It’s high time I post another phenology update. In all honesty, all the work we’re doing to get the house painted and sorting through drawers and closets to weed out what won’t get moved, I’ve not had a lot of time to just get outside and see what’s going on.
After months of only seeing groups of does, we’re finally starting to see the bucks seeking them out. Here are a couple of them caught on the trail cam. Mike said he saw another 5×5 buck not far from the camera the other night. We’ll find out in a few more days if he was captured on the cam or not.
A neighbor mentioned seeing two young bucks locking antlers on a hillside near his house last week. The rut is on from the looks of things.
And, while on a walk with Rhad at the end of October, I noticed what looked like elk tracks, but maybe they could be from a large buck instead. Maybe that was the first one to come calling on the girls around here.
One thing I have been able to notice more of late is the temperature, simply because it needs to be warm enough to paint. I’m glad we’re getting down to the tail end of it because each week in October and November has been a bit cooler and provided fewer hours to get out there to work. The most dramatic difference was in late October and early November when each week was noticeably colder overall. The shift from fall to winter.
The chipmunks aren’t out anymore even when the temperatures rise into the upper 50s and low 60s. I think the last one I saw was right around Halloween. I know I wrote that down somewhere, but can’t seem to relocate it. I watched one almost frantically gather as many seeds as possible from the ground below the feeder and scuttle them off to his den beneath the storage shed. With them heading to semi-hibernate (they go into a torpor state and do come out of it occasionally through the winter), we’re guessing the bears aren’t far behind. That finds us testing this theory by adding a bit of more ‘scented’ trash in the dumpster a day or two before pickup.
The tiny Pygmy nuthatches (one is on the right there in the photo) were quite successful nesters this summer and seem to have nearly doubled their numbers to around 12-15. It’s hard to get an accurate count as they seen to never hold still for long. The added numbers have given a boldness I’ve not seen before from them; they actually gang up and chase out squirrels and the Clark’s nutcrackers – the previously undisputed kings of the feeders. Just yesterday, one of the young squirrels noisily scolded them from below after being chased off.
At the feeder, the regulars are:
- Pygmy Nuthatches
- Steller’s Jays
- Clark’s Nutcrackers
- Gray Jays (aka Camp Robbers)
- Mountain Chickadees
- Black-capped Chickadees
Occasional visitors include:
- Hairy Woodpeckers
- Downy Woodpeckers
- Brown Creeper (not at the feeder, but on the tree trunks where the chickadees and nuthatches have stashed seeds)
Noticeably absent are:
- Evening Grosbeaks
- Pine Siskens
- White-breasted Nuthatches
Take some time this week (as I hope to do) and get outside to see what’s happening.
Surprise! Surprise! Finally we have a few things on the trail cam this week. Incidentally the neighbors aren’t leaving their dogs out all night to bark nearly as much. Odd how that works.
First up: a really tall fox
There have been occasional blurry shots of this guy (or gal) zooming through. This is the first paused shot. It looks a bit odd – the tail shape, and the size. I think this is the largest fox we’ve had on the trail cam. I emailed a Dept. of Wildlife person after doing some searches on the types of foxes out here and he responded quickly to say it’s a red fox, but the coat appears to not have the guard hairs. Yes, he’s right. The guard hairs are missing here. Have to keep an eye out for this one.
Next up: Deer
This is one of three that crossed in front of the camera – one of last year’s fawns. I’ve seen them many mornings when watching the world wake up and this group doesn’t seem to have any really young ones from this year. Though I did see one spotted one a couple of weeks ago sprinting off with the mom.
Finally: A Bear
The first bear we’ve seen this year, but it is getting to the time when they start ramping up their food intake – which is when they usually start showing up on the trail cam or we see them or the evidence they leave after investigating someone’s trash. This one likely headed on over to the neighbors house. I was up with the dogs about this time – and wondered when I was outside with them if there were any bears around. Guess there was.
And we’re moving the trail cam to the tree just to the right of the bear in the above shot – so many of the few captures we’ve had over this summer have been mainly butt shots – sure wish I had changed it last week. But I didn’t expect anything, really. Hopefully next week will bring some better shots.
Hello Time Change!
While my body might not enjoy adjusting to the time changes, my spirit usually soars with them. It shifts my schedule to different light that, in this case, signals the time to shift into summer gear. We still have a ways to go, but now is a time to take all sorts of phenology notes. Even here in Cody I can’t help but notice the changes happening all around here.
Rabbits are leaping and chasing all over. | Mule deer Bucks are starting to drop their antlers here in town. | Crocuses and Iris are sending up leaves in Mom’s garden and I keep checking them for blooms. | Bison up North Fork are more active. | Aspen trees outside of BBHC are starting to send out catkins. | The first Grizzly bear has been seen in Midway Geyser Basin in Yellowstone. | Pairs of Ravens are seen flying their courtship dance. | And a report came in of Wild Turkeys strutting their stuff along South Fork.
At home Mike said he spent some time watching a pair of woodpeckers testing out various trees – house hunting – and the snows we are finally receiving melt rather quickly with warmer days and a stronger sun.
If you’ve not kept notes about all the changes going on in nature – think about starting a phenology notebook this year. Paying closer attention – being more mindful to the world around you brings a joy and a grounding that modern society often misses because it hides in plain sight. Start this year. Start now. Get outside and enjoy!
We are quickly closing in on the heart of fall. Today is another one of those nearly cloudless blue-sky days here. Last week the night time temperatures just touched into the 30′s on occasion, but it drops more solidly now when it does decide to go into the 30′s. That makes for great sleeping weather with the windows open, but leaves the house in need of a quick fire to take off the chill in the mornings. And we’re not quite yet flirting with the first frost, here at the house, but we know it’s not far away.
It seems every time I walk outside, or even look down into our valley, the aspen trees are less green and more yellow with a few oranges mixed in. There won’t be the heavy amounts of reds this year like last, but there are still a few trees sporting more of a yellow orange with some true orange mixed in. but a majority of the trees are still mostly green. You can even see the difference in the trail cam photos a bit farther down in the post.
The big news this week was the good dumping of snow Pikes Peak received. I had heard a report that Pikes Peak received its first dusting of snow last Friday, but I never did confirm that. However, on Wednesday of this week, it rained ALL day here (much to our Corgi’s disgust – he does NOT like the raindrops on his ears). And while at this altitude (9100 ft) we had rain, not much higher, it was all snow. Thursday was my errand day this week and I pulled over to take a photo with my new iphone:
Yes, I finally have made it into instagram – which may soon show up here as a stream feed. I’ve taken at least one photo each day so far, so it may turn into a P365 thing – or not. Not sure yet. We’ll see.
I’m still seeing at least one female hummingbird a day these days as well as 7 or 8 robins hanging around. The robins are all sticking together now as a flock rather than individuals or small family groups and they will soon by leaving. Our next forecast for a cooler night is on Monday when the forecast looks like it will start to flirt with frost. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them gone after that – or right before it.
The winter flock that will stay with us through the snow and the cold is forming and asking for food at the feeder more demandingly. I’m still not giving them more than they’ll eat as a group during the day so it stays empty at night to help the bears continue to know this house doesn’t feed them. The other day when I put out the morning ration, a mountain chickadee didn’t leave the far corner of the feeder until the feed started to come out the bottom, but was back the instant the lid was down and I took one step back.
The Trail Cam is FINALLY in a location that’s picking up wildlife. Well, that and a chat with our neighbors with noisy dogs helped. Though one day it did pick their dogs leaping around and sniffing the ground in front of the camera, but that’s not the norm. This week we’ve had rabbits, deer, Cat (the cat), fox and coyotes. I need to carve out some time to make a video of what all this week held as there is a doe with twin fawns and one that has only one. And they’re all changing coats right now – even a few days apart you can see the difference. I think this is the same doe because of the dark patch that shed on her withers. This first photo is from 10 September.
This second one is from 4 days later at almost the same time in the morning. Probably fairly close to the same light in the morning would be my guess. You can also see the aspen sporting a slightly lighter shade of green.
September is a glorious time here in the Colorado mountains, and soon the roads on the weekends will be packed with people up to see the changing aspen. So thankful to at least have our little patch to wander and watch the trees change on an almost hourly basis.
Oh – and about last week, week 36, sorry about not getting that one posted – life was amazingly fully packed with other tasks and it just didn’t make it to the ‘ta done!’ list.
My apologies for the delay in getting this report out. My only reason is that summer is here, and with that comes much busy-ness.
Summer IS here – heralded in this week with pollen from the Ponderosa Pine trees. Wednesday was the first day we noticed that all too familiar layer of yellow dust on the cars. The bird bath in the garden has a ring of yellow on it as well. And the heat and wind have been with us much of the week. That heat builds some rather amazing clouds right around us, and then moves them out east. What we see is amazingly gorgeous, but we also know that it means someone out there is getting pounded with that storm.
And that was the case this week with the hail and tremendous downpours that destroyed so much in Parker and Colorado Springs. I didn’t bring out the camera for the mammantus clouds, though they were gorgeous and many people in the Springs got to see them. They say they’re rare, but actually up here we see them quite often on the back ends of storms. I really should start making notes when we see them, but usually it’s when someone is really getting hammered from the storm. At sunset, they can be quite spectacular.
The main story this week was about the failure of the nest with the White Breasted Nuthatches. I now only occasionally hear a White Breasted Nuthatch around, so I think that pair may have gone their separate ways. The Violet-Green Swallows, though, are around often and house hunting. They have been eying the nest box we have on the west side of the house as well as the box the Nuthatches were in. They come in groups of 2, 4 or 6, all careening around in large circles, hovering in front of nest boxes and occasionally landing on top of them.
The bird box on the west side of the house has never been used, but it was put there after we sealed up the hole to a nest some tree swallows used a few years back that gave them access to the space above the upstairs bathroom. We’d come home from a June vacation to find them already nesting there, so let them finish. It was interesting to hear the baby birds hopping around on the other side of the drywall in the ceiling, but that really didn’t need to continue. The tree swallows looked at the replacement space and rejected it.
On a drive to town the other day, I saw what I thought were 3 ravens out in a cow pasture, walking along the ground. But on the trip back home, they had walked closer to the road and I could see they were three Turkey Vultures. I’m not sure if they walked all the way over, but I’ve seen them there, close to Divide quite a few times lately.
One evening this week, we sat out by the garden to end our day and while chatting, we started to talk about the various birds we hear around here. There’s been on twittering bird I haven’t been able to place, so I got out the iPad and started playing some bird songs from All About Birds. It turns out that it was a Slate Colored Dark Eyed Junco – who responded instantly to the call on the iPad. I played it again and it swooped down toward the source of the sound, but was obviously confused. Behind us a Band Tailed Pigeon was at the top of a pine tree cooing away, and we nailed down a few others as well that both of us have heard.
Mike had a chance to see a couple of Great Blue Herons out at one of the more remote reservoirs in the area when he was there for work this past week. That remote location would certainly be a desirable nesting area. He said they would fly around and land at the very top of a pine tree – which we’ve seen before, but it’s just an odd sight.
The deer have been caught on the trail cam a few times this week, but still no fawns. Instead, we have a doe that really looks quite uncomfortable at this point. They should be starting to drop fawns fairly soon.
With the heat we’ve had this week which seemed to trigger the pollen from the pine trees, and the lack of moisture in this area has started to dry up a lot of the plants. The weeds in the dog yard are down right crunchy to walk on. The wild iris are blooming everywhere there’s enough water for them and the showy locoweed is just starting on a decline. One batch I saw along the roadside was a deep, dark magenta. Most are white, to lavender to pink, but this deep magenta was the first I’ve seen so dark. Really lovely.
I’m hoping we can get out this week to a spot we visited last summer not far from here where it’s much more wet and check to see what all is blooming there.
The wasps and flies as well as the moths and butterflies have absolutely exploded in numbers this week. The first horse flies were bothering the dogs as they enjoyed the cool breeze on the deck which had Taylor snapping at them as they flew around. She actually catches quite a few that way. Rhad, on the other hand, just prefers to head inside.
The day the White Breasted Nuthatches stopped feeding the babies was the day I noticed my first Sphinx Moth of the year, or I’m assuming it’s a Sphinx Moth simply because of the size. It was also on that day that I could resume taking moth photos in the mornings. With the babies growing, they were taking all the moths as quickly as they could each morning and I just gave up for the time being. I timed them one afternoon and they were feeding on average about every 4 minutes, and more often in the mornings, so the wall under the shop light was emptied out quickly. I still need to carve out some time to work on the moth photos taken this week.
I also noticed last weekend the rolled aspen leaves on the trees. Each contained something that was turning into a moth or butterfly. By the end of the week, they dried and fell to the ground, and all of them are empty. If I can find one, I may stick it in a jar to see what emerges. Also, the tent worms are still in their tents on the aspens.
Spruce worms are dangling mid air most everywhere around here. They drop down on thin silvery threads, then climb back up – and all the spruce trees seem to have the tips of the branches wrapped in threads. They are particularly thick this year.
So what’s happening in your neck of the woods? Take a few notes, snap a few photos. If you post to your blog, share a link! I love seeing what’s happening in other corners of this amazing world.
We headed to Yellowstone last week which is why there wasn’t a Friday Phenology report. So there’s lots to talk about this week…
White Breasted Nuthatches: On the day we left last week, the baby White Breasted Nuthatches sounded stronger almost on an hourly basis. It seemed possible that we would return to find an empty nest, but they’re still there, obviously growing like crazy. The adults bring as many moths as fast as they possibly can. I need to watch to see if there are still three adults around or if it’s down to the breeding pair now. I wouldn’t be surprised if they fledge this weekend. I’ve seen a few heads poking out to look at the world beyond the box, but I still have yet to hear the beating of wings inside there.
Hummingbirds: We mainly have Broad Tailed Hummingbirds up here – and they’re increasing in numbers on almost a daily basis now.
Downy Woodpeckers: They are deep into courtship now. The morning we left, two of them were flirting, checking out various trees and giving their “Queeka Queeka Queeka” call. Mike observed another pair in another part of the county the day before while he was out doing some field work. The books I have say they’ll usually nest successfully if they can agree on a tree in which to excavate a nest. So now is the time to get out and start looking for wood chips around the base of trees.
Mountain Chickadees: A few days before we left, we saw the pairs flirting like crazy and chasing each other through the trees. While taking photos of the tiny insects on the new aspen leaves, I watched a pair scour the leaves, obviously eating these tiny things. They would land on the thin branches and pick away at the leaves, move to the end of another branch and dine almost upside down. In the past, I’ve watched them build their nest using bits of moss from the garden, but I’ve yet to see them with any nest material. We brought back a couple more bird houses from my parents – they were hoping for bluebirds, but only get tree swallows, so gave us a couple of the boxes to add to the trees around here.
Immature Bald Eagles: While driving through North Park – around the Walden area – we saw more immature bald eagles hanging out near the road. That sparked a question for us. Are we seeing all these immature baldies near the roads because there are so many successful nests in that area, or do the immature ones hang out for easier meals – looking for roadkill? We haven’t seen an adult yet this spring in that area. Maybe it’s also just a coincidence.
Redwing Blackbirds: They were thick in North Park – pairing up and groups of them harassing ravens who came too close to their territory.
Sandhill Cranes: We saw, and heard, Sandhill Cranes flying over the Upper Geyser Basin while we were in Yellowstone, and also saw a pair that seem to be nesting farther south at the Sweetwater Ice Slough in Wyoming.
The trail cam still just seems to pick up house cats for the most part – and it looks like we may have a new teenager around. But one set of shots show a very pregnant doe walking by. Last year, when we could finally see that the deer were obviously pregnant, the fawns dropped no more than a week later.
The trail cam also picked up rabbits hopping about. I’m still surprised that we haven’t seen a fox or other critter that might thin that population out a bit.
A neighbor called us to let us know he saw the BIG black bear on his deck while we were gone – we had mentioned the ‘dumpster tipper’ to him before, and told him it was a big bear, but he was still amazed at the size. This is likely the same bear who – a few years back – would wait early on trash day for people to put the trash in the dumpster and rather than climb in, he simply pushed the dumpster over and walked in. The neighbor said that while on all four feet, he was taller than his grill. He also said he saw a smaller one moving through his property.
The Showy Locoweed is starting to bloom here – and is lining the roads in places. Also, the Leafy Cinquefoil is starting to bloom, as are the small Asters – that still need to be identified. I picked up a small sketchbook that I need to get out and use to get these plants sketched out for future reference – so I hope to have sketches to share soon. It’s ever so much easier to have a sketch and possibly photos to use in the evenings to identify exactly which varieties are blooming. I hope to also get out and get a good list of “What’s Blooming” on a more regular basis this year.
The various pine trees are getting ready to pollinate and turn the decks – and everything else – yellow. We’re both allergic to it here – and are grateful for the rain that knocks it down to the ground rather quickly. One of my jobs this week is to head out and check the various types of trees here on the property to see which ones are at what stage – it’s not something I’ve tracked before, but would like to add to the yearly checklist.
What’s happening in your neck of the woods? Leave a comment and feel free to link to a blog post you might have. I love hearing what’s happening in other corners of the country/world as well.
Ok, well, yes – it is Saturday. Life just got in the way yesterday, but without further adieu, here’s the phenology seen this last week:
The White-Breasted Nuthatches are still feeding the babies and still competing with me to be the first to get to the moths in the morning. The pace of feeding has picked up considerably this week. I can hear at least one baby in there, and possibly more.
We had snow again this week – bringing wonderful moisture and greening things up at a rapid pace. The spring snows melt at a pace the ground can usually soak up, making them welcome pauses in the speeding up to summer. The power did go out for a few hours – likely a tree or branch fell on the lines somewhere. At least it’s not the days like it used to be when we moved out here in the late 1980s. The aspen leaves continue to open during warm days and pause when it’s cold. The snow hasn’t damaged them at all. In fact, the temperatures hover right around freezing or slightly above. The hummingbirds – mainly male broad tailed hummingbirds – have enjoyed the warm (not hot) fresh food I put out for them on the colder mornings. Their numbers have increased, but not dramatically yet.
We know the Clark’s Nutcrackers (AKA Camp Robbers) successfully nested this year as they brought two fledgelings around that we and the neighbors have chuckled at. The youngsters don’t yet have white rings around their eyes and are comical to say the least – acting helpless when adults are around, begging to be fed and squawking up a storm, yet managing fine on their own when the adults fly off. On Thursday, one of them sat on the deck railing opposite the window I look out while at the computer – just watching me for quite some time. A juvenile squirrel does the same when zooming along the top rail toward the feeder. In both cases, we regard each other for a bit, then get on to the business at hand.
On the warm nights, the frogs can be heard even louder than they were before, and combine with the crickets to make the most delicious white noise to drift off to sleep by. One ridge over is about the perfect distance.
Mike saw a group of four bull elk on the way to work one day this week. He said they were all in velvet, but one had brow tines already almost a foot long and the main antler stems still growing out sideways almost two feet with no sign of being ready to curve upward yet – that’s a big boy! Mike said it’s one of the largest ones he’s seen in this area excluding the herd on the Fossil Beds. One of the other three was also a nice size, with antlers going out about as wide, but his were already starting to curve upward. The other two were quite a bit smaller. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a camera with him at the time. With the deer, nobody in the neighborhood has seen any fawns yet, but all of them look pretty ragged as they shed their winter fur.
Driving up Ute Pass the other day, I noticed the lilacs and chokecherry bushes were all in bloom as high up as Cascade. That’s nice to know that they both bloom around the same time – at least this year – I’ll have to pay attention to that in coming years to see if that combination continues to happen. It’s nice to know when to start scouting for chokecherry bushes to note for harvest later on in the summer. It makes the best jelly!
The Douglas Fir trees are in bloom, sporting either magenta or chartreuse blooms. And the Ponderosa trees have the blooms starting to form – they are the ones that make my hayfever so miserable, but that’s still a few weeks away.
Have a great weekend! No formal link share this week – but do share your observations (and links to any posts you might have made) on what’s happening in your neck of the woods.
Happy Friday! Time for a Friday Phenology report for the Pikes Peak Region:
The White Breasted Nuthatches are definitely on eggs, and there are definitely three of them working on that. The largest of the three, I’m assuming an older male – he’s actually quite a bit larger than the others generally takes up his post on top of the bird box, often dozing there. The other afternoon when Mike drove in the driveway, it caught him napping and he generally acted like someone saying, “I’m awake! I’m awake…where am I? What’s going on?” I’ve also had to rush out in the morning to check what landed overnight under the shop light because he’s out there already. So far this year, not a whole lot of variety of moths, and they all look like the same variety. Some mornings there are one or two, others seven to ten. The nuthatches are also finding some moths in the bark on the trunk of a tree next to that mercury vapor light, but no matter how hard I look, I’m not seeing them. Whatever they find, though, they share with one on the nest.
The insects are increasing in number, so the amount of food consumed at the bird feeder has dropped rather significantly. I’m down to the last of the birdseed and likely will let it be the last bag as the neighbor mentioned one of her dogs reacted the other night with the “I’m going to eat you!” bark she saves for bears. Normally it’s not a big deal for them when she does this in the middle of the night (other than waking them up), but over the winter she’s learned how to open the sliding glass door with her mouth (she’s a BIG dog) and this time they were racing her to the door.
I have put up the hummingbird feeder, but have yet to hear any. I even checked eBird this morning and there hasn’t been one report in Colorado yet. It does seem like the rush to spring this year has slowed its pace a bit. The earliest my phenology records for the first hummingbird heard was last year, on April 21. Next earliest is on April 25 for both 1993 and 2003. First in 2007 was on April 27 and in 2000 the first was heard on April 28. So, we’re definitely in the first part of the window of opportunity to hear the first scouts coming in.
Last weekend we had a good wet, spring snow. On the deck we had about 7″ total, but the ground had less since it’s already warmed up so much. That snow melted through the week working it’s magic like a color wash – as it melts, it leaves behind a slightly deeper green tint to the fields. The moisture has numerous pasque flowers showing up as well as a ton of candy tuft and a couple of flowers I’ve yet to identify – one so very tiny I’m going to have to sketch as a macro shot with the camera won’t show it clearly, though I’ll give it a try. Dandelions opened up all over this week and almost every one had a fly or insect on it. Looking closer, I did find an open bloom of Kinnikinnik as well.
The deer around here are starting to lose their winter coats, not heavily, but they definitely have a rough quality to them with hair starting to stick out at odd angles. But I guess that’s part of the waking up for summer look they have. I’ve also not seen one with antlers this week, but we mainly have a small group of does that hang out here right now. There are some bucks that hang out a few roads over – I’ll have to head over there sometime this week to see if they’ve shed their antlers.
So what’s happening in your neck of the woods? Link to a blog post or leave a comment!
(This post also shared on the Rural Thursday Blog Hop)
It seems to happen to me each February – that’s the month I traditionally take the least photos and just sort of hunker down until signs of spring start to arrive. I now have a long list of things to include in a phenology report to come sometime this week. The most interesting tidbit for us is the at the end of this slideshow (which is not a vimeo video – as a couple of people mentioned to me they were having trouble viewing it). The night before last at 12:10, we were woken up by something on the deck. I wondered if it was too early for bears still – even if they are up and moving, they aren’t voraciously hungry yet, so ruled that out. Maybe it was a dog moving around and we just mistook it for being on the deck. A few more noises and we were up and heading downstairs where we saw a raccoon with his head buried in an empty bucket that used to hold birdseed. Definitely a sign of spring! Remember, you can make the slideshow go faster by clicking on the images. Enjoy!
Here’s what the trail cam caught – you’ll probably notice a set of images that don’t face the shop – that’s because the camera was accidentally left open (oops). Luckily, it still works fine. The fox was also back – more than times that were caught on the camera according to the tracks in the snow. And, the tracks in the snow also show no lack of rabbits in the area. Seems there are just as many as before.