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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween!

We live in an area that's terrible for trick-or-treating, and our house isn't visible from the road. So, we don't have Halloween decorations. We used to go trick-or-treating with our nephews in the big city (with our dogs walking along with us) but that tradition changed when Shyla arrived. She gets very spooked by costumes so we just stay in our mountain retreat for the day. It doesn't seem worth the work to try to help her overcome this particular fear for one day out of the year.

A couple of years ago, I did try to take Shyla to town on Halloween, much earlier than I thought that anyone would be out on the streets in costumes. Unfortunately, I was wrong. We ended up stranded, unable to get to our car to escape, because a large and loud group of kids in costumes was between us and our car. We found a bench far away from them and waited until they departed for us to sprint to the car to make our getaway to the mountains.
Today was a sunny day, and Shyla and I greeted the sun as it rose. I don't know why, but that tradition keeps my spirits up, almost no matter what.
When we're out there in the forest, with the sunlight filtering through the trees, I forget all that ails me as I watch Shyla prancing through the boulder-strewn world.
We ran across an elk skull (a few years old) during our time in the forest, and it seemed appropriate for Halloween. Shyla wasn't too happy that I wanted her pose with it but not chew on it!
We hope that none of the skulls you encounter this Halloween suddenly start moving under their own power, like our elk skull this morning! Shyla looked very alarmed!
Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Leaping into the Weekend

It felt truly like winter today. The world was freezing, and snow flakes were falling out of the sky.
It wasn't a serious snow - but it added to the wintry feel.
I hear that we might see the sun again this weekend. Shyla is happy about that because we'll be out there to see it rise!
Here's what we both think of these dreary gray days!
If I just let the shutter keep snapping, I capture some very funny expressions on Shyla's face!

It's been another rough week in terms of pain for me. Next week should start to bring some clarity about how to stop this pain. I am glad to report that I've managed to keep my spirits up this week by making sure I got outside to do the things I love.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

National Cat Day - My Trail Cam Cat Photos

I read that today is National Cat Day so I wanted to share some new bobcat mother and kitten photos plus some of my favorite wild cat photos from the past year. If you don't have much time, just look at the pictures - I tried to pick out the best ones!

Just the other early morning, the mother bobcat and her kittens passed a trail camera where they've never been before. The mother arrived first.

Here's a closeup of her. She is scent marking. That involves kicking backward once with each hind paw while urinating or defecating into the scrape marks. In this case, she urinated.

Just as she finished, her kittens arrived and dove for the spot that their mom had marked.

As Mom departed, she seemed to notice the trail camera and paused to look at it while her kittens lagged behind.

Then, mom moved along, and the kittens continued to roll in their mom's scent.

A few seconds later, one of the kittens sprinted after mom while the other remained behind.

Suddenly, the solo kitten realized that he'd been left behind. He looked up and sprinted away so fast that the camera couldn't record it!

That evening, mom headed out, past the same camera, to hunt for food for the family.
The location of the mother and kitten bobcats is exciting. It's in an area that I know extremely well, and I can even visualize where the mother might have stashed the kittens. We might get to see a lot of them in the coming days (but I won't go anywhere near the possible den site because it would disrupt the family).

In honor of National Cat Day, I thought I'd also share my favorite wild cat photos from the past year. The first one was of the same mother bobcat and her two kittens back in August. I think it's my favorite all-time bobcat photo taken by my trail cams.

For mountain lions, my cams have captured a lot of photos that I've liked over the past year. I've captured more photos of interactions between mother mountain lions and their kittens than ever before.

In this case, a mother lion and her kitten passed my trail camera. The kitten noticed it. This was the last photo before he pounced on it, and knocked it so it was pointing at the ground. He made me laugh when I looked at the photos later!

Also, about a year ago, the same mother mountain lion and her kitten played right in front of my trail camera.

Finally, mom got worried about something, and the play session ended.

This spring, a mountain lion family passed through our neck of the woods, and I was awed to see three long lithe tails in one photo. The mother mountain lion had done an amazing job of raising two kittens who looked close to the point of becoming independent.

Then, this year, we have been so lucky to get many glimpses of a mother mountain lion who has two young kittens in our area. Here is the mother...

And, it was a true treasure to get photos of her kittens. Here is my favorite (with mom's tail in the right of the photo):
I believe that kitten was less than 2 months old. The kittens have not appeared in front of the camera since that day. I'm not worried about them because the mother mountain lion has appeared going to and fro secluded areas frequently. No doubt, she's tending to her well-hidden kittens.

Last but not least, there's a "mountain lion spot" in a small clearing with a big old Ponderosa Pine in the middle of it. For the past 15 years, there have always been mountain lion "scrapes" (like the bobcat made in the first two photos of this post) and mountain lion scat around the tree. The first time I noticed all the signs of mountain lions there, I freaked out. I wasn't yet experienced with living with mountain lions, and I believed the sensational hype like what I'd read in the book "Beast in the Garden". In fact, I now believe that mountain lions watch me regularly, and they let me go about my business peaceably.

To make a long story short, I remembered the "mountain lion spot" when I got my first trail camera, and I put it there. Although there are sometimes long quiet periods, it has turned out to be a great place to get lion photos.

And here is the grand finale - my favorite mountain lion photo from my trail cams of all time.
Happy National Cat Day!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Wordless Wednesday - Sunrise in a Dark Forest

Spotlight on Shyla with spots of light filtering through the forest behind her

Fleeing the Darkness

A Beacon at Dawn

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Modifying Shyla's Training for my Spine

Training our Duo is one thing that has fallen off my radar since my spine pain became so bad. Finally, today, I started thinking about how I can modify our training games to make them possible for me to do despite my pain and lack of flexibility. I think it's possible, even though I truly do wish that I could play with the pups like before.

We have played a few little training games. In this example, I asked Shyla to rest her chin on her toy so I could get a photo or two for a photo challenge.
Shyla is such an experienced model for me that she peeks at me after a few shutter clicks to see if I'm pleased with what she's doing.
If she's unsure because I didn't communicate well enough, she tries out a slightly different look - looking off into the distance.
That little game didn't require any physical effort on my part, and we both had fun.

In other outdoor training games, I have to figure out alternatives to playing tug to reward her. The advantage to playing tug with a dog like Shyla is that it builds her confidence and drive.

We started a training game today with me simply rewarding her with treats. That has the upside of no physical strain on my spine but it doesn't get Shyla as excited about training as playing does.

To add playing to our repertoire, I'm thinking of trying very small tosses of a toy for her to retrieve as a reward for a job well done. That will rev up her excitement for training while hopefully not hurting me. It seems worth a try.

In any case, I know that I'll be happier if I can get back to our training program. Shyla will be happier too. I've noticed a nosedive in her confidence around new dogs and people since my spine started hurting so much. I suspect the nosedive is because I am less positive about everything and also I haven't been playing the confidence-boosting games with Shyla that we used to play. So, it's time to figure out how to return to our training program!
Here's to new starts and figuring out how to live life fully despite obstacles!

Monday, October 26, 2015

As the Bobcat World Turns

The bobcat family has been active recently. This is the mother bobcat, out on her own. She had probably stashed the kittens in a den.

At first, she looked like she was "all business", walking briskly past the camera.
Then, after she had passed the spot that most animals mark (at the base of the bear marking tree to her right), she started to act goofy.
Then, she got even more goofy, rolling over on her back like her kittens do.
As quickly as she'd arrived, she leaped to her feet and departed. When I've seen the seemingly stoic bobcats and mountain lions around here, it never occurred to me until now that they do let down their guard and goof around like this.

A couple of hours later, the mother bobcat walked past the same camera again. This time, she carried a mountain cottontail rabbit, that she had just killed. She was carrying it to the den for her kittens to eat.
 She seemed to sidestep past the spot where she'd acted so goofy just hours earlier.
Then, I had no more sightings of the family until ten days later.

One afternoon last week (3:30PM on 10/22), a pair of bobcat kittens came out of their den to check out the world. I love how dappled with spots their fur coats are by comparison to their mom's coat. These are trail camera photos zoomed in on the kittens.
You may remember that our last sighting of the bobcat kittens with their mom involved a skunk causing the family to scatter. After the skunk passed, one kitten didn't reappear, even though the mom and the remaining kitten remained in the area for hours. These photos tell me that both kittens are fine.
They also show us the kittens' first experience with snow. It snowed a few hours before these photos were taken. The snow melted very fast after it fell.
The two kittens were playful in front of the camera. I love seeing their bright white but spotted bellies! It's even a better view than we had of their mother's belly 10 days earlier.
I'm guessing that mom was nearby, keeping an eye on the two kittens but not joining in their play.

I'm so happy that our world still has places where the wildlife can relax and just be themselves. Our neck of the woods is notably still that way because there's so little human "traffic" on the trails.

That's why I work so hard at training our dogs, especially focusing on being able to recall them away from all animals.
I think it helps keep our dogs and the wildlife safe.  And, it's fun! I will write soon about the hit that our training has taken since my spine injury and how I'm trying to adapt.

But, for today, I'm mainly happy to see that the two bobcat kittens are both fine!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Colors of October

This post has a photographic synopsis of our October colors.

In the first half of the month, sunrise light was growing more dramatic while the golden aspen leaves were still on the trees.

Later in the month, a stormy front arrived and stuck around for days and days. Initially, it looked beautiful with the golden leaves. But then, its rain, snow, and wind stripped the leaves from the trees.

Although the gold is gone from our landscape, sunrises and sunsets have lit the now wintry clouds afire, making a new kind of color in our world.

Fortunately, Shyla loves to stand atop boulders, and I love photographing her silhouette. We're a good combination!

And, she'll stay there, even as the light fades from the sky.
Happy Sunday!