Animals Do The Funniest Things

I'm HOME! Finally! After waiting three weeks for the road department to open the road, I was able to come in from the West. Montana has still not opened the eastern route (the shorter one) so I enjoyed putting about 250 additional miles on my truck while driving for an additional 3 ½ hours. But, who cares? I am home.

While there is still plenty of snow around and the lake is still frozen, I am enthralled to see many new faces around. Most faces are sporting ‘beaks', but there are mammals included in the following true tales.

On the way home we were treated to an unusual sight. If you have followed this blog or visited the resort, especially in the spring, you are probably aware of my fascination with Sandhill Cranes. I am compelled to stop and listen when I hear their haunting cries echo across the canyon. Furthermore, I have enjoyed watching these large birds go about their daily routines.

Some previous highlights have been watching a late season romance - she wasn't interested - I mean she really wasn't interested! However, like some guys I've met, he couldn't get the "no" through his head. It was quite comical!

Another favorite which will remain imprinted in my memory was the opportunity to observe three tiny, orange Sandhill chicks last spring. When we realize how large these birds actually are, it is amazing their chicks can be stopped by a moderately sized log. Such cute little buggers!

Even with all the sightings I've enjoyed over the last few springs, I have never seen the Sandhills antics during their normal mating season. However, on the way home yesterday, I had a brief opportunity to observe a pair of birds getting to know each other. Believe me, watching a bird not much smaller than a Emu perform a 180 break dance is quite a sight. Hilarious!

The second story I will share with you is a combination of sightings and tracks. As I mentioned above, the ice is still on the lake. However, this does not stop the playful otters from getting around. Not only are they making good use of the small patches of open water which are appearing here and there along the lake's edge, they aren't at all bashful about enjoying the surface of the ice. In fact, they have just the right attitude - enjoy life, whatever your circumstances.

Their latest ‘game' is what we call ‘run and slide'. In fact, they remind me of kids playing on snow-covered ice. You remember? You run as hard as you can to the edge of the slick spot then slide (on bottom or belly or, if you're really talented, on your feet) as far as you can across the icy surface. Well, if you can picture that, replace the kids with otters and you will have a mental picture of the latest ‘game' occurring on the lake's icy surface.

While we have only had the opportunity to observe the game in action one time, the tracks on the snow covering the lake ice tell the tale of numerous games. In fact, on my hike, I happened to see some very unusual tracks. Four paw prints then a 6 - 8 inch wide by 5 foot long swath then four tracks and a swath - repeat, repeat, repeat. You get the picture.

An otter at play. However, I was even more fascinated as I followed this critter's tracks. Across the lake. Up the bank. Climb the hill. Up the road for several hundred yards. Then up the hill near the old fox den toward???? I'm assuming Hidden Lake, but that seems like an interesting, far from water route. I would have loved to follow the tracks further, but the snow drifts are still too deep once one reaches the north facing slopes.

While the otter stopped its game of run and slide once it reached the lake's shore, its tail which left a groove in the snow along with its tracks, made for a very distinctive trail to follow. Aren't animals amazing?

Another story combines a cast of unlikely characters - two bluebirds and a chipmunk. The setting is the bird house just outside the dining room window. Picture this - along comes a curious chipmunk - searching for a warm spot for a nap, maybe, or more likely something to snack on. So it climbs the post and enters the ‘door' of the bird house.

Little did this curious critter realize a pair of bluebirds had their eye on this birdhouse as a great nesting site. As soon as the chipmunk disappeared into their living room, the bluebirds flew in to deal with this trespasser. Let me tell you, if you are chipmunk size, don't trespass on bluebird territory!

Fearless Mama stuck her head right in the door and appeared to give the trapped chipmunk a few nasty knocks with her beak. Whether she made contact or not, the chipmunk took her seriously. As soon as the doorway was clear, he beat a hasty retreat. However, he was not quick enough to avoid a couple of parting pecks from the beak of one very irritated blue bird. I doubt he will be wandering unwelcomed through their doorway again!

And then there was the elk. A lone elk, so I assume it was a ‘he'. The first elk of spring is always a special sight. However, when you get a good long look at them because they are taking a good hard look at you - that makes it even more special.

So, this was an ‘even more special' sighting. After the fact, however, I had to chuckle. The wind was just right. He couldn't smell me. Thus he had only his vision to determine what he was seeing. And what a sight he saw. Remember, I hike with my dogs. The dogs were at my feet. So, this is what he saw: a 10 legged, 2 armed, 3 headed, 2 tailed creature which was broad and hairy on bottom and long and thin on top. That poor elk is probably still shaking his head!!

And so life goes on. Spring is coming - I saw green tint appearing in some of the grass!! The critters are returning. Bear tracks have been sighted nearby. We saw five moose between here and the Refuge Headquarters. No sign of deer, but I saw my first elk. And, believe it or not, the flowers are starting to bloom! No joke. I saw numerous little yellow flowers, "Sagebrush Buttercup" aka "Early Buttercup" dotting the south facing slopes. Now the Blue Grouse have something to munch on when they return.

Ahhhh, spring. Such a delightful time of year in the high mountains!

Lady of the Lake

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