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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mountain lion flurry

We've had a flurry of mountain lion activity lately. I believe that the mountain lions are focused on our area due to the elk herd that recently arrived. I checked one of my trail cameras and departed...
About an hour later, a lion came through, pausing to look over his shoulder in front of the trail camera.
Then, he sniffed the base of a bear tree.
More sniffing. I liked this photo because of the elegance of his long flowing tail.
After thoroughly sniffing the area, the mountain lion wriggled on his back. I hadn't ever visualized mountain lions being so goofy until recently.
He continued his antics for almost a minute, and then stood up and shook, as shown in the next photo, just before departing.
In the following 10 days, many visitors marked the same spot, include coyotes and bobcats. Then, another mountain lion arrived. I'm calling both lions "he" because it's nearly impossible to definitively tell the difference between males and females from photos. However, I suspect that the first mountain lion was either a young adult or a female, based size and coloring, and that this second mountain lion was a male.
He turned and sniffed the area where the other mountain lion had wriggled.
And then he dove into the scent.

Finally, he rubbed the side of his face on a rock near that spot, before he too departed.
I'm not sure what I'm seeing here... but, as I said, I wonder if there's a female "in season" in our area, leading to far more marking behavior than I've seen in the past.

I also noticed that there were numerous "scrapes", where the lion had kicked back with his two hind paws and then urinated, in the area of my cameras after the second lion's visit but not after the first one's visit. That strengthened my guess that the second one was a male because they "scrape" far more extensively than females.

Mountain lions can have kittens all year long, and many do have them in the winter. So, it wouldn't be too surprising if a female were in heat now.

After all this big cat activity, I'm trying to be extra aware of my surroundings when I'm out in the woods. Today, a deer watched me and Shyla walk through the forest shortly after sunrise.
It was Shyla who alerted to me to the doe's presence when her nose started sniffing and then she looked intently at the deer. Believe it or not, she didn't even think about chasing the deer.
What a good girl!

Monday, October 29, 2012


Shyla and I climbed up to a plateau to see the sunrise today. When we looked to the west, the snowy mountains glowed in the sun's golden light.
A raven soared high above us with the sunrise reflecting off his wings, making him look like an exotic bird with orange spots.
We relaxed in those first few moments of the day. Shyla is wide eyed and excited about every single day. I adore the dog spirit!
It felt eerie in one way. I shared so many sunrises with K on this same plateau. Now, I'm sharing them with a different dog, one who I'm getting to know so very fast. Shyla's personality and looks are so different from K's yet sometimes I see glimpses of K in Shyla, like in the photo above.

I find myself searching for K's paw prints in the snow. Since I love tracking wildlife in the snow, I'm always scanning the snowy ground for paw/hoof imprints. K had a distinctive three-toed paw, after losing one toe to a bone infection, and her pawprint would always catch my eye as I scanned. So, after this past snow storm, I found myself automatically expecting to see K's tracks and then remembering, all over again, that I wouldn't be seeing them. Of all the places on Earth, K's spirit feels the strongest to me out on our trails where she spent so many happy hours even though her pawprints are conspicuously absent.

Shyla grounds me in the present. My sweet girl is truly becoming a daughter of the mountains.
We are thinking of all of you who are in the path of the big storm. We hope that you are well and safe.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Best Friends and Our Thundering Herd

My black and white photo for today was from before the snow, during a hike with both dogs. They are best friends already, as you can see from them running side-by-side almost in perfect sync.

Today, in the snow, Shyla and I set out for our morning hike. I've been working on "heeling" with her every morning for the first ten minutes of our hike. She learns so fast that she's already doing the "heeling" part of the hike without a leash.

Well, we had a big surprise waiting for us this morning. We arrived at the mouth of the meadow, with Shyla in heel position, and 100 elk thundered across our path. I happened to have a telephoto lens on my camera instead of a wide angle so I never captured the whole herd in one photo. First, the elk briefly watched us from an aspen grove, deciding what to do next.
The matriarch, who is the "boss" of the herd, must have decided that they should go for it. They had to jump a fence to get started.
Then, they strung out as they ran across the meadow in full view of us.
As they departed the other side of the meadow, a few stopped to gaze at us. I was surprised that they were so unperturbed by us in the midst of hunting season.
I took advantage of the opportunity to teach Shyla that her "commands" hold even when a thundering herd arrives unannounced. I leashed her while the herd was very close to us, while having her do a sit-stay. Then, I started working on her off-leash training as soon as the elk were out of sight. Their scent was so strong that it lingered in the meadow for a long time. If I could smell them, imagine how strong the scent was for Shyla!

Shyla did a sit-stay, but with her attention in the direction that the elk had gone.
I let her run around in the area where the elk tracks pocked the snow and then called her back to me. She was the picture of intensity, both while running free and during the recalls.
Mmmm, what a smell.
I'm not sure what is "different" about Shyla - but she is learning so fast. She seems to have incredible self-control and focus for her age.
And, she's an incredible friend, so sensitive and focused on her humans. It's been a rough year but having Shyla join our family has helped us more than I thought was possible.

I hope that all of you on the East Coast of the US stay safe.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

R joins the fun

Yesterday was truly a winter wonderland. I rode my snowbike all over the forest, gazing in awe at crystal scenes like this one. I hated to even ride through scenes like this one... they were so beautiful with no signs of humans (although you can see the deer tracks on the left of the trail).
The only sound was the crunch of my snowbike tires as they compacted the fresh snow.
Many of you asked where R has been lately. Our normal routine is that R runs with the Runner in the morning, doing zoomies of his own. But, this morning, all four of us played together during a snowy hike.
R is seeming more like himself in terms of energy. He's still about 5 lbs too light, and we're having trouble fattening him up despite an entire extra meal every day. We're trying not to think about his odd red blood cells that haven't gone away ("acanthocytes"). We and the vets hope that the bad cells will go away on their own. The alternatives are too scary to spend much time thinking about. It's better just live than to worry about what might happen in the future.

The two Labs ran in the meadow together. First away from us...
And then back to us when we called.
R has risen to the occasion of being a great big brother. I never visualized him in this role in the past because he's always been the youngest. Now, he leads the way on recalls during hikes, and he obliges his sister with lots and lots of playing around the house. Indeed, he even instigates some of it. Last but not least, he loves to sleep snuggled against his little sister (photos coming soon). This is a new side of R - and I adore it.
His sister was her usual well-behaved but goofy self during our hike. This seems to be a favorite tail position for her when she gallops.
At one point, I asked Shyla to do a sit-stay while the boys forged ahead. Her eyes opened very wide as she watched the "fun" move ahead of us. Don't worry - the sit-stay didn't last long!
At the end of our hike (and the start of my snowbike ride), the dreaded wind began. The snow was blown out of the trees and hit my face like icy pellets.
Fortunately, it didn't blow like this all the time, and I had another beautiful and very quiet snowbike ride. On the remote trails I followed, I found bear tracks, which I followed for a while, hoping that they might lead me to a den. No such luck... but it was another glorious day in Colorado.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Winter Fun!

Winter time fun and games! More snow fell last night, and we played in it this morning.
Shyla adores playing in the snow. She bounds around at a million miles per hour, making me laugh out loud.
She's gained so much muscle in the time she's been with us that she is a rippling Labrador now!
Magically, the clouds lifted during our time in the forest.
I've been spending time teaching Shyla about my bike but we haven't really gone for a ride because she's a little too young for faster riding. However, snowbiking is another story. When the snow isn't packed, I average about 3 mph on the level. That's not any faster than normal hiking so I let Shyla do a short ride with me today.

Of course, from the photos, you can't tell the difference. I just happened to be on a crazy looking bike with 4" wide tires rolling along next to her instead of hiking. She seemed pretty stoked about it!
When she first arrived in our family, she was not comfortable even standing next to a bike. So, like everything else, I took it slow and steady. First, I gave her treats for standing next to the stationary bike. Then, I had her touch the bike with her nose. Later, she and I "took my bike for a walk" while I fed Shyla treats. After that, I started straddling the bike and feeding Shyla treats. In the past week, we made a huge breakthrough when she was willing to accept treats from me as I rode the bike. That's key in training a dog to run next to your mountain bike. If she'll take treats as you ride, you can start training behaviors like "heeling" next to the bike.

I didn't ask much from Shyla today in terms of training. We just mosied along, and she played in the snow. I wanted her to see how much fun the crazy 2-wheeled contraption could be. I stopped to take lots of photos of her zooming in circles around me.
And, when she stopped running, she was covered in snow!
Happy, happy, happy!
This girl and I are going to have so many adventures together. She's an amazing athlete, and she's incredibly trainable. I can visualize us riding high in the Rocky Mountains together next summer. The snow will be replaced by wildflowers, and we'll feel the soft kiss of the sun on our shoulders. She'll swim in high mountain lakes, and we'll hug on top of mountain passes. Ah, the life that we have ahead of us...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Snow and bobcat mother-kitten

This was the sight outside our bedroom this morning. Winter is here!
I have to be honest. I wasn't terribly excited about going out in it - I gradually develop my "winter state of mind" as the season wears on. But, Shyla was very excited, so we went!
It was a decent layer of snow (5" or so) and more is supposed to fall tonight. One of the things that I love about winter weather is that almost no one else goes out in it so I can hear the true silence of the forest. My snow bike track is shown on an otherwise untouched trail below.
Shyla kept getting the wildest snow beards. She was so full of happy zoomies in the snow that I barely captured any photos of her unless I asked her sit still!
I have a bit of catching up to do on my trail camera photos because I've captured some extraordinary cat behavior recently (bobcat and mountain lion). But, first, let me answer Lily's question about where the camera that I won in the contest (thanks to your votes) is posted. It's still posted next to my house. I always do this with a new model of camera so that I can optimize the settings before I put it someplace remote. I'm learning that this Spypoint Camera will work best in a place where the animals are not moving fast because it's not great at freezing motion at night but takes great daytime and still nighttime photos. I have an idea for a perfect spot where animals like to lounge and hang out. Now, I just need some decent weather to get it to the spot.

In the meantime, I first have to move another camera. It makes me sad that someone spotted one and then spent a couple of minutes *behind* it, doubtless looking at the lock wrapped around the tree. I automatically move a camera when this happens so that the person can't come back with heavy duty tools to steal it. But, just in case, if you happen to be the one who saw this camera and went behind it, I'd be grateful if you could email me about it (kynabear5 at gmail dot com). I've been monitoring that spot non-stop since April, and the male bears who are heading for dens will pass it in the next month. I'd love to get a full season of bear footage for that spot in the woods.

I wanted to show you an extraordinary series of photos of a bobcat mother and her kitten. They arrived in a clearing that I've had staked out with a trail camera for years now. Almost every species of large mammal in our area visits this clearing from time to time. Here, the pair arrived.
This is a spot where mountain lions, bears, and other animals have marked their territory regularly. These two bobcats were very interested in the tree.
Indeed, they seemed interested in something that was *up* in the tree.
The two of them walked away from the tree briefly and looked as if they were whispering to each other.

Then, they were both distracted by something to the side.
As they scanned, the kitten looked straight at the camera. What a cutie!
Then, it appeared as if mom told the kitten something serious. He even rocked his weight backward away from her. Perhaps she was chastising him for something.
They disappeared from view for a little bit, and then they both reappeared in the view. There are TWO bobcats in this photo. Do you see them both? I missed one of them at first.
Here's a zoomed version to help you. Mom was on her way up the tree. I've captured photos of her carrying tree squirrels away from this site before. I wonder if she was heading up the tree to try catch one?
The kitten stayed there, looking up toward his mom for a while. Then he wandered away. I suspect that mom came down via a different tree because I didn't get any footage of her descent.
I thought that this series of photos of mom and her kitten plus tree-climbing was the most fascinating bobcat series that I've ever captured.

Our bobcats are out there tonight, in the snow, working to make a living. I hope it's not too rough.