Sun 13 Jun 2010
In our willingness to do anything to get a photograph, we wildlife photographers, like paparazzi, sometimes seem to have no shame. If you’d seen me on my deck in my shorts Friday snapping pictures of a coyote, I’m sure you would agree.
As it happened, I’d spent the afternoon using a Weed Wacker to cut back grass along both sides of my driveway, which is about a tenth of a mile long. Needing to wash up after the work, I had taken a shower and was just starting to get dressed when I looked out my bedroom window and spotted a large coyote in the field below.
Without pausing to pull on a shirt or trousers, I grabbed my camera and hurried outside as quietly as I could so as not to scare the critter away. By now, the coyote had crossed my field and was nosing around near my parked cars.
I wondered if it was sniffing around for this doe I’d spotted by my cars earlier.
The coyote stuck around long enough for me to take its picture before it disappeared into a clump of (appropriately enough) coyote brush. As soon as it did, I called my neighbor Jay Haas about the sighting, and from his vantage point, he managed to spot the coyote too.
A bobcat wanders around a car belonging to two guests.
I don’t know what it is about my parking area, but it attracts wildlife as if it were a watering hole in the Serengeti Plain.
I’ve been able to photograph both predators and prey hanging around my cars — coyotes and deer, bobcats and rabbits — as well as wild turkeys, great blue herons, and countless other birds.
A brush rabbit, also known as a cottontail.
Near the bottom of my driveway is the top of my neighbors Skip and Renée Shannon’s driveway, and they have their own ecosystem of squirrels, crows, hawks, and owls.
Fledgling great horned owl. Photo by Renée Shannon
Renée, who is the business manager and ad director for The Point Reyes Light, last month told me Skip had been outside when a young great-horned owl fluttered down from a pine tree and landed in the grass. Skip quickly called to Renée to get her camera, and she was able to photograph the bird before it managed to fly a short distance and land on a woodpile.
Renée then phoned ornithologist Jules Evens of Point Reyes Station, and he caught the fledging owl and took it with him to a Tomales Bay Watershed Council meeting in the National Seashore.
“Someone at the meeting was on her way to San Rafael, so I gave the owl box to her, and she delivered it to Wildcare (Patient #488),” Jules told me later. “Apparently it had a fairly common blood bacterium [found] in owls and hawks.” The “prognosis,” he added, was “not good.”
Mystery skulls. Photo by Linda Petersen
My story took an odd turn a week ago when Renée’s counterpart at The West Marin Citizen, Linda Petersen of Point Reyes Station, discovered two animal skulls on the ground between her garbage cans and back fence. The immediate question was: what kind of animal?
Linda checked skull photos online and decided they looked like pig skulls. I emailed photos of the skulls to Jules and to Chileno Valley rancher Mike Gale, and both agreed Linda was probably right. “They appear to be medium-size porkers,” Mike wrote back.
That, however, doesn’t explain how the skulls ended up on the ground between Linda’s garbage cans and back fence. Did someone hold a luau and chuck pig heads over her fence? “Pretty rude of someone to toss them into her yard, eh?” Jules mused.