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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Few Words Wednesday - Springtime!

In an annual rite of passage of spring, a pair of Cordilleran flycatchers have arrived near our deck, and they delight me during breakfast.

Shyla is acting truly happy again when we're out in the forest, for the first time since that awful woman hit her.

Smiles all around!
Happy Spring.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Breakfast with a Moose

It was a gorgeous morning on the deck, with warm sunlight and hummingbirds buzzing to and fro.

The Duo loves "deck time", finding the warmest spots where they can soak up the sun with their dark fur. As I had breakfast enjoying the scene, the Runner called out to me that there was a moose on the other side of the house. He quickly contained the Duo in a room without a view of the moose so that they wouldn't scare him off.

Then, I could get some photos of him. He was a young one, with long thin legs but not the heavily muscled trunk of an adult. He was eating a current bush voraciously.

You can see the velvet nubs of antlers beginning to grow in the dappled morning sunlight.

Moose are, in my opinion, among the goofiest looking animals on earth. The shape of their heads along with the dangling dewlap make me grin.

I was standing inside a doorway so I wasn't worried when this moose seemed to spot me. If I hadn't had the easy option of stepping inside, a direct look like this would have concerned me.

Soon, he was ready to depart. However, he still directed his ears back toward the house, making sure that no one was following him.
What a wonderful way to start the day!

Monday, May 29, 2017

America the Beautiful

I am thankful today for all of those who fought to keep our country free. For me, I appreciate the beauty of our land daily, and I'm reminded at the end of every May that people have fought and died to keep our country free.

We were given a gift on our National Forest - our Fairy Slippers are in bloom! They survived under three feet of snow and are still shining like jewels on the floors of our pine forests. I am overjoyed!
Brace yourselves - I may be posting photos of them daily for a little while!

Another gift is that our aspen groves have the glorious light green hue of early spring.
We have a truly beautiful country from the mountains to the deserts to the coasts. We have our past heroes who fought to make our country better to thank for the freedom to live as we want in our country. I hope that our freedom lives on.

Happy Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Healing on Sunday

We are having a tumultuous weather weekend with flashes of sunshine followed by thunder, hail, snow, and rain. Shyla and I found a window of okay weather to enjoy the trails this morning. We stopped to play our favorite game where she balances a treat on her nose, launches it, and then tries to catch it. Her facial expressions as she tries to snag the treat floor me!

Then, we rode up high, and we saw one of the very first dogs who Shyla was willing to approach on the trails years ago. The dog is a stick obsessed Lab who gives Shyla her space. The human waits for Shyla to approach and then gently pets and snuggles her. They are the perfect pair for Shyla and me!

After we passed on the trails, Shyla took her own turn at galloping up the hill, without a stick.
Many thanks to all my friends on the trails who have been so sweet and gentle with Shyla since the evil woman hit her. Due to their kindness, I think that we are gradually recovering from that incident.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Positive Training - Teaching Shyla to Mimic My Movements

You might remember, back at the beginning of April, that I wrote about teaching Shyla to mimic my movements. Well, we've done it!

We used a combination of a Fenzi course that we took as "observers" (also known as "Bronze level students" who can watch but not participate) and a great book called "Do as I do" by Claudia Fugazza.

I started by using behaviors that Shyla already knew, like "spin" and "reverse" (walk backward). I'd have her do a sit-stay. Then I'd do the behavior myself. Obviously, it can't look exactly the same for me on two legs as for Shyla on four legs. However, that didn't seem to be a big problem.

After I did a facsimile of each behavior, I'd say "mimic" followed by her original cue for the behavior. So, for a spin, I'd say "mimic, spin". Over the course a week, I dropped the original cue ("spin") so I was saying only "mimic". We did that for three behaviors.

Then, I started trying it for other behaviors that she had done in the past. I'd act out the behavior, and then I'd say "mimic" without ever saying the cue that she knew already. This was a test of whether she was ready to generalize the word "mimic". She was ready.

Then, the big test - could she do it for behaviors that were novel to her? If you watch the video, you'll see a couple of novel behaviors - crawling backward and climbing onto a rehab donut with all four paws.

The funniest part may be watching me do these dog behaviors! We were camping for part of the time that I was teaching her this. I kept imagining that a stranger would think that I was a lunatic if they saw me on the ground doing "downs" and "backward crawls" as demonstrations for Shyla!

Here's the short video - please don't laugh at me too hard or I'll be embarrassed!

You may be thinking, "Well, that looks like fun but what is it useful for?". One answer is that fun is a great end unto itself! Another answer is that it gives me a new way to teach Shyla tricks. If it's a trick that I can demonstrate for her, I just say "mimic" after I do it. Then, I can gradually give the trick it's own unique cue.

What a fun way to teach a dog new tricks!

Friday, May 26, 2017

How the flowers and bears fared during our huge snowstorm

It's flower Friday but we have only a few flowers blooming after the big melt from our storm. Look at the green grass around Shyla this morning!

Believe it or not, some barrel cacti flowers survived beneath 3 feet of snow! I took this photo yesterday when the cacti emerged from under the melting snow.

And a few Pasqueflowers also survived. Their season is ending.
The snow hasn't melted from north-facing slopes so I haven't been able to check on the Fairy Slipper orchids that I wrote about last Friday. I hope that we still have some!

As some of you know, I love our bears as much as our flowers so I was eager to see how they'd done through the storm. No bears seemed to be moving about during the worst of the storm and aftermath. However, within a few days after it, they were back to their normal activities.

I made a video of Bandit (the camera destroyer) taking a bath, marking a tree, and then threatening a camera just before the storm. Phew, he didn't truly attack it. The video also includes a bear taking an ICE bath after the storm. Snow was melting into a spring, and the water couldn't have been much more than 32°F!

What I love most of all is that there are hotbeds of bear activity that most people have no idea exist. Bears have their normal activities, including bathing and tree-marking. Sometimes a person will walk through, and the bears disappear. As soon as the person is gone, they reappear. It's amazing to get to see what the bears do when there aren't people around! 

I hope that you enjoy the video either here or at Youtube.

Happy Flower Friday!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Thankful that Springtime Reappeared!

Spring is here again. I wonder how many starts to spring we'll get? The hummingbirds, the Duo, and I all had breakfast on the deck this morning. Actually, I was so excited to sitting outside watching the birds that I did very little eating and a lot more snapping photos!

I love watching the aerial acrobatics of hummers. They fan out their tails to slow down for landing on the feeder.

Then, despite a healthy amount of snow still on the trails, Shyla and I went out for a fat bike ride. I was so thrilled to be doing something that made my back feel good as opposed to trudging through snow! I think that Shyla was happy too!

I made a point of visiting a spot where some swallows are nesting. A bluebird pair had chosen this tree hole early in the spring but the swallows threw them out.

I captured a series of photos of the swallow pair that made me laugh! They appeared to be sharing a branch amicably.

Then they turned and started screaming at each other!

He started to get in her face and her beak opened wider.

The "argument" went on and on. This was about the tenth photo in the series.

Then, their vocalizing tailed off.

And they just looked at each other.

With their anger spent, they scanned the world, and one swallow spotted me. I wondered if they were embarrassed that I saw their little tiff?!?
It made me laugh because it reminded me of a long-married couple who can argue vociferously with each other and then let it go almost right away.

I am thankful for the reappearance of springtime. The sunshine warming my face felt luxurious and seeing the snow melt off our veggie gardens made me smile. Nothing has sprouted yet but there's hope for the near future.

Thank you to Brian for hosting the Thankful Thursday blog hop.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wordless Wednesday

Eyes locked on mine, she took flight.

 Eyes locked on the treat, she snarfed it.

The next try was less graceful but funnier.
I love this dog more every day.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Springtime on our Mountain

Since the big snow, Shyla and I have been walking in the forest (with me on snowshoes) rather than mountain biking. Very few people have been braving the snow to go into the forest so we have no worries about who we might meet. I must say that Shyla has seemed super happy!
We play all sorts of games while we're out on the trails. Prior to this storm, Shyla spent a lot of time looking over her shoulder, seemingly worried about who or what might be behind her when I tried to play games with her. That hypervigilance started after the evil woman hit her. Since the storm, she has been totally focused on our games.

A lot of our games are "recall" games. An off-leash dog needs to come when called, especially because we share the forest with moose, mountain lions, and bears.

Indeed, as I sat writing this, a moose ambled past our windows. Moose are a HUGE reason why we need to practice recalls! The moose outside our window looked a lot like this one who I saw about a week ago. She was obviously shedding - albeit a little too soon!

She was comfortable enough with me a good distance away (long lens in use!) that she started grooming.

Just after the moose ambled through our clearing today, it started snowing - again. Just today, I could see some serious snow melting and felt hope that we'd see the ground again sometime soon. Alas, tonight may bring us another few inches of snow.
All that we can do is soak up warmth from the fireplace and hope that springtime really arrives sometime before autumn!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Nearing the end of a bear family's time in their den

You all may remember that last winter (2015-16), I had trail cameras pointed at a bear den. A sow chose the den as hers for the winter. She gave birth to two cubs, a black male and a brown female, in late January.

There was little activity, aside from a red fox going halfway into the den, until April. After the cubs starting going outside the den, my cameras recorded thousands of videos and photos. I wrote posts covering the time until about the end of April, when the cubs were becoming very active. I have a list of all the posts at the end of this one.

When I'd gone through all of the footage through the end of April, I ran out of steam.

Just yesterday, I realized that we were at the anniversary of the date that the bear family departed the den last year. I wanted to finish sharing the footage that I collected before they departed.

At the end of April, a few things happened with my trail cams at the den. Two had dead batteries, and the cubs had rearranged the others, changing which way they were pointing so that the angles were ridiculous.

I knew that those things might happen but I didn't want to disturb the family in the spring to check my trail cams. The possibility of accidentally scaring them when they were playing outside the den horrified me so I stayed away from March until June.

It turns out that those cams pointed at crazy angles by the cubs were recording some fun photos and videos!

On May 2, the pair of cubs played vigorously in front of one cam which captured some great photos of each of them. You can see the clear difference in color between them in this photo.

After the photo of the pair was taken, the black cub stayed at the tree, climbing and chewing on the bark.

I love seeing his cute little face so clearly.

He already had big claws, essential for climbing.

Then Brownie came over to take his spot on the tree.

She, too, wanted to chew on the bark.

Then, Blackie practiced climbing.

At this age, their noses are so pink that they look almost like pig's noses.

The forest near their den was like a giant jungle gym.

To give you a sense of how tiny the cubs still were, here is their mom arriving to check on them. Note a cub to her left.

She led them back to the den. Do you see the two obedient little cubs on her heels? That's how they moved through the forest for most of last summer.

On the date of those photos, the cubs and their mom were still 19 days from leaving the den. The single most critical skill for them after leaving the den is being able to climb trees. They flee predators by going straight up trees very high and very fast. Often, their mom will stay at the base of the tree, charging anyone approaching it, to protect the cubs.

On the day of all those photos, the two cubs spent a lot of time climbing the trees in front of their den. Somehow, one of the cams that they'd rearranged captured it beautifully.

I made a video of their climbing. At the end, you also hear and see a common sequence. When the cubs wanted to nurse, they went into the den. If mom wasn't there, they started bawling to call her. That happened at the end of the sequence - be sure to listen for the bawling at the very start of the clip. They seemed to take several one hour breaks for nursing and rest during the day.

You can watch the video here or at Youtube.

For those of you who would like to go back and see the previous bear den posts and sightings of the family after they left the den, here are the links.

At the Den
Cubs are born
Mom and cubs snuggled in den
Fox in the Bear Den and 1st cub sighting
First Cub Sighting Outside the Den
Cub Antics after their Mom finally let them stay outside the den
Wild Cub Play #1
Wild Cub Play #2 
Wild Cub Play #3
Cub Rescue by Mom
Cute Cub Photos from early May at the Den
Photo bonanza

Last summer after the family left the den
First appearance of the family since leaving the den
Bear family near my house
One cub separated from family and was very distressed (he found them - don't worry!)
The whole family appears at watering hole

I'll be posting a few more videos about their time at the den. I'm also hoping that we get to see the mother bear and cubs before the family breaks up this spring. At the start of mating season, the mother will chase away her cubs. It's a tough phase for the cubs, on their own for the first time. In the long run, the black male will need to leave the area to find his own territory. In contrast, the brown female will take a territory close to her mother's territory and will begin raising her own cubs in a few years.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sunshine and Snow!

The sun woke me out of a deep slumber this morning, shining through our east facing bedroom windows.

I opened the door onto the deck, and I saw that hummingbirds were devouring our sugar water. I suspect that feeders helped these tiny birds survive this storm.

Shyla and I headed out for a hike on the trails soon after breakfast. The trail that we've been snowshoeing for the past few days was starting to be easier for walking.

But then we reached the end of the packed trail, entering the last frontier! Shyla led the way.

Soon thereafter, she fell into my tracks and showed just how tired she was as she slumped against the edge of the tracked part of the snow.
We turned around soon thereafter. Both of our legs were feeling fatigue from the past couple of days of slogging through this cement snow.

Thanks to the sun, snow bombs rained down throughout the forest and often on us. In this photo, green aspen leaves have a rain of snow falling behind them. I love the juxtaposition of green spring leaves and falling snow.

Snowshoeing kills my spine, leaving me in agony. So, I headed out to spin on my bike on our dirt roads after snowshoeing. I heard the tapping of a bird on something metallic. I spotted a Williamson's Sapsucker on a utility pole. I love his vibrant colors!
Today felt as if we were returning to springtime. Now we await for the several feet of snow on the ground to melt. The creeks will be raging and the wildlife watering holes will be full soon!