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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Running headlong toward winter

A step in the transition to winter...
Look behind the Labraduo atop Hug Hill. Yes, that's snow on the mountains and a winter blanket of clouds clinging to them. It appears that the high mountains got a good covering of the white stuff last night.
And I needed winter layers plus mittens to ride this morning...
We are now running, rather than inching, toward full-on winter.
The golden leaves are coming down fast but there are still groves that glow with color.
For the moment, I'll still focus on the golden hues. I'm not ready to take out the Snow Bike yet - although I know that the snow on the horizon will be coming to our elevation soon.
As I gazed at the mountains today, I was reminded that I love the beauty and quiet of winter.

P.S. I must also say how sad I was to read of Dr. Sophia Yin's passing. She taught the world so much about how to help fearful dogs like Shyla. As I look at Shyla today, I feel great gratitude for all Dr. Yin did while on this Earth to help the Shylas of the world but I also feel sadness that she won't be continuing to use her scientific training to teach people how to rehabilitate fearful pets.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Mountain Lion Kitten

In a gully that I know that bears and mountain lions love, I discovered that my trail camera had captured some of the sweetest mountain lion photos I've seen.

A young mountain lion was walking cautiously up the gully, and for some reason, my camera caught his attention.
His eyes were glued to it. This photo also shows the stripes on the inside of his left front leg, a sign that he's a young one.
His brow furrowed as he tried to figure out what the camera was.
Being young and bold, he started to approach the camera.
He lowered his body to move even closer.
He seemed to decide it wasn't a threat.
And took another step closer. He actually looks kind of cute to me, in a kittenish-way.
Then, he decided to rub his face and neck on the camera. I think he was marking it although it's possible he was just sniffing it.
Then, he departed, with a final photo of the tip of his tail.
I saw no sign of his mother on that trail camera. She could have been moving on a slightly different path or they could have split up for a brief period (that's common as kittens grow up). This kitten look a little too young to be completely on his own yet.

About a month ago, I captured photos of what I believe to be an adult female mountain lion, not too far away from where the kitten was photographed. The interesting thing about the photos of the female was her incessant calling - which could have been for her kitten. Look at that gape!
She stood in that clearing and called about three times. She let loose with her final call as she walked out of the clearing.
I really wished I had an audio recording of the sounds she made. I suspected that she was calling a kitten who she'd become separated from but I don't know for sure. I wonder if the youngster in the first series of photos is her kitten. It's fun to try to piece together the wildlife stories underway in our forest.

I adore finding photos of mountain lions on my cameras. The level of lion activity in our neck of the woods has been so high this year. I'm not sure why - although one notion is that some summer logging activity in other sections of the forest has caused the lions to spend more time in the undisturbed parts of the forest.

I'm being extra careful with the Duo so they aren't off-leash at the times of day when mountain lions tend to move through our neck of the woods.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Black Dog Sunday

As most of you know, I get far fewer opportunities to photograph our sweet R than Shyla. But, I really love getting photos of him in golden aspen season so we went out the other evening for some photos around sunset.
After many years of photographing R, I have *finally* learned that strong sunlight makes black dog photography even harder. So, I like to wait until we have soft light around sunset.
And, R always looks very intense at that time of day. I think the wildlife are stirring, and he knows it.
Happy Black Dog Sunday!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Fleeting Golden World

We know it can't last forever. The sweet warm days of autumn with golden light everywhere make me wish that time could stand still.
Today seems to be the leaf-peeping day of the year around here. Over the past few weeks, Shyla and I haven't seen anyone on our mountain bike rides on the trails near our house. Today we saw four people, all of whom were visiting the area to see the fall foliage.

The happy news was that Shyla wanted to meet and greet everyone, and they all loved her! I've started calling her "our little ambassador". Two years ago, I would have laughed at anyone who suggested that I'd ever call her an "ambassador" because she was so shy!

This morning, we almost exclusively rode in aspen groves. I can't do anything else right now because soon the leaves will be gone. Inside the aspen groves, the whole world looks golden.
Shyla is better at enjoying what we have today and not thinking about the future than I am.
But, unlike Shyla, I noticed that some of my favorite colored trees are starting to lose their leaves. This red-leafed aspen clung to a few remaining leaves.
My happy girl doesn't seem to mind the falling leaves.
She makes me smile and keeps reminding me to revel in today rather than worrying about tomorrow.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Of Mice and Lions

Last night, we were out until after dark. When we got home, we turned on all the lights, and were quietly working at our computers. A mouse chose that moment to scurry out from under the baseboard heater. I screamed and ran from the room. (We caught the mouse overnight, and released it in a meadow. I'm hoping he's a loner.)

So, I have no explanation for why it did not freak me out this morning when I saw that a mountain lion had walked past exactly the spot where I was sitting on the ground checking a trail camera. A mouse scares me but a mountain lion doesn't?
The mountain lion was wearing a GPS collar as part of a never-ending study in our area. Based on size, I'm guessing that this is a female or sub-adult male. S/he walked right past the spot where other lions have stopped, transfixed by the scent on an elk bone that a dog left there months ago.
Shyla was with me, and she gave me no signal that a big predator had been nearby (unless the wink in the next photo was supposed to alert me!).
I did, however, ask Shyla to watch my back while I took closeup photos of a "cheetah" aspen leaf so no one could sneak up behind me.
Fear is a weird thing. Mice anywhere in the vicinity scare me but evidence of a mountain lion nearby does not. That oddity helps me to realize that I may never completely understand what Shyla labels as scary and what she labels as benign.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Autumn at its Peak

The world is so bright that Shyla almost needs shades!
One of my favorite sights is Shyla's golden eyes next to golden aspen leaves.
We've reached that time of year when we feel like we need to hurry to fit in all the fun stuff that we want to do before winter is here. Most mornings are chilly now, and the sometimes the Divide looks like it has winter storm clouds over it. They look particularly dramatic with the patches of golden aspen groves in the forest below them.
We visit Hug Hill almost every day now because the snow tends to get too deep to visit it easily in mid-winter. That makes us appreciate it even more at this time of year.
But, the unique part of this time of year is not very apparent on Hug Hill. The golden aspens are down lower, and I can't get enough of them. I love the golden backdrop as we play.
A few wildflowers are still blooming. I stop and appreciate them, knowing that we will have many months when all the flowers are sleeping.
Happy Autumn!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Special Day

Today was K's birthday. She would've been 11 years old. Her life was a gift to me, and I still think of her every day.

Every year, we took her and our other dogs to DogLeap Lake to celebrate her special day. Here she was, during one of her last celebration outings.
K and R were great playmates, especially in the water. They often brought sticks to shore together.
The year that K died, we decided that we needed to keep this tradition alive - to celebrate K's life and enduring spirit. R knew the celebration tradition, and he taught his new sister well.
When K was alive, R was the younger brother who followed her lead. Now, R is the leader.
And he plays his new role well. He frequently wins the races with Shyla to fetch the sticks.
But Shyla wins on occasion. As Shyla has grown up, R has sometimes let her win, and that has given her the confidence to go for it!
Happy Birthday, K. Thank you for teaching us to celebrate life. We are trying to follow your lessons well. But I wish you were here to keep teaching us. I miss you so much.
The biggest lesson that K taught us was "Carpe Diem", and I still try to live by it.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Cats and Dogs

All summer long, a bobcat has been walking past a trail camera next to our house that has a super bright flash.
The flash doesn't seem to bother her... she has visited very regularly for months, leaving territorial scrapes and scat in strategic spots near our house.
I was surprised by her behavior. Usually, bobcats start avoiding trail cameras that flash brightly after a few passes. I've shown you only 2 photos but the camera captured many many more.

Well, I discovered one reason why she might have been staying in a small territory over the past couple of months. There's a bobcat in the foreground of the next photo, and there's another one in the background. I think the bobcat in the foreground is a kitten!!!!!!!!!!!

Yipee! I love getting glimpses of our wildlife's secret world like this. The funniest part is that the dogs and I were probably on the deck a very small distance from these two sneaky cats!

Although we have bobcats around our house regularly, I've never captured photos of a mountain lion near our house. They seem to give the road and the houses a wide berth. I have trail cameras that are around a half mile from our house, deeper in the forest, that see mountain lions regularly.

Just recently, I captured photos of a lion heading through our neck of the woods.
His attention was caught by the scents at the base of a bear marking tree that he was passing, and he turned suddenly.
Then, he lay down to sniff the scents more closely. Almost every animal who passes a bear marking tree slows down to sniff the ground below it.
I loved how his tail remained taut while he laid still to sniff.
Some animals, including some mountain lions, will even roll around to leave their own scent under these trees. This guy didn't - he hurried on his way.
It is the season when I find that my trail cameras get far less wildlife traffic going past them than the rest of the year. I suspect that some of the animals take advantage of the huge elevation differences over short distances in our area. So, at this time of year, they can walk 5 miles and drop by 3,000' in elevation - which makes a huge difference in the weather. It's much more summer-like down lower than here.

The leaves haven't even started to change yet at lower elevations. At our elevation, almost all the leaves have turned color.
Here, autumn is in full swing, and winter is not far behind. So, my Shyla and I are making the most of these colorful days!