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Friday, March 31, 2017

Pre-storm: Elk and Magpies Hanging out Together

On a recent mountain bike ride, I ran across a small herd of elk.

Near the elk, I saw magpies in the grass. Soon, one had flapped upward and landed on an elk's back. In the photo, one magpie is on the left elk's back, and another is flying up onto the right elk's back.

Most elk don't seem to mind the magpies at all. The magpies eat fleas and other parasites that live in the elk's fur so it is a symbiotic relationship. If you look closely in the next photo, the magpie had a chunk of fur in his beak, probably accidentally pulled out as he grabbed a bug.

Everywhere I looked in the herd, I saw magpies on the backs of the elk, putting their beaks into the elk fur.

This youngish cow elk also had her own magpie.

Then, the magpie took off, showing us his distinctive plumage and tail.

As I stood still watching the herd, these two cow elk looked back at me. I loved how each elk had a grass piece hanging out of her mouth.

And this young bull also stared at me with grass hanging out of his mouth. Although he's young, you can already see the great muscle bulk that he has compared to the cow elk.

I always try very hard not to spook them. This was my last view. I could feel the tension among the elk rising so it was time for me to leave.
We have a snowstorm headed our way that might drop a lot of snow on us (multiple feet). It is notoriously hard to predict the weather this close to the Divide. However, my last check of the forecast predicted about 2' over the weekend.

Meanwhile, some transients began living in our forest during the warm spell. Today, I wanted to warn them about the storm as I rode by them, fearing that they didn't know (and they even have 3 small children with them). If we get that much snow, they will be stuck for a long time. Alas, no one was out and about in the encampment.

Shyla and I will have fun in the snow. I am so thrilled to have my girl's spirit back again!!!!
Happy Friday!


  1. Those magpie are great. Maybe that one was getting a tuft of fur for a nest.

    1. Good point! The magpies nest far earlier than most other birds up here.

  2. That last picture of Shyla - WOW!
    I wouldn't be surprised if the magpies are helping the elk lose their raggedy winter coats. I always stick the odd bit of cashmere combing - the parts that include a lot of topcoat hairs or pieces of hay or whatever - in low branches or on a fence for birds to find in case they feel like building a cashmere-lined nest this year.

    1. I've read that corvids can use tools. Maybe I should give them a comb to use on the elk? :) Great point about the fur possibly being for a nest.

  3. So funny seeing the magpies on the elk. Bet they appreciate it
    Lily & Edward

  4. great action shots of that magpie. Nature works out some wonderful combinations, and mirror image of the twins, grass at opposite sides,Wow.And Shyla, wonderful to see her with happy eyes again.Let it snow and reduce fire danger later on.

  5. Two pups here would love some of that snow but this lady says you can have it all:). Go, Shyla, go!

  6. Such wonderful photos of such amazing creatures! We are happy dancing for sweet Shyla!

  7. Magpies keep coming to our bird feeder so we will tell them to go to the elk. *waving to Shyla*

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

  8. Very cool - I just love wildlife and nature, and the interesting relationships. Enjoy your snow - we are supposed to get about a foot. I'm not so thrilled at this point, but the dogs will enjoy it!
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

  9. How fun to see the magpie action. Thanks for sharing something I will never see in person.

  10. I love magpies. We have lots of them around here, and it's always a pleasure to see them, though I haven't seen them on the local elk. I have no doubt ours do the same thing. They are such beautiful birds.

    It looks like we're not due for more snow in the next few days, but we just had some yesterday, and it's entirely possible we will get more. We've had an excellent snow year. I love it, but I'm kind of ready for spring and green things at this point.

  11. Magpies are some of my favorite birds. So beautiful!

  12. we have the magpies around here too. The snow we had this morning is all gone now
    Mr Bailey, Hazel & Mabel

  13. OMD, GURL!!! HEEEEY!!!!! I can see you're back nows!!!! I missed a few of you posties, so I went back, and I am soooo happy I can see the twinkle in your eyes again! And just lookie at you run! WoooHoooo! And, just thinks, you will have some snow to do some last snow zoomies in! FABulous!
    Nows, about those Elk....BOL!!!! OMD, looooves those faces!!!! OMD, I could look at them for hours...
    Sendin' lots of AireZens and margaritas...☺
    Ruby ♥

  14. What beautiful birds the Magpies are! We LOVE that last picture of you, Shyla!


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