May 31, 2011

Rivulets, Ponds, and Flowers

One of the unexpected delights of riding in Tabby Mountain Wildlife Management Area are the small spring-fed rills and pools. Birch Spring (above) creates a meadow at about 8000 feet.
The water supply nourishes currant bushes for wildlife food, thick brush for habitat,
and usually a supply of lush grass.
We found this unnamed spring-fed pond, located at about 8500 feet, by following a deer/elk trail.  It has water year-round and a little taste of green grass even late in the year.
With the earth still moist from snow melt and a rainy spring, wildflowers sprinkle the range, flourishing amongst the sage.  Besides the ubiquitous paintbrush, we saw:
  Barrel Cactus are blooming on the mountain at about 8000 feet.
Steve accidentally turned over a small barrel cactus and found that the underside was home sweet home to an ant colony.  The ants scurried to move their eggs.  Steve replaced the plant where he found it, and all was back to status quo with cactus and insects.
After reading about ants and cactus, we found that there is a process called "mutualism" between the two species.  The ants feed on a barrel cactus' nectar-secreting glands, and in return, the ants discourage herbivore bugs from feeding upon the cactus.

May 30, 2011

More Big Game

On the same ride where we met Mama Moose, we also came upon a young bull moose hanging out near a pond.  He was small (for a moose - an adult bull can be up to 1500 pounds) and kind of scraggly with his shedding winter coat.  You can see the nubs where his antlers are emerging.
He stared at us with curiosity but didn't seem the least bit worried.
After awhile, he headed off into the brush.
Moose are common in the Uinta and Wasatch Mountains, but seeing them at 8000 feet in late May is unusual.  The heavy snow pack must be keeping them in lower elevations.
This bull elk preferred more open terrain for grazing.  He didn't stay around to socialize.  He was off over the hill before we had much time for photography.

May 29, 2011

Meet Mama Moose

After riding over a hill on Tabby Mountain WMA this week, we saw a moose about 100 yards away, staring right at us.
But what is that at her feet?
That's right.  We had met Mama and her tiny, still wobbly calf.
Moose cows are very protective and can be dangerous.  They will charge (and perhaps stomp) anyone or anything that they see as a threat to their young.
We stayed where we were while clicking our cameras, prepared to go the other way if she made any kind of aggressive move.  Daisy ran toward the moose, but we called her back and she reluctantly obeyed, no doubt thinking she'd missed a great opportunity to make new friends.  The horses saw Mama Moose but didn't seem disturbed.  I'm sure they would have rapidly retreated if Mrs. Moose had shown an inclination to charge.
The new mom must have decided we were not an immediate threat.  She collected her young one, all the while sending warning glances over her shoulder toward us.  
Then Mom and baby moved off into the brush to find a safer hiding place.
Moose will usually be found near water since they like to eat aquatic plants and willows.  This is drier terrain but provides good bedding ground for the calf and has plenty of green grass for Mom to eat.

May 28, 2011

Feathered Friends

This yellow-rumped warbler enjoyed a stay along our creek in early May,
And so did this Bullock's Oriole.
Mr. and Mrs. Red-Winged Blackbird have taken up permanent residence and have built a nest in the cattails.  
These doves appear to be hanging out as a pair. Maybe they have built a nest, too.

May 27, 2011

Blooming in the Wild

The high desert of the Wild Mountain area is in its early spring bloom. The photo above is a panorama taken from 8600 feet, looking down on Diamond Plateau with Split Mountain in the background just to the right of center.
Springbeauty carpeted the ground at 7500 feet.  This flower is one of the first to bloom after the snow melts.
We also saw phlox,
Nuttall's violets,
and balsamroot.
On the hillsides at around 8000 feet, barrel cactus offered unexpected beauty.
Beetles took advantage of its nourishment.
Amost back to our trailhead, we saw this group of young bucks, apparently a bachelor herd.  Their velvety antlers are growing.   The one on the right seems to have only one antler.  I wonder if the lady deer will scorn him for being lopsided...

May 26, 2011

Walk on the Wild Side

The area around Wild Mountain (northwest of Vernal) features BLM land stretching for miles and miles.  We've ridden the horses here before, but this time we checked out conditions on foot.
We climbed a ridge and looked down on lots of wild territory.
The wind was blowing hard.  From the permanent bent posture of this Douglas fir, I surmise that the gusts were not unusual.
The cliffs were awesome. Daisy took advantage of her lookout point to scan the valley for deer, elk, bunnies, cows, or any other friends she might joyously greet.
She really liked finding a cool patch of snow.
A stock pond was ideal for a swim.
 The real highlight of the trip (for Daisy) was finding this delicious, well-aged deer leg.  She looks a bit guilty, probably because she suspects she wasn't supposed to bring it into the truck.  It was a little smelly, so we stowed it in the pickup bed.  At home, Daisy enjoyed it for her evening backyard treat.

May 25, 2011

Little Hole

We began and ended our Green River hike at Little Hole. 
This spot was one of John Wesley Powell's campsites as he explored western river systems beginning in 1869.   The Green River begins in the Wind River Range of Wyoming and eventually flows into the Colorado River in southern Utah near Moab. 
The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons (Penguin Classics)

The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons 

 tells all about Powell's 1869 trip, including his original journal entries.

Flaming Gorge Dam now controls the water flow, but the Green River's path still winds through narrow canyons with swift rapids (Canyon of Lodore, Desolation Canyon) and through many miles of wild and remote terrain.
Run, River, Run: A Naturalist's Journey Down One of the Great Rivers of the West

To learn more of the fascinating history, natural history, and geology
of the Green River, read Ann Zwinger's Run, River, Run.

May 24, 2011

Wildlife on the Green

Wildlife is abundant along the Green River below Flaming Gorge Dam.
An osprey perched across the river. He was not an overly cooperative subject.  In the second photo, his wings are raised.  He's about to fly away.  He swooped across the river several times.  On one pass, he snatched a 10 inch trout. Too bad we weren't quick enough to get a picture of him lifting off with his dinner.
This rodent was about the size of a rat.  Muskrat?  Maybe.  It's a good swimmer!
We came across a strange sight in the middle of the trail.  Someone or something had killed a beaver. 
I had never seen a tail close up.  And the torn little paws made me sad.  The pelt was gone.
One more species was on the river in greater numbers than usual.  Can you identify these wild and crazy creatures?   


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