Showing posts with label spring. Show all posts
Showing posts with label spring. Show all posts

March 29, 2016

Western Snowpack March 28, 2016

Here in southern Colorado, we are seeing the result of several storms that went north. My area got six inches of wet snow on Saturday the 26th, which was nice, but now it's dry and windy again.

February 12, 2016

Of Sage Grouse and Prairie Chicken Display


This is the time of year when people are booking tours to the dance grounds (leks) of sage grouse and prairie chickens.

If the tours are full, here is some footage from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, outtakes and behind-the-scenes material from the film The Sagebrush Sea.

I have long assumed that some of the traditional Plains Indian dance-costuming and moves are based on these amazing spring displays.

May 15, 2015

Rainy Weeks Help Eastern Slope Snowpack

Click to embiggen.
I have not been diligent with the rain gauge, but according to the Wet Mountain Weather Facebook page, as of May 5th the foothills town of Beulah had gotten ten inches of precipitation (rain and snow melt) for 2015, which is higher than average.

April 28, 2015

Bear 1, Scout Camera 0

I went to check the scout camera nearest to the house on April 25th, and as I approached, I saw it lying on the ground. Apparently a brief series of events took place the day before.
Here was a trail through the scrub oak, pine, and Douglas fir. Nothing happening, it would seem — but something had tripped the infrared sensor.
A minute and a half later. But wait, the camera has been turned 180 degrees! This must be the perpetrator, a bear shedding its bleached winter coat. It just smacked the camera as it walked by?
Uh-oh. It came back.
And now the camera is facing another direction. And then — not shown — it's on the ground, with the mounting bracket broken.

OK, so I have ordered another "bear box" security box from an eBay seller that will fit not this camera but another model.

Yet other bears at this same location have paid the camera no attention while acting a little goofy. They are individuals.

April 25, 2015

Current Drought, Snowpack Conditions in the West


As we await the formation of another "Albuquerque low" and with it some upslope rain and snow on Sunday and Monday, here is the situation as of two days ago.

April 10, 2015

Royal Coachman

Royal Coachman (The Fly Shack)
Fidget. Eyes sticky/watering from hay fever. I have a long paper that I am supposed to be editing for an academic journal, helping the author whip the prose into shape.

Fidget. I write an email to a friend, mentioning that I am truly in editorial mode today.

But instead I walk ten minutes up into the national forest to check a scout camera. It has thirteen images, but I have forgotten to bring a new data card to swap. Looking around, I see fresh turkey droppings.

And on the way home, I hear a turkey gobbling right up where I took Fisher on his walk this morning.

Fidget. Internet. Nap. M. comes back from a trip to the grocery store, and I tell her that since her Jeep's engine is warm, I would like to borrow it and go fishing.

Not far, just up the canyon, where I park and put a new leader on the 5-weight line. A package of tippet material in my vest says "Best used by November 2002."

Does that mean
  1. that I don't fish enough?
  2. that "use by" dates are meaningless on fishing gear?
  3. that I buy more supplies than I need, forgetting what I have?
  4. all of the above?
On the stream, I tie on a Royal Coachman — a little season-opening ritual in honor of my father — and I catch a a couple of tiny brook trout, which go back into the little creek. I demand at least a six-inch minimum on brookies.

At least they are back, after nearly being lost to drought. The beaver ponds, I think, act as refugee camps when the creek goes dry, but the trout do not get very big.

So I feel better now. Maybe I can start that paper after supper.

March 09, 2015

It's March, and People Are Starting to Get a Little Funny

A neighbor posts in a local buy-and-sell group on Facebook:
I have several pickup loads of gently used snow I would part with at a very reasonable price. No deliveries. You haul. Message me fer details.

March 07, 2015

Some Spring 2015 Weather Predictions

When it comes to the temperature chart, at least, it seems that readers in British Columbia and Alberta could just extend the shaded zones through Canada. Or compare Environment Canada's long-range forecast products.

June 15, 2014

Hanging Out at the Spring

I recently checked the scout camera at Camera Trap Spring (in a forest that burned in 2012). On May 10 these bull elk had pretty well stomped the spring into more of a "wallow." You can see their antler buds as this year's antlers start to grow. By now the antlers would be much larger and "in velvet,"  being covered with a nourishing layer of skin and blood vessels.

June 14, 2014

Primroses, Wild Mustard, and Homiletics

Having a sort-of average spring after several dry years means seeing old friends, plus some plants we regard with suspicion.

Cutleaf primose scattered in pasture.
I mentioned the purple/blue mustard. They were succeeded in May by cutleaf (or prairie) primroses—not the huge banks of them sometimes seen on the remaining High Plains grasslands, like Pawnee National Grasslands, but a lot for us.
Cutleaf evening primose, Oenothera coronopifolia
Here is a close-up —these were a little shredded by hail on the previous day.

They have been followed by a yellow-flowered wild mustard that has a sort of rotting-soap smell (or "stale dishrag") when stepped or driven upon. It looks like this one: Sinapis arvensis, but the distribution map does not show it in Colorado. Maybe a relative? Can't mow it all to stop the seeding, so it will be back when conditions are right.

Or as the gospel says, "But when it is grown, it is greater than the herbs, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in its branches."

If preachers ever interacted with the natural world, they might dust off their sermons on the parable of the mustard seed this year. People could visualize it.

May 22, 2014

A Blanket of Stupidity Has Descended on Our County, Part 1

This is not a rattlesnake (Wikimedia Commons).
For an appetizer, consider this post from a Facebook page for residents of my little mountain county:
It's that time of year...rattlers are coming out of hibernation. Wherever you are please be watchfull. Listen to your pets, they know when something isn't right. My dog had this one pinned out in our yard this afternoon. She didn't go near it, but new [sic] it wasn't right. 
(Warn Uncle Joe, cuz he's a-moving kind of slow.)

The attached photo was a picture of a bullsnake, non-venomous and not a threat unless you are a mouse.

Although they have no rattles, bullsnakes will vibrate their tails as a threat display. This produces such reactions from Homo sapiens as this from the same Facebook post:
All Rattlesnakes I see gets to meet my 44 mag with snakeshot. I always like to say hi.
Thanks for sharing, Dave E.

There is more.

May 19, 2014

The Teddy Bears' Picnic

Beneath the trees where nobody sees 
They'll hide and seek as long as they please 
 'Cause that's the way the Teddy Bears have their picnic.
When do the bears emerge from hibernation? And when do they start appearing around the house? A neighbor picked up some on their scout camera, about three miles away, earlier this month. This young (subadult) bear had its picture taken on the 16th, about ten minutes' walk from the house.

Two large bear turds are circled.
Then this morning, while M. and I were eating breakfast outdoors, Lt. Fisher of the Garbage and Carrion Location and Disposal section located and was trying to dispose of a ripped-up sack of garbage on the other side of the wooded ravine in front of the house.

And there was another similar sack and similar bear turds only yards away. Yes, the bears had been having a picnic.

Internal evidence pointed to the garbage coming from the neighbor across the road. She said she had put out her trash on Tuesday, but that the garbage driver "hadn't taken it."

Or maybe she had told her son, the aspiring "dark arts painter," to roll the wheelie bin out to the road, but he never did it. So the bears found it. Whatever. Let's just listen to Der Bingle sing the song.

May 02, 2014

Purple Mustard Explained

Image from Southwest Colorado Wildflowers.
Apparently the combination of several dry years, followed by a pretty good late-summer monsoon in 2013 and decent winter snow has produced so much purple mustard (Chorispora tenella) that people in southern Colorado are asking, "What are the purple flowers?"

Westcliffe botanist Christine MacLeod explains all here.

"During the drier years, seeds from many of our high prairie plants, including purple mustard, chose to remain dormant in the soil, contributing to a rich seed bank for years to come. Seeds can stay in dormancy for many years until the conditions are optimal for sprouting. And that is just what they all have done these past few weeks."

It's another invasive Asian species.

April 17, 2014

The Hummingbird's Gamble

On April 11th I mentioned on Facebook that the first broad-tailed hummingbird had arrived, and a friend a few miles north in similar habitat said that she had seen one too.

The bird flew up to the end of the veranda where the feeder hangs during the summer, circled, and left. I had some sugar water ready, got a feeder from the basement, filled it, and hung it up.

He did not come back that day.

It's a tradition that at least one snowstorm follows the males' arrival. I always tell M. that thousands of years of evolution must have prepared them for this possibility, that they settle into "torpor" and wait it out.

Sure enough, on the 13th we had cold rain and graupel turning into snow, with a foot of snow accumulating and temperatures down around 20° F (-7° C).

The sun came out on Monday, but the hummingbird did not. The feeder hangs there — I can see it from my desk —but no hummer has visited it.

Maybe our one early hummingbird kept on flying. Maybe he froze to death. I would like to know, but I never will. Was the early arrival worthwhile just to get a good breeding territory?

March 28, 2014

First Pasque Flower of Spring

I saw these Pasque flowers blooming on the 26th when I went to check a nearby scout camera.

The amazing part is that they are growing in a finger-deep (or less) layer of leaves and pine needles on top of a huge boulder.

March 19, 2014

You Can't Burn 'Em, You Can't Plow 'Em: SE Colorado's Tumbleweed Blizzard

Southeast Colorado county officials try to deal with the combination of blustery spring winds and last summer's bumper crop of tumbleweeds (Russian thistle).

Burning kills the seeds, but you cannot burn them when it is windy. And the various mulching solutions just scatter the seeds.

March 02, 2014

One Frosty Morning

The forces of fog advance toward the house.
Hoarfrost on Gambel oak.
Yesterday felt like a clash of the weather titans. When I woke up, the air was foggy and the temperature about 20° F. I put on a warm jacket and took Fisher on the road climbing into the national forest. In little more than two hundred yards we had climbed out of the fog, and at the top of the first low ridge, it felt twenty degrees warmer.

All day, a warmer westerly breeze fought the fog advancing up from the plains. (Sort of like the California coast if you substitute the High Plains for the Pacific Ocean.) In the end the fog was triumphant, giving us something that we see only once or twice a year — hoarfrost.

Today the sun broke out, illuminating the frost.

The driveway.
Mixed pines and juniper.
If I had taken the last photo an hour later, I would have heard the Clock of the Cranes — a flock of sandhill cranes overhead, the first of the season here that I have heard.

They were at Monte Vista NWR a few days ago, where they will be "Celebrating Spring in the Valley of the Cranes" next weekend, March 7th–9th.

May 13, 2013

What Is This Thing You Call Spring?

I was almost seventeen before I encountered "spring."

This year, it snowed eight inches on the 1st of May, and the subsequent week was cool, cloudy, and rainy. The sun came out again on the 12th, and today, hauling brush and branches, I am sweating as the temperature hits 80° F (27º C).

Sugarbowl clematis is blossoming and some trees are leafing. (Gambel oak, a native, always waits until late May.) Hummingbirds orbit the sugar-water feeder.

Evidently, our spring is over — or almost over.

But just before my seventeenth birthday, I was living for a time in suburban St. Louis with my older sister's family, and something odd happened.

There was a period of some weeks when it was not too warm, flowers blossomed everywhere, and the notorious St. Louis humidity was not yet oppressive. People seemed to revel in it.

Evidently that is the "spring" of which the poets speak. We never have it.

Ancestral wisdom is encoded in a little verse, however, which tells how Colorado has
Winter in the spring,
Summer in the fall,
Fall in the winter,
And no spring at all.

May 07, 2013

Mountain Snowpack, May 1, 2013

Click to enlarge.
Colorado looking much better, except south of the Arkansas River and in the San Luis Valley —  New Mexico not so good. Compare past years' maps.

April 29, 2013

Signs of Spring (4)

Pasque flower (Wikipedia).
Pasque flowers and spring beauty (Claytonia) finally in bloom.

• Flocks of high country-bound motorcyclists on the state highway over the last weekend.

• Mourning doves are back, while the huge flock of pine siskins at the bird feeders has dispersed.

• The weather forecast alternates "high fire danger" and "rain turning to snow."