Animal Encounters

Meetings with animals wild and tame make me happy.  And while birds touch my soul most profoundly, I’m always grateful for opportunities to observe and photograph other creatures. All of the following pictures were taken this summer, except for the last one. I had to chuckle when I came across these slightly uncommon pets: not one, but two pigs in someone’s front yard. As is obvious from this picture, they were as curious about me as I was about them.

Western Tiger Swallowtails are among our most notable butterflies. Their wingspan of 3 to 4 inches, conspicuous color, undulating flight, and graceful alighting on bright blossoms will irresistibly capture one’s attention and gaze, and hold them captive as these exquisite flyers propel themselves from one nectar source to the next.

To enlarge a photo, click on it.

My ears are always switched on during my excursions and when a friend and I went birding one late August morning and tried to figure out from what avian a certain sound emanated, a glance at the ground a few feet ahead of us reminded us to heed my husband’s perpetual advice of “watch your step.” A not-so-little serpent lay coiled in the cool, wet grass and let us know about its presence. Needless to say, our repertoire of unusual bird sounds grew to include reptilian rattling! Out by myself only a few days later, I nearly jumped in the air when I heard similar rattling from right next to my foot. Fortunately, this one came from a cicada which didn’t mind being picked up and inspected.

During my first and sadly only camping trip this summer at one of my favorite destinations, Manitou Lake in neighboring Teller County, I was thrilled to capture a gorgeous American Mink with my camera early in the morning, when I approached stealthily and had the sun in my back, making me blend into my surroundings. These ferocious, carnivorous, semi-aquatic mammals are related to weasels and otters and, on account of their lustrous coats, have been bred in controversial fur farms. Luckily, this one lived in freedom.

One early summer morning, I arrived at my destination before sunrise. Next to a pond I found several crayfish crawling on a path lit by streetlamps. They are by no means rare, but I see them rarely enough that I took note–and a few snapshots.

The following portraits are of animals I have seen and shared before, but I encounter them seldom enough that each occasion represents a reason to celebrate: a very mellow bobcat which accepted my presence with nonchalance, a cute-from-a-distance porcupine whose arboreal slumber I briefly interrupted, and a thick-headed Bighorn Sheep, also best enjoyed from a distance.

Western Painted Turtles can often be seen sunning themselves on exposed rocks in the middle of ponds and lakes, and this group struck my fancy because each individual seemed to have a preference for the same sun-warmed prominence. They are popular as pets, until they are not, and are often abandoned by their owners at bodies of water to fend for themselves, which they seem to be able to do.

Last but not least I would like to introduce two fellows I met a few years back. They graciously interrupted their grazing to greet me at their fence. Long-eared and soft-nosed, one was particularly endearing. When one of my e-mail correspondents asked me for a photo of myself shortly thereafter, this is the one I sent him. I aspire to its characteristics: curious, clever, and charming. 😊

38 thoughts on “Animal Encounters

  1. Love that Swallowtail! Not so much love for Mink though. They were ‘set free’ in their thousands by animal rights activists in this country and brought carnage to the natural wildlife. Even today after years of trapping there is still far too many causing an un-balance as they have no natural predators. Also interesting to note in Holland Mink carried and passed to humans the covid19 virus! A good reason we should not interfere with nature.

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    • I’m glad to show you one of our pretty butterflies for once, Brian. 🙂
      And I agree with you wholeheartedly about the problems resulting from our many interferences in nature, however well-meant they might be. It has taken us sooo long to learn, and still we continue to make the same mistakes… 😦

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  2. (American) Red-eared Sliders were once sold widely in the UK as pets, although they were always called “terrapins”, and as with the Western Painted Turtles referred to in your post many have been abandoned to fend for themselves in the wild. We spotted one just a few miles from here earlier in the year, looking very content with life.

    I remain insanely jealous of your bobcat sighting(s) 🙂.

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    • I have very mixed feelings about people abandoning their pets in public places, Mr. P. While they might live happier lives there than in someone’s inadequate home, they might pose a problem for local fauna on many different levels (competition for food sources, introduction of germs, etc.).
      And, remembering your previous comments vis-à-vis my bobcat sightings, I felt obliged to include my most recent one. But not to drive you even more insane than you already are! 🙂

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      • How kind of you to think of me when posting that tantalising bobcat photo 🙂🙂🙂. I agree with your mixed feelings about the turtles, I wish them no harm but potentially they are a menace to local fauna that has not grown up alongside them. At least those American terrapins at large in the UK don’t breed here (I’m pretty sure of that, though not totally certain), so hopefully that will contain the problem.

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  3. An alternate title came to mind: Carnival of the Animals. That close porcupine portrait is comic. You did well in photographing the swallowtails, as they normally flutter while they hover. Turtles often seem to go for the same rock or log; perhaps they like both corporeal and social warmth. The last picture reminded me of a refrain from the movie Casablanca: “Here’s looking at you, kid..

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    • I have several similarly comic portraits of porcupines, Steve, as I usually only detect them until I’m right underneath their daytime perch. Camille Saint-Saëns might take issue if I appropriated his title, Steve, fitting though it might be. And I wonder if Ingrid Bergman would feel flattered by being compared to a mule or donkey (I can’t tell them apart). I obviously don’t have that problem. 😊

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  4. Curious, clever, and charming. Delightful descriptions! Wonderful photos, especially the bobcat, but the snake did make me shudder. I have an extreme snake phobia, and I am grateful to live in Maine, where poisonous snakes are not common. (I have heard there are rattlesnakes in the mountains in western Maine. Not sure how true this is.)

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    • It’s difficult to pick one favorite, but that donkey was very special, Christa. I don’t necessarily seek encounters with rattlesnakes, but at times they happen, as our experience proves. It’s good to be mindful of their presence.
      Many greetings back to Canada,
      Tanja

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    • This was the first time I ever picked on up, Kerry, and it was fascinating to see from up close. I was very pleased with the fact that it allowed me to handle it. I think you would found it interesting, too, and I don’t think you would have screamed. 🙂

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  5. When I saw your first photo of those adorable pig faces, I immediately smiled! Very nice variety, Tanja. I, too, feel happiness when I encounter wildlife, both great and small. Unless there is danger involved, of course. Or a spider getting on me! 😅 😂 But seriously, wildlife is a joy to our hearts and a wonderful gift from our Creator. We should respect them and their habitats.

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    • I’m glad to have made you smile, Donna. I think many people share our fondness for pets, but when it comes to wild animals, far too many humans think their needs trump those of other creatures, which is why so many of them are endangered, or even extinct. We have failed as “caretakers” of this earth, on so many different levels.

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  6. Wie du liebe ich am meisten die Vögel.
    Aber mir gefallen auch die anderen Lebewesen sehr, denen du begegnet bist.
    Schweine, die frei herumlaufen dürfen, machen mich happy.
    Danke für diese “Arche Noah”, Tanja!
    Liebe Grüße, pass gut auf dich auf und bleib gesund.
    Brigitte

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    • Das erstaunt mich gar nicht, daß es Dir ähnlich ergeht wie mir, liebe Brigitte. Und
      daß die freilaufenden Schweine Dir Freude bereiten ist schön. Du hast recht, sie führen ein besseres Leben als viele ihrer Artgenossen.
      Auch Euch in Bremen die besten Wünsche,
      Tanja

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  7. Fantastic blog of nature’s finest! The problem with us birders is our eyes are always looking up when as a kid, we were taught to look down as to not step on a rattlesnake. I would have never thought to put mellow & bobcat in the same sentence. 😂

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