Red-Tailed Hawk in Flight

I found these pictures that I had taken once we had just moved into our new home in October last year. I am enjoying them this week looking forward to such warmer days while we still have a dusting of the white stuff this morning.

We were tired from unpacking and so much had to be done back then. But in this one perfect and quiet moment of evening stillness, a beautiful red-tailed hawk began to circle the valley off our back deck. It seemed to stretch its wings to their fullest as if it were enjoying the moment and the warmth of the sun all by itself.

It was such a perfect scene. I followed the hawk with my camera, clicking frame after frame as it moved. I love revisiting these photos for the feeling they give me of standing on our deck and being an unobtrusive observer to what seemed like the happiest moment for this beautiful bird in the golden hour of a beautiful day.

Anyone who has ever stopped to watch a hawk in flight will know that it’s one of the natural world’s most elegant phenomena.

John Burnside

A New Weather Station

We decided to up our weather station capabilities here at our place. Our original weather station was doing alright mainly, but we could tell it was not measuring the wind speeds out here accurately. As in regularly being 20-30mph under the true wind speeds.

Based on the orientation of our house, wind speeds can easily pass 60mph on a normal day. It has been bothersome to not be able to tell what the biggest gusts really were registering. (When the house is vibrating from the pressure of the winds, accurate knowledge suddenly becomes very important to one’s peace of mind). So we upgraded and went for this new set-up from Ambient Weather.

So far this new station has performed top-notch with near-instant signaling between the station and our indoor display.

We didn’t realize before how important that fast signal between station and interior display is when measuring high wind. If it is a slow signal to your digital dashboard, you potentially miss measuring and seeing the peak of a gust and likely your station isn’t reporting back the true speeds. This is what we think was happening with our other model and were always seeing speeds of almost 20mph less than what it really was due to the slower latency.

We look forward to keeping up with our weather here now with better detail (and both staying safe with it while having some fun)!

New Bird Sightings: Mountain Bluebirds

Fresh-caught grub lunch.

You will have to pardon my lack of resolution and sharpness in these photos. They are taken from quite far away from inside my kitchen windows to trying to focus on the farthest boundary of our property. But I was too excited to not post and share them as the first sightings of any backyard birds since we have arrived here in October 2023!

I’m thrilled to get to see mountain bluebirds taking up residence hopefully, and finding food and bugs here. They are a most welcome sight of color and spirit to the drab winter grasses and plains of late. ‘

The prior homeowner left old bird boxes up around many of the fence posts, but I had no idea if they would be used or not.

Here’s hoping we see bluebird families taking up residence in the coming weeks. Next trip to town will include a few bags of mealworms to put out to hopefully help us appear as an enticing location!

Frozen Mordor

Towering cloud cover over Cheyenne in the distance viewed from our fence line.

Yesterday brought a fast-moving front across our place west of town and I watched it culminate into a towering cloud formation far and wide that slowed down and stalled over the populous of Cheyenne, WY. (Technically we are in Cheyenne also by zip code, but beyond the horizon in the photo is the city area).

The Hubs noted that driving into town for his night shift felt like entering “frozen Mordor” as per his description, the travel transported him into the dark and dreary setting of the dark and foreboding landscape of Mordor in the Lord of the Rings movies. The temperature can drop disturbingly fast out here so it’s not unheard of to see us go down 20-30 degrees in short order and things go pear-shaped quickly.

A few hours later I took a peek outside and found that at least from out here on our little ranch on a ridge, while the cloud bank was still there, it was softened by the pastels and sunset colors of the fading evening. Definitely a changed narrative looking back at the weather from the clear side of things from what it apparently looked like from within it.

Famous Last Words…Lets try a new Route

An added bonus to being married to a law enforcement officer who is familiar with every street in town is you never have to question what roads you are taking or why. He can visualize every intersection, street name, local business or landmark and map out in his mind exactly where the location under discussion is with pinpoint accuracy (sometimes with stories of having been to said locations to respond to calls there).

A few days ago he announced that he had a county road in mind he wanted to explore on our way to a neighboring town to have lunch at our favorite deli. Pondering this with some curiosity as to the “exploring” part and what that entailed, but still hungry and ready to get out of the house, I said let’s do it. We live on a county road but I do take pause sometimes as some are more traveled than others.

We piled into my Highlander and began our scenic drive. We ventured onto dirt roads surrounded by endless winter prairie views, rolling hills and the occasional hilltop rock formations. Occasionally I would be surprised with small clusters of homes further out from where I thought residential areas would have stopped. But everyone likes their privacy to varying degrees and the further out you go, the more savvy folks are at not needing to get to town every weekend and being without convenient services.

The county road thought to be the scenic route to lunch in the next town.

Then we lost all cell service. Not the end of the world for this part of the country, but I was paying more attention to where we were now.

After a few moments we passed a random set of train tracks seemingly in the middle of nowhere with a lonely train car covered in graffiti. He mentioned he had been called to recently to manage the “artists”. It’s moments like this I look around the miles and miles of isolation and imagine my spouse out there with no connectivity with dispatch and only his wits and training to keep him safe dealing with sometimes unruly individuals. I have these thoughts a lot.

As we kept motoring on wondering if we were indeed on the right path, I began to check our gas levels out of the corner of my eye. He caught me and confirmed “we are fine”.

The road took us to a dead end after another fifteen minutes of travel.

Because my father trained his daughters in the value of always having a road map despite whatever technology is out there, out came the ancient Rand McNally spiral book of all highways in the United States from under my seat. We checked ourselves and of course, this county road map appeared in the faintest of gray lines on the well-worn map near to where we were. Back we turned to see where we missed it. Of course nothing had a clear sign posted anywhere.

Signage would just be too practical.

Another fifteen minutes and we found ourselves on the correct country road next, despite the no trespassing signs posted on both sides of the road. My husband assessed carefully and determined this was indeed the right road but the owner of the surrounding land has posted signs to keep people off the land, rather, while the road was free to travel on.

Honey, are we sure we are on the right road?

We passed beautiful ranching properties and then we began to climb into muddy and higher ridges. This is where the warning signals and instinct began to kick in as while a Toyota Highlander is a fantastic SUV for meandering about, it does have its limits when dirt becomes muddy and a larger and heavier truck would be better suited.

Thus the marital questions began: “Are you sure this is the right road?” and “On a scale of 1-10, what is your confidence level that we’re on the right path?” and so forth. We finally pulled up over the highest point on the hill we were driving and were faced with a small overflow of water covering the way and snow as far as the eye could see thereafter. Clearly no one had been that far in ages.

And in true husbandly fashion, as that the situation now pointed with certainty to a no-go of the situation, he announced we were not going to make it and turned us around to re-start the trip back again to return to the traditional highways. Thus another forty-five minutes back to the paved world and the roads we knew. Having lost all interest in the deli now at least an hour away west, reverted to a closer restaurant thirty minutes away east. I think we made it to lunch around 2 or 3 o’clock at that point.

I gave him a hard time about this one, but true to his word, we did get to tour some beautiful land and we did find out where it led to. (And in fairness to the hubs who is knowledgeable in all things outdoors and safety-related, he would never take us anywhere unsafe – this was a fun drive now that I’ve seen where it leads to and what land it covers). Hopefully in spring we’ll try again and see the rest of this mystery road when it’s fully passable. I will absolutely be posting those pictures because it looked gorgeous!

And we will be taking the truck.

The Trouble with Magpies

Magpies scavenging outside my laundry room window.

The title of this post sounds like a good name for a book, if one does not already exist. But in this case, it is meant quite literally. We have a magpie problem.

Ever since we moved here, I have wanted to set up my bird feeders and begin putting seed and feed out for whatever was willing to stop by. The magpies, however, have other ideas.

Scavengers by nature (they are part of the corvid family), and smart as the dickens, they voraciously will eat us out of house and home if we let them. They fly inside of our trash dumpster and peck our trash bags apart looking for snacks. Their presence pushes away any small sparrows or juncos that occasionally stop by as well.

I truly want to leave my feeders up but it’s nearly impossible with the magpies about. Has anyone else had this difficulty with magpies or other similar birds, and if so, how did you deal with it?