Entries tagged with “possums”.


I’m using the start of the new year as an occasion to exhibit a number of wildlife photos I’ve shot around Mitchell cabin during the past three or four years. I make no pretense to having produced photographic masterpieces, for I still use a Kodak EasyShare, a primitive digital camera that’s no longer made.

Wild animals in unlikely juxtapositions, whether deliberate or serendipitous, are some of my favorite subjects, so let’s begin with a few.

Deer in particular are curious about other creatures that are not big enough to be threatening. Friendships such as that of Bambi and Thumper are not all that unusual in the real world. Indeed, I once saw a young deer trying to cozy up to a jackrabbit; the rabbit, however, retreated under a bush when the fawn got too close.

Here a blacktail doe sticks around to watch Linda Petersen’s late Havanese named Sebastian when the dog wandered down my driveway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

__________________________________________________________________

The blacktail around Mitchell cabin appear particularly interested in housecats.

Here a nosy doe watches a cat on a woodpile cleaning its fur.

 

 

 

 

 

__________________________________________________________________

Deer and housecats seem pretty much at ease around each other — somewhat in the same way that deer get along with cows and horses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

________________________________________________________________

A bit more surprising — to me at least — was seeing this doe and great blue heron hunting together in my pasture. The deer was there to dine on new clumps of green grass while the heron was there to dine on gophers. ________________________________________________________________

Some creatures, however, need encouragement to fraternize. Foxes and raccoons aren’t terribly fond of each other, but they will show up to the same feast — which in this case consisted of honey-roasted peanuts I’d scattered on the deck. __________________________________________________________________

Possums and raccoons are even less companionable under normal circumstances. If a raccoon gets too close, a possum will often bare its fangs although it’s all a bluff. But both critters will peaceably attend ecumenical dinners when honey-roasted peanuts are served. _________________________________________________________________

Possums, in fact, can be convinced to undertake almost any endeavor if the reward is honey-roasted peanuts. In one notable case, I was able to use sweet-roasted goobers to teach a possum table manners. __________________________________________________________________

One of the most popular photos I ever posted involved my using the same peanuts to encourage a bodhisattva possum along his path to enlightenment. Word of the photograph must have gotten around. For months after I posted it, one of the more-frequently Googled terms bringing people to this blog was “bodhisattvva possum.” __________________________________________________________________

Turning now to birdbaths — A towhee keeps its feathers in good condition by washing in the birdbath on the deck of Mitchell cabin. Such ablutions are why we call the these basins birdbaths. _________________________________________________________________

And, of course, many birds count on birdbaths for their source of drinking water. Here a mourning dove leaves the birdseed to a towhee for a moment while it takes several gulps. Because so much of their food is dry, these birds need regular drinks to wash it down. I place a couple of bricks in the birdbath for birds that like to stand in water. ___________________________________________________________________

Birds are not the only creatures who use the basin for bathing and as a source of drinking water. I’ve seen as many as four raccoons squeeze into the birdbath to wash their paws after eating. Here three kits balance effortlessly 15 feet above the ground on the narrow railing of my deck as they clamber in and out of the basin at night. ______________________________________________________________________

Nor do I discriminate. My birdbath also provides drinking water for any creature that can get to it. Honeybees frequently show up to drink although a few inevitably fall in.

Probably the drinkers with the worst reputation are the roof rats. 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.

I don’t mind roof rats’ drinking from the birdbath and stealing birdseed from my deck, but I’ve periodically had to trap rats that got into my basement. The problem is their unfortunate habit of gnawing on everything chewable from paper to dishwasher drain hoses to electrical-wire insulation.

It’s really too bad they’re such nuisances because, as you can see, they’re awfully cute.

When Lynn and I returned home from a visit to my optometrist in Terra Linda last week, we found a mirthful message on our answering machine from Linda Sturdivant of Inverness Park. “Hey Dave,” she said. “I want to tell you about something beautiful I saw yesterday.

“As I was leaving here, I got to the end of the levee road. At the pumpkinhouse, there is one of the most beautiful red trees you could ever see. Get a picture.”

The pumpkinhouse gets its nickname from the pumpkin displays that once were on its front porch and fence every year. If you check Janis Ceresi’s comment, she includes a link that shows what the pumpkin house used to look like on Halloween.

Wanting more information regarding the tree’s location, I called Linda back, and a friendly young woman answered. Not recognizing her voice, I asked, “Is this Linda?” She said she was. “Just where is this beautiful tree?” I asked, and she sounded confused. “Which tree?” she responded. “The one you called me about.” She then asked me, “Where are you?” and I replied, “In Point Reyes Station.”

“Well, I’m in San Francisco,” she said. We both laughed and hung up, and I called the real Linda Sturdivant.

The tree Linda saw is not the only one around here with brilliant fall colors. This allée of maple trees is across Highway 1 from Campolindo Road, where I live.

Last week I had just started down my front steps when I heard a commotion in a pyracantha bush on Doreen Miao’s property uphill from mine. Not sure what I was seeing, I grabbed my camera and started snapping photos.

Before long the source of the disturbance became obvious when a flock of wild turkeys fluttered to the ground. What had they been doing up in the bush? I was surprised that the bush’s bitter berries are safe to eat, so I checked the Seasonal Cooking website. “Contrary to a common myth, they are not poisonous,” the site said. “Pyracantha, a relative of apples and roses, is entirely edible.”  In fact, you can use the berries to make preserves and jelly.

As we head toward winter, a variety of wildlife has begun hanging around just outside the cabin. I photographed this blacktail buck just below our deck. In addition, a doe and her fawn are so comfortable here that I can walk within a few yards of them.

Last week I was looking out my kitchen window when I spotted this bobcat looking back at me.

It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a bobcat so close to Mitchell cabin, but it didn’t seem to mind my presence and soon resumed hunting.

Another predator that I haven’t seen for more than a year showed up this week. I didn’t see the coyote, but I found its scat in my driveway. Neighbor George Stamoulis found a fair amount of coyote scat in his driveway and saw the animal itself moseying up Campolindo Road.

Last night, Lynn and I spotted still another creature that hasn’t been around for months. A young possum showed up on my deck to eat the remainder of peanuts Lynn had put out for raccoons. Raccoons and grey foxes have become so common during the evening at Mitchell cabin that they’ve become fairly comfortable with us. We can feed them slices of bread by hand with no problem.

I’ll close on a linguistic fact I learned from the WildCare magazine this week. There is a name for the burbling sounds mother raccoons and their young make among themselves. It’s called trilling, as in Lionel, and we’ve heard it many times.

What do you call a group of raccoons? They’re sometimes called a nursery, but the most common name is a gaze.

Three raccoon kits squeeze into the birdbath on my deck to clean their paws after eating .

I’ve always been fond of raccoons, but I’m beginning to wonder if a surplus is developing around Mitchell cabin.

Of course, there are many raccoon tails in Marin County. The Marin Humane Society, for example, rescued a baby raccoon from a gutter’s drainpipe in the Hamilton area of Novato Thursday afternoon.

The trapped raccoon was discovered by children who heard its cries, The Marin Independent Journal and Bay City News both reported.

It took animal control officers, who used a plumbing camera, two hours to locate the approximately month-old raccoon and then pull it out to safety.

The baby raccoon is now at the WildCare wildlife rehabilitation center in San Rafael.

—————————————————————————

Here eight raccoons — two mothers, each with three kits — dine on honey-roasted peanuts on my deck. A ninth raccoon, a solitary male adult, will show up after this gaze has left.

—————————————————————————

 

Possums are found throughout West Marin wherever ponds, creeks, marshes, and even drainage ditches provide riparian habitat. West Marin’s possums originated in the Deep South where “common opossums” are commonly called possums, thanks to a linguistic phenomenon known as aphesis. Calling mosquitoes “skeeters” is another example of aphesis.

“The common opossum,” writes Point Reyes Station biologist Jules Evens in The Natural History of the Point Reyes Peninsula, is “the only marsupial native to North America [but] is not native to Point Reyes or the Pacific Coast. After the first known introduction into California at San Jose about 1900 (for meat, delicious with sweet potatoes), opossums spread rapidly southward: by 1931 they were common on the coastal slope from San Francisco Bay south to the Mexican border. Point Reyes avoided the onslaught until about 1968.”

Another introduced species often found in the fields next to Mitchell cabin, Equus caballus.

They’re called Arabians in the sign on the pasture gate, but I doubt a one of them has ever seen the Mediterranean. This being the Far West, “cayuse” (rhymes with “dye use”) would seem more appropriate. Surely you remember Willie Nelson singing Don’t Fence Me In: “On my cayuse let me wander over yonder/Till I see the mountain rise.”

“Cayuse” in reference to a horse comes from the name of the Cayuse people of the Pacific Northwest. Sort of like Belgian referring to both a people and a chestnut-colored draft horse.

Canada geese flying over the hill behind Mitchell cabin.

Hundreds of Canada geese winter annually on Tomales Bay, on Nicasio Reservoir, and at Bolinas Lagoon. Along with these snowbirders, a year-round population of Canada geese is developing in West Marin.

Many of the year-rounders are descendants of geese that people with a surplus goose or two dropped off at the pond in front of the Cheese Factory on the Point Reyes-Petaluma Road, beginning back in the 1970s.

This is the 300th posting on SparselySageAndTimely.com, and my friend Dave LaFontaine of Los Angeles has urged me to write something commemorating the occasion.

The first posting went online back on Nov. 28, 2006, and at least one per week has followed ever since.

Usually it’s been fun although on a few slow weeks I’ve felt like The Desperate Man (at right), a self-portrait by Gustave Corbet (1819-1877).

As was explained in the first posting, keeping a log on the web (i.e. a blog) is a bit like keeping a log on a ship. It includes both a journal of one’s trip through life and reports on significant events along the way. How a web log came to be called a blog, by the way, reflects the whimsy that has long characterized those who gambol on the World Wide Web of the Internet.

A blogger named Jorn Barger coined the term in a Dec. 17, 1997, entry on his site, jokingly turning “web log” into “we blog.” And who is Jorn Barger? Wikipedia reports he is editor of “Robot Wisdom,” has taught at Northwestern, and once lived at The Farm (Stephen Gaskin’s commune in Tennessee).

Some weeks my topics were obvious: major storms, the November 2007 oil spill along the coast, community celebrations, and the deaths of prominent people. Some postings, such as those recounting West Marin history, required a bit of research.

West Marin’s animal life, both wild and domestic, has been a constant of this blog. Here two horses in a field next to mine enjoyed a sunny day last weekend.

Naturally, so to speak, some wildlife adventures chronicled here probably aren’t as fascinating to all readers as they are to me. This past week I’ve been delighted that a new possum (seen here) has begun visiting my cabin in the evening. It’s younger than the one that had been coming around, and both are more skittish than the possum a couple of years ago that would let me pet her as she snacked on peanuts.

Regular readers know I am particularly intrigued when seemingly unrelated events turn out to be connected. My favorite such posting told how a grim, 1909 Hungarian play called Lliom led to the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel, which in 1963 led to Gerry and the Pacemakers’ rhythmic recording of You’ll Never Walk Alone, with that rendition then becoming a worldwide professional soccer anthem.

Readers too seem to like following these connections.

My April 19 posting What does the Easter Bunny have to do with Jesus’ resurrection? drew readers by the hundreds.

The posting told how Gregory the Great (at right), who was pope from 590 to 604, unintentionally brought about the Easter Bunny’s becoming associated with Jesus’ resurrection.

Some 877 people dropped by here this past Easter — 308 on Easter Day alone — to read the story. I was struck by the fact that 270 of those visitors found their way here via Google.

While we’re on the topic of Google, are any of you old enough to remember the 1923 hit tune Barney Google? “Barney Google, with his googley eyes./ Barney Google had a wife three times his size./ She sued Barney for divorce/ Now he’s living with his horse.

“Barney Google, with his googley eyes./ Barney Google, with his googley eyes./ Barney Google, has a girl that loves the guys./ Only friends can get a squeeze./ That girl has no enemies./ Barney Google, with his googley eyes.”

Nor should we forget the comic strip Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, which is still going strong after 92 years.

Doesn’t all this make you wonder about the origin of the corporate name Google? In fact, it comes from a misspelling of “googol,” which refers to the number one followed by 100 zeros. Nonetheless, the verb “to google” (use the Google search engine) is now included in major dictionaries. But I digress….

This being spring (witness the iris on my deck), I’ll end with a poem composed for this commemorative posting.

With thanks to T.S. Eliot, Allen Ginsberg, Matthew Arnold, William Butler Yeats, Alfred Lord Tennyson, William Shakespeare, Dylan Thomas, and Robert Frost for their contributions:

West of Eden

The hollow men/ Headpiece filled with straw./ Starving hysterical naked,/ dragging themselves through the Negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix.

Who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs/ Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;/ Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world./ Half a league, half a league,/ Half a league onward,/ All in the valley of Death/ Rode the six hundred./ To die, to sleep.

Do not go gentle into that good night,/ Rage, rage against the dying of the light./ I have promises to keep/ And miles to go before I sleep.