Last morning shift checking out keys to the gates. It’s slow business in the office so I can pack and clean and photograph skulls or their attachments. I didn’t get all the skulls like the beaver on the window sill or the mountain goat on a corner shelf. Staff bring them in when they find them. They fit in with a place that’s all about wildlife. If you like to write or draw monsters, these aught to suggest some creatures to design.
I cleaned this California Big Horn Sheep skull with a soft paint brush. The pile of tiny sawdust on the dresser told me it had insects gnawing within. It was covered with a dusty towel that I put in the laundry and covered it again with a clean sheet. A cotton ball with a dab of cedar oil set nearby will protect it from bugs. I can imagine this form as the foundation for “the monster behind the closed door upstairs”. Don’t open the door. I know it’s a trope, but still . . .
It’s really heavy! The last 3 Big Horn Sheep in the Andrus Wildlife Management Area died of pneumonia. This one was found in the fence above Brownlee Dam with it’s neck broken. The biologist thinks it might have been fleeing for its life from something and ran off the cliff above the rock fence. Running from a predator might be a rather common cause of death in nature. Remember those 2 suicidal quails yesterday?
This small horn was on a side table next to several deformed antlers in the living room. It’s not very big, maybe as long as a new pencil.
Goodbyes with staff and I’m headed up the highway to visit my 94 year old aunt in Cambridge. Whoa! I left my coffee press in the dish rack! Back at the ranch the staff were talking about me and thrilled to see me in the drive way. They wanted to learn how to make the sourdough rye bread I baked for them. I showed them where to find it on my blog and offered to give them the starter I had with me (more at home) but they want to do it all from scratch including creating their own starters. One of them had hollowed out the end of the loaf I gave him and stuffed it with baked quail, cheese, and vegetables. The other had sliced his and stacked slices with mozzarella bites and vegetables open faced like tapas. He ate his slices with baked quail and wine. We talked about writing and art and ghost stories, lots of ghost stories from Hells Canyon. They urged me to use suicidal birds in a story and to create a character based on the technician. He would carry a hatchet everywhere he goes and we could call him the Kindler (he chops kindling and other things). The biologist told us about his epic character. He has written more than 25 adventures for it. He also used to create radio shows with a friend. It was an enthusiastic conversation and I’ve no doubt I’ll be back to visit these new friends.
Landscaping to attract nature is not particularly challenging when you live in an ecotone where forest meets field in rural Idaho. Ecotones, the spaces where two environments transition into each other, are rich in diversity. These areas provide for more wild life than either zone on its own. Native Mullein grows readily in disturbed ground here and when this set planted themselves in my new vegetable garden I wanted to see how they would flourish. The fence is about 5 feeet tall so you can see how large these mulleins grew in top soil we brought up from the riverside. I didn’t expect to see this White-headed Woodpecker searching for insects that inhabit the flower stems. It worked over these plants for several days, as well as a stand of them along our gravel road.
Designing my yard and garden to attract interesting birds and pollinators in the Rockies means promoting plants that attract these animals while resisting damage from deer, ground rodents, range cattle, and drought. Mullein is a sound choice that does all that and it’s a intriguing flower to watch develop. It’s super easy to grow and you’ll see it spring up in dry fields like a weed. These pictured grew as volunteers, but I have dug up the first year plants, the leaf sets, and successfully transplanted them. They build flower stalks their second year. This a fabulous plant for children’s gardens where they can feel the soft fuzzy leaves. Plus mullein is a wonder plant for respiratory problems and many other health issues. I dry the leaves in fall and make tea when my allergies attack.
If you don’t have access to the plant where you live, contact me and I’ll send you some seeds free. If you can find the plant try getting seeds from the flower stem and planting them in fall or transplant a first year root.
Barred Owl feldgling, first day out of its nest. It was still there 2 hours later. Barred owls are often out in day time. I was hunting morel mushrooms, walking along with my head down, looking at the ground. I smelled a cougar and got the clue I should look up once in a while. Directly in front of me at a distance this fledgling had been watching me. I never saw the cougar, or the parent owls or the nest. Only 1 morel in the bag and that’s OK, for this day.
With great respect for baby wildlife I put my 2 German Shepherds in the van, made my photos in a little time, and left. I got pretty close but I didn’t want to scare the fledgling. Never take one home. They don’t need rescue and they are not intended to be pets. Fledglings seem pretty stupid, or extremely inexperienced. I hope it lived through the night. Great Horned Owls at my home spend months feeding and training their young in the art of hunting so I hope this one has a parent looking after it, too.