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January through March, 2010

Pacific Decadal Oscillation

01 January 2010
Sunset, Looking Southwest

Last quarter, we had a picture of sunset looking southeast. Under similar conditions, the view to the southwest is equally impressive. In this case, summits of Montana's Tobacco Root Mountains cast elongated upside-down shadows on the cloud layer as the sun peeked below the clouds a minute before setting. Click on the picture for a 3 megapixel (80KB) version.

In early January, the elk visited our property for a short time. They usually get easier forage here but this year they are having to paw their way down to the grass. They must be getting enough to eat; these elk cows appear to be healthy, well fed and pregnant. Local TV news reported the herd had been hanging out on Jackson Creek Road (about 8 miles from us) and people claimed wolves were preying on them there. That is unlikely, but if true it might explain why the elk moved.

In keeping with English Tradition, Pauline makes English pancakes (like crêpes) for Shrove Tuesday. We started inviting friends over, and each year the event has grown. This year we had 37 guests. We expect each guest to flip a pancake, but we don't hold races.

Early in the party, members of the volunteer fire department had to leave to search for two skiers who got lost skiing out of bounds at Bridger Bowl.

We hosted the MSU Wildlife Management Techniques course for a second time. Students placed five motion-sensitive cameras around the property to see what animals wander by. One camera placement was near the skeleton of a deer kill left by a mountain lion last November. A month later, students practiced use of telemetry equipment and collected data from the cameras. Click here to see a gallery of selected pictures. They have left the cameras to see if they get pictures of bears when temperatures warm up.

While placing cameras the students spotted two moose. Two weeks later we saw the two juveniles we pictured last Memorial Day and suspect they are the ones the students saw. The pair have grown quite a bit since Spring and will probably be ready for mating Fall of 2010. A day after our sighting, guests Dale and Kathy spotted the smaller of the two and we used snow shoes to track him (or her) through the property.

By early March snow pack in the mountains was below average, but there had been snow on the ground at BCL since November 12. This was the first time we have seen snow cover last so long. Global warming deniers should not get their hopes up — temperatures over this period were 2°F higher than average. The weather was consistent with an El Niño year. The lingering snow was possibly due to the low variance in temperatures: we did not have many unusually warm, dry spells as in past years (for example, last year). There were some good ski days, but none of the cold smoke powder we expect. If the El Niño pattern continues, we will see a wet, cool Summer.

Dan and Jennie's Christmas present to us was a dog sled adventure. We scheduled a weekday in early March to avoid crowds. As the only persons on the tour, we both got plenty of sled driving time. The dogs were very friendly and they obviously love their jobs; while setting up the sleds, they were barking and jumping at the prospect of a run and they got impatient to go again any time we stopped. The dogs don't care if anyone is driving the sled, so one must take care to follow the two rules of dog sledding: (1) hang on and (2) don't let go. We will definitely recommend this tour to our Winter visitors.

At the beginning of March, weather switched suddenly from Winter to Spring. We had many warm, sunny days; snowfalls were light and melted quickly. Elk returned in small numbers and the Whitetails that hang out at the bottom of the drive came up to the house to graze. It was so warm and windy we did not try to burn our last slash pile. Then, the last two days of March brought plenty of new snow. At least we'll have good skiing to wrap up the season.


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