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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Land of R-E-A-L-L-Y big doggies...

We loved Ely but it was time to head west to Thief River Falls, a town named after the amazing theft of a river – or something like that. We were in the vicinity of several prime places to check out for Great Grey Owls and other northern species.

First up was Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge, easy to visualize; think forests, ponds and lakes, all slopping over with Red-necked Grebe, Blue-winged Teal, Ruddy Ducks, Canvasbacks, Pintails, Gadwalls, Ring-necked and Red-headed Ducks and yes, yes, birds, birds and more damned birds Claire. Didn’t you see anything but birds?

Glad you asked that question! One morning we were up and crack of the first sparrow’s fart, out the door and off to look for Great Grey Owls in Minneosta's Roseau (Row-sew) County, which borders Canada. I was driving that morning and Don was shotgun on wildlife watch.

‘In the field - a big dog,’ said Don.

I waited for the other shoe to drop. Believe me, neither Don nor I are capable of just saying ‘dog’. Nope. We have to say things like, ‘There’s a large dog, I’d say its 6 tenths Great Pyrenees, 2 tenths Labrador and I’d say that pup’s mother had more than a passing interest in the German Shepard down the street.’

Yes, that is what was missing from Don’s description, the acute analysis that makes us so marvelously annoying to some folk. Where was I? Yeah, Don’s ‘big dog’. I knew if Don wasn’t giving me a breed by breed account, the critter it wasn’t any ordinary ‘doggy’. I careened the car onto the nearly non-existent road shoulder and fumbled for my binoculars and camera. Don was silent – I felt excitement, wondering if there might be a UFO out there in the field too. I peered bare eyed into the distance – there stood a large, rangy looking, grizzled, rufous WOLF!

The moment the car stopped, the wolf turned tail and retreated, stopping only for one long tantalizing stare at us. I lifted up my camera – with its big lens – and the wolf began to move away in earnest. Maybe it thought my camera lens was a gun barrel, or maybe it was still pissed about its scene being cut from some Animal Planet expose on Minnesota’s wolves. HURRAH! Our first wolf! I didn’t get a photo but who cares, we had a wolf under our belts, tight fit but you know what I mean! Excitedly chattering we continued north to the Canadian Border, eh? And there from Checkpoint Ollie we drove slowly back down the freeway, our eyes glued to the tops of the tall pines and spruce of the thick forest on either side of the road. I must say, although I was driving, I was still droopy eyed and I stared at a blot down the road a ways and here is what I saw, and photographed through the windshield after deciding maybe I didn't want to get out of the car.

Lobo is watching a second wolf back in the woods.

This wolf is Mr. ALPHA Wolf, no doubt about it
His lordship is off to read the riot act to wolf #2

WOLVES! Two of the howling buggers. One animal was timid and as I slowed the car it slipped back into the forest. The second wolf was one tough fother mucker – it was grizzled, long-legged and it stared right at us, with a noticeable glint of disdain. ‘Hey Humans! >Ef you!

The wolf moved out of sight for a bit, then it crossed the roadway and the second wolf shot out of the woods on the right disappearing in the forest on the opposite side of the road. But MR. BIG BAD was in no hurry at all. He paused, shot us a glare and took a dump. Yes! I saw a genuine North American Wolf take a humongous wolfy dump on one of our beautiful American roadways. Please note: knowing not everyone appreciates scat the way I do, I tactfully omitted the offensive wolf poo via Photoshop, from the photos below.

Much clearer shot from an open window

Check out the delightful color coordination in that outfit

I know that wolf was saying ‘eat my furry shorts
hew-man!’ as he headed off to the woods

Needless to say, Don and I were jazzed. We spent our day alternately walking around looking for owls – which we never found – OK, and it was Don who did 99% of the walking, with me waiting for him to find things and call me over, and oh shut up, I am NOT lazy, and you shut up too Don! Since good things like to bunch up on you, we managed at one point to find ourselves only a few feet from a drumming Ruffed Grouse, which we thought was much further off. Here’s your second ‘find Waldo’ birdie shot. The grey Grouse cock is dead center – can you make him out?

To Find Waldo the Grouse, click here

Later that morning we saw this lovely Rockettes line-up of White-tailed does.

The girls all lined up

We were undoubtedly having one of our best ever field days, in fact, I'll need a second day to tell about all of it.

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