Thursday, March 30, 2023

2023 Backyard Owls - Nesting

In January we started hearing regular hooting in the yard. The Great Horned Owls were back, and they were courting! Hooray! We kept a close eye on them.

We also installed a camera above the nest. Desert Boy climbed up and screwed it into the tree.

On February 19th, there was nothing in the nest. But soon after the Mama Owl came in. We watched her peck at the wood. 

She sat there and we thought maybe she was sitting on an egg, but then she left and there was nothing.

On February 22nd, she was sitting on the nest--in the snow! Certainly there was something under her now!

On February 23rd, she left the nest and we could see two eggs! And a bunch of feathers under the eggs.

On February 26th, we saw three eggs! This mama owl was being ambitious.

We set the camera for motion detection and the kids and I get alerts on our phones when there's movement. Here's Mama Owl turning eggs.

And then on March 1st we saw Mama Owl and four eggs! Wowza! Most commonly Great Horned Owls raise two owlets, but the clutch size can be 1-4. Four seems like a lot of owlets for this tiny nest!

It snowed a bunch that day, and I was concerned when I saw the eggs with snow in the nest.

Mama Owl seemed fine, and continued sitting on the eggs.

When the moon is bright, it looks like the eggs glow.

The camera for the most part is silent, but when it's switching at dawn and dusk it makes a little noise. The owl notices.

I really like the glimpses of the eggs under the owl.

On March sixth, we got quite a snowstorm. Here's Mama Owl almost buried in snow at 5:33 a.m.

At 6:06 am, she's completely buried!

Fortunately the snow melted relatively quickly. I've been surprised how often Mama Owl leaves the nest. The eggs are in a different position each time, so she's clearly coming back in between. Here's 3-9-23 at 1:20 a.m.

Then that evening.

Not often, but once in a while we could watch Mama Owl come and go.

I am continually amazed how patient she is. Here she is in really windy conditions.

Papa Owl is often nearby. Here are some photos of him. He usually starts singing to Mama Owl about 6:05 a.m. They continue hooting to each other for 5-10 minutes. Then it starts getting light.

I was curious what they've been eating. There are plenty of owl pellets in the vicinity. Here are a few.

We're anxiously awaiting the appearance of owlets. They are so cute. From the camera, it looks like there were two eggs and a blob on 3/238/23. Hopefully we'll get a better photo soon to see what's happening and the camera battery will hold out longer.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

March Ski to Mather Overlook, Great Basin National Park

The weather forecast was for calm and cold. So why not head out for a cross country ski, especially since the snow survey is coming up and I needed to acclimate better to the higher elevations. 

I went to the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive in Great Basin National Park and parked at the winter closure, at Upper Lehman Campground. There were a ton of tracks at the start of the road, but before too long, the tracks diminished, and then I was following a lovely ski track.

There had been a lot of looking around at the Osceola Ditch trailhead. I still had energy, so I decided to push on. The snow was deep enough to nearly cover the sign that said exhibit ahead, but the other signs were mostly above the snow.

At the big U-bend above 8500 feet elevation, I found a nice view of the North Snake Range and Mt. Moriah.

Around the curve, the snow had drifted on the road, making little hillocks.

On the last big hill going up to Mather Overlook, I realized I couldn't even see the road posts. That snow is deep!

I love this view of the mountain! In summer I like to photograph it with the flowers blooming on the side of the road. 

I checked out the mountain and saw that parts were very windblown.

At the Mather Overlook turnoff, I was breaking trail. Fresh tracks!

As I approached the overlook, I saw just the top of the outhouse. Was it really as buried as it looked?

Why, yes, it was! 

I was surprised to see some rabbit tracks. And in the background, Bald Mountain looked so nice and snowy.

I put my phone on the outhouse roof, put on the ten-second timer, and skied out for a photo.

Here's a view of the deck and telescopes. 

I was having a marvelous time. But the clouds were moving in and I hadn't packed a lunch, so I knew I'd have to head back down before too long. 

Wheeler Peak looks nice and imposing. There was a big rock (labeled monolith in the photo) that I don't really remember from before. Definitely suspicious. :)

More views of snowy Doso Doyabi.

View of the outhouse from the other side.

The nearby signs were windblown and exposed. The sign "An Icy Landscape" seems especially apropos in the winter.

This was my longest ski all winter, and it felt so good. It took about three hours to go up, with stops for photos and snacks. Going down was less than two hours, including several falls because the snow got super fast in places. There was good powder on the north facing slopes, but on the other places it was crusty and faster than I liked at times. The fastest section was Mather Overlook to Osceola Ditch, then it was much mellower and easier, and at times I even had to shuffle. 
If winter is going to last (seemingly) forever this winter, I figure I might as well get out and enjoy it. It's so much more fun when I can go play in it. 
p.s. Thanks so much to whomever made the nice tracks the day before, they helped a bunch.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

So Snowy! Part 2


As snow continued to fall, we invited others to learn how to cross-country ski. Here is Desert Girl encouraging a friend.

The snow didn't keep Desert Girl from riding her bike to go to chores. Finn likes the snow a lot.

On one particularly heavy snow, I asked Desert Boy to go with me skiing from the house. It's rare we have enough snow to cover the rocks.

Picnic tables provided a good example of just how much snow fell.

In fact, we got so much snow it made part of a tree topple over the settling pond. Desert Boy and a friend couldn't resist climbing on it.

The Frisco Charcoal Ovens were even adorned with snow.

With snow coming every few days, it was time to get more people out cross-country skiing. We decided to take on the Scenic Drive. 

Conditions were ideal.

As in previous storms, everything was coated white.

Getting a group photo is harder than you think when you only have 10 seconds to get into place!

Even the Great Basin Visitor Center sign in Baker got a load of snow!

Occasionally I do air quality measurements, which includes measuring the snow that fell int he last week. In this case, the bucket was not only full, it was overflowing!

Snow on picnic tables is getting higher!

More snow means more time to go out skiing. The garbage cans in Grey Cliffs are nearly covered with snow.

Skiing through the trees is extra fun.

Then came the idea: why not try a full moon cross-country ski? A few hardy souls decided to give it a try.

With long exposure, it was remarkably bright outside. We didn't even need to use headlamps.

It was great fun.

As snow persisted, I tried skiing other places. Here's the Snake Creek park entrance. Untracked and over a foot deep.

Then I decided to try the Timber Creek-Pole Canyon loop, something that had always seemed too difficult. But with all the time I had spent on skis this winter, it seemed the time was right. I put skins on my skis and went up to the Baker Creek trailhead, where the elevation 8000 feet was nearly buried.

Baker Creek was not totally iced over.

There were some tracks on the trail.

But once I got further up Timber Creek, I made first tracks.

View from the saddle between Timber and Pole Canyon. I'm looking at Doso Doyabi and Wheeler Peak. Going down the other side was an adventure in route finding, as the trail is not marked for winter use. I eventually weaved my way down to the valley.

Then I went back into the aspen-white fir forest.

It was a lovely day for a ski.

At the Pole Canyon Bridge, the creek was completely frozen over--and nearly at the level of the bridge.

I decided it would be good to get the whole family cross-country skiing. We left one vehicle at Grey Cliffs and went up to the Baker Creek trailhead. Then we headed down the campground trail. It was deep and slick in spots.

The kids grumbled (they seem to do that a lot as teenagers), but conditions were great.

Cross-country skiing can be so peaceful.

Well, we still have more snow in the forecast. It's been warming up and feeling like spring in the valley, but up on the mountain it still feels like winter. I think we'll have this snow around for a while!

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