Nature & Birding

Mountain Lion

Mountain Lion

It was Christmas night, around ten-twenty in the evening when Scott Atchison, executive Chef at Sylvan Dale, was getting ready to let out “Forrest”.

Forrest is Scott’s 55 pound Border Collie who was sporting a brand new blinking collar (because black dogs are awfully hard to see in the dark of the night). Forrest usually waits to be let out — but not this night, the dog ran to the front of the house with Scott following behind.



Once outside Forrest began running about frenetically, the small yellow light on his collar blinking and tracing his movements in the darkness while Scott tried to keep the beam of his small flashlight fixed on the dog.

Moments later Scott heard a growl followed by a shrill cry. He looks to see the source of the strange squeal but his small flashlight was insufficient to illuminate the area. He sees clearly enough however to view a mountain lion as it heads toward the river.

Mountain Lion at Sylvan Dale

Mountain Lion at Sylvan Dale

Scott rushed inside to retrieve a ‘real’ spotlight, one of those light up the night rigs and goes looking for the Cat. He headed back to the location where he’d heard the growling and screaming. Approaching the spot, about 10 or 15 feet away, he observed the lion clawing at the wood of the old pump station.

Apparently something startled the cat and it escaped from the area, racing across the frozen river slipping and sliding all the way. Maybe Forrest the alien-looking dog scared it off, but Scott figured the wild cat was just trying to get away and decided it was a good idea to do the same!

Scott reports the lion appeared to be younger, perhaps about a year old and weighing around 100lbs. “Good thing it ran the other way,” says Scott, “because with my worn knees, I don’t run so well!”

View photos of mountain lion near Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch

bighornFor those interested, there’s a band of Bighorn sheep in the lower pasture!” David Jessup called out over the ranch radio at about 9:30 this morning.

A group of us jumped at the news and headed out. Clear skies and the bright, warm rays of the sun made for a golden opportunity to view the band of bighorn.

The temperature was very comfortable, in the low 50′s and we were pleasantly rewarded with a good look at these majestic sheep.

bighorn-ramsFour rams were out with their ewes enjoying the gorgeous morning.

Fortunately they weren’t too alarmed by our approaching which permitted us to get close enough to capture several good shots — we hope you enjoy them!

We love nature and our beautiful valley teeming with wildlife. As the upcoming Christmas holiday draws closer it’s easy to find ourselves dashing and scurrying about tending to the various activities of this time of year, but we’re not alone!

squirrelSylvan Dale’s resident naturalist David Armstrong has been featured in an article published today on that shares some interesting facts about our neighborly squirrels who are also busy about their own seasonal routine.

Take a moment to read the article, “‘Squirrelly’ for a reason, during this season” and perhaps learn a bit more about these popular and delightful little creatures.
Read more on Gettin’ ‘Squirrelly’ for the Holidays!…

bobcats-clip-bob-savannahThere have been increasing sightings of a resident bobcat and her kits at the ranch. Here’s a few stories from those that have been fortunate enough to see this beautiful cat.

Mrs. Bobcat and her two pre-teen bob-kits sauntered past Tillie’s house about a month ago. I was preparing lunch in Tillie’s kitchen when they walked along the walkway right beneath the kitchen windows. My pastrami sandwich nearly fell out of my hand. I took the basement stairs two at a time, grabbed my camera and flew out of the door to the lower driveway. By that time, all I could see was three sets of pointed ears trotting along the edge of the parking lot. I snapped away, getting a picture of nothing, then ran down the hill. The parking lot was empty. But my head was full of the image of those beautiful creatures, robed like kings.

— David J

Read more on Bobcat Sightings!…

Coyotes have a reputation bigger than life. In the Southwest and Mexico, they were known by natives and immigrants alike as “trickster” because of their wily ways, cunning, versatile, scrappy adversaries who commanded grudging respect. Coyotes are emblematic of wide open spaces. Now increasingly too familiar as suburban scavengers or even urban “dumpster divers,” coyotes evolved their versatile habits on a wild continent where wolves were “top dog.” With the demise of wolves, their much larger cousins, coyotes have expanded their range and now are common from the Arctic to Costa Rica.

coyote-the-trickster.jpgExpect to see coyotes anywhere on Sylvan Dale’s 5 square miles of diverse habitats, but they are especially “watchable” right on the Home Pastures. This year there were at least two dens within the view from The Hilltop, in the rough, brushy country just east of the canal. Both parents help to raise the pups, bring home a feast of cottontails, prairie dogs, and mice as well as carrion. They probably would harvest Susan’s chickens as well, except for some industrial grade fencing and the vigilance of their fearless, distant cousin, Maggie (the Wonder Dog).

Every night there are singing contests between the north and south ends of the pastures. Just now they prefer to perform about 3 AM, trailing grown-up calls followed by ragged choruses of youngsters’ yips.

Coyotes are no threat to people or livestock and like other native wildlife at Sylvan Dale, they have a comfortable refuge here, prospering in natural landscapes protected from future development by perpetual conservation easements.

David M. Armstrong
Resident Naturalist, SDR
Author Rocky Mountain Mammals

Jesse King, a guest at Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch during Bonfils Stanton Foundation’s company retreat, took a break from the activities to create a wonderful display of balance. More than a dozen actually. Despite the rising waters from the rains the stones remain steadfast.

It’s not Stonehenge but still impressive to see; slender stones peacefully projecting skyward from the rushing waters of the Big Thompson River. One might say it’s symbolic of what happens during a stay at Sylvan Dale. Finding balance in the oftentimes riotous current of life.

Shall we call it Sylvanhenge? Hmmm.

Finding Balance at Sylvanhenge
view the photo gallery

Where the Wild Things Are — Dippers


American Dipper

The most aquatic of song birds, dippers or water ouzels are gray, robin-sized, with short, perky, wren-like tails. No skinny dippers, these are round, well-insulated feather balls, with stubby wings that allow them to fly under water. American dippers live only in the western mountains, from Alaska to Mexico.

Dippers dip. They bob up and down with quick knee-bends, apparently to allow a good view through the reflective surface of the water. Then they hike along the bottom of a tumbling mountain stream, hanging on with their toes, probing among the rocks for insects to eat.

Their nest is a hollow ball of moss on an inaccessible cliff above the water. Most summers there are two or three dipper nests along the Big Thompson on the Main Ranch. The lowest of them is just above water level at the north end of the bridge on the way to the early morning Breakfast Ride! This may be the lowest-elevation dipper nest in Colorado.

Come see us (and the dippers!). Invest some quality time communing with the dippers after that old-fashioned country breakfast!