Jan 192014
 
Mountain Lion Active in this area...

Mountain Lion Active in this area. Sign in Coal Creek Canyon by Colorado Parks & Wildlife

Here in Coal Creek Canyon Colorado we’ve been having mountain lion problems.

According to Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW, formally Colorado Division of Wildlife) the deer populations are down in the area. Unfortunately that translates to these lions turning to other pray. So far the community has lost 2, 3 or maybe as many as 4 dogs to these lions.

One attack was early, 05:30 hours, where three dogs and two humans were out walking (a morning constitutional.) The lion took the older trailing dog.

Another attack was late, at 21:30 (9:30PM) at night. Another large dog was out, with it’s human around. The lion was difficult to scare off.

Here is what Colorado Parks & Wildlife say about living in Mountain Lion Country with the pets portions being:

Keep your pet under control. Roaming pets are easy prey and can attract lions. Bring pets in at night. If you leave your pet outside, keep it in a kennel with a secure top. Don’t feed pets outside; this can attract raccoons and other animals that are eaten by lions. Store all garbage securely.

Mountain Lion typically hunt at dawn, dusk and at night. The main lesson takeaway is to keep your pets safe at these times. Don’t let them roam, don’t let them out at these times unsupervised, and keep them close. If you are interested in some reading around this topic, this book is actually based in this area.

Now any Mountain Lion can be dangerous by itself, and they are typically solitary animals. That said, a mother Mountain Lion and her cubs travel and hunt together. What then when a mother has twins? Here are three lions photographed in Coal Creek Canyon recently:

Mom (the leader of the line.)

Mother and Two

Mother (look into the dark) and Two “Cubs”

Aug 172013
 

I took the opportunity to hike to Devil’s Thumb last Thursday. (No, not the Devil’s Thumb in Boulder that everyone seems to think about, but the one at the Continental Divide above Hessie Trail near Nederland.)

First … oh my gosh, what a gorgeous trail! Open, nicely maintained, awesome variety, great scenery, wonderful wildlife and a spectacular destination. Well worth the 13+ mile round trip, and the aching afterwards.

Second … I am a fan of weasels. I’ve not had much experience with them, but each encounter has been special & I admire their tenacity as a deadly hunter. My encounters have been at altitude, mainly where the Weasel seemed to be hunting Pika.

This little guy was hunting at dawn, many miles back in the Colorado backcountry. The weasel had prey in it’s mouth and was in it’s white winter coat. It hopped across the snow and disappeared into a hole in front of me. Not a great photo, but an wonderful memory.

White weasel in the deep snow of the mountain backcountry.

Weasel in the deep snow of the backcountry.

On this hike recent I came upon a talus/scree field about halfway up the trail and saw what I imagined for a moment to be a baby weasel, it seemed so small. This is what I saw:

Again, not great photos … but I photograph more for later identification and memories with no aspiration to art. These photos don’t convey the critter bouncing around the rocks, but it is because of that incessant movement that I am grateful I even captured these. That and it was very early light.

I felt spoiled by this encounter, so am failing to mention the full pleasure of the many Pika and Yellow-bellied Marmots, the Mule Deer and the Coyote that I met on the trail, or the baby Red Foxes at the bottom. Wonderful wonderful hike.

Aug 052013
 

15 years or more ago I was out in the Colorado woods when I stumbled upon a Nighthawk. Normally I see these birds flying high overhead, doing us all a favor by clearing the skies of bugs. This bird was down, in amongst the trees, and was feinting a broken wing … along one log, up into on a tree branch. Quite fascinating. Moments later my attention was drawn away from the bird (and it’s impressively pathetic progress from tree to tree) by a chick at my feet. This chick was slowly walking away, hoping to go unnoticed. I’ve never forgotten that brief but enjoyable encounter.

Broken Wing Feint

Mother Nighthawk feinting a broken wing to distract from her nest / chicks.

More recently, when bat monitoring by a nearby pond down on the flatlands, I get a treat as large numbers of these birds fly overhead. Sitting quietly next to the water’s edge I not only get to enjoy the birds flying low over the water, but they casually breeze mere feet over my head. Most people I try describing this to don’t even know what a Nighthawk is, and I feel very lucky to have this uncommon experience.

So when in the woods recently and a large bird flew up from the ground I knew to stop dead. Nighthawk? Chick? I looked down, and for a while I saw nothing. Eventually my eyes came to this nest, right below me. I call it a nest, but really it’s nothing more than a scrape, a clearing in the duff.

Nighthawk Nest with Eggs

Nighthawk Nest with Eggs. Nothing more than a scrape.

I didn’t want to cause the mother stress, so I left as soon as I’d taken the photo. She was coming back around, and trying to distract me with her broken wing feint (above). I wanted her to beleive she’d succeeded, so I followed her away & left.

A week or so later I went back to the site. What a pleasure to see these two little fur-balls within a foot of the original scrape. As I’ve watched them I’ve enjoyed the striking difference in their color. I don’t know if they are different sexes, or if the color is something else.

Young Chicks

Furballs aka Nighthawk Chicks

Yet another week or few, and look what a difference! Now feathered, and looking less like fur-balls and more like small Nighthawks. See the color difference? Size difference? I think they are in the same position as the photo above.  These guys are starting to show that wide bug-swallowing mouth:

Nighthawk Chicks

Nighthawk Chicks starting to look like small Nighthawks…

Another week, and they were gone. That said, they could’ve been feet away and maybe I wouldn’t have been able to see them.

What an experience to treasure. Fascinating birds, wonderful behavior.

May 222013
 

Unfortunately the Boulder County Fairgrounds Osprey Camera suffered another outage, and it’s season is over. That said, it presents the opportunity for those in the surrounding area to go visit it, and share updates. Here is one…

Osprey at Cattail Pond, Longmont, Coloardo

Because in the real world these Osprey are easy to find, it was harder than expected to do so online. After finding reference to the Osprey being at Cattail Pond in some news articles, we found that on the Boulder County Fairground map. That said, when driving along Hover Road we easily spied the nesting structure and could park very close; just North/East of the Outdoor Arena.

After weeks (almost months) of watching these birds only from the perspective of the camera it was fun to see their pond, and the whole structure (including solar panels.) The first thing we learned was that while one bird is on the nest, the other is likely hanging out on the pole at the far end of the pond (see that pole/bird far right in the photo above?)

We were treated to a nest exchange and so got wonderfully close views of both the male and the female. They seem so much smaller off camera. Clearly they are incubating. I wonder how many eggs they are sitting atop now.

This is a small (and urban) setting, but was well worth a visit. Great Blue Heron, Geese (with Goslings), Huge Carp, Swallows, Red-winged Blackbirds, Robins, Butterflies and Dragonflies … and, of course, Osprey.

Male Osprey

Female Osprey

Female Osprey

Apr 222013
 

I’ve been having a lot of fun watching the Boulder County Fairground’s ospreys this season. The web cam is trained right on the nesting platform.

First it was waiting expectantly for the first bird to return, and then waiting (less patiently) the full week for the second, and now waiting for eggs (and hoping they time things well, given the deep snows we’ve been having.)

It finally dawned on me that it would be interesting to know which was the male, and which the female, and that this was a time where I could figure it out. Right now the birds are copulating regularly, with the male on top.

Here is what I’ve observed:

Female has a larger (wider) back-of-the-head marking…

From behind, you can see the female has a larger/wider marking on the back of her head; it is like a black diamond. The male’s marking is much smaller/thinner; it is closer to an inverted T. This makes identifying the birds relatively easy from the back.

Female Osprey on the left, Male on right

Female Left, Male Right

Female has speckled breast….

The female’s breast is heavily speckled with markings. The male’s breast is pretty much pure white.

Female osprey has a speckled breast, male is white.

Speckled Female

 

White-breasted Male

White-breasted Male

 

Additionally

The female is larger, but (to my eye via this camera) only barely, such that it would be hard to use this when they are together and next to impossible outside of that.

Right now the female is spending most of her time at the nest, with the male bringing her food.

See some #fgosprey tweets

These ‘Fairground Ospreys’ are discussed on Twitter with hashtag #fgosprey.