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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Mountain Lions on the Prowl this Autumn

Back in the "bad old days", a decade-long study of mountain lions in our area meant that almost every lion who passed my trail cameras wore a bulky GPS collar and green tags in both ears.

To me, it seemed like the study would never end... but it did in 2015. The vast majority of lions who pass my trail cameras are now naked - no collars or ear tags! What a wonderful sight.
The problem is that a few of the collars stopped working before they were removed. That meant that the researchers couldn't track down the lions to take off their hardware. Last winter, my cams spotted a couple of lions still wearing collars. I called the researchers (from the Colorado Division of Wildlife) to alert them but they weren't able to find those lions. 

While we were in the desert, another lion appeared STILL wearing a collar and ear tags. I cannot believe that the researchers didn't use the latest technology which always has a means for the collar to eventually fall off. I fear that this lion will be wearing his collar and ear tags for the rest of his life.

In addition to that collared lion, we've had a lot of lion activity recently. The lions rarely spend much time in front of any one trail camera. However, a couple of stories emerged.

First, a mother-kitten pair spent some time in the area, and they appeared to have a den down the slope below one of my cams. Here's the kitten getting ready to head down there. He did this on more than one occasion.
His mom would always be photographed by nearby trail cameras when this guy had just headed down to the den. I suspect that he waited in the den while she hunted.

Another story was watching the behavior of a lion crossing a small water hole. He tip-toed and then leaped high over the water. I'm uncertain about whether he was afraid to get wet or whether he was stalking, trying to keep his paws from making noise. Here's a photo of him preparing to leap the water.

I put together a short video of these sightings, including the leap by the lion shown above. You can watch it here or at Youtube.

Thanks for visiting and Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Three Compelling Reasons to Visit the Desert in October

The brilliant colors with rock sculptures in the background...

The soft low angle sunlight making Shyla's fur glow...

And the Milky Way...
Now we are bracing ourselves for temperatures in the 20's and snow tomorrow! It's a shocking transition but I love both places - the desert and the mountains.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Farewell to the Desert (for now)

We've had a fantastic time in the desert. I've ridden my bike in lots of cool places. Do you see the trail to the right of those stone walls?

We've relaxed in the sun and warmth especially when we knew that it was 50 deg colder and snowing at home. I love the desert. It reminds me that I am but a speck in our huge and ancient world, helping me to see that we humans aren't as important as we think that we are.
I can't wait to return again to watch the sweet sunsets with warm sun rays kissing my face.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Sunset Saturday

The silhouette in the background is an intricately wind sculpted red rock wall.
The sunset is the most colorful one that we saw in the desert. It was glorious!

Friday, October 27, 2017

A second autumn

After autumn fled our mountain home, we decided to visit a second autumn in the sunny desert with the Labmobile as our roving home base.

We loved it and so did the Labraduo. Shyla even made peace with her desert boots! Miracles never cease.

As our trip is winding down, I'll sort through my photos to show you autumn colors in the desert - a real treat for me to see!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The battle of the elk rut - including the sounds!

As I mentioned last week, we love watching the elk rut. The drama of watching the bulls fight for their harems of cow elk is incredible.

The majority of the time, the bull elk don't actually have to fight. They bugle to tell all the other bulls to stay away.

Here's a male in mid bugle.

However, occasionally, a big bull comes too close, and things get serious. This dominant bull was starting the charge toward an interloper.

He ran about 50 yards at full speed and met his nemesis with antlers clacking.

It did not take long for him to win the battle, and the other bull to start to flee.

The dominant bull gave chase, as if to add an exclamation point to his victory.

He bugled as the other bull kept fleeing for a long time!

He strutted back to his harem, bugling the whole way.

On this day of "elk watching", the sounds of the rut were incredible. I videoed one bull elk as he milled around, mainly so that you could hear the sounds of the meadow. You'll hear the loud and drawn out bugles of the bulls.

You'll also hear the mewing of the calves who were trying to find their mothers. This day had been hectic in the meadow, and it seemed that many mother-calf pairs had become separated. The calves do still need their moms at this point. They even still nurse.

Here's the video. Remember that the visual is not the important part. The bull who I focused on wasn't doing much that was interesting. Rather, the audio is what I wanted you to hear. Turn up the volume and enjoy either here or at Youtube.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Wordless Wednesday - I miss the golden days!

A Carpet of Golden Leaves

A Happy Golden Girl

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Training Tuesday - Nosework

Shyla and I have continued to do nosework together. I love doing training with Shyla, and nosework is the coolest kind of training that I can imagine. She follows scents that I can't see or smell, and she can very precisely tell me where the scents are coming from.

Nosework has the added benefit of making her able to function in "scary" environments where she might otherwise shut down and be unable to think.

During our summer trip, I made a habit of doing a quick nosework search with Shyla whenever we stopped in a town. It was a huge change from the quiet of our campsites to the bustle of the towns where we stopped. I want to show you one very short search in a bustling town.
In the tranquility of our campsite

We were parked in a busy parking lot with many different big stores nearby. However, on one edge, there was green grass and a bank building. It was more quiet than anyplace else in the insanely bustling shopping area.

I set up a hard search for Shyla. I put two q-tips with scents on the side of a building, with one directly above the other. That meant that the scent from the top one was falling downward and enveloping the lower one. It's a very difficult kind of problem for a nosework dog to solve.

Shyla aced it, and she didn't seem to notice all the scary stuff behind her. Here's a super short video so that you can see that search. You can watch it here or at Youtube. The hides are in the vertical crack near the middle of the video's view.

I've learned that Shyla can keep it together for one or maybe two searches in a "scary" place like that so we stopped after that single search. After the excitement of the first one or two searches abates, she notices the busy environment and gets distracted.
Despite that, I'm super pleased that she can do searches in a new town at all! That's a huge step forward for her.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Wildlife at a water hole - moose, hawk, and owl!

When I tell you about the wildlife using water holes in our neck of the woods, I am usually talking about large mammals, like this mama bear.

And her cub...

I tend not to tell you about some of the cool birds that visit these water holes. Recently, the water hole pictured above has not been used by bears, as their metabolisms are slowing down and they're probably napping in the forest.

Rather, it's been used a lot by moose, a hawk, and an owl. I think that the hawk is a Cooper's Hawk. In this photo, he'd just taken a bath.

And I think that this owl is a Northern Pygmy Owl. He didn't bathe. I think that he was waiting for an unsuspecting song bird to visit the water.
This owl is tiny - about 6-7" tall. I think that it's so exciting that my trail camera captured video of this species.

I made a video of each of a moose, and then each of these birds visiting the water hole. You can watch it here or at Youtube. For those of you who know more about birds than I do, I am very open to the possibility that my identifications of these species are not right. Please leave a comment!

Thanks for stopping by today!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Snuggles on Sunday

When I spotted the Labraduo snuggled up, they were both sound asleep. My camera awoke R before I could snap a photo. His sister stayed leaned hard against her brother but opened her eyes.

We have a lot of dog beds in our house, not to mention our bed which the dogs often use. However, more often than not, these two are sharing one fairly small bed.
I feel lucky that they are so bonded to each other. They play together raucously and then they snooze together in sun puddles.

We love them. It is the era of R and Shyla - and we appreciate every single day of it.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Snarfing Saturday

Saturday is a day for snarfing treats. Shyla excels at it.

Look at her wide eyes!
Happy Saturday!

Friday, October 20, 2017

The waning of autumn

I spotted this flash of color from the ground the other day. It made me miss autumn. What a glorious season it is!

Shyla loves this time of year. She loves the cool air that lets her run even faster than usual! She rejoices at every little sign of winter and snow. It's already snowed here a couple of times but it's melted each time. Usually, the snow that stays all winter as the bottom layer falls in December.
Happy Friday as we slide toward winter!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Thankful Thursday - What a Wonderful World

For me, "place" is key to my happiness. When I first visited the Colorado mountains years and years ago, I knew that it was where I belonged. I am so grateful that we found a way to set down roots here.

As an example of a "normal" but actually very special day, I started one day in late September with a mountain bike ride with Shyla. The sky was blue, the leaves were golden, the sun was warm, and I was with my best biking buddy. We had endless miles of trails outside our back door.
On this day, we didn't come home and rest after our ride. Rather, we headed to where we could watch the annual ritual of the elk rut. It turned out to be a stupendous day of viewing.

In the fall, the biggest bull elk gather harems of cow elk and their calves. The bull elk defends his harem against all other bull elk by bugling, patrolling, chasing, and occasionally even having an antler sparring fight.

On this day, we found a lot of elk rut activity very fast. In a small meadow, about five fairly big bull elk had gathered. One had a harem. The others were trying to steal a cow elk or even just spend a few minutes with her so that their DNA would help make a calf.

Here is the bull elk who was herding his harem away from the interlopers.

He was constantly trying to keep them in a tight group and away from the other bulls.
He obviously had established his physical superiority because he needed only to posture to keep the other bulls away. He never actually fought or even truly chased a competitor. Part of his posturing was driving his antlers into the grass while facing toward the other bulls.

He ended up with a grass hat! It seemed hard to believe that the other bulls would respect a guy wearing a hat like that!

He bugled and protected his harem while wearing the silly hat. We dubbed him "Grass Head". I guess that name could have other meanings here in Colorado where a certain kind of "grass" is now legal.

He was a source of tremendous amusement to us.

Eventually, he shed the grass except for a few strands, regaining his regal look!

In the meantime, some smaller bulls sparred, obviously just as practice for the day that they would be among the bigger bulls in the herd.

The stronger one would drive the other one backwards. Then they'd disengage their antlers and stand together amicably. I think that the greatest risk in this is that their antlers could become locked together. I've heard of elk dying due to this catastrophe.

These guys were so small compared to Grass Head that he paid them no attention. Instead, he answered the bugles of the bulls closer to his size.
In an upcoming post, I'll share some sounds of bugling from the meadows where the elk rut was underway.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wordless Wednesday - The Anatomy of a Snowy Leap

I love how her eyes were glued to me when she landed. I love our bond.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Training Tuesday - A new strategy for encountering strangers and their dogs

As many of you know, Shyla has a very hard time with meeting new people and dogs because she's afraid of them. I've tried many different strategies for meeting people and dogs on trails over the years, and none has worked.

I'm currently working with a great trainer who has suggested a new approach. When we meet people and dogs on trails, I have Shyla go under my legs so that I can "squeeze" her between my knees. So far, it's working like a miracle. Shyla is so much more relaxed in these situations!
Note her small "Marco Polo" radio collar that lets me find if she ever runs off
Having her go under my legs serves three purposes. First, Shyla feels very protected by me. Second, dogs don't approach her when I'm standing over her. That surprised me! How wonderful not to have groups of dogs surrounding Shyla very closely. Third, it may be a little like the calming effects of being "squeezed" that Dr. Temple Grandin has written about.

At this point, I have to initiate it, getting a hold of Shyla and standing over her. It would be far better if she eventually learned to get into what we're calling the "under" position whenever we see people. To that end, we've been doing some training.

I thought that you might enjoy seeing a very short session that we did the other day. In this very early training session, I always started with my back to her. As of today, I could face her, and she'd run around behind me to get under my legs. Yipee!

You can watch the short video here or at Youtube.