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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Bobcat Family

Using trail cameras, we've been following a mother bobcat and her kittens this summer. For most of August, my cameras mainly captured photos of the mother carrying prey to the den but occasionally getting images of the kittens out of the den with their mom.
In late August, the mother brought the kittens out to play shortly after she'd served them a breakfast of freshly caught squirrel. They played at the base of a bear-marking tree where I had a trail camera that shoots video. I've learned over the years that many animals are attracted to bear-marking trees, including bobcats.
Then, one morning recently, the family was startled by a skunk. The kittens scattered and mom ran directly away from the skunk and out of the view of the camera. I don't think any of the family was sprayed because I didn't smell any trace of skunk in that vicinity the next morning.

However, after the skunk caused them to scatter, the mother had only one kitten with her. At first, the mother didn't seem concerned, and she played adorably with one kitten in front of my camera (again, at the base of a bear-marking tree). They both rolled, showing us their incredibly spotted bellies.

A couple of minutes later, the other kitten still hadn't returned. Atypically, the mother bobcat and her kitten stayed out on the wildlife trail for hours in the same area. Usually, mother bobcats don't use main wildlife trails with their kittens until winter, when the kittens are much bigger. The mother looked around her vigilantly, perhaps waiting for her 2nd kitten to return. I wish I'd been recording audio because I suspect the mother did some cat-calling to try to bring him back.

I've made a video of all this action which I hope you enjoy watching! You can watch it at Youtube also.


Monday, September 28, 2015

A Glimpse of the Lunar Eclipse

The last week has been glorious. The sky has been a deep blue with almost no clouds in it. The aspens have become more and more brilliant, looking gorgeous against the sky.
Shyla and I have enjoyed beautiful bike rides together, soaking up the fleeting autumn colors.
Then, yesterday about an hour before sunset, a bank of clouds moved in. Oh no, I thought... I'd been looking forward to my first attempt at photographing a total lunar eclipse. I'd been out around our area with a compass and the projected path of the moon, figuring out the best vantage point.

The whole pack walked to my chosen vantage point together just before moonrise. Neither of us humans dared to voice the opinion that we weren't going to see the moonrise. Finally, the Runner saw a glimmer behind the clouds, approximately 30 minutes after moonrise and even longer after the eclipse had begun. Still, I didn't have a clear view of the moon.

However, we both spotted a gap in the layers of clouds where we thought the moon just might appear, ever so briefly. And it did.
The gap was substantial enough that I could spend the time to figure out the best camera settings to get a wide view of the ridge to the east and a good exposure of the moon. Moreover, during the time that the moon was visible, the color of the clouds morphed from the post-sunset orange (in the previous photo) to the later-after-sunset pink that I love so much.
Then, after about 15 minutes of enjoying the moon view, the clouds covered it again. The rest of the pack headed for home. I, the ever hopeful photographer, lay in the grass, watching for another glimmer of the moon.

It was so peaceful lying there, gazing at the sky. I suddenly realized that a city-person would think I was crazy feeling so safe lying in my little spot in the meadow. But, I did. I trusted that the coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, elk, deer, bears, and moose would catch my scent and go around me. And they did.

I didn't glimpse the moon again. However, I was happy with what I'd managed to capture in the brief moments that the moon graced us with its face.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Golden Sunday

Our whole world has turned to gold with deep blue skies.
Entire hillsides glow.
The aspen gold is almost the same color as Shyla's eyes.
I love autumn.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Alpine Autumn

A week ago, we were high in the Rockies, enjoying camping in a place where autumn had blossomed in all its glory.

We awakened to a beautiful sunrise, reflected off a lake below us, early one morning.
Just after sunrise, the sun's rays lit up Shyla's fur, making it look reddish. I love the light at sunrise!
We went back to sleep after sunrise because it was still below freezing in our campsite. When we finally found it to be warm enough to leave our sleeping bags, Shyla and I went for a mountain bike ride.

The golden aspens on the slopes around us shined brilliantly.
It was hard to keep moving. I kept wanting to stop and take photos. The combination of rugged peaks and golden aspens is incredible.
While I took photos,  Shyla kept zooming around, filled with incredible happiness.
Shyla continues to surprise me with her new trusting and outgoing attitude. While we were at a beautiful viewpoint, a pair of BIG guys wearing helmets and other gear rode up on ATVs. Instinctively, I started to assess how to prevent Shyla from being scared by them.
While I was forming a plan to keep Shyla from being scared, she trustingly wandered over to greet them as they got off their ATVs. They were super nice to her, petting and playing with her. After meeting them, she was so happy about her new friends that she did zoomies in a circle around the two men and their ATVs. I just smiled and laughed - and I didn't explain to them how amazing her behavior was. I think it's time for me to stop telling people that Shyla was fearful. It's a label that we can leave behind, especially when we're in her home territory - the mountains.

She is so at home in the mountains that I almost never see any signs of fear anymore. The city is a different story but that's not where we live. Even I get stressed out in the city!
Her zoomies made her pant in the warm sun so she cooled off by splashing around in a small pond surrounded by autumn-colored willows. You can barely see her tail in the right part of the pond in this photo.
Then we headed back toward camp. To my delighted surprise, I noticed a Fireweed still blooming inside the ruins of a mining cabin. The logs and foundation rocks must hold enough heat to help a plant keep blooming so late at over 11,000' elevation.
It was a relaxing and gorgeous trip. I hope that we can do even more autumn traveling in future years!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Fantastic Friday - A Reunion

Today, I just had to go check trail cameras to see if we'd gotten any glimpses of the bear family. The first photo I came upon was intriguing - an adult bear with a black cub. And, in subsequent photos after this pair had moved on, a chocolate cub ran past the camera so fast that he was a blur.
My heart started beating faster. I thought that, maybe just maybe, the bear family who had lost their black cub had reunited. I hopped on my bike and sprinted to another nearby camera.

The first photos were of the chocolate cub and mom walking very close together.
Mom forged ahead...
And then the chocolate cub walked almost on her heels. No sign of a black cub yet.
About 30 seconds later, a black cub passed the same camera. I literally let out a small whoop of happiness as I stared at the tiny image on the camera screen.
I believe that the family is reunited. One cub or the other lagging behind is normal... My only niggling question is whether it's conceivable that we have a second bear family in the forest with two different colored cubs (seems unlikely to me!). The reason why that question is bugging me is that I didn't think that the mother looked exactly like she has looked in the past. However, bears change fast at this time of year - getting fatter by the day and growing their winter coats.

For the moment, I am cautiously celebrating. Our little Braveheart is with her family!!!!!!

Shyla felt that such a monumental event was worthy of a treat party!
Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Throwback Thursday

Recently, our Angel K would have turned 12 years old. That's not an especially old age for a Lab. Little did we know when she was a tiny puppy that her star would burn so brightly but for such a short time.
We did know, right from the beginning, that one look from her eyes would melt us.
When she first arrived, one of our first dogs, Astro, was almost 16 years old and loved her despite her crazy puppy antics.

As she grew up, her eyes became more brilliant. She's an almost one year old dog in this photo.
We lost K's brother Astro within about six months of her arrival. Our pack rapidly changed. We adopted, S, a yellow Lab, when he was about 10 years old. We had a wonderful 4 years with him. He's on the left in the photo below.

And, while S was still with us, the black puppy who you all know arrived. You can tell in the portrait below that he was going to be a wild and wonderful dog!
I still feel like my heart has been ripped out when I really let myself think about losing K so young. I loved her like crazy, and I still love her.

But every ending is a new beginning... and I've learned to live a happy life despite K's physical absence. Sometimes I feel as if Shyla has a little bit of K's soul in her.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Wordless Wednesday

Announcement of R's arrival at our campsite

An autumn leap

Soaking up the view

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Smile-Worthy Wonders of the World

Part of why I try to immerse myself in nature so much is the chronic pain I've had for a very long time now. It started when I was a teenager, and I thought it was normal for my neck to hurt and to send shooting pains down my arms. That was the start of a long saga of spine pain that continues today.

I've had a tough time finding an upbeat feeling for this post today because my evil sciatic nerve won't stop torturing me. 

However, I looked at a few photos, and I knew I had a post! On our second day in the land of golden aspens, I rode my bike into the groves by myself so I could take as many photos as I wanted. I looked at this photo today, and I smiled. Wow - we live in an incredible world!
Then, I remembered how funny Shyla was during our playtime high in the mountains. She used to be afraid when I got down low to photograph her as she ran toward me. Now, she runs almost directly into my lens, not slowing very much at all! That resulted in this funny photo. It made me smile too!
Last, but not least, I love seeing the stars from the darkness of the wilderness. They extend further than my mind can imagine, sparkling with light and with wonder.

I didn't even know that the stars made circles around the North Star due to the Earth's rotation until I started taking photos of the stars. Photography has taught me to notice and appreciate so much more about our world.
So, those are my three "smile" photos for the day. I hope that they made you smile too!

An autumn alpine retreat

We did a quick getaway this weekend to enjoy the golden alpine world. We headed for a campsite we've visited before. We drove up a forest road that was like a golden tunnel to get to the campsite.
The road was lines with dense aspen groves that glowed gold.
We arrived around sunset and settled in to our cozy little camp. The sky was so clear that the stars seemed endless.
Sunrise the next morning promised a clear and sunny day!!!! If you look closely, you can see that one star in the upper left was still visible just before the sun peeked over the eastern horizon.
We had a glorious weekend, camping at around 11,000' with endless alpine tundra all around us. We all had a blast playing among the mountains and gazing at the golden aspens coloring entire ridges.

Shyla jumped for joy!
I'll tell you more about our autumn adventure in upcoming posts!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Black Dog Sunday

I often don't have our black dog with me when I come upon wonderful backdrops for photos. This past week was different!

I got to see R running under the Rainbow!
 And I also had the chance to see R sitting in the midst of an incredibly golden aspen grove.
Here's to our Black Dog!!!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Spirits of the Labraduo

Last week, I captured photos of both dogs that I felt really showed their spirits. R is the wild and crazy class clown. His exuberance is contagious. He lives life to the fullest, never missing a chance for fun. R also has a soft side that loves snuggling and making people laugh.

Shyla is full of wonder and hope. While she can be rough and tumble like her brother, her heart is sensitive to an extreme. While that sensitivity can cause her to feel fear, it now mostly makes her behave very sweetly and gently with anyone who she perceives as feeling sad. Her sensitivity has become one of my favorite parts of her.

They are an amazing pair - so different from each other yet bonded very strongly to each other. We love our Labraduo!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Bear Family Update

My trail cameras have captured more photos of the bear family, which is still divided.

One afternoon recently, the chocolate cub entered the frame near a bear marking tree (it's in the center of the photo).
Usually, this cub is interested in the marking trees. However, on this day, he hurried on past it.
His mother, however, was very interested in it. Look at how her fur color is changing as she grows her winter coat. She was almost all cinnamon in the spring, with slightly darker legs than body (hence her name "Socks"). Now she's half cinnamon and half chocolate!
She decided to mark the tree. I've been told that females do the majority of their territorial marking in the time just before hibernation.
You can see that her nipples are still enlarged. Den cams in Minnesota have shown that mothers continue to nurse their yearling cubs during their second winter of hibernation together.

But she didn't stay for long. Soon she was hurrying after her cub.
Sadly, the black injured cub was not with them.

However, the black cub showed up on a trail camera about 0.4 miles from this spot a couple of days later. The camera shoots rapidfire still photos. It looked as if she was using her injured back right paw now. Compared to how she was in earlier videos, this is a huge improvement.
I am confused by the fact that this cub is in such close proximity to her family but she hasn't rejoined them. I am starting to wonder if her mother is not accepting her back into the family. I had one very blurry photo that suggested that she was being chased by something about a week ago. At that time, I knew that her mother was in the area so I wondered if she might be chasing him away.

I've sent inquiries to a couple of bear experts to ask if they've seen scenarios where mother bears won't accept a cub back after a prolonged separation. I haven't received replies yet.

I think that this little black cub, who I believe is a female, can survive based on studies of cubs who lose their mothers to hunting at this time of year. I am so impressed with her spunk and will to survive that I'm going to call her "Braveheart". She has earned that name in her short life.

I long to see this family together again so little Braveheart has a better chance of growing up to be a mother bear in our neck of the woods.