Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Forecast: Snow

Does in snow near Carter Lake, Berthoud, CO. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I'm certain we reached temperatures below zero last night up here by the lake. I was up off and on throughout the night adding firewood to the wood burning stove--it was just so cold! I lived in Colorado 43 years before moving to Texas then New Mexico. I remember, as a child, wondering what the birds and animals do when it's cold outside. Apparently, they do just fine. This handsome buck was lying in a snow bank covered in snow when I drove back up the mountain this afternoon and he seemed perfectly comfortable. 

Doe in the snow. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

This is unusually cold weather for this time of year in Colorado, but my neighbors warned me it was coming a few months ago. They said they could tell by the behavior of the wildlife that it would be a cold, early winter. Apparently, they were right! 

Does in snow. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I think it would be a bit stressful being a deer or elk because they are prey animals--they are vegetarians and do not prey on other animals, but spend their lives looking over their shoulder, trying to keep themselves and their families safe. Humans can be prey animals, too. This can be a dangerous world and I know I've spent far too many years as a prey animal, allowing others to take advantage of me, depending on people to protect me when I know I cannot trust them. When I saw that buck lying in the snow I slowly held my camera to my eye and took his photograph, but when I took the shot I remember thinking--wishing, really--that he should stand up and run because that camera could just as easily have been a gun. He was too trusting. 

Buck and Doe in the snow. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I can't really explain why this bothered me, but it did. I sensed that I could have taken a few steps closer to get even better photos, but I didn't want these lovely creatures to feel comfortable around me because humans prey on others and I wanted these animals to fear me. 

Carter Lake in Berthoud, CO. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

This isn't really a hunting area. Not many people live in the valley and it's empty during the off-season when the lake freezes and the snow falls, but I hear gun shots all the time when my neighbors stand outside their homes and practice. I don't know why the deer and elk come to this valley seeking shelter and safety, but I pray they find it. 

Carter Lake in Berthoud, CO. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

It was cold and windy this afternoon and I almost skipped the firewood run, concerned for my safety on the icy roads. The water moved in strong waves across the lake, but I was fascinated by what looked like clouds coming up from the water, straight up into the air then moving sideways across the road and into the surrounding fields. 

Carter Lake in Berthoud, CO. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I've always found it interesting how a change in season can create a change in mood in a place such as a field or a lake. A few months earlier I photographed this same piece of land and it looked peaceful, warm, full of life. Now it looks dangerous and foreboding, and considering the forecast of below zero nighttime temperatures and snow that will continue throughout the week I suppose the lake is dangerous right now. 

Carter Lake in Berthoud, CO. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

And yet, there are also times when the darkness and the cold create scenes of great beauty. Colors do not clash in nature, they compliment each other. Humans and animals do both--clash and compliment, especially in relationships. Scenery such as this can be a great metaphor for life.

Dark-Eyed Junco. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

By the time I arrived at my little dome-shaped house it was even darker and colder, but the tiny flock of birds outside my house was still busy searching for the seeds I left out earlier. 

Chubby Junco. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

As I watched the tiny birds flying back and forth from beneath my porch it occurred to me that every house I've lived in has had a flock of birds. In Texas it was a mixed flock, but mostly Cardinals and White-Winged Doves. In New Mexico the shrub beside my house was filled with House Sparrows and a variety of Finches. This summer we had Magpies and White-Winged Doves, House Sparrows and Finches.

Dark-Eyed Junco. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

but the Dark-Eyed Juncos arrived late in the fall and they seem to have settled in, living beneath my porch at night where it is warm and safe and sitting in the trees in the daytime, often fluffing up their feathers to keep warm like the one in the photo above. 

Dark-Eyed Junco. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I'm enjoying these little creatures. They are not particularly noisy like House Sparrows, but they are playful, chasing each other around the porch and trees. They seem a bit friendlier, too. I walk past them often on my way to the barn or my truck and they will sit on the fence and stare at me. 

Dark-Eyed Junco. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I am not a snow-sports person, but I do love the snow. I love how it looks when it is fresh, untouched, and when it is still falling. I love the quiet, the peaceful feeling that comes over me when I gaze out my window at a flock of birds sitting very still on tree branches as the snow falls around them. 

Dark-Eyed Juncos. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I live alone now, but I am not lonely. I feel blessed by the peace and magnificent beauty of this place and I know I will be happy here. 

Sagebrush in the snow. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Blizzard, Elk, Mountains at Dusk

I believe this is a Dark-Eyed Junco. Photo taken by Darla Sue Dollman in Berthoud, CO.

They are lovely little creatures, playful and quick. I believe they are Dark-Eyed Juncos. We had a few of them in our yard in Texas, but never as many as this! They are everywhere in the valley in the mountains near Carter Lake in Colorado.

Battling the blizzard. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I had to sneak up on this one because the snowfall was so heavy I could not see past my back porch. It is partially brown and its eyes are so dark it is difficult to see them. 

Dark-Eyed Juncos in Feeder. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Oh, but they are so much fun to watch! They chase each other through the snow and fly between the slats on the back porch. They sit in small groups on my fence, in the two trees that shade my back porch, and when it is not snowing they gather on the roof of the barn. 

Dark-Eyed Junco on tree branch. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

I hope they find shelter tonight. I turned my canoe on its side in the barn and there are numerous bird houses outside, but I've seen them flying out from beneath the porch and suspect they are finding shelter there for now. 

Napping in a field near Loveland, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I spotted these three beauties in a field in Loveland, Colorado last night on my way home from buying firewood. 

Elk sunbathing in Loveland, CO. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I think they are elk, but their antlers look unfamiliar to me. It's difficult to tell when they're lying down! There are many hunting ranches in Texas with animals imported from around the world and killed for sport. Sometimes they escape and it's hard to tell the natives from the fortunate escapees. This is Colorado, though, and I do not believe there are hunting ranches in this area. There are many wildlife rescue facilities, though! 

Elk in Loveland, CO. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Elk within city limits can be controversial at times. Tourists and visitors don't always understand that these are not pets, they are wild animals and can be dangerous.

Near Carter Lake in Berthoud, CO. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I took this photo on the way home last night. It was terribly windy and all of the bird feeders were knocked down from the trees. My welcome mats were scattered as far as the dirt road leading to my home. The wind gusts were 45 to 60 mph. Colorado is known for its fierce winds. In fact, Longs Peak holds the record in Colorado for a wind gust of 201 mph that occurred during the winter of 1981, a particularly fierce winter as I recall. Boulder, which is only about half an hour's drive from my home is also one of the windiest cities in the US with wind gusts clocked at 147 mph in 1971.

Near Carter Lake in Berthoud, CO. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I could tell it would be cold today when I looked at the mountains last night. The sky was filled with thin, wispy clouds and it looked like there were fast winds in the higher elevations. The mountains had a purple tint and already looked cold.

Luminescence in the clouds above Lake Loveland, CO. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

It's going to be a chilly winter, but I'm prepared. I've lived in Colorado most of my life and whenever I leave I am homesick. When I lived in Texas and drove home to visit family, as I passed through the Sangre de Christos and into the Colorado Rocky Mountains the sight always brought tears to my eyes. Such magnificent beauty!