Archive for August, 2021

To get away from the present grim realities of human society, as were discussed here last week, this week we’ll take a few looks at the fascinating realities of the non-human society that’s seen around Mitchell cabin.

This past week, my wife Lynn spotted a bobcat in a persimmon tree next to our front steps. It’s not that we live in a literal zoo. Bobcats are fairly common here and elsewhere in Point Reyes Station.

Pouncing. A bobcat pounces on a gopher not far from our deck.

Coyotes. Predators even more noticeable are the coyotes. This one is looking at my parked car. Most nights the coyotes on this hill howl to establish territory. Contrary to widespread opinion, coyotes do not howl to announce a kill, for that would invite other coyotes to steal the prey. 

Grey foxes are another set of predators we see fairly often. These are just outside the kitchen door scouring up the last of the kibble I had earlier given to some raccoons.

Badgers. Where did they go? When I first moved to this hill 45 years ago, there were a number of badger burrows. I spotted this pair one morning when I looked up from the breakfast table. They were easily visible on a nearby hillside. From their burrow’s entrance, the sow and cub were keeping an eye on the world. New badger holes used to be annual events here, but I haven’t seen a new one in five years or more.

Chipmunks are totally absent from our hill. This one apparently wandered over from Inverness Ridge a decade ago, but it didn’t stick around.

Gray squirrels can be a nuisance, and controlling them is an annual topic for discussion around here. The squirrels like to eat the cambium layer just under the bark on pines, often killing the ends of the limbs they munch on.

The possums we see around here are Virginia Opossums, which are native to North America. Their lifespan is typically around four years. Possums are marsupials with counterparts found in Central and South America, New Zealand, and Australia.

To quote Wikipedia: “A marsupial is a mammal that raises its newborn offspring inside an external pouch at the front or underside of their bodies. In contrast, a placental is a mammal that completes embryo development inside the mother, nourished by an organ called the placenta.”

A jack rabbit in our backyard. As noted here before: “Jackrabbits were named for their ears, which initially caused some people to refer to them as ‘jackass rabbits.’ The writer Mark Twain brought this name to fame by using it in his book of western adventure, Roughing It. The name was later shortened to jackrabbit.”

Raccoons and skunks end up eating together so often they get along with each other fairly well.

A blacktail buck makes his daily appearance grazing beside Mitchell cabin. Of all the creatures I see, the bucks seem to have the most regal bearing.

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Here are some thoughts about the world and a few portraits of some local critters. This cute couple is a stray cat, Newy, we’ve adopted, and a curious blacktail fawn. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

Where do our world views come from? My outlook has been grim enough of late to start me wondering. In large part, our views are shaped by news reports, and the media out of necessity draw attention to matters going awry. I’ve certainly been troubled by the past couple of months’ series of unrelated disasters around the globe — ranging from the Taliban takeover of far-off Afghanistan (with 1,700 civilian deaths) to a 7.2 earthquake in neighboring Haiti (which killed more than 2,200 people).

Likewise a quick scan of headlines reveals that wildfires are burning everywhere around our drought-stricken planet, from Russia to Greece, from Alaska to California. In this state, wildfires have burned more than 1.5 million acres so far this year.

 

A weary raccoon snoozing on our deck. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

The Covid pandemic keeps spreading too. In the past seven months, 209 million cases around the globe have been reported, including 4.39 million deaths. Marin County accounted for approximately 1,600 of those cases, including 240 deaths.

Ironically the pandemic has simultaneously reduced the number of newspapers headlining all this. According to a report published by the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors, the pandemic so far has closed more than 70 local newsrooms throughout America. As a retired newspaperman, I consider these losses another disaster.

 

While the raccoon prefers a nap on our deck, Newy catnaps in a nearby tree, both seeming a little gloomy. Perhaps fire weather is also getting to them. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

Falls are in the air.  Moreover, we all must deal with close-at-hand disasters of varying magnitude. Charlie Morgan, handyman and popular KWMR emcee, collapsed from a heart attack July 31. My friends Jon Fernandez, Andy Baker, and Gary Blevins all suffered bad falls in the past month. As for me, I fell headfirst down our indoor stairs on July 30. For the next three weeks, I frequently experienced jolts of pain when I tried to do much with my right hand, such as type.

Finally on Wednesday, Kaiser Hospital determined I’d fractured a bone in my right shoulder. Sounds like I’ll be wearing my arm in a sling when I go out for the next couple of months. It’s not a major disaster — especially compared with death and with violence — but only now with the help of multiple painkillers am I again able to focus more on the rest of the world.