Archive for October, 2021

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Seven of the nine deer that often show up together these days in the field below Mitchell cabin.

California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife has estimated that well over half the roughly 560,000 deer in California are Columbian blacktails, the deer native to West Marin and the San Francisco Bay Area.

For years many people believed (and many websites still say) that blacktails are a subspecies of mule deer, a species found from the Northwest to the deserts of the Southwest and as far east as the Dakotas. DNA tests, however, have now found mule deer to be a hybrid of female whitetail deer and blacktail bucks. Or so says author Valerius Geist in Mule Deer Country.

Whitetails first appeared on the East Coast about 3.5 million years ago. DNA evidence suggests they spread south and then west, arriving in California about 1.5 million years ago.

In moving up the coast, whitetails evolved into blacktails, which resemble them in appearance and temperament. Blacktails eventually extended their range eastward, meeting up with more whitetails coming from the east. 

“Apparently the blacktail bucks [as seen here] were able to horn in on the harems of their parent species. The result: mule deer. Mule deer are so named because of their long ears.

Our word “deer” comes from the Old English word “deor,” which referred to animals in general, of course including deer. In Middle English, the language of Chaucer (c.1343-1400), the word was spelled “der,” and The American Heritage Dictionary notes it could refer to all manner of creatures, including “a fish, an ant, or a fox.” Or as Shakespeare wrote in King Lear, “Mice and rats, and such small deer,/ Have been Tom’s food for seven long year.”

A buck sniffs a doe to determine whether she’s in heat.

“Deer rely heavily on scent for communication, especially during the mating season,” writes Jane Meggitt in Mating and Communication Behavior of Deer. “Certain gland secretions mix with urine, which gives deer information about the sex and reproductive state of other deer in their vicinity.”

“Before the actual mating, does play ‘hard to get’ for several days. The buck chases a doe, and she eventually allows him to ‘catch’ her.

“After copulating several times over a period of a few days, the buck stays with the doe for a few more days until she is [no longer in heat]. He stays by her to keep other bucks away,” Meggitt writes.

“When he leaves, he might go on to find other does with which to mate. If the doe doesn’t get pregnant during that cycle, she goes into another estrus cycle within three to four weeks…. After an approximately seven-month pregnancy, a doe gives birth to her fawn, or fawns.

“It isn’t unusual for healthy, well-nourished does to give birth to twins or triplets. Fawns found alone aren’t usually abandoned. Their mother is nearby, but out of sight. Does and fawns vocalize to let each other know of their whereabouts. If a predator threatens a fawn, the mother stamps her forefeet, snorts and might try to drive the threatening animal — or person — away,” Meggitt adds.

Two bucks ignore each in passing. The older deer in the foreground initially eyed the younger buck to see if it would try to horn in on his harem. It didn’t, and the old guy soon lost interest.

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

 

Billy Hobbs holds a croton houseplant my wife Lynn gave him Wednesday as a house-warming present.

A NEW DAY has dawned for a long-time-homeless resident of Point Reyes Station, Billy Hobbs. Billy, who was homeless for seven years following the breakup of a 25-year marriage, is now housed.

Thanks to the California Section 8 Housing Program, Billy two weeks ago moved into a pleasant, one-bedroom apartment in San Rafael. The second-floor apartment comes with a fireplace and the deck on which he is standing above.

In his younger days, Billy, now 63, worked in construction, house painting, agriculture, and more. In recent years, however, he’s occupied himself with art.

 

Here he is seen drawing outside the Point Reyes Station postoffice two years ago.

Billy Hobbs was sleeping outdoors in Point Reyes Station when the rain and cold winds hit two winters ago, so Lynn and I offered to let him wait out the bad weather in Mitchell cabin. Once he did, Billy was able to resume showering and getting his clothes cleaned regularly. Add to that a haircut and a beard trim, and he had dramatically cleaned up his act.

This past winter, I parked my second car (since donated to KQED) on Mesa Road downtown for him to sleep in; the car had to be moved every 72 hours to comply with the law. Earlier this year, he stayed briefly in a San Rafael motel at county expense. His Section 8 housing is funded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

By now, Billy’s situation is known to editors around the world. A posting I wrote about Billy two years ago was reprinted by the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors and distributed among members in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Australia, South Africa, Nepal, and China. And these reprints do get read. A reprint of my Aug. 20 posting, in which I mentioned breaking my shoulder falling on the stairs, drew a get-well message from France.

I know of folks who have been on the waiting list for Section 8 housing 20 years, so Billy would probably appreciate it if readers who know a bit about his story wrote to congratulate him on his new home: 100 Laurel Place, Apt. 17, San Rafael, CA 94901.

 

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

 

“A bird in the hand,” wrote Cervantes, “is worth….

 

“two in the bush.” (Don Quixote, 1605)

 I had opportunities to enjoy both this past week, and at least for entertainment value, the bird in the hand is definitely more interesting. It was the third time recently that I’d had the opportunity to hold a live bird. Our cat Newy catches birds outdoors, brings them indoors as gifts for Lynn and me, and drops them on the floor where they are relatively easy to scoop up by hand.

As I noted last week, it appears that the experience of being carried around in the cat’s jaws is enough of a shock that it leaves them fairly dazed for brief period. But that doesn’t last, and the bird I’m holding above flew off after I took it outside.

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Environmental news

Of course, in West Marin even what animals belong outside is matter for debate. One of my favorite sections of The Point Reyes Light are its Sheriff’s Calls. On Sept.28, the column reported, a Woodacre man complained to deputies that “his caretaker fed the raccoons, and he was worried the animals would become dependent on people and turn into a larger issue. He said there were too many animals outside.”

That left me guessing: Was he only concerned with an abundance of raccoons? What other kinds of animals might he have on his mind? Just the name Woodacre would seem to refer to wooded acreage where wild animals might be expected.

And now for some more nutty national news

“A woman is accused of fatally shooting a man earlier this week,” The Chicago Sun Times reported Saturday, “when he refused to kiss her and instead asked his girlfriend for a kiss. The three were hanging out and drinking at their home….

“While they were drinking Thursday [Claudia] Resendiz-Flores asked 29-year-old James Jones for a kiss and became jealous when he refused and instead turned to his girlfriend and asked for a smooch,” prosecutors allege. “That’s when Resendiz-Flores’ demeanor changed and she again demanded he kiss her…

“When Jones said he wouldn’t kiss her, Resendiz-Flores took his gun, which was tucked between couch cushions at the home and aimed it at him,” prosecutors added, noting that Jones tried to push the gun down, but she “shot him once in the chest, killing him.” Resendiz-Flores has been charged with first-degree murder.

It’s as nutty as last week’s story about a man who shot his brother to death because his brother, a pharmacist, was administering Covid-19 vaccinations. The killer was convinced that the vaccinations are the government’s way of poisoning people. And while he was busy killing his brother, he took time out to also kill his sister-in-law and an 83-year-old woman who was a friend of hers.

It’s all tragically nutty.

 

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

When I got home today, our cat Newy ran inside with a present for me in her mouth: a live sparrow. When she dropped it on the bedroom carpet, the sparrow took a few steps but didn’t try to fly. This allowed me to scoop it up with one hand and carry it outside where I released it seemingly unharmed under a bush.

 

The sparrow was Newy’s second surprise of the day. I had previously discovered she’d coughed up a series of hairballs on the staircase. They looked ickier than they proved to be when I cleaned them up, and they didn’t smell all that bad. Nonetheless, they were still a nuisance. (Note: After we took in this previously stray cat (above) a year ago, I named her “the Nuisance Cat,” but my wife Lynn changed the name to “Nui” and then to “Newy.”)

There’s a reason for the expression “what the cat dragged in.” Many cats, such as Newy, like to bring home presents for their masters. Along with several birds, numerous lizards have shown up in Mitchell cabin, thanks to Newy.

 

Here’s a blue belly lizard she dropped off on the living room couch.

 

Lizards, like the sparrow, often are in a dazed shock after spending time in the cat’s jaws, and this makes it possible to catch and pick them up as Lynn is doing here.

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And now for some nutty national news.

 

 

Rightwing conspiracy theories have moved beyond being just goofy to being downright dangerous. Police in Maryland say Jeffrey Burnham, 46, (above) murdered his brother Brian Robinette, a pharmacist, because Robinette has been administering Covid-19 vaccinations. The vaccinations are part of a government plot to poison people, Burnham had claimed, adding that his brother “Brian knows something.”

But apparently Burnham wasn’t really all that concerned about protecting people’s lives, for while he was eliminating his brother, he also murdered his sister-in-law, Kelly Sue Robinette, 57, and an 83-year-old friend of hers, Rebecca Reynolds, police report.

If the government really wants to reduce the population, using nutty people to do the job would sound more certain than administering millions of vaccinations.

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Some international news

 

 

My youngest stepdaughter, Shaili Zappa, 28, flew back to Guatemala Tuesday after a nine-day visit.

Shaili is the third daughter of Ana Carolina Monterroso of Guatemala City, my fourth wife. Her sisters are Kristeli and Anika.

A little over a decade ago, Shaili attended West Marin School while Anika and Kristeli attended San Marin High. Shaili plans to move back to the Bay Area beginning next year and already has a job lined up with a high tech firm.

An adventurous young lady, Shaili has traveled widely. Here she feeds a giraffe mouth to mouth in Kenya. Shaili said the creature was as friendly as it looks.

Lynn and I, along with a number of friends from her earlier days in West Marin, are certainly looking forward to her return.