Puppy Play

We got a new puppy in November, and it has been a pleasure to watch her as she grows.

We named her Tegan, which is a Welsh term of endearment that means “number one girl”, “sweetie”, “honeybunch”.

She is a Mutt. Based on what she looks like and how she acts, her ancestry probably includes Pembroke Welsh corgi, Dobermann or Rottweiler, cattle dog, and pit bull but we really don’t know.

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Tegan at four months old. She loves to cuddle and play. And her tail never stops wagging.

We got Tegan when she was two months old. One of the biggest things that attracted us to her was that the first time we met her, she climbed right into our laps. I want to use her as a Pet Therapy dog, so this was a big plus.

When we brought her home, our corgi, Darwin, didn’t know what to do with her. It took him about a month to figure out that puppies can be fun.

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Tegan and Darwin playing together. It looks like they are fighting, but they were both free to leave at any time. Darwin was growling, but it was a high-pitched “puppy” growl.

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Tegan is mouthing Darwin’s muzzle. He is comfortable enough with it to be on his back.

Since Darwin accepted Tegan, they’ve been good buddies.

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Darwin lets Tegan join him on his favorite perch.

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Tegan is being very submissive here, no threat at all.

The red “octopus” is a favorite toy of both dogs.

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Her reward is to get to play with the favorite toy.

There are limits though. When Darwin has had enough, he retreats to his “man-cave”, which happens to be the bathroom. Tegan is not allowed in.

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Tegan waits for Darwin to come out and play.

Once Darwin has had a chance to be by himself for a while, he’ll be back out, ready to play.

 

 

 

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Night-glowing Clouds

I saw these clouds outside my back door last night, just as the sun was setting.

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I think they are noctilucent clouds — nocti means nigh and lucent means glowing or shining.

Noctilucent clouds form when there is a lot of ice particles from water vapor extremely high in the atmosphere.Mysterious Glowing Clouds Appear Across America’s Night Skys In fact, noctilucent clouds are the highest kind of clouds that form.

 

Photo courtesy NASA http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/station/crew-17/html/iss017e011632.html. The noctiluscent clouds glow right at the edge of the atmosphere.

 

If you are thinking that you’ve never seen clouds like this before, you are not alone — noctiluscent clouds have only been reported since 1883. They are, however, becoming more common and brighter. They are also showing up in the mid-latitudes — as far south as Colorado. Nobody knows why.NASA: Strange Clouds

What makes this shot so interesting is that the sun is so low on the horizon and the ice crystals that form the clouds so high that other clouds block the sun’s rays, giving the noctilucent clouds a streaked appearance.

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Sharp-shinned hawk misses flicker for lunch

The gregarious band of little bushtits took off in a burst of feathers and cheeping alarm calls.

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I looked up just in time to see a Northern flicker shoot out of the top of a tree, with a sharp-shinned hawk in hot pursuit. Luckily for the flicker, the hawk had made its move too soon, and given the flicker a head start the predator couldn’t overcome.

Northern flickers spend all year in the wooded areas of the Front Range of Colorado. They are in the woodpecker family, but they spend as much time on the ground as they do in trees, stabbing their big sharp beaks into the soil in search of insects.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sharp-shinned hawks are woodland predators. They, too, live year-round in Colorado woodlands, and in fact they cover most of North America.  Most of their diet comes from birds that they surprise and chase through the trees — exactly what I saw today, except that the flicker got away.notice the long notched tail and dark cap on head

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Go Vote!

In 2012, for the last presidential elections, 56.5% of eligible voters cast a ballot (All Races). That means about every other citizen in the United States voted. Half threw their votes away. They decided not to participate.

On Tuesday, we will decide what direction we want our country to go.

You have a chance to be part of the democratic process. Every vote counts. Be sure to vote by Tuesday.

 

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Rocky Weekend

My husband and I spent last weekend in Rocky Mountain National Park.

We took a hike up North Moraine, along the Ypsilon Lake Trail. About a mile up, I stopped to photograph this good looking male hairy woodpecker. I was really glad to find him. I had always wondered if I was correctly identifying the downy woodpeckers I’d run  across in the foothills. I can now rest assured that I was — this guy was much bigger than the downies.

As I took my photos, my husband said “Don’t move too fast. There are three buck mule deer just above us.” We stood still for a few moments, and soon, were had deer all around us.mule-deer-ypsilon-trail-05_edited-1

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While this was very cool, it was also a little disconcerting. We think of the big grazers as being very skittish and docile, but I have seen elk and moose charge people when this close. This being the end of the mating season, and and about half of this band being male made me stay very alert to their body language. But we all remained respectful, and eventually went on our way.

As we climbed a little further, we got a close-up of the damage that the Roaring River received in first, the 1982 Lawn Lake Flood, and thirty-one years later, in the 2013 Week of Water (Record-demolishing Storm).

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It’s a little hard to get a feel for exactly how deep this gouge is, but the trees growing on its edges are twenty to thirty feet tall.

One of the things that makes the gouge so deep is that it cut through, not solid rock, but the glacial till that the moraine is made of. I know this because the cut shows lots of sand with rocks of different sizes scattered through it. Glacial till is the rock that the glaciers ground up and pushed into thousand-foot high moraines on either side and at the end of the rivers of ice. When I realized just how loose the dirt was, I backed slowly away from the edge.fall-river-valley-from-n-moraine_edited-1

The hike turned out to be a lot longer and a lot steeper than we realized, and about half-way up, our water ran out. We’d been hiking for about three hours at that point, and it was clear that we weren’t going to make it to the top. On the way back down, though we caught sight of the Fall River Valley stretching out below us. A fine way to end our day.

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Apologies

I have just been made aware that a presidential candidate’s campaign has advertised on my blog. His views are the opposite of mine, and I will not be a vehicle for his venom.

To remedy this situation, I just paid WordPress a fee to remove all advertising from my blog.

I am sorry to have been a party, however unwillingly, to insulting your intelligence.

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Aspen on Mt. Evans

We love our quaking aspen in Colorado, and never more than at this time of year. They are turning now, and they won’t last long.

I took a drive up to Evergreen last week and found a little meadow ringed with quakies, some of which hadn’t turned yet.

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Aspen are in the cottonwood family. You can see this in their round -yet-pointed, saw-tooth leaf shape. Aspen leaf.jpg

But you can tell aspen from other cottonwoods because of their white bark, and the unique “eye-shaped” scar that forms when they drop a branch. As a child, I used to worry that aspen were watching me. Not paranoid, though. Not.

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I saw these trees on the way down from Mount Evans, one of my favorite places to go when I need to get to the high country (Alpine flowers on Mt. Evans, Tundra Fall).

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Now that the mountain pine beetle infestation (BioBlitz 2012 — Climate Change in the Soil) has burned itself out, aspen will have an opportunity to fill in the open spaces left by dead lodgepole pine. Aspen reproduce mostly by suckers, and so don’t have the dangers associated with being small and vulnerable for years. The slopes that were covered by rust colored dead pines will in a decade wear a mantle of pale green in the summer and gold in the fall.aspen-from-mt-evans-05

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Hummer colors

If you’ve read my blog for very long, you’ll know that hummingbirds make frequent appearances. I love those little guys. Even more, I’m amazed by them. How they fly, how they hover Hummers Are Back, how they eat Eyelashes and Hummingbird Tongues, the fact that they have to eat constantly when they are awake Hungry Hummer Can’t Wait. They are just generally cool.

One of the most interesting things about hummers is that the iridescent colors of their feathers aren’t created by pigments, but rather by the way the light shines through them.

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The red “gorget” on this male broad-tailed hummingbird is so intense that it is hard to believe that it isn’t a pigment.

Instead, iridescent feathers are built like prisms that only let red light through, and only from certain angles.

Here is the same bird when he turned his head:

 

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All that changed was that this guy turned his head to give me a nice profile shot. But when he did, the angle of the light changed.

When this male broad-tailed hummer turned his head, the angle of the light changed, and his gorget showed that it had no pigment in it at all! It’s all just a pigment of your imagination! (Sorry, bad joke.)

Many hummingbirds have iridescent feathers on their backs tuned to green.

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Female broad-tailed hummingbird.

The calliope hummer in Eyelashes and hummingbird tongues had a gorget of magenta, but I could never catch the light coming in the right way, so it looks like a ragged black collar.

This ability to show us colors without using pigments is a trait shared by a lot of birds. Blue then Black Magpie follows me on the trail.

Interestingly, although some dinosaurs may have iridescent (Microraptor Was A Glossy Dinosaur), no mammals ever developed the trait.

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Alpine flowers on Mt. Evans

I finally made it up to the tundra yesterday, not Trail Ridge Road this time, but Mt. Evans, outside of Denver.

Mt. Evans is nearly unique in the world in that it is a 14,130 foot mountain with a road essentially to the top (you have to park and walk the last thirty feet or so). It makes it an easy trip to get to my favorite biome — the alpine tundra.

I went up hoping, as always to see wildlife. But what I got an eyefull of was flowering plants.

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Summit Lake flowers — American bistort, alpine avens, and goldflower.

This view is of Summit Lake, actually a mile or so before the actual summit. Initially, I was going to just take a picture of the white American bistort in the foreground, but this was such a beautiful shot, I took it first.Goldflower (3)

Goldflower is in the sunflower family. It is one of the larger flowers in the tundra, standing several inches tall. About half of that is take up with the big flower disk.

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Fly pollinating Alpine Avens

One of the things that surprised me was the number of flies on the flowers. But then I found out that bees don’t make it up this high, and so flies are the main pollinators.

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Fly on American bistort flowers.

I don’t get repulsed by much, but it is hard for me to have kind thoughts about flies in general. But if they are pollinating flowers, I guess I need to try to think better of them.

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American bistort at 12,000 feet.

Bistorts are in the buckwheat family. This species is relatively large at several inches.

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Alpine bistort.

Most alpine flowers, though are tiny, like this alpine bistort, standing about an inch tall. To get this shot, I had to lie down on my stomach, with my camera on the ground.

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Purple fringe usually grows at lower altitudes, where it can stand upright.

Even if the plant normally grows upright, the frequent winds forces them low to the ground.

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Alpine Indian paintbrush? If so, it, too, normally grows upright.

I had a heck of a time figuring out some of these plants. I think this is alpine Indian paintbrush. If you know, let me know.

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Mountain goat blowing her winter coat. Look at how thick it is!

At the very top of Mt. Evans, I finally found some mountain goats. Mountain goats are different from Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. They are goats (duh!), with very sharp horns and a hump at their shoulder.

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Bighorn rams in the Big Thompson Canyon battle it out.

Bighorn sheep, on the other hand, have thick horns that they use to batter each other with. They have no hump at their shoulders.

 

 

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Rocky Mountain National Park In 360 Degrees

I just found this cool link on National Public Radio (NPR) that will allow you to see six views of Rocky Mountain National Park in 360 degrees — all the way around.Stand at the Edge of Geologic Time. In “Hands Free” mode, you get to hear Oregon State University geologist Eric Kirby talk about how the Park was created. In “Click-and-Drag” you can scroll through six different scenes, including an awesome view from near the summit of Longs Peak. In the upper right corner is a link “Learn More About This Location”, where you can read about the common animals you might see at these places (very similar to my book A Natural History of Trail Ridge Road Book Launch at the Tattered Cover, which, of course, is in RMNP, and passes many of these spots). I think my favorite feature, though, is the sound. Each scene has a recording of what you might hear at each place.

If you can’t get to Rocky Mountain National Park, this is the next best thing.

Awesome. Awe-some.

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