The air has that late August cold morning feel to it these days. And that means one thing here at the Hartman cabin. Time to start cutting wood! And so, I put the book on the back burner and Cindy and I have spent the past week hauling wood out of the forest.
Yesterday morning, we gave ourselves a break from the whine of the chainsaw and I was once again climbing the switchbacks to West Summit. It felt good to be back and recent rains had cleared the atmosphere so the surrounding peaks stood clear and sharp.
I drove across the Pass to check on the mineral lick. No goats. I scanned the distant peaks. No white dots. I returned to the Pass and parked just below. Today my objective was the pika who couldn't let my camera trap alone. I loaded up and started in when movement just below me caught my eye.
Mountain goats! Tucked down in the shear ledges were a nanny and kid. She spotted me and worked her way lower, utilizing an almost vertical slope in the rock wall. A few minutes and she disappeared directly below where I stood.
I climbed over the rocks to where I had placed my camera trap last week. Would the same pika appear again?
I placed my trap, backed off, set my tripod and 300 lens in a flat spot and settled down on a rock to wait.
The wind blew cold. I pulled on my hooded sweatshirt. Even then the chill found its way in.
A pika moved below me. He was gathering grass. I noticed he liked to pause on a green lichen covered rock before continuing on. I set up on the space in front and fired on first movement.
Got him! My photo captured the little fella streatched out in mid air.
Movement to my right. Here came my pika from above. He had spotted my camera trap. Bit by bit he moved closer, inspecting the black chunk of metal and plastic from different angles. Finally, his curiousity overcame him and he checked out the business end.
I got shot after shot. Why this one pika is so interested in my camera, I'll never know. All others have avoided it, but it only takes one!
Time passed quickly and the harsher light told me it was time to go. I was retrieving my camera trap when a sharp high pitched sound made me whirl around. Just above my other camera, two falcons were chasing arond after a chipmonk. In my hands I held a camera and 17 lens. Useless for this situation. I rushed to my other camra. By the time I turned the lens, it was over. I grabbed a quick shot as one of the falcons darted away.
It would of been shooting into the sun and I probably had no shot of getting an image, but I sure wouled have like to have had a chance.
I packed up and returned to my car. On the first curve down, a falcon suddenly appeared in front of my windshield clutching a chipmonk! I slammed on my brakes and reached for the lens. The bird was gone! I turned around and went looking for the falcon. I wanted that predator/prey shot bad! Two red-tail hawks floated low over the highway. Back on the Pass, no falcons were in sight, but just below a white hawk slowly floated down, down, down, before attacking the ground. I stayed on him as he flew off again. What a beautiful bird.
What are all these hawks and falcons doing up here? Today alone I spotted four different hawks, two falcons and one golden eagle. Where were they all summer? Are they migrating through and are just stalled here because of all the prey available?