Another great couple of days in the field! It’s been rainy and overcast, but you’ll get no complaints from me – the weather has kept much of the usual traffic out of Roxborough, and the wildlife viewing has been excellent. The golden eaglet (I’m fairly certain now that there is only one) is growing fast, it’s losing some of that baby “fur” and a few dark feathers are beginning to appear. Both adults can usually be found atop the cliffs somewhere near the nest, and lately a peregrine falcon has been perching nearby as well. Most of the muley bucks have joined bachelor groups, and the pregnant mule deer are busy evicting their yearlings, preparing to give birth to a new generation. It’s hard not to feel a little bad for the confused youngsters as they’re bitten, kicked and chased away by their loved ones. I remind myself that it’s time for them to face the world on their own, and nature isn’t always pretty, but it’s right.
The 12th was a fairly quiet evening – not a whole lot to see, just too stormy and wet for most of Roxy’s wild inhabitants.
On the 13th, Dan and I met Rob (and a nice group of mule deer bucks) near the entrance to Roxy, and after a couple of deer photos and a quick radio check, we were on our way into the park. Dan pointed out a bull elk grazing in the valley about 500 yards from the road, and after scoping, spotted another bull (a massive 6-pointer) that was at least three times farther away than the first – good eyes. I had somehow talked Dan into taking a quick hike, so at 6:00 we headed up the trail to Lyons Overlook. About 1/4 mile up the trail, we rounded a bend and I caught some movement along the rocks to the right of the trail. I stopped in my tracks – “Dan, fox…? not a red fox…? swift fox…? No, it’s a gray fox!” It took me a second to figure out what I was looking at – I’d never seen a gray fox before, and it almost looked like a mix between a fox and a cat. Little fox face, short legs, big bobcat-like feet (the only North American canid capable of climbing trees) and a long, grizzled gray tail with a black stripe down the middle and a black tip. It looked like it would be more at home in a South American jungle, not much at all like the red fox that I’m so well acquainted with. We took as many shots as we could before the fox grew tired of us and slowly walked down the rock and out of sight. Bad lighting and light rain made for grainy photos of the little guy, but nonetheless a great first-time experience with this species.
We passed a doe bedded down under some oak brush on the way up, then set up at the top for some landscape shots. After a couple of minutes we started back for the truck. The radio had a low battery and was spitting out interference noise (or so I assumed) throughout the hike back, and numerous attempts to reach Rob were unsuccessful. We rounded the corner near the visitor center and the noise on the radio suddenly cleared up, “Where are you guys? 2 bears, 2 bears! Past the eagle nest!”. Dan and I made a mad dash for the truck and drove down to Rob and the two bears. We hopped out and were able to get a couple quick shots before both bears disappeared into the creek bed.
Rob had been trying to call for fifteen minutes – another lesson learned, always charge the radios.
The rest of the evening was spent watching the bears from afar (a big boar and a smaller female, apparently courting) as they grazed and mingled in the valley, sharing the scope and binoculars with friendly wildlife watchers, enjoying the sunset, the silence, the smell of rain, and the cool night air.