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The Tireless Toad

Toad

A few weeks ago Howie, Kevin and I climbed Ashcroft Mountain. The hike was beautiful, the views were great and my peanut butter and banana sandwich at the summit was delicious. There were tons of awesome finds along the way, what may have been a bears den, some spectacular lodgepole pines, Howie narrowly avoiding an old tree crashing into his head and then later almost stepping on an elk calf and even some big cat tracks. But on the ascent down I made a find that trumps all the others. I know... at this point you are thinking that this day most certainly cannot get much better.


Castle Creek Spring

Castle Creek

After a long winter, evidence left by local animals is beginning to show. With a receding snow pack, new animal signs are uncovered everyday.

One of the most common signs is the elk chew. When the snow is high and forage is buried, elk (Cervus elaphus) rely on the living bark of Aspens for sustenance. I can only assume this grove of Aspens off Castle Creek Road was given the attention of a herd for a good amount of time. These scars will remain far longer than the lifespan of an elk and this grove will bear the mark of a hungry herd for decades to come.


Storms (and the power of observations)

As someone who loves powder skiing, I am somewhat obsessed with weather forecasts. If it is my day to be hanging out at the ACES front desk, you can bet that there are probably multiple weather forecasts up on my computer.


Frost-free Days - Why Give a Hoot?

Living in Aspen has more than enough perks, from the incredible skiing in the winter to endless backpacking in the summer. The amazing snow and the beautiful sunny days makes you grow accustomed to the weather patterns and the climate of the area.


Winter Watering Hole

As ACES naturalists, we often get to see--and share with our guests--signs of winter animals while on the trail.  However, due to the nocturnal or crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk) habits of many of these animals, we rarely get the chance to see them in action.  Last night I was given a rare opportunity to see one of these elusive animals on the prowl in my own backyard. 


A fresh perspective on Pine Beetles

Last Thursday at Hallam Lake for the Naturalist Night speaker series, Professor Dan Tinker from the University of Wyoming gave a really illuminating talk about some of the science and research going into the Rocky Mountain Pine Beetle outbreak we are witnessing across the West. Living, working, and learning in Colorado nearly my entire life, I thought I had a decent grasp on most of the science looking at the interactions of Beetles in our forests. Professor Tinker quickly dispelled that little notion of mine.


Surprises at Hallam Lake

After almost nine months at ACES (has it really been that long?), I'm beginning to feel like I know Hallam Lake well. However, the best thing about Hallam Lake is that there is always something new to find. Last week, after a lot of snow over the weekend, Robin and I were walking around the lake, shoveling out the platforms and bridges. Coming around the corner past the big blue spruce, I saw something exciting ahead of me.


Winter Birds: Robins and Grosbeaks

Grosbeaks

While some animals hibernate all winter, and some migrate to warmer places, others are active and thriving. We have recently seen pine grosbeaks flying around the mountain ash trees at Hallam Lake! This large and rare member of the finch family is eating the fruit off the ash trees and serviceberries right along the short driveway into ACES. Thankfully Lindsay Fortier captured these birds with her camera before they flew away.


Passing Through

Deer

Sometimes it is really easy to forget that we work at a nature preserve. Six elk grazing in the deep snow on the far end of Hallam Lake can remind you that there are plenty of animals passing through. My coworker Lindsay Gurley spotted these Elk from about 250 yards away with her keen vision. After work I went home to grab my camera and headed right back to Hallam Lake in the fading light. I headed along the Roaring Fork River and tried my best to silently walk through three feet of snow.


Puzzling Prickly Prints

Atop Aspen Mountain I was waiting for guests to join me on a tour. One o’clock passed and no one arrived except a fellow Naturalist, Robin. Instead of taking Robin on a tour that she also leads, we decided to just walk the trail and enjoy the day.  As we walked away from the hustle and bustle of the ski hill we started through the forest. It had just snowed the day before, so the snow was gleaming and untouched. As we walked up a nice hill tracks crossed our paths, I hadn’t seen anything like them before.