Great Horned Owls Laying Eggs

I got up to let the dogs out around 4:00 this morning. While I was standing at the door waiting for them to finish, I heard Great Horned Owls hooting back and forth.

Great Horned Owls are laying their eggs now so their young will have hatched by the time prey like rabbits and mice are making their forays out of their nests.

Although Great Horned Owls normally hunt at night, every once in a while they are out in the day.

Broomfield CO owl

To see well at night, owls have very large eyes. In fact, owl eyes are so large that they are fixed in their sockets. This owl has turned it’s head completely around to see what’s happening behind it. Courtesy Randy Law

These large predators have the biggest range of any owl in North America, from the arctic tundra to southern deserts to semi-tropical forests, although they hunt better in semi-open areas. Their territory certainly includes my suburb in the foothills.

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Look at how far into the owl’s feathers the handler can put his finger! No wonder they can nest in the arctic. This bird is captive because its other wing is broken, and it can no longer hunt for itself.

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This Winter’s Weather Patterns

I’ve been obsessing for the last couple of posts about how dry we’ve been this winter. This image from the NOAA GOES satellite says it all: Screenshot-2018-3-4 Western U S Infrared, Enhancement 4 - NOAA GOES Geostationary Satellite Server.png

The blue is storm clouds — Winter Storm Quinn, to be exact, that dumped feet of snow on the Sierra Nevada. It hit the Colorado border and turned north to hammer Wyoming and Montana. Now it is making another U-turn and started into the Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas. These states are under a winter storm warning. Quinn will make its way to the storm weary east coast later this week.

What do we get? Nothing. Nada. Zip.

And this is the storm pattern we’ve had all winter.

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Spring Knocking at the Door

They may be having bomb cyclones in the East.winter storm riley. They may be getting feet of snow in the West. Winter Storm Quinn Pounding the West But in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, for better or for worse, Spring is knocking at the door.

How do I know that Spring is on it’s way? As I walked the dogs this morning, the air smelled, well, spring-y — wet and peaty.

The birds are beginning to sing. I heard the “wicka wicka wicka” of northern flickers.

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And the “chi chi chi chaaa” of spotted sided towhees.Spotted towhee in Gambel oak-07_edited-1.jpg

Not to seem ungrateful, but we could use a little helping of the storms to either side of us.

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Snowpack Levels Low

Many people don’t realize that the western part of the United States is generally arid to semi-arid. The Pacific Northwest gets biblical amounts of rain, of course, because of the coastal mountain ranges wring the water out of the wet air. Every range of mountains east of the coast catches the ever drier air, and squeezes a bit more moisture out of it. In summer, this water usually falls as rain.

But in winter, the moisture falls in the mountains as snow. The snow builds up over the course of the winter into a thick covering called snowpack. The snowpack only begins to melt in the spring. Depending on how deep the snowpack is, it often lasts into mid summer, giving regional cities and farms a long lasting reservoir of water.

The most important river in the Southwest is the Colorado River, fed by the Green, Upper Colorado, Gunnison, Uncompahgre and San Juan basins. The entire Southwest, including Arizona, Los Angeles, San Diego and the Central Valley of California depend on the rain and snow that fall in these basins that feed the Colorado.

So about this time of year, I begin to watch the snow pack in the mountains to see how dry our summer is going to be. Red is below average, green is above average, white is average, and grey is non-reporting either because it doesn’t have snowpack or there was a glitch.2018-2-23 NRCS Map Jan 2018.jpg

In January, it was looking pretty grim. (January Snowpack) Only the Northern Rockies were in good shape. That didn’t actually surprise me, because we in Colorado hadn’t had any real snow falls in November, December or January.

But starting in February, we’ve had a bunch of little storms. Most of them have dropped less than 3 inches of snow, but it has begun to build up. (February Snowpack) The snowpack isn’t deep enough to make anybody breath easy yet. But the storms have added enough to give us hope that we won’t have water restrictions this summer.

2018-2-23 NRCS Map 4 2018 Feb

NRCS National Water and Climate Center

It all depends on the next three months. Spring is our wettest season, by far. If mother nature is kind, we can make up the deficit.

Fingers crossed.


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Zoe the Corgi Snores

Zoe is a small dog — I think she is the smallest dog we’ve ever had — just about 20 pounds. She is small enough to pass under Tegan, who is not a tall dog.

Teg and Dar-2

Tegan and Darwin, each 35-40 pounds.



Tegan and Zoe, who weighs 21 pounds.


Zoe pointy nose

Zoe has a pointy snout.

For a corgi, Zoe has a pointy little fox nose. When she sleeps, she likes to tuck her nose under something — a pillow, or a blanket, or your sleeve. It’s as though she’s worried that she’ll suddenly start to float off if she isn’t moored by her snout.

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Zoe is held in position by her nose under Tegan’s leg.

She likes to sleep on our bed, and she has taught Tegan to do so as well. Tegan stays at the foot of the bed, but Zoe rambles around and over everybody else. The obvious answer is to keep putting her back down at the bottom of the bed, but that requires waking up multiple times through the night to re-position her, so it happens only rarely.

Zoe often snores. For such a petite dog, she snores surprisingly loudly.

All of these factors came together last night when she stuck her little nose IN my ear, right up in the ear canal. And began to snore.

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Cedar Waxwings

Out for a walk with the dogs today, I saw robin-sized grey birds with subtle yellow bellies flitting from branch to branch in a crabapple tree, eating the shriveled fruit. As I looked closer at them, I saw that they had crests!


From Birds of Pennsylvania, Dzung Tran

Birds of Pennsylvania

Cedar waxwings!

I’ve only ever seen these strikingly beautiful birds once before, for just a moment. I’m grateful for a second look. In a way, it’s strange that I haven’t seen them more often, because according to Birds of North America, cedar waxwings live in Colorado foothills and up all year round.

Even better news is that, with the planting of fruit and ornamental trees, and the reduction of pesticides, cedar waxwings are on the increase. Yippee!

I used to carry my camera with me every time I took the dogs for a walk. I got a lot of great photos that way, and I would have gotten some nice ones today. But somehow, I got out of the habit. I therefore had to download these magnificent photos from the internet.


From Adventures in Mothland, David Beadle

Adventures in Mothland

Maybe I’ll start hauling my camera along again…

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A little corgi dropped in and wanted to stay.

It was hard to lose our corgi, Darwin, but it was time. Still, we all missed him greatly. (The Gift Of the Dying Dog)

Then we got a call from our veterinary clinic, asking if we were ready to adopt another corgi. A relative of one of the staff at the clinic is going through a divorce, and moving to a smaller place. Too small for even a small dog. He didn’t want to give the corgi to the pound, if he could help it. Could we take the dog?

We were a little reluctant to take on another dog so soon after Darwin died. We were still recovering from watching the little skamp slowly decline.

More to the point, we already had Tegan, our year old corgi-Rottweiler-cattle dog-pit bull bundle of enthusiasm. (What went into this mutt?) Years ago we brought two dogs into our home one who didn’t get along. The result was ugly. So we were a little wary — once we said yes to Zoe, we’d be committed —  if these two dogs didn’t get along, we’d have a big problem.

Her owner said her name was Zoe. She was just a year old, and a little on the small side for a corgi — about 21 pounds. She’d been around a bunch of chihuahuas without incident, whom she was happy to let rule the house. The owner sent us some photos so we could see what Zoe looked like.


Zoe preview (2)

He really didn’t want to take her to a shelter, but time was running out. He wanted to know that she was going to a good home.

After thinking about the temperaments of the two young dogs, we said yes. We’d work out any problems as they came up, but we couldn’t let her go to a shelter.

It took the better part of a month to hammer out the details, but finally, on the day after Halloween — All Saints Day — Zoe flew in from her old home.

The people at the airport Live Animal Pickup were wonderful. It was obvious that they tried to make the animal’s trip as stress free as possible. Even so, her flight was delayed, so she had to stay in her kennel for about 8 hours. She was stressed.

Zoe's Arrival.jpg

We took her home, and introduced her to Tegan the Terror. Loud noises, being bounced around, needing to pee, ending in a strange place, with strange people — it had been a very hard day for a little dog. Zoe took one look at Tegan, twice her size, and bolted to hide under a chair. She showed her teeth to tell Tegan she’d had enough.

Zoe and Tegan-52

Tegan responded with a play-bow so deep she was in danger of rolling over. Pawing the air, with little yips of excitement, Tegan coaxed Zoe out from her hiding place.

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Zoe and Tegan-22

Zoe and Tegan-64

They then started a game of chase that has lasted two months.

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Zoe starts the chase as often as Tegan does. They race at top speed around the yard and through the house.

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They take turns being chaser and chasee. They have worn paths in the lawn.

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They play tug-of-war.



Tegan and Zoe Xmas




When they finally stop, they flop down next to each other. I think we can relax about how they get along.

Tegan and Zoe

Sometimes, you just have to trust that things will work out. And sometimes, they do.

May the New Year work out for you, and bring you unexpected friends.


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Cold Weather Birds

We woke up to 12o F (-11o C) in central Colorado — we have yet to have a significant snowfall in the foothills west of Denver. It’s been a little odd to see so many different types of winter birds coming to the feeder without snow. But they are coming!

Male Sparrow_edited-1-copy

House sparrows. House sparrows were introduced into North America in 1851 and 1852. They quickly covered the US and most of Canada and Mexico.



House finches. According to Birds of North America (, house finches started out as a desert species of California and Mexico. They were released in New York City in 1939, and have exploded across the country.


Eurasian Collared Dove-3_edited-1.JPG

Collared doves. These birds were introduced to North America in the 1970s, and have since spread across the continent. Scientists worry that they will compete with native doves, like the mourning dove, but the verdict is still out.



Black-capped chickadees. Always in motion, these guys flit from tree to feeder to bushes.


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Red-breasted nuthatches.  Five years ago, I rarely saw nuthatches at my feeders. Now they are fairly common. (Nuthatches paring up)


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Dark-eyed juncos. I rarely see dark-eyed juncos when there isn’t any snow on the ground. This year, I’ve seen a lot of them.


Male Hairy Woodpecker-1

Hairy woodpecker. People in our neighborhood trim the deadwood out of their trees pretty quickly, so it’s a treat when they stop by.


bushtit (2)

Bushtit. These little guys usually fly around in a flock of 20 or so, chipping constantly to keep in contact with each other. (Sharp-shinned hawk misses flicker)

We hope your holidays are filled with as many interesting visitors as ours!





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Thanksgiving Sunset

Thanksgiving SunsetA little late, but here is a view of the sunset on Thanksgiving evening.

Hope you had a beautiful Thanksgiving, and will have a wonderful Christmas.

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NASA Computer Simulation Shows 2017 Hurricane Tracks

This computer simulation from NASA shows just how interconnected the world is.

The computer simulation runs from August 1 through November 1, 2017. It follows hurricanes that tracked over the Atlantic Ocean this fall, letting you see how dust from the Sahara ends up in Miami, and smoke from the wildfires in California and British Columbia migrates all the way to Europe.

The first time through, listen to the narration. It explains a lot of what you are seeing, points out the storms and how unusual they were.

The second time through, watch what’s happening in just one region. You can see storm fronts come through, then dissipate as other systems disrupt them. It looks like the planet is breathing.

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