Photos and text copyright Romping and Rolling in the Rockies 2009-2017.

All photographs and text within this blog are copyrighted.

You may not copy or repost any photos or text without specific permission from the author of this blog. When in doubt, please ask.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sleepy but fun Saturday

It was a sleepy start to the day here in Colorado. We've reached the time of year when the morning sun shines in our bedroom like an intense spotlight so there's no sleeping late. The dogs tried anyway.
A very sleepy R tried to lift his head.
I took both halves of the Duo for a mountain bike ride. Having R with us made me realize that I've slowed my pace for K since her toe amputation. We stop and relax much more often than we used to. Needless to say, a leisurely pace and stopping to relax do not suit R's style.

I don't know why he was jumping in the photo below. R doesn't need a reason, aside from his amazing joy over everything!
For parts of our ride, K went at R's pace, showing me that she's capable of more than I thought.
But, at times, riding with R feels like trying to control a runaway train. To help him learn self-control and to give K rests, we practiced sit-stays.
And, down-stays...
From my perspective, these "stay" breaks seem to bring R's excitement down a notch. He seemed noticeably calmer after them so I think that I'll continue this practice when both dogs join me for mountain bike rides.

While the dogs did one of their down-stays, I photographed a developing catkin. I think that it was on a willow tree but I'm not certain of the tree species. It's a gorgeous composite of many tiny flowers. I've read that catkins are a popular food with bears, like the bear sow who I highlighted yesterday, at this time of year.
When I was home in the afternoon, our Abert's Squirrel came for a visit. I'll never get over how much I love his punk ears!
"Hey, who are you looking at?", he seemed to say.
He posed with his ears profiled against the forest light.
He's an amazing little animal. I'm surprised that he doesn't flee as soon as I come out the door. The first Abert's Squirrel that I ever saw was in the jaws of a bobcat as he sauntered past our living room windows. Today, as I inched ever closer to the squirrel for photos, I began to understand how a bobcat might be able to stalk and pounce on an Abert's Squirrel. It almost seemed as if the Abert's Squirrel didn't notice me but I'm sure that's not true. I hope that this squirrel survives to reproduce and bring us more Abert's Squirrels near our house!

Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, April 29, 2011

A bear and her cubs!

Yesterday was my lucky day. As I went about life, my favorite black bear sow led her new family past one of my wildlife cameras. One cub was next to mom and the other was lagging as s/he investigated something next to the path.
The lagging cub tried to catch up...

Mom must have decided that nothing in that direction struck her fancy because she led her cubs back the other way a couple of minutes later. This time, no one lagged.
I'm guessing that the family found a refuge spot near this path. A refuge spot would probably be a bit off the path, and it would be at the base of a huge tree with rough bark that the cubs can climb. In our area, a Ponderosa Pine would be ideal.

I speculate that the family rested together near the refuge tree for hours. Then, mom sent the cubs up the tree to hide and sleep while she foraged. She walked past my camera again in the afternoon. She's looking really good - she's fat and has shiny fur. It looks like some kind of wound is healing on her side. I believe that she's the same sow as the one who occupied the den that my camera monitored last winter.
Nothing in that direction held her attention so, within minutes, she headed back toward where she'd left the cubs. Look at the sole of her foot!
I saw bear tracks that walked perfectly in the week-old track from my snow bike a little ways down the path in the direction that the bear was traveling in the last photo. There was only one set of tracks so I'm betting that mom foraged in that direction too.
After I caught a glimpse of the bears on the viewfinder of my camera, I hightailed it away from that spot. I didn't want my presence to spook the family into leaving their refuge which I guessed was very nearby.

I made the many still photos of the bears, taken about every 0.1 seconds, into a short flipbook video which you can view below or at Youtube.

Based on what I've read and learned from following Lily the Black Bear, I know that a bear family with tiny cubs does not travel much at all. They go less than a mile at a time, and then tend to hunker down in a safe spot for many days. I hope that I didn't spook them when I checked my trail camera.

Compared to that snowy photo, it's very hard to believe that, later in my bike ride after checking the wildlife camera, I saw a flower called a Spring Beauty in a sunny meadow. It's a tiny gem, less than a half inch across. But, when I take the time to really look at it, it's delicate and gorgeous!

We ended our day yesterday with a romp far away from the meadow where we recently saw the coyote pack. We hiked up to Hug Hill, and R made the most of a snow drift!
When we arrived on the peak, the sun set was just starting. A tiny bit later, the sky was on fire!
Then, the orange faded to pink.
And, less than a minute later, only a touch of pink remained as K stood like a statue with her paws on the stump.
Wow, what a day!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mountain wildlife and mountain peace

Most days, our mountain world feels idyllic. Going for a hike relaxes me as I forget the little stuff that often clutters my mind. Yesterday, I was having back spasms, and thus, I was particularly eagerly looking forward to our evening stroll through the meadows and forests near our house. Any kind of movement, even walking, usually helps ease my spasms.

I have a routine with the Labraduo to prevent wildlife encounters. It involves starting each hike with the Duo on leash until we reach an open area where I can scan for wildlife, and then, if all is clear, I do a little remedial training to prepare them for whatever they might encounter during our hike. I focus on "stays" and recalls. So, in the intense setting sunlight, we practiced our stays and recalls yesterday evening.

K's chocolate fur glowed resplendently in the sun as she focused her laser-like attention on me.
R pretended to focus on me and held his stay. However, you can see that he was actually sampling the scents in the breeze.
When I called them, they both accelerated to warp speed in a few steps. I always reward recalls lavishly because I think that they're so important for the dogs' safety.
After training, we began meandering across the meadow, and I simultaneously scanned for wildlife. The late afternoon light looked gorgeous to me, and I gazed at nearby peaks. But, then, as I gazed, my eyes caught some movement down by the reddish willows in the foreground. I immediately called and leashed the Duo.
When the dogs were safely leashed, I used my telephoto lens to focus on the area of movement. There are three coyotes in the photo below. They're hard to pick out, showing how well their tawny fur camouflages them in the golden grass. The most obvious one is sitting in the upper left third of the photo. Another coyote is lying down to the left of the sitting one. Then, the least obvious one looks like a rock lying in the shadow of the willow in front of the more obvious coyotes.
After noting those three, I spotted a fourth, on the other side of the willow from the rock-like coyote.
At this point, the dogs hadn't noticed the coyotes mainly because the coyotes were stationary, and we were upwind of them. Consequently, I had time to zoom in on the pair of coyotes, both of whom were then sitting. They looked healthy, fluffy, and almost puppy-like bathed in a shaft of soft sunlight.
The coyotes contemplated me and Duo for a bit, and then they decided to flee behind the willow. You can also see part of the rock-like coyote unmoving in the very bottom of the photo,.
Due to the fast moving flight of the coyotes, the Duo became keenly aware of them, and pulled my arms so hard that they're about an inch longer now!

But, the rock-like coyote still didn't move. Through my telephoto lens, I could see him rotating his head, looking at us and sniffing the wind - so I knew that he was alive - but he didn't try to flee or hide.
I was worried about him. One coyote died on our property border last year after being shot several days earlier, and, just recently, I found the body of a coyote who had been shot and had died in the forest. So, as I watched this wild canine lying unmoving despite the flight of his cohorts, I speculated that he might be hurt. However, there was nothing that I could do except leave, to reduce his stress. He is, after all, a wild animal. I went back to the meadow this morning, without the dogs, and he was gone from that spot. A friend suggested that "he" might have been a "she" and be very pregnant, rendering her lethargic. I'll probably never know the answer unless a coyote turns up dead in the near future. I hope that doesn't happen.

Yesterday evening, I felt good that I'd spotted the coyotes before the dogs did and avoided a problem. I still had the dogs on leash 100 yards later when we crested a small ridge in the meadow. To my surprise, a large group of elk was standing only 50 yards away on the other side of the ridge. They'd been invisible to me until we reached the crest. I had a brief spike of adrenaline, not wanting to have a dog-elk encounter. Again, we were upwind of them, and they were stationary, so the Duo didn't immediately notice them. I briskly walked K and R to a huge tree and kept the tree trunk between dogs and the elk so that the dogs wouldn't see the elk. I asked the Duo for a down-stay, and I snapped a few photos as my adrenaline levels fell.
At that point, I decided that this particular sunset hike was going to be entirely on-leash. The wildlife seemed to be all around us so I didn't want to risk having my rambunctious pair of canines running free.

Then, a short time later, my decision to leash the Duo was validated when a bobcat bounded out of a boulder outcropping just in front of us. He jumped over a rocky escarpment and vanished. The Duo went almost insane with excitement. He'd crossed our path so near to us that we could see every detail of his fur.

So, although our world usually seems idyllic, it can be challenging to navigate nature with a pair of athletic and high-energy dogs. I train and train and train to prepare them for wildlife encounters but they're independent beings with their own minds. I'm 95% sure that I can call them away from any kind of wildlife. I believe that it's impossible to ever be 100% certain. So, I'm always scanning for wildlife and have their leashes close at hand.

Eventually, our hike calmed down as the sun set in a purple kaleidoscope sky.
I even dared to unleash K briefly for a photo. Then, the three of us sat on a rock and took some deep relaxing breaths to feel the mountain peace.
I love both parts of living in the mountains - the unpredictable wildlife and the peace. I felt both yesterday.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Tumultuous springtime

Within hours, our world switches between a winter wonderland and a springlike garden. All of these photos were taken in the past two days.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Winter in April

Nature is dousing us in the snow that we so desperately need to nourish the forests. It's a gift from the sky.

Yesterday, the Duo and I headed out into white-out conditions for our "sunset" hike. We didn't see the sunset. We just saw the white barrage of snowflakes out of the sky. First, K stopped to gaze at the blizzard, and snow rapidly gathered on her head.
Then, R decided to join her.
We had a spectacular hike. The dogs frolicked joyfully, like a pair of crazy puppies. By the end of it all, we had another 4" of heavy wet snow in our world. The snow almost instantly began to melt on the warm ground.

This morning, I decided that if the world gives you snow in late April, you need to have fun with it rather than scowl your way through the day. Of course, K helped immensely with my attitude - she's so happy to get outside and run regardless of whether winter has taken hold in April. And, winter really has taken hold - every day in the foreseeable future has a picture of a snowflake in the weather forecast.

In that spirit, I took out my Fatback snowbike, and K and I did a tour of our trail system. My snowbike climbed through the thick fresh snow like a monster truck, and K galloped exuberantly along side me. I felt stronger than I've felt in a long time because my physical therapist's treatments for my back spasms are finally working.

We saw lots of animal tracks, although no bear tracks. Several neighbors saw a large cinnamon bear yesterday, sleepwalking close to their houses. One of them said that the bear was moving as slowly as a sloth and didn't even react to a loud sound. I'd guess that he's still in the process of waking up from hibernation and wandering around with a very slow metabolism. It's called "walking hibernation" and continues for weeks after a bear wakes up.

Although we didn't see any new bear tracks, K and I saw a plethora of bobcat tracks. Early this morning, our bobcat followed my snowbike tire tracks from yesterday as he patrolled his territory. He eluded my wildlife cameras but left beautiful tracks.
So, it continues to be winter here but the Duo and I are having fun with it.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Easter Bear

It may be Easter but it's still snowy here! Our world was doused in another 2-4" of slop today. Thank goodness for the moisture that will feed the plants and animals.
But, at this time of year, each day that I wake up and see falling snow, I decide to go back to sleep rather than rush outside into it. But, eventually, due to the wonders of doggy persuasion, I end up snowbiking with K.
After playing down at lower elevations where some sun barely glowed through the clouds, my Fatback snowbike, K, and I slogged through the heavy goopy snow up to Hug Hill. The fog was swirling and impenetrable up high. Nonetheless, K and I stopped to play some games. She hopped on a stump for me.

First the leap...
Then, that precarious moment when she balanced on her front paws...
Finally, the finish...
The graceful athleticism of dogs never ceases to amaze me.

After I left K at home, I explored a maze of wildlife trails near my house on my snowbike. They are such a maze that it took me a full decade of exploring before I stopped getting lost on them on a regular basis. It was hard work pedaling through a combination of old crusty snow up to a foot deep plus the new snow from the past few days.

Exhausted, I stopped to have a snack and a drink. As I stood there in a tired stupor, a colorful rock shouted for my attention on this gray day. Look at those rust and yellow lichens!
Just after that, I paralleled bobcat tracks for a stretch. Despite having the option of walking on a wide and flat trail, the bobcat had walked on the precarious edge comprised of snow-covered and slippery rocks. Following his tracks made me smile.
Very soon after that, I made the big find of the day. A bear had walked along the trail, probably yesterday, just before the latest round of snow fell. In the photo below, he walked toward my camera. His paws were pigeon-toed in toward the midline of his tracks. He was walking briskly in this section, with his hind paws hitting the snow just ahead of where the front paws had just been.

He wasn't a huge bear. In fact, I wonder if he might have been a young bear navigating spring for the first time on his own.
He stopped at several bear "whammy" trees and his tracks showed that he stood up on his hind paws and rubbed his back against these pine saplings that have been broken and rubbed raw by many bear markings over the years. If you've never seen this hilarious behavior, you can check it out in my blog post or on my Youtube channel. I think that it's time to stake out a whammy tree with a trail camera!

So, we had a visit from the Easter Bear rather than the Easter Bunny! Ah, I love when the woods are alive with black bears!