Before we are too far into the new year, I wanted to pause a moment to reflect on a few striking things which did not make it into blog posts in 2011. Some of them I saw and recorded, others I saw and could not (or did not) record. For those, well, you'll just have to take my word for it.
Near our back door is a footbridge crossing Narrows Creek. While this creek has not run every year we have lived here, this past year was a banner one - at least for this little creek. Thus, one day in late July as I walked across the bridge I heard a commotion. Those of you who know me well, know I am fairly well endowed with curiosity. So, of course, I sought the source of the noise.
What I found was a little sickening - a little saddening - yet none the less fascinating! Now understand. I am not a mouse lover or a snake lover. I have never been one to call either a 'pet'. My son, on the other hand, will carry around snakes and frogs and. . .well, just about anything he can get his hands on. While I don't fear either, I don't care for either. Nonetheless, I had to feel sorry for the mouse.
Due to Elk Lake's elevation, the only snakes we find in our backyard are Garter Snakes. These snakes can 'bite' (obviously they have some sort of teeth or this mouse would not have stuck around for the experience), but not hard enough to hurt (at least according to my son). Thankfully (again, for my son's sake), they are not poisonous.
I have always assumed these snakes subsisted on bugs and such. At least I had never seen such a stunt - and assumed they would have no way to kill larger prey anyway. Well, I learned how it's done. First you drag your catch through the water and drown it (this mouse was not quite done in, as the last picture reveals, but it was not far from it). This was the commotion I heard.
At the time I snapped these photos, I am not sure if the snake was just trying to get away from me (and all the other curious faces who quickly gathered around), or if it was just heading off to await the mouse's eminent demise. One way or the other, I learned an interesting science lesson - and saw a sight I will never forget!
Another amazing sight seen TWICE this summer (so, you are right in thinking I have no excuse for not capturing it), left me so speechless I literally failed to remember I had a camera until it was too late. So, what could have been so amazing? A Trumpeter Swan chasing a Canadian Goose! I've always thought of these birds as similar in size. They are NOT! In fact, it was something like watching two stunt pilots - one in a Cessna and one in a Boeing 747. Although I have seen more acrobatic flying from raptors 'fighting' overhead, I have never seen anything to compare. All I can assume is one stupid goose decided it needed to be in a spot where that particular swan had staked its claim.
And, perhaps most amazing of all - this happened over by Widgeon Pond. I only 'happened' to see this TWICE while driving past. Since they carried on for long moments (not one pass but many), I have to wonder who else saw them? Certainly, I could not have been privy to the only times they clashed.
Up above Elk Lake are some small box (ish) canyons. I call them box (ish) because they are not true box canyons which only have one way out. However their sides are steep - and they are not the typical topography found around Elk Lake. For this reason I have found myself drawn back to them time and again.
The 'walls' of these small canyons are made up of dirt and rocks and heavy brushy growth. To make the area even more interesting, one day I stumbled across the rock pictured above. Unlike all the other rocks around, it is covered with 'holes'. When I first saw it, I thought they were old swallow nests. However, one morning I decided to take a closer look. Lo and behold - this rock is natural! Amazing! Where did it come from? Why is it so different? What created the 'holes' on its face?
My regular readers know we had a small fire up near Hidden Lake late last summer. Thankfully the USFS decided to put it out. However, a few days later, we had another scare. We looked out our window to see a red sky and billowing smoke. Where is the fire (for obviously there was a fire somewhere)? How close? Were we in danger? A few phone calls later we learned the strong winds had blown in smoke from some fires in Idaho. Thank God. We slept easier knowing the threat which looked so close was really far away.
Winter 2010-2011 was VERY different from winter 2011-2012. For one - it snowed and snowed and snowed. Unlike this year, we couldn't seem to find the 'off' switch. As a result, I was finding snow in the oddest places - and late late late into the summer. We found these substantial drifts on a north facing slope in late July. They were many feet deep, even after over one month of very warm summer weather. I kinda doubt we'll find anything like that this July!
The final 'highlight' to make my list for 2011 was something I've seen before, something which always strikes me as beautiful, yet something I have never managed to capture on film. Animals crossing a river has a wild yet graceful yet unspeakably beautiful essence to it. Particularly when they happen to be crossing a large and beautiful river like the Madison. So, when I once again enjoyed watching a pair of deer wading the river this past spring, I kicked myself for not having a camera. Oh well - I can only hope for another opportunity with a camera close at hand.
Even as I say good-bye to another year, I anticipate many more special sights and sounds and events in 2012. What will the highlights be? Time will tell - but I have no doubt they will be special.
Lady of the Lake