Entries tagged with “blacktail deer”.


It’s been a generally good week in this old man’s world. Old is the operative word here. I turned 77 on Monday. My gait is increasingly unsteady, but I’m still carrying about 75 pounds of firewood uphill to Mitchell cabin each day. Lynn took me out for a birthday lunch at River Front Cafe’s outdoor tables beside the Petaluma River. A beautiful scene, and everyone maintained proper distancing. On Thursday, Lynn and I celebrated Thanksgiving, with Lynn’s preparing along with the turkey, homemade stuffing, her own cranberry sauce, and squash raviolis.

And while all this was going on, the fields around Mitchell cabin began turning from brown to green thanks to the rains two weeks ago.

The green shoots attract blacktail deer, and as many as eight at a time have begun showing up for the feast. For dessert, they often dine on persimmons that have fallen from our tree on the other side of the cabin.

The rains also eliminated any further risks of a flareup from the Woodward fire. The fire, which blackened 5,000 acres in the Point Reyes National Seashore beginning Aug. 18, has taken firefighters two months to fully control. The rains should have doused almost all smoldering ashes, the Park Service reported this past week.

Thanksgiving eve raccoon lineup on our deck.

A mother raccoon with her four kits show up outside our window every evening hoping to be fed, and we usually give them a few handfuls of dog kibble.

The raccoons around here appear to be thriving although further south around Muir Beach and inland to Mill Valley distemper has begun showing up in raccoons and foxes, WildCare warned this week. Coyotes and skunks, as well as domestic dogs, are also susceptible to the disease.

The organization noted, “Wild animals with distemper may exhibit a lack of coordination or balance, approachability, seizures, and/or discharge from eyes and nose….

“Concerned residents who see an animal in distress should call WildCare’s Living with Wildlife Hotline at 415-456-7283 or contact Marin Humane at 415-883-4621.”

Canada geese — heading to Drakes Estero for the night — fly over Mitchell cabin around sunset daily. They don’t wear masks, but they do maintain social distancing.

Also flying over head.

Something many of us said thanks for yesterday occurred in Washington. Donald Trump, who keeps denying he lost the Nov. 3 presidential election, finally said he will leave the White House by Jan. 20 if Democratic president-elect Joe Biden wins the electoral college vote on Dec. 14. Biden racked up 306 electoral college votes three weeks ago and needs only 270 to win. Trump in comparison picked up only 232 votes, which may account for his hair turning gray in the week after the election (see photo in Nov. 19 posting).

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.

While sheltering at home, Lynn and I are taking even more photos than usual of the creatures around the cabin. Here are a few new shots.

Seen out our front window. A blackbird feeds birdseed to her chick as a Band-tailed Pigeon watches and a crow shows up to share in the birdseed.

A female Brewers Blackbird looks up from pecking birdseed off the railing of our deck to find a large, dark creature looming over her.

The creature turned out to be a Band-tailed Pigeon, one of the many who started showing up in numbers near Mitchell cabin in the past year.

A young Scrub Jay scans the hillside from a bamboo stick being used to prop up a young pine. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

Probably the most-interesting bird hanging around Mitchell cabin this past week has been an immature Great Blue Heron, who has repeatedly shown up to hunt gophers. (Coincidentally, the previous posting here features an egret likewise hunting nearby.)

After standing poised above a gopher mound for several minutes, the young heron suddenly speared a gopher the moment it stuck its head up to look around. The alignment of a heron’s neck allows it to shoot its beak forward in a split second.

A Blacktail doe yesterday led her fawn on a walk around the cabin.

The fawn appeared to thoroughly enjoy the adventure, but when it got even a short distance ahead of the doe, it would look back to make sure its mother was close behind.

A moth caterpillar on our deck railing approaches an unrecognizable fellow insect. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

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.

With Covid-19 regulations causing everyone to stay at home most of the time, we who have the good fortune to live in rural small towns at least have nature to keep our days interesting. Along with all the raccoons, deer, skunks, rabbits, and coyotes (which we hear most nights) around Mitchell cabin, Lynn and I also have an immense variety of birdlife to entertain us.

An egret walking at the edge of Mitchell cabin’s parking area last week.

We sometimes don’t see egrets near the cabin during the winter, but in springtime, they usually start showing up.  Around the end of the 19th Century, it became popular to use egret feathers to adorn hats, and in North America, egrets were hunted for their feathers almost to the point of extinction. Thankfully, they were saved by passage of the federal Migratory Bird Act of 1918. Each spring, colonies of egrets and great blue herons, can now be seen nesting high in evergreens at Audubon Canyon Ranch beside Bolinas Lagoon.

The strike. After standing motionless for a brief time, the egret suddenly spears a frog in the grass.

Holding a dark green frog (barely visible) with the end of its beak, the hunter contentedly walks off.

The beauty of an egret taking flight.

High flyer. On Sunday, I spotted a heron sitting near the top of a tall pine tree on which ravens frequently perch to survey their kingdom.

A blacktail doe running lightly along the edge of our driveway on Monday. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

Her fawn meanwhile had to bound through the grass to keep up with her. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

Just like national affairs, West Marin’s sunsets have been dramatic of recent — but the drama’s been happier here. This is how Sunday ended. Yea for nature.

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.

Many of the blacktail deer around Mitchell cabin appear to have large sores on the inside of a back leg. If they were indeed sores, that would be worrisome. What is going on? Do their knees bump against each other when they run? As it turns out, all’s well. It’s just a matter of deer being able to do things we humans would never try.

In this photo of deer-turkey Siamese twins I posted a few weeks back, the spot on the deer’s left hind leg looks downright bloody. But as I have now read on a whitetail hunting website, what we’re seeing is not a sore but a tuft of hair whose purpose is to catch urine for the deer’s “tarsal gland”:

“Each hair is associated with an enlarged sebaceous or ‘fat’ gland that secretes an oily material that coats the hair. When a [squatting] deer ‘rub-urinates’ — allowing urine to soak the tarsal gland —  the oily secretions absorb certain compounds in the urine. Studies have shown a diverse population of different species of bacteria living in the tuft of hair that makes up the tarsal gland. These bacteria interact with the compounds from urine in a way that creates the characteristic color and odor.

“Does, bucks and even fawns rub-urinate year-round, but bucks do it more often in the breeding season, which is why the stain and odor of a buck’s tarsal gland is more prominent during the rut. Changes in the composition of a buck’s urine also likely contribute. Older, more dominant bucks tend to rub-urinate more frequently, so the stained area is larger. In some cases, the stain extends down the inside of each leg.

“The exact mix of bacteria is unique from deer to deer, which may give each deer a unique scent that other deer can recognize. This scent is likely deposited in scrapes when a deer rub-urinates and urine flows over the tarsal gland onto the ground. It is likely tarsal-gland scent carries information about the dominance status, sex, health condition and possibly other characteristics of the deer it came from.”

A tarsal gland on a whitetail deer.

Turning to other oddities, I’ve had two recently at the Safeway in San Anselmo’s Red Hill Shopping Center. The first occurred around the beginning of the year on a day I was driving my backup car, a 28-year-old Nissan, to give it some exercise. I parked in Safeway’s lot, but when I later tried to drive away, the battery was dead. A neighboring driver let me attach jumper cables to his battery, but it did no good. I thanked the man and went looking for a phone to call AAA.

I don’t own a cellphone, and there was no payphone to be found. Luckily a friendly woman in a real estate office let me use their phone, and I called AAA but got a dispatcher in God knows what part of the world. After I explained I needed a tow operator to get my car started, I told her it was a white, 1992 Nissan with its hood open, parked in front of the Red Hill Safeway in San Anselmo.

“Is Safeway a store?” the dispatcher wanted to know. “Yes,” I told her. “It’s a supermarket.”

“What state is San Anselmo in?” I told her “California.”

“What’s the street address….?” The dispatcher went on and on like this as the woman in the real estate office rolled her eyes. Finally the dispatcher told me a tow truck would come by in 45 minutes to an hour and a half.  I groaned, thanked the woman in the real estate office, and the tow truck was there in 10 minutes. The call took almost that long.

More bizarre yet, while in the same store one day last week, I went into the men’s room and entered a stall only to have a metal panel that formed the main wall of the cubicle fall over on me. I was startled but not hurt, and I subsequently informed a store clerk that the men’s room needed attention.

The deer, at least, never have to worry about such mishaps.

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.

Needing a break from the political scene, I spent much of the past week photographing the critters that show up at Mitchell cabin.

Eleven blacktail deer grazing near Mitchell cabin last Saturday.

Following the deer up the hill were 21 wild turkeys.

Which led to an unusual stare-down.

For almost three years there’d been a dearth of possums around Mitchell cabin, but this past week two showed up on our deck after dark to nibble kibble.

Here a possum and raccoon dined together with no confrontations Sunday evening.

Raccoons, of course, are fairly comfortable around a number of other animals. Here four of them ate kibble alongside a skunk last fall.

And here a possum dined contentedly between two gray foxes just outside our kitchen door awhile back.

But the most integrated dining I have seen were this possum, fox, and raccoon, which I photographed together next to the kitchen door in 2011.

Monday morning Lynn woke me up so I could see this sharp-shinned hawk on the railing of our lower deck. The young hawk’s expression is mighty stern, and I fear it may be hunting the birds that show up on our upper deck to eat birdseed. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

In short, not all wildlife live in harmony around here.

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.

Our daily Rorschach test.

What we see in the clouds may sometimes reflect our feelings. This fiery sunset unfortunately brought to mind our crazed President and the danger he poses to world order, the environment, and social harmony.

Another sunset, but with a blacktail doe and no Rorschach test.

Looking at real creatures as opposed to those imagined in the sky is more certain to engender tranquility. Here’s a look at some of the ones I see virtually every day.

Two Arabian Adventures steeds in a feeding pen within a pasture next to Mitchell cabin. Since we haven’t succumbed to the national disaster yet, there’s nothing here for this buzzard.

Jackrabbits and towhees may have very different cultures, but they manage to coexist side by side peaceably.

There are more wild turkeys to be seen hereabouts than there were last year at this time.

Also abundant are blacktail deer, but that’s common. (Curiously, just now when I tried to type “blacktailed deer,” Spellcheck kept changing their name to “blackmailed deer.” This, in turn, raises the question: how would you blackmail a deer?)

When I drove up to Mitchell cabin last Wednesday, nine blacktail deer were grazing in the front meadow.

It’s common to have deer in my fields. Nine was the most in recent months although in times past I’ve had as many as 16.


Jackrabbits are also more abundant at present than they’ve been for a while.

The rabbits appear fairly comfortable around the deer, and it’s not uncommon to see them grazing side by side.

Unfortunately, cars and trucks take a toll on both the deer and the rabbit populations, so please keep an eye out for them when driving, especially at night. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)


The rain we’ve been having in Point Reyes Station certainly enhances the scenery.

Here a tea rose on our deck sparkles with droplets after a wet morning. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)


 

 


Horses grazing next to Mitchell cabin don’t seem to mind chilly weather, but on truly cold days, the folks at Point Reyes Arabians outfit them all with horse blankets.


 

 


Having escaped another yuletide feast, a wild turkey takes a leisurely stroll beside the cabin.

 

 

 

 


Perhaps the most emotionally compelling critter around Mitchell cabin this yuletide has been a young, three-legged raccoon that started showing up here in November. My partner Lynn was concerned about the little guy and soon named the raccoon “Peanut” because it was the runt of the litter. Maybe it hadn’t been getting enough to eat. We don’t know how Peanut lost his front-left leg. Perhaps in a fight with another raccoon. When we first noticed him, all that was left of the leg was a bloody spot.

By now the injury has healed over, and Peanut manages to get around fairly well with only three legs. He’s able to climb trees and even the lattice along our deck.

The name Peanut, however, periodically makes me chuckle. As it happens, back in the 1980s, I was part of a group that studied Spanish one evening a week in the old Dance Palace. Meeting at the same time elsewhere in the building were Mexican immigrants learning English.

Once when two of the instructors were to be away for a week, they arranged for the Spanish-speaking students to teach us English-speaking students Spanish and vice versa.

The approach was fairly straight forward. A Spanish-speaking student who was already fairly fluent in English would tell one of us the meaning of a Spanish word and then have the student use it in a sentence. When it was my turn, the woman conducting the class gave me the word cacahuetes, and I was immediately flustered when heard her say it meant “penis.”

I could pronounce ka-ka-wah-tays, but that wasn’t the problem. I now had to use the word in a Spanish sentence without embarrassing myself in front of the class. Then it struck me. The Marin Community Foundation had just awarded a $5,000 grant to a Stinson Beach filmmaker who was producing a physiological study titled Dick. “A Stinson Beach man is making a movie about cacahuetes,” I said in Spanish. The teacher looked surprised but quickly moved on.

When I got home from class that night, I told my then-wife Cynthia, “You’ll never guess what word they taught us tonight…. cacahuetes. Cynthia, who spoke Spanish fairly well, looked puzzled and asked, “What’s unusual about peanuts?”


Happy New Year!

 

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.

 

 

 

I’m always fascinated by how well some wildlife of different species get along with each other. Deer in particular seem to enjoy the company of other species.

I was reminded of this felicitous phenomenon when I spotted a hawk (lower right) keeping company with a small herd of deer grazing near Mitchell cabin. _____________________________________________________________

A curious blacktail doe watches a house cat clean itself on a woodpile.

I’ve also seen deer show similar interest in rabbits resting in my field.

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While another doe grazes, she keeps company with a great blue heron as the bird hunts gophers in my pasture.

A roof rat and a towhee eating birdseed side by side on our picnic table. It’s such a relaxed relationship that neither appears to notice the presence of the other. ________________________________________________________________

Some things that happen around Mitchell cabin are more of a surprise.

Friday night I was lying on my side looking into my woodstove when I noticed a phantasmagorical head sticking out of the flames.

At first it appeared to be wrapped in newspaper headlines. Lynn, however, explained that she had used some discarded fundraising solicitation forms to light the fire.

 

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Yet another truck wreck in West Marin. A week ago Saturday, a truck and trailer rig hauling grocery supplies overturned on the Point Reyes-Petaluma Road, blocking traffic for nine hours.

Shortly before noon today, a milk truck overturned on Highway 1 near Nicks Cove, closing the highway for several hours. “The truck, heading south near Nicks Cove, failed to negotiate a turn and landed on its side along the highway,” said Mike Giannini, a battalion chief with Marin County Fire Department.

“The accident caused a hatch to fail and allow approximately 4,000 gallons of milk to be discharged from the tank. Additionally, about 100 gallons of diesel fuel was spilled. Firefighters were able to contain the diesel with absorbent materials.

“At the time of the accident, the milk was approximately 100 yards from Tomales Bay,” Giannini reported at 5 p.m. “Crews are continuing to monitor any possible threat to bay waters.

“The driver of the truck was evaluated by Marin County Fire Department paramedics and was transported to the hospital for evaluation. The exact cause of the accident is under investigation.”

All this is getting to be routine. Let’s see where next weekend’s truck wreck occurs.

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.