Entries tagged with “peacock”.


A year ago I was hit with a medical problem called temporal arteritis, which sent me to the emergency room at Kaiser Hospital in Terra Linda. As I wrote here at that time, it was a big headache, but left untreated it could have led 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.

Well, the Prednisone worked in that it took away the headache, but I had to consume it every day, and that itself produced temporary problems ranging from less-focused thinking to a loss of balance. I began taking increasingly serious falls. The worst was on Memorial Day when I fell to the ground from a standing position. I landed on stainless-steel metal and badly bruised the right side of my ribcage.

I had just about recovered from that fall when today I stumbled on my deck and landed on the left side of my rib cage. What a pain! As a result, I’m taking it easy on myself, which is why my posting this week consists of photos from my collection— not ruminations. Most of them have appeared here previously.

Gray squirrel at my birdbath.

The raccoons around Mitchell cabin are amazingly adventurous. These walked right in when I left the kitchen door open.

Three animals who seldom hang out together in nature — a possum, fox, and raccoon — were convinced to eat peaceably together when I scattered honey-roasted peanuts on my deck. Animal populations, however, go up and down, and I haven’t seen many foxes or possums around Mitchell cabin recently.

A blacktail doe takes a rest behind my woodshed.

Two does and a flock of wild turkeys forage side by side uphill from Mitchell cabin, both species seeming oblivious of the other.

Two years ago, a lone peacock began keeping company with the turkeys. It’s pretty but its calls sound like a woman in distress.

Coyotes can often be heard at night howling around Mitchell cabin. Getting a chance to see one is far less common.

It’s far more common to see bobcats. Here one takes a rest while hunting downhill from the cabin.

A mother badger with her kit. The most ferocious predators near the cabin are badgers. Even a bear would be no match. Badgers live in burrows up to 30 feet long and 10 feet deep, for they are remarkably efficient diggers thanks to long claws and short, strong legs.  Although they can run up to 17 or 18 mph for short distances, they generally hunt by digging fast enough to pursue rodents into their burrows.

Lost in thought, a gray fix sits on my picnic table.

Jackrabbits, of course, are always around. Jackrabbits, which are also known as black-tailed hares, avoid predators by using “an element of surprise and escape that works well,” Point Reyes Station naturalist Jules Evens notes in his Natural History of the Point Reyes Peninsula.

“When a potential predator is detected, the hare will usually take shelter in the shade of a convenient clump of vegetation or behind a rock and freeze motionless. If the predator approaches very closely, the hare leaps into stride, zigzagging across open country until it finds shelter.”

Two young does graze beside Mitchell cabin. To me all this is my home on a hill, but it could just as easily be a zoological garden.

 

 

 

What many of us on the coast like most about West Marin these days is its mix of land and animals, both wild and domestic. They provide a refuge from the violence, hatred, greed, and misfortune that dominate the news coming in from Kabul to Kiev, from Kenya to Korea.

Horses from Point Reyes Arabians stable graze in a pasture next to mine. Downtown Point Reyes Station can be seen through a gap in the trees at right.

The horses drink from — and in warm weather cool off in — this stockpond and another further downhill. Originally created to provide water for cattle, the ponds these days are watering holes for deer, such as these, and other wildlife, along with the horses.

A young buck grazes alone near Mitchell cabin. Most of the year, I can spot blacktail deer around the cabin virtually every day. Herds of 12 and 14 animals are not uncommon. Deer, as most of us know, will eat flowers, vegetables, and shrubbery if given a chance. At Mitchell cabin, any plants I want to protect from deer are grown in containers on my deck. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

Three cows laze about Carol Horick’s pasture across the canyon on a warm afternoon last week. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

The jackrabbit that has taken to hanging out along my driveway was there every day this past week, usually with a companion. The other rabbit is more skittish, however, and hops away whenever it sees me. As a result, I’ve yet to get a photo of the two of them together.

House finches are year-round residents of West Marin, but they seem more plentiful at this time of year. Their cheerful warbles are as colorful as the males’ feathers. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

Male house finches are usually red, with the intensity depending on the season. Their coloration is derived from the fruits and berries in their diets. Female house finches tend to be light brown with white streaks. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

When it comes to coloration, however, no other bird around Mitchell cabin can match this lone, male peacock, which for three years has been hanging out with a flock of wild turkeys. Peafowl which originated in India were introduced on the US mainland in California back in 1879.

A golden-crowned sparrow looking for birdseed on my deck. People have compared the bird’s song to Three Blind Mice sung in a minor key. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

Although it’s called an Oregon junco, this variation of junco can be found from the Pacific Coast to the Rocky Mountains, as far north as southern Alaska, and — occasionally — as far east as Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Their song is a sweet trill. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

We’ll close with three house finches in a classical pose on the railing of my deck. Originally native to Mexico and the southern United States, house finches in the 1940s were introduced on the East Coast where they have rapidly spread. Ornithologists estimate there are now between 267 million and 1.7 billion of them in North America. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

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.

They were also au naturel, of course; if they hadn’t been, that would have been the topic of this posting. In any case, here for the third week in a row is a small gallery of new wildlife photos shot at Mitchell cabin.

A lone peacock has been hanging around this hill for almost a month. One or twice I’ve heard him scream, but for the most part he’s been unusually quiet.

I don’t know where this wanderer came from. Is he an escapee from somewhere? Perhaps he’s a remnant of a flock that once congregated near Nicasio Square. Whatever the case, the variety of peafowl seen in West Marin originated in India and were introduced into California back in 1879.

The Indian peafowl belong to a family of birds called Phasianidae, which includes West Marin’s wild turkeys.

Family members have now taken the lonely peacock under their wing, and he has become a member of a local flock of wild turkeys. Their companionship seems to have bolstered the once-shy peacock’s self-confidence, for just last week I saw him boldly scanning the world from atop a neighbor’s fence post.

A coyote has begun showing up on the shoulders of Point Reyes Station’s heavily used levee road. It’s a bit unusual but not altogether surprising. For much of its length, the levee road is what separates US Park Service-owned Olema Marsh from the county park at White House Pool. My partner Lynn and others had reported seeing the coyote along the road, and on Tuesday, I finally got a chance to see it for myself. Which gets us back to wild turkeys.

While Lynn and I watched from our deck last Wednesday, a flock of wild turkeys in a neighboring field drove off a different coyote.

When the coyote approached the flock, which was hunting and pecking in the field, the turkeys rather than taking flight turned and confronted him en masse. This stopped the coyote in his tracks. Wild turkeys are big, aggressive birds, and when the flock held its ground, the coyote apparently realized there would be no easy pickings. A couple of large toms followed by the rest of the flock then advanced a step or two toward the coyote, which turned tail and trotted off.

Later that day I told this story to LeeRoy Brock of Point Reyes Station, retired chief ranger for the National Seashore, and he told me he’d once seen a flock of wild turkeys chase away a blacktail buck.

The week’s rainstorms have filled the two stockponds near Mitchell cabin, and yesterday Lynn and I saw a Great egret hunting in the closer pond. Nor was the egret alone. I also spotted a Green heron taking cover in the reeds.

Although it was drizzling at the time, the egret in its red and green surroundings provided an unexpected bit of yuletide cheer.

Great egrets hunt primarily for frogs and fish although they also eat insects, small reptiles, and an occasional small rodent. Their hunting consists of slowly stalking their prey or of standing motionless, waiting for their prey to approach them. Once their prey is within striking distance, the egrets spear it with their sharp bills.

Gray foxes, which show up at Mitchell cabin in the evening, continue to fascinate me, as regular readers of this blog know. These days, at least one fox drops by almost every night, sometimes accompanied by a second.

The foxes are so comfortable around the cabin that during a break in the storms last Monday, this fox chose the picnic table on our deck for a snooze in the sun.

Gray foxes tend to be nocturnal or crepuscular (active at dawn and twilight). That no doubt explains why this fox was so inactive during the middle of the day, which was fine with me. I believe in the old saying: “Let sleeping foxes lie.”