Sunday, February 22, 2009

In the neighborhood ...

We hauled Helga the Aziat out to a remote sheep ranch today. She joins up with her sister and one of her brothers on the ranch, in wolf country. It's always hard to part with an animal you make a connection with, but it's always good to think about the wild adventures they are about to have, and how much fun it will be for them. Of course, I got to visit with Vega, the sister, today, which was a bonus.

Anyway, the journey, about an hour back toward the Wind River Mountains, was pleasant, and we flushed hundreds of sage grouse off their wintering grounds. The photo above shows a very small portion of the grouse that took to the air. It was almost 30 degrees, the snow is not deep, and the grouse numbers were impressive. My target date for visiting the sage grouse breeding grounds, called "leks," is April 1, so I'm wondering if the mild weather might make breeding season peak a little earlier than usual. The grouse that we flushed today were within a mile of a lek where I counted about 400 birds last year.

A little further down the road, I saw this little face watching us from the end of a culvert.

Once I disrupted this red fox, it had no intention of sticking around. At first it took cover in the culvert, but then decided to race across the snow. As I was leaving, I looked back to see it sitting in the road, looking back at me.

Yesterday, Jim and I headed to the grocery stores in town (misery loves company, so the two of us is a requirement) and saw this young bald, perched on a fence post along the highway. It was waiting for a chance to feed on a road-killed mule deer. A very mangy, three-legged coyote fled the scene when we arrived. I took some photos of the thing, but I'll spare you. Mange is not pretty, and it's been hitting our coyote populations and wolf packs more and more in the last few years. Nature's population control, eh?


Reid Farmer said...

Cat - beautiful photography as always.

I think those not familiar with sage grouse would be even more impressed if they knew what big birds they are.

Cat Urbigkit said...

Good point - I'll have to show that soon. I'll be hitting the leks in the next few weeks for photos, so I'll do a longer post on sage grouse then.
Thanks for the kind word on photos. By the way, the last "supply your own caption" made my entire week - I laughed and laughed. I especially liked the "hemi" caption.

Reid Farmer said...

The lion pic was too good an opportunity - people round these parts have unique senses of humor.

Look forward to your grouse and lek stuff.