Winter’s Faces

With astronomical spring upon us, I’m inspired to reflect on the season we have left behind. Contrary to the popular imagination, not all of Colorado is a winter wonderland for half a year, and since we reside near the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains, our winters tend to be dry, windy, and cool to cold with interspersed warm spells. Whenever precipitation arrives in the form of frozen crystals, it usually doesn’t linger for more than a couple of days.

Up until now, we haven’t really experienced one of those legendary weather events with a foot of gently falling snow that covers everything with a white fluffy quilt and muffles all sound. But I suspect that, as in previous years, one will arrive in April or even May, when all vegetation has been led to believe that it’s safe to burst forth, only to be reminded that our once more predictable natural cycles have become less so. Reviewing my photo archives confirmed my impression of a season not memorable for picture-postcard winter idylls, so no snowy sceneries will be forthcoming in this post.

I could, of course, show you some of the birdy faces I have had the privilege to gaze at this winter. Birds are my holy grail and their unfailing ability to cheer and move me cannot be overstated. Not a day goes by on which I don’t look for and at feathered beings, and few pass without me taking a photo, so my archives harbor no paucity of avian portraits.

But instead, I opted to focus on the faces of a selection of the other creatures I have chanced upon during my outings. A few will be familiar, such as the Bighorn Sheep above and American Badger below. Both were portrayed in previous posts, but their general spectacularness (if it’s not a word, it should be) justifies another showing.

North American Badger

Some but not all animals on exhibit here are wild. I frequently encounter domestic dogs, of course, but somehow didn’t photograph one in the last several months. I’m grateful for the free doggy therapy they provide by letting me rub their soft coats. There were a few canid sightings that did not lend themselves to rubbing ears and coats. I’m always surprised to see coyotes in the middle of urban or suburban neighborhoods where they, no doubt, are harassed by traffic, people, and dogs. We have seen and pitied a coyote suffering from mange (a skin disease caused by parasitic mites) in our neighborhood all winter long, and I wish we could provide it with some treatment. The photo on the right shows a healthy coyote from another location for comparison.

I also enjoy feline therapy, despite my misgivings about domestic cats’ tendency to wreak havoc on bird populations, a topic previously discussed. I only wish they would heed my admonishment to “please leave the birds alone.”

Then there was this wild feline–a bobcat. My husband saw it walking through our back yard and we watched it leap across a 6-foot fence without trouble. Sadly, my camera wasn’t available that moment and I only captured a photo when the cat was a few houses away.

Sometimes I even meet pet pigs, such as the pair in the first photo kept in someone’s front yard, where they can dig in the soil to their hearts’ content and retire to their own pig house whenever they choose. They reminded me of a piglet I met on a hiking trail a few years back, about one mile out from the trailhead (this is the only photo not taken this winter). Its owners were taking it for a stroll, but it was warmer than anticipated and the little pig was starting to turn pink from a sunburn and eagerly guzzled water from a proffered bottle. I often marvel at our penchant for unusual pets. Don’t you?

I also marvel at the cuteness and complex societies and languages typical of the prairie dogs I see regularly. They don’t hibernate, but can instead enter a state of torpor during cold spells. Their endearing comportment and lively communications enliven any walk across the prairie—if they are still present. Here is some very sobering information about their status from the National Park Service: “Prairie dogs were once a major part of the American landscape. Their original range stretched from Canada to Mexico and it is estimated that before 1800, over 5 billion prairie dogs roamed the American plains. Today, the original range of prairie dogs has shrunk to just 5% of its initial size and two of the total five prairie dog species in existence are threatened or endangered.”

Last but not least, who could fail to be entertained by the rascally face of a raccoon? There is a tree cavity at One of my Happy Places: Fountain Creek Regional Park, which has housed raccoons for several years. I often see only a pair of ears inside the opening which rise and fall with the animal’s breathing, but on this occasion, it granted me a glance of its fuzzy face. Am I imagining things, or does it look somewhat curmudgeonly? Not long ago, the cavity was home to a raccoon nursery. Sadly, I missed the emergence of the raccoon babies, but hope to make up for it maybe this year.

Rascally Raccoon

Spring usually holds no paucity of faces, be they of raccoon babies, returning migratory birds, or emerging flowers, all happy occasions to look forward to.

43 thoughts on “Winter’s Faces

  1. We’re not surprised to see you facing up to the many animal denizens near you.
    And vis-à-vis language (but not the language of prairie dogs), because spectacular is of Latin origin, some have used a French-and-therefore Latin-derived suffix to create the noun spectacularity. [] Whether spectacularness gains parity with spectacularity depends on whether it shakes off its insularity and gains popularity.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks for sharing your thought on the animals in your neck of the woods, Tanja! It could be bobcat country where I live, but I have not seen any. Cougars have been around here for as long as I can remember.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I once saw a fellow walking a miniature pig on a leash on the San Antonio river walk. It was Christmas Day, and there were plenty of holiday-makers to admire and exclaim over the weird sight. Of course, after my experiences with a squirrel and a prairie dog as pets, my definition of what it means to talk of a ‘pet’ has expanded somewhat.

    We often see coyotes in our neighborhood, although they come and go. A country friend tells me that they have large territories that they roam, and that they tend to follow a five year cycle. Whether that’s true, we haven’t been able to confirm, but it does seem that on her property that’s the way it goes. Of course, the availability of food and other factors could affect that. Still, it’s an interesting thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is interesting information about a coyote’s territory. To really know about their movements, they would need to be collared, or otherwise tracked, which would likely reveal some fascinating facts about their lifestyles. I imagine that it has been done.
      And most people would be intrigued by encountering miniature pigs, squirrels, or prairie dogs on a leash! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sehr schöne Bilder über Fauna um deinen Wohnort herum. Interessant fand ich den Rotluchs, den amerikanischen Dachs, den Präriehund sowie die Kojoten. Ich sah in der Schweiz noch nie einen Luchs, Dachs, Waschbär oder Wolf in freier Wildbahn, da sie sehr zurückgezogen in der Abgeschiedenheit leben. Ich kenne anstelle des Präriehundes das Murmeltier, das ähnlich aussieht und in den Alpen lebt. Danke Tanja und liebe Grüsse.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ich danke dir, lieber Ernst. Es freut mich, dir einige unserer hiesigen Fauna vorstellen zu können. Bären gibt es in unserer Nachbarschaft auch, doch sie machen momentan noch Winterschlaf. Und auch Murmeltiere haben wir, doch nur in höheren Lagen. Ich finde es faszinierend, wie sich die wilden Tiere mit den sich immer weiter ausbreitenden Menschen arrangieren. Glücklicherweise sind viele nachtaktiv, so daß sie von uns unbemerkt existieren können. Leider stehlen wir immer mehr Lebensraum von ihnen.
      Liebe Grüße zurück,

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Another great article. I’ll show you some photos of a racoon taking a swim at CBR if I can find it. By the way, are you still a docent at the museum? If so when are you there? Grandchildren are visiting soon.



    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Gary. I have seen raccoons at Fountain Creek Regional Park along S. Rice’s Pond, but haven’t been lucky enough to watch or photograph them taking a swim. I would love to see your photo!
      I will let you know about my museum hours via e-mail.


  6. Der kranke Kojote tut mir von herzen Leid, ich glaube, wir sagen Reude zu der Krankheit. Im Yellowstone NP ist schon mal ein ganzes berühmtes Rudel – die Druids – daran zugrunde gegangen. Ist schon eine Weile her, aber ich habe das damals gelesen und Bilder gesehen, es war so ein stolzes Rudel einstmals. Nichts bleibt wie es ist.
    Liebe Grüße

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ja, das mit der Räude finde ich auch traurig. Ich hoffe immer, daß es dem Kojoten gelingt, sich selbst zu heilen, aber ich weiß nicht, wie oft das passiert. Aber er (über)lebt mit der Krankheit seit mindestens Dezember, und kann es hoffentlich auch noch weiterhin.
      Danke für den Kommentar und liebe Grüße zurück,

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hello Tanja,
    It’s such a joy to view the local wildlife through your eyes.
    I am sorry for my long silence – it’s been challenging times. But reading posts like yours are always uplifting. I hope you have a safe and happy Spring.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my post, dear Takami, I’m sorry to hear that life has been challenging. I sincerely hope things will take a turn for the better!
      Wishing you the best,


  8. Wonderful post, all kinds of furry (maybe not the piglet) and interesting things to hold our attention. That badger encounter must have been quite the thrill. As I am always telling Linda, Raccoons are super cute and their babies adorbs, but they are even cuter and even more adorable when they stay away from the homestead. Assuming that might be a similar feeling out there with the prairie dogs. Bird seed is expensive these days and keeping them away from my feeders is becoming a full time (night) job. Heading south soon, fingers crossed there is a good migration this year…and we time it correctly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The badger was definitely a highlight, especially as (s)he was hanging out in the open for quite a while. We do get raccoons in the yard occasionally, along with skunks. They might climb our feeders if we left them outside, but because there is often a black bear in the neighborhood, we bring in all the feeders every night, so whoever comes to visit, only gets to vacuum the seed that have fallen to the ground.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s great to see the animals we share the world with – especially the wild ones. Encounters with them are a rare treat here. (Deer are the most common in this area, sometimes hares, foxes or maybe a hedgehog. There are badger setts, but have never seen the occupants.)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for reminding some of us “bird-centric” photographer types that our world includes some things that don’t wear feathers.

    As Mr. Cowper wrote over 400 years ago: “Variety’s the very spice of life …” !

    We appreciate you keeping it spicy!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.