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Friday, May 31, 2019

Nature Friday - Bull Moose Sparring

I finally was able to get to a trail camera that has been stranded in snow faraway from any road for a long time. It had many surprises for me. The most shocking one was a pair of young bull moose who sparred very close to the camera lens.

They remind me of young boys up early on Christmas to play with their gifts. Santa Claus must have brought them antlers for Christmas!
They were definitely practicing sparring - they looked like a pair of buddies who were trying out their new antlers.

The surprises - the things that I've never seen before - are a big part of why I love trail cameras. I never know what the wildlife will teach me next!

I have a short video of their sparring. Check it out!

Thanks to the LLB Gang for hosting the Nature Friday blog hop.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Thankful Thursday

The crazy and stormy weather here has put me under the weather. My migraines are back... after a 5 month break. Their return is probably due to the drop in barometric pressure with each incoming storm. I am disappointed because I thought that maybe they were gone forever during their hiatus.

I don't have it badly compared to the birds who need to find bugs to eat. Most of our bug-eating birds flee to lower elevation when it's cold like this - but not the tough Mountain Bluebirds. I sure hope that they are finding enough to eat. They are so beautiful.

The hummingbirds have it a bit easier than our other summer birds. Somehow, many flowers are surviving. And, all of us humans are keeping our hummingbird feeders fully stocked. I have a horde of hummers following me when I refill the feeder.

Every now and then, the sun comes out - and I am so thankful when it does. Our puppy is stir-crazy and still chases his tail. I love seeing him silhouetted in sun puddles.

But this is my favorite part of the sun coming out. I love seeing these two snuggle together soaking up the warmth of the sun.
This week, more than anything, I am thankful for how patient our Labraduo is with Hachi. I am also thankful that Shyla is feeling able to overcome her fears and be Hachi's friend.

Thanks to our friend Brian for hosting the Thankful Thursday Blog Hop.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Almost Wordless Wednesday - Winter after Memorial Day

It's almost June, and the snowy threatening world of the mountains is still here. I see this view of the mountains every day but I never tire of it, even when it looks wintry in "summer".

For that reason, I am still mining my photo library from the desert. It looks so toasty there!

Thanks to our friends at Comedy Plus for hosting the Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop!

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

A Mountain Lion Mother and her Kittens

We often think that mountain lions are the invisible kings of our forests. However, one sign of their existence is omnipresent - the parts of the animals who they've killed and eaten that get strewn across the forest floor. Shyla finds those parts at least once per week. It makes me more aware of how active our lion population is.

This week, on one of the rare days of no snow or hail, I went to visit a trail cam at water hole that has been silent all winter. No animals visit it in the frigid days of the year. It was dry last fall but has some water in it now.

I was ecstatic when I looked at the tiny LCD viewer on the trail camera. For about five minutes, a family of mountain lions drank and played in view of the camera. Almost always, multiple mountain lions together means kittens!

For most of the video, only two cats were in view. In this snapshot from the video, I bet that you can guess which one is the kitten!

And, you know that the one who allowed his paws to be immersed in the water is a kitten!

It turned out that two kittens appeared. In this snapshot, mom and her kitten hear the other kitten attempting to sneak up on them.

When he arrived, it was with a flying leap! The trail camera's shutter time was too long to capture him sharply but perhaps you can see the streak flying down from the upper right of the photo.

At the end of the video (soon after this moment), you'll hear crazy scampering noises. I think that the whole family sprinted into the forest for some reason.

It is quite possible that this is the mountain lion family who we saw last fall. That family had three kittens that were probably born in October or so. The kittens would now be about 7 months old. It would not be surprising if one kitten did not survive but it's also conceivable that one stayed outside the view of this camera.

Here is the video of their water hole visit. Enjoy.

Monday, May 27, 2019

The Hachi Chronicle - Counterconditioning and Play!

Hachi had a great week. He settled into home life after our April away from home, and he seemed relaxed!

It snowed and he liked it (which is good because there's more in the forecast). He ran around like a crazy dog. And he did tremendous recalls, trying to run so fast when I called him.

One day this week, we took him to town for some "counterconditioning". We chose a spot without too much foot traffic so that we could make it clear to him that he gets yummy treats when people are in view and then no treats when there are no people. The idea is to make him feel good about seeing strangers by pairing them with something that he loves - treats. I wanted you to be able to visualize this process so we videoed a short segment of it (video is at the end). You'll see that we had an expert trainer helping us out by appearing and then disappearing for Hachi when there were no random strangers around.

We were being careful not to be too close to the strangers. The idea is that we are close enough that he notices them but far enough away that he's not afraid. That gives him emotional space to make the connection between the treats and the people.

When we got home from our training, I took him and Shyla out for some play to help him decompress. Hachi's facial expressions will never bore me - that's for sure!

One of the reasons why we love having Shyla and Hachi play outdoors is that Shyla is definitely in charge. That is great for her confidence. It helps her to be confident around Hachi even indoors.

They are almost the same size now. Shyla is faster and stronger but Hachi can make very tight turns. It makes their play incredibly fun.

Here's the video of a bit of counterconditioning and a little bit of play outdoors. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Black Dog Sunday

Wet yucky snow meant that it was a quiet week for all of us, including our Black Dog. Our Black Dog would probably have snoozed a lot if we didn't have a puppy in house. Despite Hachi's "issues", he still has a wonderful bond with both R and Shyla. R forgives him immediately after any food guarding incidents.

Every morning around sunrise at this time of year, a sun puddle warms up the dogs' bed. All three of them pile onto it. The big dogs would probably prefer to snooze in the sunlight but R will play if Hachi asks. He asked a lot this week.

When I watch closely, I am always struck by how ritualized their play is. They make fierce faces but are actually very gentle with each other.

I made a short video of the dogs playing. Our Black Dog plays very gentle games of bitey face with Hachi. Shyla still loves toy games most of all, and she sometimes convinces the boys to play with her. Check out the short video if you have time.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Silly Puppy Saturday

It was one of those frustrating days that we all have every now and then. We are still trying to get our internet fixed, and I had to deal with the "logic" being thrown at me by customer service. There was absolutely no logic involved.

There is nothing like the spirit of a puppy to bring a smile to my face. Hachi melts my heart regularly.

His sister doesn't always find Hachi to be as smile-inducing as I do. I was trying to take a photo of the two of them when Hachi suddenly needed to kiss Shyla.

Then, Shyla was saved by a distraction that pulled Hachi's attention away from her.
Although it may not look like it in these desert photos, Shyla and Hachi are getting closer and closer. Their bond is built on playing together outside... they are both so fast and love to chase each other in huge circles!

Happy Saturday! I hope that our internet problems will be fixed someday next week. I'll be able to visit my favorite blogs more regularly when it works again.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Nature Friday - The Wrath and Beauty of Mother Nature

Picking up from yesterday... Shyla and I had a fabulous time playing on the red rock at sunset on a stormy evening in Utah.

Shyla seemed to be keeping "an eye" on a storm that was sneaking up on us but I had scarcely noticed.

Suddenly, Shyla let me know that the thunder storm was upon us. Soon thereafter, the Runner was yelling "get down, get down, there's lightning". So, we jogged downward on the steep and now wet slickrock as rain pelted down around us. I stopped a few times to look at the clouds that were descending onto the top of the slickrock where we'd just been.

Then it began to rain really hard. The thunder rattled my bones. The too-short pauses between the flashes of light and the thunder booms made my heart accelerate. But the light was surreal. I stopped for another photo. It was so beautiful as the storm arrived.
After that photo, I hustled down further for a while with no more photo stops. Fortunately, the storm seemed to be veering around us. The pauses between the flashes of lightning and the booms of thunder lengthened.

It was suddenly eerily dark with a gargantuan cloud almost upon us.

I quickly changed to a wider lens because the cloud was filling the whole horizon.

The cloud looked organized in a way that I never get to see in the mountains due to the ridges and valleys. The bolts of lightning zig-zagged within the cloud.  We were now down as low as we could be and the rain was letting up so we were happy to stop and observe. Oddly, it seemed to get lighter all of a sudden even though the sun was close to setting.

Then, the Runner pointed behind us.... an incredible sunset!!!!

We stood in the low spot, watching all directions, in awe of the paintings that Mother Nature can create. After the sun dipped below the horizon, the sky became even more beautiful.
When we looked back toward the storm cloud, it had faded and was undoubtedly moving past us, no longer a threat.

It was an inspiring evening in the desert. I love the desert more than I dreamed that I would.

Thanks to the LLB Gang for hosting the Nature Friday Blog Hop.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Thankful Thursday - Desert Sunsets and Shyla

As it continues to snow outside with another 8" expected tonight, I am looking backward again to a warm and sunny evening on the slickrock in Utah.

I can wander the slickrock, soaking up the beauty endlessly. I love the textures of the rock, the glowing colors, and the contrast between my pups and the rock.

As Shyla and I climbed toward the top of the slickrock slope for sunset, we stopped for a photo because I loved the lichens spotting the slickrock.

Then, we resumed a very fast hike directly up the fall line of the slickrock slope. In places, it was too steep, and we'd wind around looking for a route that was shallow enough let Shyla's paw pads and my running shoes stick. Soon, we were at the top. Shyla got there first.

I eventually caught up. The sight of Shyla glowing in the deep red sunset light warmed my soul.

And then the light got even more beautiful. I was so enamored with it that I wasn't paying attention to the clouds sneaking up behind Shyla.

I adore these photo sessions with Shyla. She's become my partner in so many ways. She anticipates what I might ask her to do. She does all of it with enthusiasm and a softness in her eyes that melts my heart. After K died, I never dreamed that I'd have another dog in my life who knew me so well and made my heart sing so much. That is what I am thankful for on this Thursday. For Shyla and the bond that she and I built.

Then, all of a sudden, Shyla completely disconnected from me. She slumped, looked downward, and appeared miserable. I was so engrossed in the light and the beauty around us that I hadn't noticed a storm bearing down on us. It was scaring Shyla. As many of you may remember from her early days with us, she shuts down when scared.
Just after I finally realized that we needed to get down off that slope (prompted by morose Shyla), the Runner yelled to me to get down because he'd seen lightning.

I will pick up the story there tomorrow - complete with images of one of the biggest and most intense storm clouds that I've ever seen. We couldn't see it from the slickrock because the slope itself was blocking the view.

Mother Nature is dangerously beautiful.

Thanks to Brian for hosting the Thankful Thursday blog hop.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Wordless Wednesday - Contrasts

Winter is back at our home in the Rockies.

Based on history, this really should be the last winter storm. But it's going on for days and days and days. I'm glad that the dogs love it!

So I will dream of the warm places where we hung out last month.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

More Conversations Among Lions, Coyotes, and even a Moose

I love seeing the wildlife in our area via the lenses of trail cameras. The main reason is not just to get pretty pictures of them. Rather, I love seeing how all the myriad species interact.

The carnivores like to mark in the same places. I'm not sure how a spot gets established. Perhaps the king of the forest starts it with a mighty scrape of the pine needles and then a touch of pee. I recently showed you a mountain lion marking the spot shown below.

On a recent rainy and then snowy day, a mountain lion visited the scrape left by that previous lion. This one did not act like a dominant resident lion. This one seemed skittish. Perhaps that was because it was mid-morning, a time when people tend to be out and about. This spot is close to a hiking trail.
I've never seen a mountain lion looking as wet as that one. On that morning, I froze when I was caught out in the rain on my bike.

Then, a group of coyotes arrived at the same spot about 10 days later. Each of them peed over the mountain lions scent. It was so much fun to see them come through this spot as a group.

A similar thing happened at another scent post. First, the mountain lion walked past my trail cam into the spotlight. He scraped and left a scent mark.

Days later, a coyote visited. He made it clear what he thought about the mountain lion scent!

Then, a week later, a moose appeared. She is so big compared to the lion and coyote!

I have a video showing the behavior of each of these animals as they sniff the lions' scents.