Entries tagged with “fox”.


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My wife Lynn dealt with the tedium of the shelter-in-place lockdown in part by watching British murder mysteries in the evening. I myself seldom watch TV and instead endured the lockdown by watching the wildlife around Mitchell cabin. Here’s what I’ve been seeing.

 

A raccoon and a gray fox got together for an ecumenical dinner outside our kitchen door Monday night. Raccoons can be aggressive when other raccoons try to horn in on their kibble snacks, but foxes and skunks get a free pass.

 

Wild turkeys are regular visitors to our fields, often accompanied by a lonely peacock whose screams sound like a woman crying out for help.

 

 

A stinky trio, three skunks march around the field above Mitchell cabin in tight formation.

 

 

Jackrabbits are showing up more as summer approaches.

 

A squirrel stops by our birdbath for a drink.

 

A roof rat and towhee have an ecumenical dinner of their own, quietly snacking on birdseed atop our picnic table.

 

The local bobcat walked downhill toward Lynn Monday while she was transplanting nasturtiums in our garden. When the bobcat saw her, it didn’t abruptly flee but merely trotted off into a neighboring field. My homeless friend, Billy Hobbs, tells of having an unconcerned bobcat walk quite close to him while he was sleeping along Papermill Creek near the Green Bridge. “I’ll bet it’s the same one,” he said Tuesday when I told him of Lynn’s encounter. (For the moment, Billy is being housed in Motel 6 at county expense.)

 

Other predators that keep us company are coyotes who howl for our entertainment more nights than not.

During the pandemic lockdown, enough people were staying at home that coyotes began more freely wandering about in nearby San Francisco, with experts estimating there are 40 to 70 of them.

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.

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I unknowingly carried a Western Fence Lizard, which had been hiding in our woodpile, indoors on a log last week. Unfortunately, our fireplace cost the lizard its tail and ultimately its life.

After I added a log to the fire one night last week, I noticed something squirming near it in the gray ashes. I checked. It was a lizard, and after several tries with gloves on my fingers, I managed to flip it out of the fireplace onto the floor — along with one red ash that singed a small spot on the carpet.

This species of lizard is known as a Blue Belly or Western Fence lizard, and the Blue Belly I’d just removed from the fire appeared to be dead. No movement whatsoever even when I picked it up. Since its flesh wasn’t burned, I guessed the lizard had passed out from the heat. I carried the creature to our kitchen sink and ran cold water over it. After a minute or so, the lizard seemed to be trying to move its legs. However, it couldn’t move them very much, so I treated it to some more cold water, laid it down on the counter, and gently straightened out its legs. After that the Blue Belly took a few steps before passing out again.

With no other ideas for resuscitating the poor critter, I  put its lifeless body beside a geranium in a flowerpot on the deck. When I checked back the next day, the wretched reptile hadn’t left.

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This vulpine-raccoonish ecumenical dinner was celebrated Sunday at Mitchell cabin’s kitchen door.

Raccoons show up at Mitchell cabin’s front and kitchen doors every evening begging for kibble, and we normally give them a few handfuls. Skunks and foxes occasionally show up to share their repast. 

Elsewhere in Marin, foxes can be suspect. The Marin Humane Society awhile back had to put down a rabid fox near Novato. As for raccoons: “Although raccoons suffer from rabies more than any other mammal in the United States (about 35 percent of all animal rabies cases),” the national Humane Society reports, “only one human death from the raccoon strain of rabies has been recorded in the United States.” 

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A croaker on a bench at Mitchell cabin Wednesday.

An easy way to tell a raven from a crow is that ravens croak whereas crows caw. Easier yet, the tails of ravens are wedge shaped while the tails of crows are fan shaped. Easiest of all, only the ravens squawk, “Nevermore,” if you call out the name Lenore.

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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.

Some critters get along with their animal neighbors better than we might expect. Here’s a look at some inter-species neighborliness that’s caught my eye around Mitchell cabin.

A curious black-tailed doe watches a housecat clean itself.

A great blue heron goes gopher hunting near Mitchell cabin beside a grazing deer.

Seven wild turkeys hunt and peck alongside four black-tailed deer.

Wild turkeys, in fact, can often be found roaming around with other creatures, such as this lone peacock.

A scrub jay and a roof rat comfortably eat birdseed side by side on our picnic table.

Towhees are nowhere near as brazen as jays, but this one seems unconcerned about eating next to a roof rat.

Raccoons and skunks manage to dine together on our deck almost every night. As previously noted, raccoons, like dogs, identify each other by sniffing rear ends, including the backsides of skunks. The skunks often shoulder aside raccoons while competing for food but for some reason never spray them.

Another milepost in inter-species mingling: a possum, fox, and raccoon eat nose to nose to nose outside our kitchen door.

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.

 

 

 

If you’ve ever been around a pile driver sinking the steel supports for a big building into the ground, you know what a racket that can be. But I bet you don’t know the origin of the term “pile driver.”

According to The Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins (Harper Collins, 1962), “In the colorful language of the West, a pile driver is a horse that, in bucking, comes down to earth with all four legs stiff.” ______________________________________________________________

No pile drivers here. (Photo by Scott Stine)

My neighbor Scott Stine and I two weeks ago hiked up a hill next to Mitchell cabin to photograph the foot of Tomales Bay and the landscape around it. The scene was stunning, but the real wonderment occurred when I sat down to pull some stickers out of my socks.

Immediately a herd of horses moseyed over, probably hoping I was carrying something to feed them. They took turns nuzzling me, sometimes two at a time, and before long one was scratching the top of its head on my back.

It was a carefree lovefest until one horse went too far and began nibbling on a cuff of my pants. I then had to play coy and tuck the leg under me. _______________________________________________________________

Mostly hidden by tall grass, a fawn grazes on another part of the hill. As the year wears on and the fawn gets larger, it strays further and further from its mother but returns to her side every few minutes.

Deer can also be dear. In Venus and Adonis, Shakespeare uses deer as a metaphor for lover. Speaking to the ancient Greek god of attractiveness and desire, Venus tells him: “I’ll be a park, and thou shalt be my deer;/ Feed where thou wilt, on mountain, or in dale:/ Graze on my lips, and if those hills be dry,/ Stray lower, where the pleasant fountains lie.” _____________________________________________________________

Two mother quail and four chicks. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

Another of the bard’s sensual creatures.

“For reasons not entirely clear,” The Morris Dictionary notes, “the quail has long had a reputation for what one source calls ‘an inordinately amorous disposition.’

“In Shakespeare’s time harlots were known as quails and he refers in Troilus and Cressida to Agamemnon as ‘an honest fellow enough who loves his quails.’

“A variation on this sense was common in mid-century US slang.

“A San Quentin quail referred to females below the age of legal consent. Misconduct with one such might lead to jail, San Quentin being one of the most notorious of the federal prisons.” _______________________________________________________________

A foxy lady takes a nap on our deck. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

In one of the Brothers Grimm fairytales, The Wedding of Mrs. Fox, a fox pretends to have died to test his wife’s fidelity. When suitors then show up, the vixen rejects them because they aren’t foxes but bears, wolves, and so forth.

Finally a fox shows up who looks like her supposedly dead husband, arrangements are made for a wedding, but her husband appears and drives off the groom and wedding guests. ____________________________________________________________

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), meanwhile, has gone the furthest in promoting a loving compassion for animals.

In its campaign against wearing animal fur, PETA has enlisted numerous celebrities to pose in the buff, albeit with their strategic parts covered.

Celebrities taking part in PETA’s campaign range from retired NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman to these former Miss USA winners — Alyssa Campanella, Shanna Moakler, Shandi Finnessey, and Susie Castillo.

Their message is always a version of: enjoy your own skin and don’t wear an animal’s. Who can resist entreaties such as these?

“What do you think of that Osama deal?” a guy passing through Point Reyes Station asked a couple of us in the barbershop Tuesday. I was a bit surprised by how he phrased the question but said the death of Osama bin Laden should over time make the world a safer place.

“It might have been a big deal if it had happened in 2002 or 2003,” the traveler said. “Now it’s a matter of: ‘So bin Laden’s dead, how ’bout those Giants?'”

The other two of us saw the death as more momentous, insisting that bin Laden (at left) was a ruthless fanatic who would have continued to order terrorist attacks were he still around to lead al Qaeda.

However, neither of us thought bin Laden’s death would put an end to all terrorism.

Probably most Americans are relieved that the mastermind of 9/11 has finally been brought to justice. Governments of  several Muslim countries have also expressed approval of the raid that killed him. The the man on the street in much of the Muslim world, however, is as indifferent as the traveler in the barbershop to bin Laden’s demise.

In the Middle East, bin Laden and al Qaeda have been overshadowed by rebellions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria. Bin Laden had become a relic from a bygone era.

So the stranger was unquestionably right about one thing: during the 40 minutes that justice was catching up with Osama bin Laden, billions of other people were going about their lives as always. To most people, change is inevitable except from a vending machine.

On my hillside, Sunday was the start of the thistle-pulling season, but thanks to a fortnight of prickly eradication a year ago, there are far fewer thistles in my field this year. Little did my girlfriend Lynn and I know that as we labored, President Obama was preparing to announce that the biggest prick of all had been eradicated halfway around the world in an Abbottabad, Pakistan, mansion.

He was a meglomaniac who liked to blow things up and who had inherited millions of dollars by the time he was 14. Despite advocating asceticism for others, Osama bin Laden was found living in luxury with three wives, a stash of pornographic magazines and videos in his bedroom, and hundreds of marijuana plants growing in rows among cabbages and potatoes just outside his walls.

He died when shot in the eye and chest during an incredibly precise, 40-minute raid by Navy SEALs. (If you’ve ever wondered about the acronym, it stands for Sea, Air, and Land Navy Special Warfare Unit.)

When I published The Point Reyes Light, I editorialized in favor of the US going after bin Laden in Afghanistan and against our going after Saddam Hussein in Iraq. During the buildup to the Iraq War, I tried to warn then-President George W. Bush, but did he listen? Noooo. Presidents are notorious for ignoring small-town editors, and as I predicted, we ended up in a war from which we still cannot extricate ourselves.

“You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing — after they have tried everything else.” — Winston Churchill

 

Eradicating thistles was a bit tricky Sunday because many were hidden by unusually tall grass, the result of a wet winter. Here a fawn and a doe are barely visible as they graze below my deck.

Far from the turmoil in the Middle East, evenings around my cabin are still filled with foxes, raccoons, and the occasional possum. Here a gray fox carefully approaches a raccoon eating peanuts outside my kitchen door. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

“I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.” —  Groucho Marx

The raccoon isn’t happy t0 have the fox share its dinner, but it would rather go on eating than waste time fighting over the bounty. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

Watching two competing species learn to accommodate each other started me musing. Bin Laden with all his money and religious fanaticism was less civilized than a pair of wild animals. Merely attending a mosque hadn’t made him a true Muslim any more than standing in a garage would have made him a car.

The possum at right, like all the other animals in this posting, were photographed around my cabin during the past week.

Caught by surprise in Inverness Park. On Monday I stopped by Perry’s Delicatessen to buy a couple of pouches of Captain Black pipe tobacco.

“I always buy it here rather than over the hill because I want to patronize a local merchant,” I told owner Dan Thompson, only to have him correct my pronunciation. “You pat-row-nize merchants,” he said. “You don’t pay-trow-nize them.”

Regularly buying from a merchant is obviously different from condescending to him, but it had never before occurred to me that the pronunciation changed with the meaning. Might the difference be a matter of British versus American English? One point for the deli owner, as well as West Marin wildlife. Zero for bin Laden, as well as thistles.