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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wordless Wednesday


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Splashing Sunday



Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Duo Story, and a Mother Mountain Lion with her Kitten

First, for my new readers, do not worry - R gets as much romping in the mountains as Shyla. R is the Runner's constant companion, and they run together on the mountain trails every single day. That's why I am so thrilled when I find a rare opportunity to get a photo of R in the mountains!
Part of why the Runner and I have always had at least two dogs is that both each of us loves to have a canine companion on our daily mountain outings. When we have only one dog, we literally wear out that poor dog with too much exercise. So, by having at least two, a single dog doesn't have to run too many miles per day!

On the wildlife front, today I found a very fun series of rapidfire trail camera photos. It was a pair of mountain lions ("cougars"), a mother and a kitten, who had an extensive interaction by a bear marking tree.

I made it into a video (below) but just in case you can't easily watch videos due to slow internet (my usual problem), I've included some highlight photos.

First, the mother arrived, and she stood still, perhaps calling for her kitten.
More than 2 minutes later, the kitten arrived. It looked like mom gave the kitten a "talking to" for wandering off.
Her anger quickly disappeared, and she patrolled as her kitten acted like a goofy youngster.
Here is the kitten, rolling around on the ground like a goofball.
He licked his nose just before departing, following mom.
It's only the second time, in all these years, that I've captured photos of a mother mountain lion and her offspring together. I was thrilled beyond words to find these photos on my camera!

Obviously, both of the mother and kitten have been marked for the study going on in our area. Mom has a GPS/radio collar on plus ear tags. The kitten has ear tags, one of which has a transmitter attached to it with a 6-8" long antenna. I was pretty shocked to see that. I understand that they can't put a collar on a kitten because he's growing too fast but a transmitter on his ear with a long antenna must be unwieldy for him.

You can see the ear transmitter if you look at his left ear closely in the photo below. I wondered if some of his antics were actually attempts to get the transmitter off his ear.
I've made a video from all of the rapidfire stills that you can view at Youtube or here.

It's always a special day for me when I can see our wild animals going about their daily lives using my trail cameras. I loved seeing this kitten!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Alpine Hike

The demise of my camera seems to have been put on hold. Overnight, it fixed itself - which means that Canon would probably not be able to detect the problem. Of course, I expect that it could go kaput at any moment. Fortunately, I have an incredibly generous friend who is loaning me an identical backup camera for some upcoming adventures. I am so thankful!

Now, I want to tell you about our hike up high. These hikes mean more to me than you probably think. I've hiked these trails for many years with multiple generations of dogs. I've hiked these trails after major spine surgeries, only making it partway to the top before the pain stopped me. I've hiked these trails in sun, snow, rain, and thunder. But, most of all, I love the wonder of taking each new canine friend to my favorite places on Earth. 

Hiking is actually very tough on my spine. I do it because my feet can take me places where bikes are not allowed. The highest alpine zone in our area is mostly too rough for bikes and also illegal for bikes. So, I hike, and I ignore the pain. It isn't too hard to ignore it when I am immersed in our amazing mountains. It is harder to ignore the aftermath pain, but visiting the high mountains is still worth it.

This was our route, after we busted through treeline and hit the alpine zone where no trees can grow. The air was almost still where we were hiking when I took this photo but the clouds told me that it would be windy at the top!

It didn't take long to climb to the Divide from this spot, and we did find some wind but it wasn't too intense. Shyla looked ready to fly by flapping her ears!

Last year, I'm sure that this environment completely blew her mind after her sheltered upbringing and sudden move to our family. This year, she was still fascinated but quite comfortable with the mountains and the trails.

The reason why this is my favorite hike to do with my dog friends is that, after we enjoy the views from the Divide, we can visit an alpine lake by hiking just a bit further. Look how the clouds over the ridge have a rainbow tint to them. I felt K with us here - K and I had many fun afternoons at this lake.
Last year, I discovered for the first time that Shyla had no swimming experience when we visited this lake. She was hesitant to go in the water, and when she tried to swim, it was that crazy puppy paddle that young dogs do with her body upright and her paws slapping the water inefficiently.

This year was completely different. My shy and retiring dog broke her "stand stay" to sprint into the lake! Due to Shyla's sensitivity, I actually secretly revel in those moments when she blows off my commands. Of course, I work on fixing the problem later - but I love seeing her be confident and assertive!

And, she was off into the water after an unauthorized break from her stand-stay!

She had a blast retrieving a stick repeatedly. I actually had to call an end to the fun and games because she was shivering. This lake is fed by melting snow so it's very cold!
We hung out a while longer. I took her photo in the Alpine Avens (yellow flowers) while she warmed up in the sun.

Then, in a long-term tradition, I tried to get our photo together. My remote shutter trigger wasn't working very well (batteries low) so it's not the best photo but hey, I love any photo with me and Shyla together.
All too soon, it was time to start descending in the warm afternoon sun.
I always remember the days that I spend in the high mountains with my pups as the best days of the summer. This year, it made me realize how far we've come. Shyla and I are becoming an inseparable pair who adore adventures together. I'm very lucky.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

My sad camera...

I had planned to write a post all about our hike up to the Continental Divide. However, my beloved camera decided to stop working today, and I burned all my time first freaking out and then finding out what I need to do to get it fixed. It's amazing how attached I've become to my Canon 5D Mark II!

It took this photo before it died - of my sweet Shyla at sunset, sitting in the wildflowers.
Very soon, I'll write about our hike up high. It was an amazing marker in Shyla's progress toward learning about the world. Last year, we did the same hike but certain things were so novel that they scared her, like people using hiking poles (she almost pulled me off the side of the mountain to escape the hiking poles last year) and trying to swim in a lake. Neither of those things scared her this year! We had a wonderful time.

Here she is during the hike, eagerly asking me to stop taking photos and hurry up to the Divide and then to the Lake, which is nestled below the peaks that you can see in the distance.
I hope to tell you more about it tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Up high and Bears

Shyla and I are up in the alpine zone today. This photo is from last year, on one of her first trips up high.
While we are up there, I thought that you might enjoy some footage of our mother bear, Mabel, and her single cub, cooling off in a spring. You can watch it here or at Youtube.

I'm so glad that I found this spring because it lets us watch two different bear families. The spring must be right on the border between their territories and is probably a heavily contested site. It's fun to see both families!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Changes - and Heart Dogs

When I went away to Bear Land, a couple of things changed at home. First, the Flycatchers, who nest under our deck every summer, had at least one nestling when I departed - and things seemed to be going smoothly for them. When I returned home, they had no babies in the nest (which was still intact), and they were building a new nest in a different spot under our deck. I assumed that their original nestling(s) died or were plucked from the nest by a predator. I felt very sad for them.

Mr. Flycatcher stared at me imploringly during breakfast one morning recently.
Believe it or not, within about 48 hours, they put together an exquisite new nest under our deck, and very soon thereafter, the female was incubating eggs. But then, another unknown tragedy struck, and they abandoned the nest.

I haven't dared peek in the nest to see what happened to their eggs because the pair is still hanging around our deck, acting as if they plan to try again. Both of the pair are sleeping in the trees near the deck. They chirp back and forth well into the night. They fly under the deck frequently to keep an eye on the nest.

I wonder what will happen. It's getting very late in the summer to start a family, especially with the very long migration awaiting them this fall. I'd adore to see them successfully raise a brood but I'm starting to wonder if it might be smarter for them to start preparing for migration. Mr. Flycatcher seems to disagree, as he guarded the nest this morning with all the enthusiasm that he did when they made their first nest.

I said that there were changes (plural) while I was gone. The other one was with Miss Shyla. She has become even more snuggly and attached to me than before. Where ever I am, she's next to me, just like K used to be. When I go out on the deck for breakfast, I pull a bed out for her, and she always joins me. I adore having her by my side.
She wants to snuggle whenever I lie down, and she lets out long contented sighs whenever I hug her. Her affection is infectious! I always had the feeling that we'd grow a super strong bond with time, and now I feel that the time for that bond is now.
I am getting an inkling that I may be one of those unbelievably lucky people to have more than one heart dog in a lifetime. K expanded my heart, making it big enough for ShyBear too.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Happy Saturday

Happy Saturday to all of you. We are having a restful one, relaxing on the deck watching our recording of the penultimate stage of the Tour de France. Our ShyBear has learned how to live the good life in the summertime, snoozing in the sunshine on the deck.
Of course, a big part of why a young dog like her can snooze away the day is that she got a good romp in the mountains this morning.
The flowers are still glorious here. Since I know that we have a long winter with none of these bright and happy colors, I can't help but share the joy of Mother Nature.

But the animals are already preparing for winter. Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels breed as soon as they wake up in May or so. Then, they start eating non-stop to prepare for their long winter's sleep. They usually hole up underground to hibernate starting in September. Imagine sleeping for 8-9 months of the year!

The bears are doing the same thing as the ground squirrels - eating, eating, and eating. I have some more fun footage of cubs and mothers that I'll share soon. Yesterday, I almost met a bear family up close and personal when I went to check a trail camera. True to their nature, they fled and had disappeared by the time I pulled out a camera.

In this photo, you can see how skinny the mother bear is. She has been nursing her cub for a long time without substantial food available. Now that the berries are ripening, she'll go wild, piling on the pounds as fast as possible.
Serious R wishes that he were allowed to eat as much as this bear!
Happy Saturday!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Why I love the mountains

I love our mountains for a whole host of reasons.

I love the craggy peaks that hold snow all year long. 
I love the Hermit Thrushes who sing their hearts out every summer.

I love the flowers.
But, for the past few years, city life seems to be reaching its long fingers in our direction. I've had a few unpleasant adventures in our forests this summer, including finding illegal fires, running into crazy motorcyclists, and getting close to incredibly unsafe gun shooters. Today's solo mountain bike ride took the prize. It involved a stolen vehicle left in the forest and a dirtbag illegal campsite that may be associated with the stolen vehicle. To top it all off, I spent a long time giving witness testimony after reporting what I'd seen. Because an investigation is underway, nothing will happen fast to clear out the dirtbags - so I'll have to avoid the area for a while. This kind of stuff is getting more common around here, and it breaks my heart. Why can't humans just let some places be pure and peaceful?

I see some simple solutions, like gating certain 4WD roads that attract criminal activity, but the "authorities" just shake their heads - and cite the notion that the National Forest is a "Land of Many Uses". Hmm, does that include illegal uses like stashing stolen vehicles? Whose land is it, anyway? You'd think that the bureaucrats owned it, based on how they ignore the pleas of some citizens to take simple actions to improve the situation (believe me, I'm not the only one speaking up).

Enough negativity... I keep my dogs away from the areas where the "visitor activity" concerns me so no one will hurt them, and we revel in the beauty of the more isolated parts of our forests.
On another positive note, I'm sure that everyone around me has known that it would happen all along - but I can feel Shyla getting closer to me every day. I think that we are growing an incredible bond. She brings me joy, silliness, and lots of smiles.
And part of how we're growing our bond is by spending time in the peaceful and deserted parts of our forest together. Our time in the forest nourishes my soul.
The future is bright...
And Shyla looks like she agrees.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sunsets and Bear Cubs

I've been enjoying summer time with my pups and watching our bears. Here, the Duo watched the sun set with me.
A pair of Night Hawks nest yearly somewhere close to where we watch the sunset. They glide and swoop over our heads, letting out squeaking noises as they snag insects out of the air. The Duo don't seem to notice but I do. K and I watched the nighthawks last summer on many evenings - another good memory. Now I'm making new good memories with the Duo.
This was the view after the sun finally dipped below the mountains. Ah, I love summertime.
In the bear world, mating season has come to an abrupt halt. The reason probably is that their favorite foods are maturing and ripening. It's time for bears to eat and eat and eat. Over the next couple of months, they'll eat 10's of thousands of calories very day. It's rather stunning when I realize that an animal as big as a bear can eat all the calories that s/he needs for an entire year within the course of a couple of months.
Buffalo Berries
As the mating season has ended, the mothers with cubs are emerging from hiding. More than one family has visited this spring but I'll show you just one visit today, saving the other one for another video. Here are the two cubs who we've seen before.
The family first visited the base of a bear marking tree and then moved onto a nearby pool of water fed by a spring. The cubs are very cute! You can watch their activities here or at Youtube.

Since this mother bear is around my area a lot, I'd like to give her a name to make it easier to talk about her. I believe that she's the mother of "Socks", the young bear with black legs and a cinnamon body who we see photos of regularly. Do you have any ideas for a name?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013