A mule deer doe passed through yesterday afternoon. You might remember, a few days ago, that a deer rubbed her face on a tree near one of my cameras. I've since learned that deer have scent glands all over their faces, and the doe was undoubted scent marking her territory. I wonder if my scent provoked it?
My dogs and wildlife keep me well distracted in these tense days. I arrived home from my mountain bike ride today to a note saying "If you evacuate today, take the brownies.". I had to crack a smile. Priorities, priorities! I think that if we can get through tonight without the fire turning on us, we might be through the worst. We'll see... but my thoughts remain with the people who have already suffered devastating losses.

Many, many thanks for all of your thoughts and reassuring words.


  1. Yes, be sure to take the brownies and leave quickly with the dogs if you're told to evacuate. The wind forecast is not good for your area. Love that aspen leaf!

  2. Always love your pics & info about the area & animals!! Keeping our paws crosses & hoping things improve & the fire can be contained sooner than later!

  3. Kind of like the Cannolies -

    Thanks for the update and incredible pics -

    We continue to keep all of those affected in our thoughts -

  4. We heard about the approaching storm and the change in the winds. Here's hoping this is one time the weather guys are wrong.

    You never cease to amaze us, you still found joy in your life as you rode out with K. Great photos, especially the two of you and K.

    Take care and don't forget the brownies IF you have to go. Otherwise devour them with great joy.

  5. Heck yes, take the brownies! It's a crime not to!

    I love the fall colors you're starting to see. So far here the only things turning are the corn and soybeans! That's alright, I'm not in too much of a hurry for things to be over just yet.

    Fingers crossed for a good night for you and an end soon to the fire!

  6. I logged on fully expecting you to say that everyhting was under control. A reminder that nature , when angry, is red in tooth and claw. Hope that tomorrow brings more restful news.

  7. what amazing pictures....everyday on the news they talk about the have been in my thoughts constantly....such a horrible tragedy...hopefully today will bring better news...

  8. I am so sorry to hear about the fire danger that you are living with, that can be so unnerving and yes my heart goes to those with lose already.

    Very interesting about the animals and territorial behavior, fun fun fun.

  9. its so beautiful. Unfortunately those fires add to a beautiful sunset.. Be safe
    Benny & Lily


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