Archive for September, 2017

Rabbit redux — As was reported here a couple of weeks ago, there are more jackrabbits in the fields around Mitchell cabin this summer than in past years. I quoted one neighbor who pointed out there are fewer foxes this summer and suspected that might explain the increase in rabbits. However, a few foxes remain, and other predators, such as coyotes, are also around.

Not a housecat — Still another predator, which shows up from time to time, is a bobcat. I spotted one last week in the field below  Mitchell cabin. From a distance, a person might mistake a bobcat for a large housecoat since they’re roughly similar in general appearance. There is, however, a key difference that allows us to quickly tell them apart; bobcats don’t wear pet collars.

A Turkish convoy — No doubt a bobcat would also enjoy a turkey dinner if it could get one. This flock of wild turkeys has been showing up in my fields for months. The turkeys are not native to West Marin. For the benefit of hunters, state Fish and Game biologists in 1988 released a small flock on Loma Alta Ridge just north of Woodacre.

The flock quickly grew, and before long wild turkeys were gobbling throughout West Marin. Some birds spread as far north as Tomales, where they were known to chase school children. In fact, the turkeys’ most-impressive bit of mischief also occurred in Tomales. Here’s what happened back in February 2005.

 A turkey gliding down off a hill on the west side of the main street (Highway 1) clipped a 12,000-volt power line, causing a “loud explosion and bright flash of light,” residents Walter Earle and Margaret Graham told Point Reyes Light reporter Peter Jamison at the time. The couple said the turkey, which was not set on fire, landed on Highway 1 and in a daze walked around in circles before ambling off across a field and disappearing into the brush.

Earle immediately called the Tomales firehouse and reported, “Some turkey just took out the power lines.” Fire Capt. Tom Nunes later said he thought Earle was talking about a drunk driver, not a bird.

As it turned out, the turkey had sparked a four-hour blackout in town.

Hiding in the grass — Among the most common wildlife around Mitchell cabin are blacktail deer. Their fawns are typically born in early summer, and as of this week, still had their spots. The spots provide excellent camouflage from predators, as can be seen here.

Raccoonoitering Raccoons show up around Mitchell cabin virtually every evening. Raccoon kits are born in the spring and raised by their mothers until late fall. No doubt the biggest killer of raccoons around here is the motor vehicle, but once they’re in my fields, the main threat they face is each other. Unrelated raccoons frequently fight among themselves. We’ve seen raccoons that had lost part of an ear — or even a foot — in these skirmishes.

Chinook, like the salmon — An unfamiliar animal I encountered in the past week was this parrot named Chinook (seen perched on my wrist inside Sausalito’s No Name bar). Chinook wasn’t at all skittish around people although all the noise eventually irritated the 25-year-old bird and it nipped my finger — but not hard enough to draw blood.

More wild life — The Michael Aragon Quartet performs at the No Name every Friday night. The band plays jazz in the genre of John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderly, and they do it so well that drummer Aragon, the bandleader, has had the Friday gig for more than 30 years. On a couple of Fridays recently Nicasio-based Miwanza Furaha (above) sat in for a few songs. She’s a dynamic blues singer, whose passionate style reminds me of an intense Billie Holliday, and every time she sang, the crowd went wild.

 

The big news in my life since I temporarily stopped maintaining this blog last December is that my longtime partner, Lynn Axelrod, and I have finally become engaged. No wedding date has been set yet. On the other hand, half the people we know only casually — workers in local businesses, for example — assume we’re already married and refer to Lynn as my wife.

Lynn, as many readers know, is the Coordinator of the Point Reyes Disaster Council. As such she’s an independent contractor for the Marin County Fire Department. She is a retired attorney who had specialized in land-use issues, having earned her doctorate of law from UC Hastings. While she was still practicing law, Lynn volunteered at a few environmental groups — the Tamalpais Conservation Club, Wildcare animal rescue center, and others. After she stopped practicing law, she became a jewelry maker for the late jeweler Anne Dick. More recently she canvassed for progressive candidates.

 

Lynn with me in our living room. (Photo by Sarah Rohrs)

We first met when she was hired to work in advertising and typography for The Point Reyes Light back while I still published the newspaper. We’ve now been living together for eight years, and therein lies this story. As I’ve aged my hearing has become less sharp. Most of the time I hear well enough, and I sometimes wear hearing aids — but not to bed at night.

Our bed is king size, so there should be plenty of room for two people, but at times Lynn’s been known to jestingly grumble that I’m “encroaching” into space she needs for sleeping. One morning last winter Lynn awakened me with a laughing accusation, “My encroacher!” In confusion, I responded, “What about Mayan culture?” Then it was her turn to be confused.

A month or so ago, two East Marin friends dropped by with their dogs, and we all went for a walk at White House Pool. The dogs were wonderfully playful, and they impressively obeyed their masters’ commands. We all enjoyed them. The next morning as we were waking up, Lynn mumbled, “I was dreaming I had my arms around a doggy.”

“A donkey?” I asked in astonishment. 

“No, a doggy.”

“Why would you have your arms around a donkey?” I persisted, still not hearing her clearly. It took a while to straighten this one out.

Weird but also true. Wasn’t last weekend a scorcher, even without the fires burning in other parts of the state? At Mitchell cabin, the hottest day was Friday. At 10:30 a.m., the thermometer outside our kitchen window registered 105 degrees. One hundred five degrees! We could have taken a dip in the hot tub to cool off. And we escaped the worst of it. The Light reports that in neighboring Olema the mercury hit 117 degrees.

 

A combination of computer problems and a Donald Trump-induced lethargy convinced me to give this blog a break for eight months, but now I’m back — although probably not on an every-week basis as I was for 10 years.  To keep going I just have to remind myself that there are more important things to think about than The Donald.

Here’s an example. My neighbors and I have been seeing far more jackrabbits this summer than in previous years. Neighbor Carol Horick wonders if the abundance is an indication of there being fewer foxes around. There does seem to be a smaller fox population this summer although last week I heard both coyotes and a fox after dark, so the rabbits’ predators have not totally disappeared.

The behavior of young jackrabbits toward each other parallels the behavior of young deer. Like fawns, rabbits at play tend to chase each other in circles around my fields, kicking up their heels in excitement. Moreover, at feeding time, rabbits and deer comfortably graze side by side. Neither seems to worry the other.

Nor are deer the rabbits’ only dinner companions. In this photo by Lynn Axelrod, three rabbits and a quail dine together on the hillside above our kitchen. 

Along with the deer, rabbits, and quail, raccoons are daily guests. Here four raccoon kits try to squeeze into a bird bath on the railing of our deck. They’re roughly 20 feet above the ground, so a fall would entail a painful landing. But although they do stumble around at times, I’ve never seen a raccoon fall to the ground. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

Getting back to Trump. (It’s hard to steer clear of him these days.) San Francisco Chronicle columnist Willie Brown, the former mayor of San Francisco and former speaker of the California Assembly, last week wrote that Trump’s political “movement” is not really part of the Republican Party but rather the start of a third party.

As I recall, the most successful third party presidential candidate in US history was former Republican President Teddy Roosevelt. In 1912, he picked up 27 percent of the vote as the candidate of the “Progressive Party,” which was referred to as the “Bull Moose Party.” If Brown is correct and Trump is likewise forming his own party, I suggest we refer to it as the “Bullsh-t Party.”

Fleecing à la Trump: A story going around the county begins with a man getting into the shower just as his wife is getting out. Suddenly the doorbell rings, so she wraps a towel around herself and goes downstairs to answer it. When she opens the door, their neighbor Don is outside. After looking at her attire for a moment, Don says, “If you drop that towel, I’ll give you $800.”

The wife thinks about this for a few seconds and then drops her towel. After looking her up and down, Don hands her $800 and goes home. When she returns to the bathroom, her husband asks, “Who was that at the door?”

“Just our neighbor Don,” the wife replies. “Great,” says her husband. “Did he mention the $800 he owes me?”