Entries tagged with “bobcat”.


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A bobcat seen last week from a kitchen window. The cat has taken to showing up in the fields around Mitchell cabin, hunting gophers several times a month. Our fields have so many gophers that I’m always happy to see him.

A male American kestrel perching on the railing of our deck a couple of days ago as it likewise scanned the field below for prey. The falcon eats small birds, mice and insects.

A California scrub jay perched on an oak tree near our deck. These jays feed on insects, small animals, the eggs and young of other birds, grains, berries, and nuts. They’re among the most intelligent of all animals, according to some biologists.

Displaying her impressive spurs, a wild turkey walks along the railing of our deck pecking at seeds put out for other birds. The turkeys eat so much seed and leave such large droppings that they soon became unwelcome guests. During the day when they’re out and about, Lynn closes the gate where they walk onto the deck to discourage their getting used to it as their territory.

Turkeys march uphill near Mitchell cabin. We’ve had as many as 30 at a time in recent weeks. Wild turkeys have a Goth-like drabness when seen at a distance, but when they’re seen up close, they….

are dramatically colorful. With multi-hued feathers, a bright-red wattle, and jutting spurs, they probably could be rated among the more colorful local wild birds.

And while we’ve all heard that Ben Franklin wanted the turkey as our national symbol instead of the bald eagle, the Franklin Institute says the story’s “a myth.” It apparently grew out of a letter to his daughter in which Franklin wrote that in comparison to the bald eagle, the turkey is “a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America…He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage.”

A week of cold winds with several wet days has made downtown feel so bleak that I’d been thinking of filing a complaint with county government. However, as Lynn got out of our car in the Palace Market parking lot Monday, she called back to me that there was an impressive rainbow overhead. I then got out and saw the rainbow framed by overhead lines, dangling running shoes, a utility pole, treetops, and a chimney. Indeed I was impressed by the scene’s complexity.

 

Around the first of the year I sometimes post a roundup of the creatures that have shown up around Mitchell cabin.

This year I’m doing it again, starting with a butterfly and dragonfly followed by a variety of larger critters.

This exhibit ends with a coyote, a bobcat, two badgers, and two deer rubbing noses.

Regular readers of this blog will recognize some of these photos from past postings.

Here a buckeye butterfly rests on a chrysanthemum that’s growing in a flowerpot on the deck. ___________________________________________________________________

A dragonfly pauses on the twig of a tree that’s next to the deck. Dragonflies can easily be distinguished from damselflies because when they are at rest they leave their wings extended while damselflies close their wings over their bodies when at rest. __________________________________________________________________

A Pacific tree frog on a bamboo shoot near our hot tub.

Some people call them Pacific chorus frogs. During the winter, their main mating season, males make their way to water and then charm females to the water with a chorus of chirping.

 

 

 

 

 

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Gopher snakes are not poisonous, but they mimic rattlesnakes, coiling up and wagging their tongues when threatened. This one was near the foot of our driveway.

A jackrabbit in the field outside our kitchen window pauses to look around .

This is the only chipmunk I’ve ever seen around Mitchell cabin. I’m just glad I had my camera nearby when it showed up.

A Western gray squirrel basks in the sun after taking a drink from our birdbath.

A roof rat takes a drink from the birdbath. These rats originated in southern Asia, and you’ll recall it was their fleas that spread the Black Death throughout Europe in the 14th Century, killing roughly half the people.

This cute possum used to be a regular nighttime visitor, but so many raccoons have been hanging around the cabin in the evening that we seldom see any possums these days.

Three raccoons in a tree beside Mitchell cabin. ______________________________________________________________

A gray fox enjoys the sun on our deck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A coyote watches me park my car as I arrive back home.

A bobcat hunts outside our kitchen window.

A mother badger and her kit eye the world from their sett, as badger dens are called.

Two deer touch noses as a herd of six blacktails graze downhill from Mitchell cabin.

For reasons of space, no birds are included in this posting. Look for a gallery of our fine feathered friends in a week or two.

Unfortunately, my posting is a bit late this week. Three afternoons visiting physicians, five and a half hours on Sunday in Kaiser Hospital’s Emergency Room, and an MRI scan on Monday put me behind in my schedule.

The medical consensus is that a couple of weeks ago I was hit with “temporal arteritis,” which is a big headache, believe me. Left untreated it can lead to blindness. Temporal arteritis amounts to inflammation of an artery that goes through the temples (hence the name “temporal”) and feeds blood to the eyes. The problem is common enough that rheumatologists have developed a standard treatment using the steroid Prednisone. The cause of temporal arteritis is unknown, but it mostly hits us older folks.

With me just out of sick bay, my neighbor Jay Haas has graciously stepped up to help with this week’s posting. Jay shot all the photos and tells much of the story.

Like Lynn and I, he and his wife Didi Thompson, get a fair amount of wildlife around their front door — bobcats, foxes, all manner of birds, and much more. In fact, we probably share many of the same animals.

The number of bobcats showing up around Point Reyes Station homes has increased in recent years. Some townspeople believe that the pastures of the Giacomini ranch had been the prime hunting grounds for a local bobcat population, but those cats were forced out when the Park Service bought the land and in 2007 flooded it.

A bobcat walking past Jay’s and Didi’s home — I suspect this is the same individual that for a few days roamed my fields next door.

White robin

The first robin of spring in the yard of Jay and Didi five years ago was an albino. “For some reason, albinism and partial albinism have been recorded in robins more than any other wild bird species,” this blog at the time quoted the the American Robin website as reporting.

“One study found that 8.22 percent of all albino wild birds found in North America were robins. But only about one robin in 30,000 is an albino or partial albino. Most records of robins with albinism are only partial albinos, which of course live longer than total albinos.”

As the American Robin explains, totally albino birds have no pigment in their irises and retinas to protect their eyes from sunlight, and many eventually go blind.

Providing a more-recent springtime show was a family of gray foxes that began appearing around the deck where Jay and his friends have been known to share a drink at the end of the day.

“The vixen and her kits, already fairly large, showed up one night under ‘The Gin Deck’ in late May 2012,” Jay wrote on Friday. “The kits would get fairly close to me on the deck,” he added, his toes bearing evidence of the fact.

Fox in the tomato bed.

“Mom would stand farther away and scowl at me.”

“The kits clearly had fleas, as they were scratching all the time.”

“One interesting observation was that when mom brought prey home, [such as] a bunny, the kits would fight over it. Then one would take it away and fight off its siblings, eating it all.

“After a few weeks, I had some friends visiting, and we were all out on the deck for quite some time. There goes the neighborhood — This was too much for mom; the next morning they were gone. Just as well; I was tired of cleaning up all the poop.”

Lynn watches as the final days of 2013 come to their end.

By the way, despite complaints from the illiterati, spelling Christmas as Xmas does not amount to “leaving Christ out of Christmas.” As the American Heritage Dictionary notes, “Xmas has been used for hundreds of years in religious writing, where X is understood to represent a Greek chi, the first letter of  Χριστός, ‘”Christ.'”

Likewise, religious scholars have often spelled Christian as Xtian. Half a century ago when I took a course in Theology and Contemporary Literature at Stanford, the professor shortened the spelling even further to Xn.

No doubt thankful that they were blacktail deer and not reindeer so they wouldn’t have to drag a sleigh all over the globe on Xmas eve, two bucks graze in my fields and gaze at my camera.

Also spending a bit of the yuletide in my fields was the bobcat seen here crossing my driveway. Bobcats tend to be merciless loners, sort of like Charles Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge.

If you recall Dickens’ 1843 novella A Christmas Carol, you know that Scrooge is transformed from his grasping, cynical ways through a series of nighttime visions:

• First, he is visited by the tormented ghost of his late partner Jacob Marley, who regrets his life of avarice, for it has left him cursed to wander the earth forever, dragging the chains of his greed.

• Second, he is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past, who reminds Scrooge of his innocent childhood.

Lynn and I as ghosts of Christmas Just Past (right).

• Third is the Ghost of Christmas Present (odd name), who shows Scrooge people enjoying Christmas as well as the meager Christmas dinner at the home of his employee Bob Cratchit, who cannot afford treatment for his chronically ill son Tiny Tim.

• Fourth is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Be, who shows Scrooge the death of an unloved businessman, whose servants quickly steal his belongings while no one tends his grave.

After all this, Scrooge is terrified. He no longer rejects Christmas as “humbug.” He anonymously sends a turkey to Bob Cratchit’s family and gives his employee a raise so he can get care for Tiny Tim. A thoroughly new man, he begins treating everyone with kindness.

With 2014 beginning on Wednesday, four contrails enhanced by a lens-flare sunburst on Sunday morning heralded the coming of a new day. In the words of Tiny Tim, “God bless us, everyone.”

Watching wild animals is a lot like watching people. We form judgements about their dispositions based on their movements.

The lone peacock that showed up back in November is still around, as can be seen in this photo shot from the deck of Mitchell cabin on Jan. 29. The type of peacock we have in California originated in India. It was introduced onto the US mainland in this state back in 1879.

Three months after I first noticed, I still see the lone peacock finding companionship in a flock of wild turkeys, which seems fine with them.

The bobcat I mentioned a week ago is also still hanging around Mitchell cabin. Leaning out my kitchen window, I shot this photo of it hunting rodents on Wednesday, Jan. 30.

However, I wasn’t the only one watching the bobcat. Lynn pointed out to me that the blacktail buck at left was also interested in it.

Before long the bobcat disappeared into a patch of coyote brush. The buck cautiously approached the clump of brush and sniffed around but didn’t seem particularly concerned. The bobcat didn’t stir. Apparently it wasn’t about to attack a standing buck.

Before long other deer began arriving, and right behind them were some more wild turkeys. The horse at the right then showed up to watch what might be happening.

I too started wondering what would happen when the turkeys began pecking around the edge of same patch of coyote brush the bobcat was in. Bobcats will eat wild turkeys, but this one continued to lie low.

The deer meanwhile crawled through a barbed-wire fence to join horses grazing in the field beside Mitchell cabin. For one sunny afternoon, there was peace in the world of peacock, wild turkey, bobcat, deer, horse, and human. Like the young doe seen here watching me, everyone watched someone else, but no one bothered anyone.

As was noted when I began this perspicacious series six years ago, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen (1916-97) once wrote that he kept a file of items to use whenever he had space, so I began keeping a similar file, which I labeled “Quotes Worth Saving.” Here is the latest installment from it:

“A list of things that Americans judge more favorably than Congress, according to Public Policy Polling, a survey firm, includes colonoscopies, root canals, lice and France.” — The Economist, Jan. 19, 2013

“‘If you want to see my penis, you’ll have to fly to Britain.’ Ewan McGregor in Premiere magazine about a full-frontal scene in the forthcoming ‘Young Adam,’ which was cut out of the American versions of the movie.” — San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 5, 2003

We interrupt this program for an update on non-human animals. This Red-shouldered hawk was seen at Mitchell cabin on Sunday, Jan. 20.

“A very well-placed San Francisco city commissioner just had his lively little daughter bounced out of a very prim Catholic elementary school. Her crime? Calling one of the nuns ‘Mister Sister.'” — San Francisco Chronicle Feb. 20, 2011

“From a description of a 20-minute videotape of activity outside of bars in Hoboken, New Jersey. The video was shot in April by police in support of a proposed ordinance prohibiting local bars from admitting patrons after 1 a.m. • A man is leaning against the wall of a bar drinking. Next to him, a friend is undressing. • Two men leave a bar fighting. • Two men enter a bar fighting. • A young man and woman lean against a fence and begin kissing passionately. Another woman taps the man on the shoulder. He leaves and she takes over for him. • A woman leans on her boyfriend and vomits. • A woman urinates beside a parked car as her boyfriend acts as a lookout. • A man and woman walk down an alley together in zigzag patterns. Eventually they walk into a brick wall.” — Harper’s Magazine, September 1994

A Red-shouldered hawk along the levee road near White House Pool, which I photographed during a full moon back in 1985. Here is how the photo — unfortunately straddling the newspaper’s fold — appeared in The Point Reyes Light.

“After two days of testimony, a jury in Lake County, Ill., has convicted a woman who was painting her nails while driving when she struck and killed a motorcyclist at a red light. Lora Hunt of Morris Ill., was found guilty of reckless homicide in the death of Anita Zaffwe in Lake Zurich, Ill., on May 2, 2009.” — San Francisco Chronicle May 7, 2010

As psychologist Robert Leahy points out: the average high school kid today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950s.” — Slate magazine, Jan. 31, 2011

“The sexual epithet beaming from the electronic billboard at the Marin County Civic Center was so alarming that at least one startled motorist called 911 early Sunday morning: ‘F–k! F–k! F–k!’ Somebody hacked the billboard after breaking a door and cracking a keyboard code, according to Jim Farley, head of the Cultural Services Department, which oversees the sign advertising Marin Center events. ‘They ripped open the door in the middle of the night, cracked the code and reprogrammed the message on the sign,’ Farley said. ‘It took brute force and computer skills….’ Chris Haeuser, Marin Center box office manager, ….speculated the caper was the work of teenagers, noting that adults might have caused more mischief by posting a message saying something like ‘Golden Gate Bridge closed.'” — Marin Independent Journal, July 26, 2011

“Police Commissioner Jamie Slaughter is married to Stacy Slaughter, vice president of communications for the San Francisco Giants, so baseball is a constant topic in the house. Slaughter says this week his son asked him if he knew what day it was. Dad was expecting to hear it was the first day of winter break, but no. ‘Position players report to Spring Training,’ 8-year-old Ben said.” — San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 19, 2011

A bobcat hunting gophers outside my kitchen window on Tuesday, Jan. 22.

MARION, Ala.—Members of two feuding families were in jail Tuesday after years of quarreling erupted into a small-town riot in which 150 screaming people hurled rocks and tools — and even struck the police chief. Five men named either Moore or Sawyer and several juveniles were arrested on assault charges after Monday’s violence, said District Attorney Michael Jackson. Authorities said a 2- or 3-year-old dispute between the two families prompted a melee that eventually swelled out of control to include friends and gang members. It wasn’t immediately clear why the families didn’t get along.” — Associated Press, Aug. 8, 2009

From an obituary for political activist Joseph Cannon Houghteling: “He had a wry sense of humor, [his wife] said, and got a kick out of the thought of someday having his ashes thrown upwind from a boat so that his remains would blow back into the eyes of his mourners, forcing them to shed a tear.” — San Francisco Chronicle, June 28, 2009

“At the same time he was selling US secrets to the Soviet Union, former FBI special agent Robert Philip Hanssen was a key supervisor in a 1980s domestic-spying program…. The program, which lasted for more than a decade, monitored peace and anti-nuclear activists and other groups that the White House worried could be manipulated by Soviet propaganda…. As a result, the FBI invested thousands of hours collecting political intelligence, [and in one] instance it warned that Philadelphia was ripe for Soviet infiltration.” — Los Angeles Times, July 29, 2001

I’ll finish with a highly educational news story. The marching band director for the University of California at Davis, Tom Slabaugh, complained in a memo to school officials that “on the band’s fall retreat in 2007, four drunken band members were caught urinating in a dormitory elevator, and at band practice the next day, four others took their uniform pants down and simulated the incident for a photographer. At outdoor rehearsals, male members dropped their pants to get a laugh while women sometimes stripped to their bras, he wrote, and one evening practice was disrupted when a bass drummer began performing lap dances…. In his memo and in meetings, Slabaugh urged UC Davis to give him the power to remove bad actors from the [student-run] band.” — San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 6, 2008

From a butterfly to a pair of badgers, from a newt and a salamander to a bobcat and a coyote, this posting is a collection of some of my favorites from among the photos I’ve taken of wildlife around Mitchell cabin.

A Buckeye butterfly atop a chrysanthemum on my deck.

Closeup of an amphibian — an arboreal salamander.

Lying low — another amphibian.

A Pacific tree frog’s color depends on where it is at the moment. Unlike chameleons, whose colors change to match background colors, tree frogs’ colors change (between brown and green) depending on how dry or moist their surroundings are.

A poisonous amphibian.

The skin of a California newt such as this secretes a neurotoxin, tetrodotoxin, that is hundreds of times more toxic than cyanide.

A macho reptile.

Male Western fence lizards do pushups to intimidate other males. In the process they reveal their blue undersides, which is why they’re sometimes called Blue-bellies.

A colorful but seldom seen reptile.

I found this Pacific ring-necked snake in a rotten log while splitting firewood. The snake eats very small creatures — tadpoles, insects, and especially salamanders. It has just enough venom to immobilize them but is not dangerous to humans.

A beady-eyed garter snake warms itself in the sun on my driveway.

Garter snakes are the most-common genus of reptile in North America. Although they are venomous, their venom is too mild to harm humans. However, when they’re disturbed, garter snakes emit a foul-smelling secretion from a gland near their anus.

Common garter snakes come in innumerable variations and are found in fields, forests and wetlands nationwide. Like this snake, adults average about four feet in length. In West Marin, their diet typically consists of tadpoles, slugs, and earthworms. But unlike other snakes, they don’t eat insects. When first born, the snakes are prey for bullfrogs. Hawks and foxes eat adults.

Gopher snakes are non-venomous although they don’t want you to know it.

“When disturbed, the gopher snake will rise to a striking position, flatten its head into a triangular shape, hiss loudly and shake its tail at the intruder,” the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum website notes. “These defensive behaviors, along with its body markings, frequently cause the gopher snake to be mistaken for a rattlesnake.”

Golden-crowned sparrow disguised as a stained-glass window.

Heading for a drink at the birdbath on Mitchell cabin’s deck, a crow hops over a second crow, which stays put at their birdseed buffet.

A great blue heron hunting gophers in my field.

Chipmunks visit Mitchell cabin only occasionally, so I felt lucky to snap this photo of one.

A Western gray squirrel as seen from my bedroom window.

Every morning the ground around Mitchell cabin is littered with the freshly cut tips of pine branches because of this squirrel and his clan. Squirrels like to feed on pine trees’ cambium layer, which is immediately under the bark, and in the process they gnaw off twigs.

Trying not to be noticed.

West Marin’s large jackrabbits, which some people call black-tailed hares, are often seen in the late afternoon and evening around Mitchell cabin. To avoid catching the eye of predators, jackrabbits typically sit motionless unless the danger comes too close. Then they suddenly spring away, making sharp, evasive turns as they flee.

A gray fox on Mitchell cabin’s deck.

Young raccoons retreat to a tree when they feel threatened by other animals.

A blacktail doe nurses one of her two fawns.

Relying on its spots for camouflage, a newly born fawn tries to be invisible in tall grass by lying absolutely motionless even though I was leaning over it to take a photo.

A buck and two fawns bounding across tractor-mowed grass.

A mother badger and her cub sun themselves on the mound of dirt around their burrow (known as a “sett”).

A bobcat hunting outside my kitchen window.

A coyote heads for cover in — appropriately enough — a patch of coyote brush.

Besides photographing the wildlife around Mitchell cabin, I also enjoy having a bit of fun with it. My posting about encouraging a bodhisattva possum on her path to spiritual enlightenment has proven to be one of the best-read I’ve ever put online.

I take each species’ disposition into account when determining what it is best suited to learn. Raccoons, as you might guess, are natural bartenders.

The biggest challenge I’ve faced in training wildlife has been convincing different species to get along with each other.

I felt a bit like a miracle worker when I finally got a possum, a fox, and a raccoon — none of which traditionally like each other — to dine nose to nose just outside my kitchen door.

I did it by setting out well-separated handfuls of peanuts for them and over time moving the handfuls closer and closer together. Now why can’t diplomats do that in the Middle East?

Hosting our wildlife neighbors — My girlfriend Lynn Axelrod is a reporter for The West Marin Citizen, which for the past two weeks has been publishing its annual pet issues. She and I don’t have any pets ourselves because they would drive away birds and four-footed wildlife, but in recent years I too have sometimes published an animal issue at the beginning of the new year.

Among the most common wildlife around Mitchell cabin these days are wild turkeys, and last weekend, they began showing up on the railing around our deck. Here one marches past our dining-room window.

Wild turkeys can be aggressive, and a decade or more ago, they began chasing and otherwise terrorizing school children in Tomales. This young deer, however, was not at all intimidated when it found itself grazing among a flock of turkeys between Mitchell cabin and neighbors Dan and Mary Huntsman’s home last Sunday.

A turkey stares at me from behind a lamp hanging over our dining-room table.

A mother raccoon (at rear) introduces her four kits to our kitchen.

A bobcat hunting just uphill from the cabin.

A gray fox on our deck.

This possum didn’t mind being petted as long as I gave it something to eat.

A coyote in the field below Mitchell cabin two weeks ago.

A mother badger and her cub as seen from my field.

One of my favorite wildlife photos, which I’ve published before, is of a buckeye butterfly on a chrysanthemum. The plant was growing in a pot on my deck.