19 January 2012

SkywatchFriday: Winter Life

Though us skiers would like a bit more snow, the weather has been gorgeous--lots of blue sky days whether as the waning moon sets over the cross country ski trails in the hills just north of Butte, Montana:

Or looking west to the mountain peaks of the Pintler Wilderness on my walk from Walkerville to my office at Montana Tech:

Critters in Winter
I love tracks and tracking. After spotting this pine marten track across a ski trail, I followed it as the as the marten wove its way through the pines searching for a not-too-wary (or quick) red squirrel (note the classic,  paired, offset tracks of the weasel-family):

 After cutting this red fox track on my walk to work:

I followed it across an open field until the fox came upon the tracks of a cottontail rabbit, which it then followed hoping for a meal:

Unlike the small-footed cottontail, our snowshoe hares are remarkable for their huge feet, which leave distinctive tracks and allow them to "float" and outrun predators (think of that small footed fox!) across soft snow:

Unlike these skittish, seldom-seen critters, the moose tend to be pretty calm this time of year. Sometimes you can ski past and they don't even look up:

Other times, though busy feeding,:

They do take notice and amble a bit deeper into the quaking aspen grove:

Cross Country Skiing

We are blessed with the classic ski trails at The Moulton just a few miles north of our little city. A few inches of fresh powder lured MollyTheDog and I out early one morning, seen here on the Double Jack run of the ungroomed Buzzy Trail (MTD doesn't slow down much for those turns!):

And after skiing, how nice to sit in the warm morning sun, beer in hand and cat on lap. Even with an air temperature in the teens (deg F), it's warm enough for a nap:

Life is good!


Judy said...

MTD is looking to set a speed record there!! And sunshine - I have heard of sunshine...
Actually, we are approaching the sunny part of the winter. It won't be warm enough for naps, even with a cat in lap, though, not till March.

Maria said...

What a great post! I enjoyed walking in the "footsteps" of your local creatures :D

I like that last shot too...

... a moment of rest in the sun is so nice...
for the rest,
for the peace,
for even a tiny dose of vitamin D

Wishing you a happy weekend!

Sylvia K said...

Great post as always! Terrific captures and gorgeous blue Montana skies! Life is good indeed! Hope you have a wonderful weekend!


Saun said...

Nice series love the last shot.

Kim, USA said...

I agree life is good! Enjoy it. Happy weekend!


eileeninmd said...

What a beautiful day! The sky is gorgeous and life is good. I love your Molly dog. Cool sighting of the moose. ONe of my favorite animals. Great post and photos. Have a great weekend and Happy skywatching!

Anonymous said...

Yes, life is good!
I lvoe the music.

Spare Parts and Pics said...

I really enjoy your posts. How cool to track wild animals and have such close cross country skiing.

troutbirder said...

If I could see a Pine Marten or a Moose on the way to work I might be tempted to unretire..... er well... on second though - maybe not!

Frostbite and Sunburn said...

Looks great in your part of the world right now. MTD is enjoying herself. Soak up those mild temps and sunshine - lovely!

secret agent woman said...

We've had a most unwinterly winter so far. Which I actually don't like because it scars me for our plants.

Janie said...

I like the way you can tell a story from the animal tracks. Interesting to see a moose so close while skiing.
I see you have no snow at the house, but fortunately at least a decent supply on the ski trail.