Oct 282009
Coal Creek Canyon Elk

Coal Creek Canyon Elk

I’ve been working too much recently, a confluence of events but the results (hopefully worthwhile) will be announced shortly. Still, one result … a tired/unfocused brain (way too prone to wildwalking in Twitter-land) and an antsy body. With a big snow storm (foot or more) expected to hitting the next day or so, I needed to get out and #playoutdoors. The goal of “go see the Elk” came to mind, a wildlife goal, time to go wildobs’ing…

I grabbed my binoculars, camera (not taken her out enough) and iphone and set off to the bottom of the Canyon. There is a winter warning for an approaching snow storm, and I know the Elk like to move down into the flatlands (down from the rugged foothills) when storms approach. I wanted to find them.

As I approached the the place I hike I stumbled upon a mule deer foraging openly on bushes, then a red-tailed hawk sitting high on a tree above. (I’ll post photos of both later.) I wandered out into the hidden valley and found it such a wonderfully warm/calm fall day I really couldn’t help but to sit and just enjoy. Gosh, yes … fall is my favorite season in Colorado.

Black-capped chickadee (they always look so sharp and dapper) and magpies kept me company, although one small wasp didn’t seem to want me there. Hmm, quite a few wasps and other bugs about on this warm day … I wonder if (and then how) they’ll survive this coming snow.

No Elk to be seen in the hidden valley (I didn’t expect them there, too ‘claustrophobic’ for daytime) nor on the plains (I did there.) After a few minutes sitting a movement caught my eye up the hill. A herd 50 or more strong was coming over the railroad tracks, slowly making their way to the plains. I’d gotten ahead of myself (or at least the Elk) and was there before them. So, I returned to where I’d started (the closest point to them) and savored the scene.

I stopped to photograph a fluffy caterpillar [have an id for m? please comment] (how late in the year is s/he?) and that moment delayed me just enough to reach a fence line just in time to enjoy a northern harrier doing it’s ‘circuits and bumps’ over the field. Gosh, I was getting far more than I’d hoped for, a simple yet wonderful wildobs’ing trip.

It might not have been the most energetic or adventurous trip out, but it sure recharged my wildlife batteries. Yum!

May 222009
Cool Snake Park (aka Van Bibber Park)

Cool Snake Park (aka Van Bibber Park)

Do you have a local park or open space that is just wonderful with wildlife? If it helped get more families to engage and play outdoors would you share it with others? I hope so…

My daughter and I have two criteria for where we get our daily green hours with one being “fun playground equipment with a random smattering of other kids” (guess who picked that one ;-) and the other being “local wildlife”.

Over the last year we have found a some really good spots. Here is the (cool & harmless) snake park. Here is the oriole & king bird park. Here is the biking/scootering owl & waterfowl trail. Also, here is where I go when I need to get a little exercise and be on top of the world, while still remaining close enough to get back on time to shuttle to soccer.

Wildlife is all around us and it is fun & relatively easy to get one’s green hour with wildlife while playing at local parks or on trails. If we share with each other the good parks and open spaces, and what they hold for us, we can appreciate wildlife right in our neighborhoods. Please share your park’s wildife with others.

Here is how to add your park…

If you haven’t already, create your WildObs username, or claim your Twitter username to become a WildObs Observer.

Then, post a wildlife encounter for your favorite wildlife spot. You can use the WildObs website, or (if you have one) your iPhone or iPod Touch. You don’t need to list every species, perhaps just the one or two that make the place special for you.

Put your park on the map. Put it’s wildlife on the map.

Park Sharing Observers

Here are some wonderful observers sharing their parks:

And, quite spectacularly, we have @rangergirl141 sharing  Riverbend Park, FL.
Apr 162009

As I was driving back into Coal Creek Canyon this morning I spied the 70-80 strong herd of Elk over in the open space by Plainview. That was enough for me to detour & go for a walk. If you didn’t get to be/play outside today, let me take you where I went…

Plainview (albeit later in the year)

Plainview (albeit later in the year)

Sunny but not hot and with little wind it was perfect for a stroll. Mountain bluebirds (not as many as earlier in the year, and no Western) and Meadowlark were about, and some other small lark of sorts was making music up in the sky. Basically a just another great day to be alive and outdoors.

The ground was moist, the recently melted snows had granted that. The moles had made the most and pushed up a lot of soil & Elk had planted their hooves firmly in those piles. Small purple flowers were blooming, as were fat/round cactus. One could get a decent dose of wildlife just by stopping & looking down.

Up the other side of the draw the few remaining resting Elk were preparing to join the herd out on the plains. I watched them get up and casually move on. The couple of bull Elk were little more than spikes, and one lopsided with a single antler. A young Elk (and there were many) seemed to be having fun with a group of mule deer, perhaps lauding his ‘large’ size over them. For once he wasn’t the smallest around, and he seemed to enjoy herding them to his whim.

The creek draw was largely devoid of birds for a change. That’ll change soon enough, but right now the chatterers were scads of crickets (clicking their red wings), rushing water, and frogs. One small indent in the ground forms a pond this time of year (weeks ago it was just dry dirt) and the frogs were croaking their mating calls.

A year ago I’d found these frogs hard to creep up on, but had managed, so decided to take on the challenge of stalking them. My goal … to see them mid croak. Daft as it might seems, my tool of choice was my binos … ‘cos these critter are small, hide well, and shut up when disturbed. I spent over half an hour creeping steadily closer and closer to those noise makers, and (sad to say) I failed. They hid in an inches deep pond, invisible despite my focused scrutiny. Amazing; today I’d fail as a heron looking for lunch. I’d hoped to identify these frogs, but today I had to settle for … they are the “loud croaking, good hiding” type of frog.

As I watched the pond I remembered to take occasional looks behind me; one never knows when wildlife will sneak op on a sneaker. I half hoped the deer would tire of being herded and seek shelter down here, but if they did they passed unnoticed.

Still, as I left the puddle, I stumbled upon a small group of travelling Elk coming to re-join the herd. I’d caught their eye just as they caught mine, and although they hadn’t fully made me I only watched them for a while before I moved on. I’d replenished my wildlife batteries for the day. A good trip.

Apr 062009

Recently, I’ve taken to posting #ABDIP each morning. It started because I observed @coastalartist doing similarly, and felt it was a glorious way to start the day; to focus on the wonderful & value the gift of life. Here in Colorado that isn’t hard, things are often so amazing.

This morning (a Monday morning in many ways) I wasn’t ready to settle down to work so I decided to walk the dog, and get the days juices flowing. Bright white snow everywhere (a foot or more, but fluffy/melting not cold/freezing) and bright blue in the sky. Typical Colorado winter.

Just slightly up the hill the distinctive tracks of turkey are everywhere. Their long scaly legs allow them to wander in the woods, but in deep snow they enjoy a break of a snow-plowed road, like we all do. A fox had a similar idea, or maybe was sniffing after a turkey dinner.

The snow is thick, still hanging in the evergreen trees. Wind blows the occasional ‘glistening showers’ down to the ground; briefly they shimmer in the sunlight. The morning sun melts the snow, which drips to form into hanging icicles. The fields are covered with pristine smooth blankets of white (uninterrupted, except for the occasional critter track.) The damp bark of the ponderosas gives reds, the needles deep greens, the cones browns; all stand out against the snow enveloping them. All this works to deliver a “winter wonderland” to match any holiday scene.

Truly #ABDIP. Twenty minutes well spent.