Tue 21 Jul 2009
One of the joys of living in Point Reyes Station is the variety of wildlife that comes with it. To demonstrate my point here’s an assortment of photos from the past week.
After living on this hill for more than 30 years, I saw chipmunks on my property for the first time Sunday.
I knew there were chipmunks in the area, for I’d seen them in the Point Reyes National Seashore, and Point Reyes Station naturalist Jules Evens writes about them in his Natural History of the Point Reyes Peninsula.
The species of chipmunks around here are Sonoma chipmunks. They can be found from San Francisco Bay to Siskiyou County. On the Endangered Species List, the Sonoma chipmunk is rated a species of “least concern.”
Various authorities suggest the name chipmunk comes from an Odawa or an Ojibwe word meaning red squirrel and may have originally been spelled in English as chitmunk. Others attribute the name to the noise they make, a chipping sound for an alarm with a harsher version for courtship.
The Sonoma chipmunk is a “common resident of open forests, chaparral, brushy clearings, and streamside thickets from sea level to 6,000 feet [in elevation],” the California Department of Fish and Game reports.
“They forage among small branches of bushes and on ground for acorns, fungi, and seeds of manzanita, ceanothus, and gooseberry.” The rodents, in turn, “may be preyed upon by long-tailed weasles, bobcats, badgers, gray foxes, and various hawks and owls.”
Sonoma chipmunks, Fish and Game notes, “breed from February to July [with] one litter per year of three to seven young.”
A key reason for the variety of wildlife on this hill are two stockponds where all manner of critters go for a drink. Sunday night, coyotes next to this pond entertained my neighbors and me with an extended chorus of yips and howls.
The ponds also attract Great blue herons (such as this one spotted Monday afternoon), along with egrets and ducks.
Monday morning I looked up from making breakfast to find this young buck staring in the kitchen window at me.
Raccoons are nightly visitors on my deck.
Their favorite food appears to be moths on my windows lured there by the light indoors. As happened last Wednesday, a raccoon will occasionally go to the effort of climbing onto my roof to pick moths off a dormer window.
Wild turkeys (seen here Monday) have become year-round residents on this hill.
The turkeys eat seeds, berries, acorns, and insects, along with small frogs and salamanders. Their hunting and pecking is often memorialized by pockmarked fields.
This young possum (seen Sunday) is a frequent visitor to my deck. He’s not fond of the raccoons, but he likes to drink from my birdbath.
Needing to get rid of some rancid peanuts a while back, I decided to leave them on my deck for whatever critter came along. Not realizing the possum was just outside my kitchen door, I opened it a crack and started to lay a handful down, only to have the possum suddenly emerge from the dark, stick its nose in my palm, and start nibbling on the nuts.
The possum made no attempt to bite me, but I quickly pulled my hand back lest I get nipped accidentally. It is rare for possums to carry rabies; their body temperature is too low, 94 to 97 degrees compared with 102.8 for raccoons and an average of 101 for domestic dogs. All the same, I highly recommend against hand feeding these cute little marsupials. You may have less luck than I did.