Dec 232011

Pack Creek by ShowMeNature
Pack Creek

Beaver Crossing by screek
Beaver Crossing

Elk on the Beach! by sniehans
Elk on the Beach!

O Deer by robinclifton
O Deer

Doe With Breakfast by screek
Doe With Breakfast

Buck Mule Deer by NatureWurks
Buck Mule Deer

Close To The Wrong End Of The Skunk by screek
Close To The Wrong End Of The Skunk

Winter is a Time for Discovery at Sky Meadows State Park by VAStateParks
Winter is a Time for Discovery at Sky Meadows State Park

Bull Elk With His Harem by screek
Bull Elk With His Harem

Black bear in the yard. by mountain_trails
Black bear in the yard.

Full Beaver Moon by screek
Full Beaver Moon

Foxy times 2
Foxy times 2

Large Oklahoma 8 Point Buck by screek
Large Oklahoma 8 Point Buck

Modeling Raccoon by screek
Modeling Raccoon

Ghostly Coyote by screek
Ghostly Coyote

Bull Moose at Autumn Oxbow Bend by cavaroc
Bull Moose at Autumn Oxbow Bend

Sow Grizzly Bear with Cubs by NatureWurks
Sow Grizzly Bear with Cubs

Red Squirrel by NatureWurks
Red Squirrel

Not a Mole… by adam_jack
Not a Mole...

Stalking Red Deer, but spotted! by HadleyWildlife
Stalking Red Deer, but spotted!

Puddy Goes Home
Puddy Goes Home

Young Coyote by BeverlyEverson
Young Coyote

Moose in the Yard by Unattributed
Moose in the Yard

Amazing How A Large Elk Can Jump A Fence by screek
Amazing How A Large Elk Can Jump A Fence

Elk Bull by NatureWurks
Elk Bull

Posing Marmot
Posing Marmot

Anan Creek, Alaska by ShowMeNature
Anan Creek, Alaska

Muskrat by adam_jack

Bullwinkle in the Rockies by betiam
Bullwinkle in the Rockies

A Large Oklahoma Whitetail Buck by screek
A Large Oklahoma Whitetail Buck

May 012011

Wildlife Species

The most popular species observed this month:

Wildlife Places

The 10 most popular places for wildlife spotting this month:

Wildlife Encounters

The 10 most viewed encounters.

Wildlife Observers

The 10 most prolific observers.

Feb 022009
Moose at Rainbow Lakes

Moose at Rainbow Lakes

I hadn’t been back to Rainbow Lakes in a while, in part ‘cos I didn’t want to recreate (or compare to) this wonderful trip (see right.) Still, with little snow around I felt it was close enough & high enough to be a good choice for a Superbowl Sunday hike. I hit the road early, and arrived amongst the day’s first blue skies and glistening snow flurries.

As was probably obvious the gate was closed down by the road (by the CU mountain research center) so I figured I’d stroll the few miles up to the campsite, and back. There was snow on the ground, but not a lot, so I put on boots and gaiters (foregoing snowshoes) and set off. With my Elmer Fudd hat, thick coat, warm gloves and a backpack full of gear I was ready for the day.

For the safety conscious, please note: I take a GPS reading for the car (one can get lost on even a straight road in a blizzard) and my family knew where I was/when I’d be back. I had gear in case plans changed w/o my consent.

Much of the trail was sun/wind cleared and an easy hike. Cross country skiers had but a thin patch of snow, in a ditch at the side of the trail, to shuffle along. Some intrepid snowshoe hikers had taken to the trees to find snow and adventure. This trail was a gentle upwards slope. Sunny & very pleasant.

Having seen moose here before I enjoyed looking for sign of them now. There were stale tracks, but nothing fresh. Amusingly at some points on an otherwise clear rocky trail there were big snow footprints as the moose tracks (compressing the snow to ice) had frozen solid, and all around them had melted. An amusing sight.

The trail continued into some wonderful country. A couple of vistas were presented with stark views of white giants (the mountains covered in localized blizzards.) Soon much was aspen groves, gnarled pines full of character, rocks … all good rugged Colorado country.

At one beautiful rock outcrop I stopped for a photograph. When my camera failed to come to life (I should have charged the battery after last trip) I felt mixed emotions. When in a scene that just needs to be captured a photograph can seem the easy way out. I took time to stop and take a mental imprint, I was the camera & nothing digital there.

I’d subconsciously planned (hoped) to reach the willow fields (just before the campsite) but came upon a good 1/4 mile section of deep snow. Drifts built and not cleared by wind/sun. I stubbornly plowed on (wishing I’d thought to carry the snowshoes) and was greeted with snow up to my thighs. Steps were laboured, to say the least. Here is what I found as I plodded along…

As you walk on deep snow without snowshoes you tend to hope, hope that each footing will hold without collapsing underneath you. They don’t. Managing the fall (as you sink deep, trying not to fall too awkwardly) takes almost as much effort as raising your leg to step out. If you cannot gain a purchase to get out you sit there, silently reciting “I will pack snowshoes, I will pack snowshoes…”.

Wet/cold or not, you sit a while in the deeper holes. Soft snow is best because you can raise your leg without additional resistent. The worst snow is that which signals the promise of holding you, then does not, then makes you work hard to get back out. When covering such terrain you have plenty of time to understand why Eskimos have so many words for snow. At the end of this I was exhausted.

Note to self: It is winter in Colorado, you take protection from the elements, take snow shoes too!

I made it to the willow fields and found little but stale moose tracks. More, but still stale. Perhaps they’d moved their range for the winter, found somewhere with a more convenient water & food supply. Or, maybe they were just in the woods watching me come, stop and sit & then trudge home. Either way, no moose sightings today.

It was a good outing. Few critters seen except the usual companions of squirrel and chickadee, but still a good outing.

Home, tired and sated, I might be able to sit down long enough to watch the Superbowl.

Nov 062008

I took the day off to go do some exploring in Colorado.

I decided to go to Rainbow Lakes to look for moose. A year or so ago my wife, daughter, dogs and I had come upon a mother moose with twins here and I wanted to see if I could encounter some more. I always enjoy the anticipation of believing a critter is there, and actively looking for them. I was not disappointed.

The dirt road was open all the way up to the campground (last time we’d snowshoed from down below) and despite a little snow it was an easy drive. Almost at the camp ground was a field of willows on the left, and up against the trees were two big moose sheltering from 21 degree weather; snow and bitterly cold wind. I watch them from the car without disturbing them, and proceeded on to my hike. Amazing how one brief encounter can really make a day.

I hiked the easy trail to the lakes seeing nobody else, and little but squirrel and other rodent tracks. I couldn’t quite stop myself heading up to the bowl above but I didn’t see any ptarmigan or other critters that I hoped I might. Frankly, I think “only mad dogs (Otto) and Englishmen (me) go out in the midday snowstorm.” (BTW: I had GPS and a lot of survival gear, and a big black dog for company, so I’d taken precautions.) Anyway, I am sure Rainbow Lakes is a crowded family/fishing spot in the summer, but today it was a wonderfully secluded winter wonderland. I’d recommend enjoying it before the gate is closed or the road gets too covered.

On the way home I saw some skittish elk [5] near Nederland, and I hope to see the large herd at the bottom of Coal Creek Canyon when I go down next.

A bit cold and blustery, but a beautiful day in Colorado. One to welcome in winter, and enjoy our wildlife neighbors.