Sun 14 Jul 2013
Consider this a dining review for the benefit of wildlife in Point Reyes Station.
The Pine Cone Diner.
A Western gray squirrel carries a pine cone in its teeth as it jumps from limb to limb in a Monterey pine next to Mitchell cabin. West Marin’s squirrels are easy to spot but hard to photograph. In the time it takes to raise a camera to my eye, they often bound away to a new location.
Squirrels gnaw off the scales of pine cones while the cones are still green in order to eat the pine seeds underneath.
Sometime ago it became obvious from the small, well-gnawed pine cones we were finding on the walk and decks at Mitchell cabin that once again a squirrel is a habitué of one tree in particular. It’s fun to have the squirrel around, but having the remains of cones and seeds continually under foot is a nuisance.
Also found below pines at the cabin are limb tips a squirrel has gnawed off. Squirrels like to feed on pine trees’ cambium layer, which is immediately under the bark. The bark that’s softest and easiest to gnaw through is at the narrow ends of growing limbs, resulting in squirrels forever gnawing off the ends.
Were this the Yuletide, a few of the tips that fell in the past two weeks would have been big enough to serve as small Christmas trees. One was more than four feet long.
A ruby-throated hummingbird approaches a favorite flower on the deck. In normal flight, a hummingbird’s wings beat around 80 times per second, but in dives performed during courtship, they may reach 200 flaps per second.
The same hummingbird sucks nectar from a blossom.
Hummingbirds are able to hover in one place by flapping their wings in a horizontal figure 8.
A tri-colored blackbird swoops in for a landing, pushing aside other blackbirds, which are pecking birdseed off the deck railing. The tri-colored blackbird’s yellow patch on its wing distinguishes it from a red-winged blackbird.
The flash from the camera is reflected in the fox’s eyes, but the vixen appears oblivious to the burst of light. Photo by Lynn Axelrod
A gray fox heads toward the kitchen door at Mitchell cabin after dark, hoping to be handed a slice of bread. A couple of days later, Lynn saw the vixen jump onto a deck chair and then onto the railing where a mourning dove was sitting, but the bird took flight just in time to escape.
Raccoons likewise fail to react to the camera’s flashes. They too are far more interested in bread. Photo by Lynn Axelrod
An earlier posting describing how animals’ eyes react to light notes, among other things, that wildlife including birds do not usually show any reaction to sporadic flashes — even those directly in their faces — but a quick succession of flashes gets their attention.
A black tailed buck shows the grace of a dancer as he looks up from grazing next to Mitchell cabin.
This deer seems to have marked off my fields as his, for no other bucks have been coming around recently although a fawn and a couple of does are frequent visitors.
If you happen to be a squirrel, hummingbird, blackbird, fox, raccoon, or deer, Mitchell cabin offers great food at no charge. But look out for the fox if you’re smaller than she is.