Wednesday, March 30, 2011
In one of the most magnificent trees, a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks have been nesting for several years. Last spring, myself and a few other resident bird nuts at school followed the raptor pair and their young until fledging with a great, simple joy.
Recently, we have been speculating on the return of this faithful pair and another round of young.
Tuesday I arrived at work and immediately spied a group of birders with monstrous lenses trained upon the nesting tree.
"Aha," I cried, "the hawks are back!"
I sprint-walked towards the group and expected the confirmation of my thoughts.
"A Great Horned is squattin'," replied one of the birders.
Great Horned Owls do not make their own nests and are one of the earliest nesting birds, beginning as early as January. This combination allows them to take advantage of the "abandoned" nests previously used by birds that have yet to migrate back for nesting season.
Two owlets have been seen in the nest, with one appearing stronger and fiestier than the other.
How did this development impact the hawks? Well, they have traveled 50 feet down the path and have been building a new nest.
The spring shall be an exciting one along Las Gallinas Creek.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
One of the recurring characters at Younger Lagoon Reserve is a character dubbed “Don Coyote” by Jake. This coyote is easily recognized with his ragged, mangy appearance, especially on the tail.
Don made an appearance in the Bushnell marsh set 005. The results from that set were promising, so we didn’t want to leave the marsh. Bobcat prints o’plenty were seen about 50 feet from set 005, thus a decision was made to move the cam to this area. It was placed in a tree looking down at an angle at the print-laden path.
Two days in Don gave his greetings, stopping at a fallen branch doused in Fox Frenzy.
Showing his biting tendencies
Leaving his mark
Don visiting his work the next day
Later, two bobcats came to play
About two weeks later, Don inspects the play area
and again left his mark
What lies in the future for the remarkable Don Coyote? I am guessing biting and peeing, but perhaps this canine will entertain us with even greater wonders!
Bonus goodness: Upon leaving, we observed a Bobcat cruising through the mustard fields outside the reserve!
Friday, March 18, 2011
Camera Trapping Campus met up for a feast in Carmel that included sauteed rainbow chard, home made Mac and Cheese with smoked beer sausages from El Salchichero, some BBQ beans, cheese and crackers and beer.
The next morning we headed to the Carmel River for some quick wildlife watching between storms before Christian headed down to LA.
|Looking over at Pt. Lobos|
|Snow on the Mountains|
On the way back to Santa Cruz I ran into this guy near Elkhorn Slough.
|Edited: Buteo lineatus. Juvenile Red-Shouldered Hawk|
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Heading down Empire Grade we hit up the Upper Campus Reserve at a flooded meadow. There we found a Pacific Tree Frog, Pseudacris regilla.
We finished our day on the UCSC campus proper on the hunt for the Santa Cruz Black Salamander, Aneides flavipunctatus niger or just Aneides niger if you prefer. This is a sub-species (or species if you prefer) that is endemic to the Santa Cruz Mountains. One isolated population is here on campus, so we headed down to the old quarry to flip some rocks.
At the first site all we could find were Ensatinas and Slender Salamanders, Batrachoseps gavilanensis. I somehow managed to forget to take a picture of an Ensatina with their beautiful split green eye, but here is a handful of Slenders found under the same rock.
Leaving the quarry proper we flipped a few rocks on the ground. Previously we had been looking for rock on rock hideouts. However, these ground rocks yielded four juvenile nigers! In person they seemed much more solid black. The flash accentuates the blue/white flecking. I had never noticed that green hue that showed up in one individual. These guys were probably the find of the day.
Heading back to the car we found this arboreal Salamander, Aneides lugubris, under a log. It was completely patternless but in need of a bath.
We also found a very nice scorpion, Uroctonus mordax spp, who was not too happy we had lifted up his rock and this unidentified millipede.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
First we headed up Empire Grade to hit some spots on the side of the road. Flipping an old carpet and another rubber mat we ran into our first herps.
Under the rubber mat was a pair of Northern Alligator Lizards, Elgaria coerulea. The normal female was gravid with a uterus full of babies that she will give live birth to in a few months. The male was stunning and patternless. Even this far north in California the Southern gators are more common so this was a great treat. I always enjoy seeing wild morphs, such as the leucistic Coleonyx we find in the Mojave Desert.
Next under the old carpet we found my first snake of 2011. It was a nice adult Ring-necked snake, Diadophis punctatus. In the third photo notice the mangled tail. The evolved defense mechanism worked!
|Mangled tail means the defense mechanism worked|
Next we hit up another Empire Grade spot and found a pile of roofing tile. John was much more ambitious than I was and started digging through the 200 plus tiles. We found Blue-bellies, Sceloporus occidentalis, under every few tiles. We must have seen 40+ individuals. Nearly all the adults were female (9 out of 10 or so). There were also dozens of youngsters running around among the tiles.
At the bottom of the one of the tile piles was this gopher snake, Pituophis catenifer catenifer. It looked as if it was just coming out of hibernation, maybe throwing a coil or two out when the sun shined its life giving rays near the tile pile.
Stay tuned for Part 2 when we get to the Amphibians.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
The 4-day Presidents' Day weekend allowed for a type of adventure that I am hoping to embark on more in the future: waterway exploration.
Recently, my co-teacher and I both became
The first voyage was to be the Estero Americano/Americano Creek, an estuary that begins as a trickle in Cotati. We were to launch from Valley Ford, where the creek starts to get deep. Estero Americano then defines the boundary between motherland Sonoma and beautiful, but vile Marin.
After collecting some snacks and supplies at the fine deli in town, the craft was prepped and ready to get wet.
It was a chilly, but calm morning and we eased down the estuary enjoying the peaceful surroundings, the green hills and the occasional Bufflehead skimming the water's surface.
About 3 miles in, a medium-sized burrow was spotted. We decided to stop to investigate, and eat lunch.
Alongside with the wing and entrails, several pellets were also found.
Is this the feast of one creature? A dining spot that they frequent? Was this spot connected to the burrow -- Burrowing Owls had been reported in the area the previous week.
Or were there two feedings here? A raptor surprised by another bird or mammal?
This was our conversation as the weather began to turn. The wind picked up and the sky darkened with the threat of rain. Additionally, we feared a lowering tide would make travel upstream difficult, so a return to the launch point was in order.
This fear was realized, as a third of the way back we were grounded several times. We decided to take to foot, deflating our craft and hiking through farmland.
Here, hovering White-tailed Kites and curious Northern Harriers watched over our march through the mud, capping our inaugural aquatic journey with fantastic aerial displays.
Sunday, March 6, 2011
|Slightly out of focus Condor photo by JK. From Grimes Point on the Big Sur Coast.|
On Thursday March 10, the Watsonville Wetlands Watch is hosting award winning environmental journalist John Moir’s presentation “The Race To Save the California Condor From Extinction" as part of our Speaker Series.
By 1982, only 22 CA condors remained in the world. Extinction seemed inevitable until a small group of scientists undertook a risky and controversial program to save our largest bird. With rare photos from the recovery effort, John Moir will recount the riveting saga of bringing the condor back from the brink. In addition, he will explore the current challenges facing the condor program. Moir will also link the condor’s plight to the wave of human-caused extinctions that are sweeping across Earth’s ecosystems and discuss the urgency of new international efforts to save our planet’s biodiversity.
The presentation is from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Fitz Wetlands Educational Resource Center at the top of the Pajaro Valley High School campus,Harkins Slough Road, Watsonville. Admission is free, but reservations are requested by contacting Kathy Fieberling at firstname.lastname@example.org or 831-345-1226.
John Moir is an award-winning environmental journalist whose special interest is the preservation of biodiversity. Moir’s nonfiction book Return of the Condor, was a finalist for the 2008 William Saroyan International Writing Prize from Stanford University and was also selected as one of the five best pieces of science journalism in 2007 by the National Association of Science Writers. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Smithsonian, Washington Post,Christian Science Monitorand elsewhere.
I will be attending. A beer on me at SmoQe afterward if you want to talk camera trapping. The Watsonville Wetlands would be a very fun place to put up a camera or two.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
|Photo by Flickr user Caitlinator|
My Grandmother passed away on Monday after a long battle with lung cancer. She had quit smoking almost 30 years ago, shortly after I was born, but it still got her in the end. She was a fighter and the kindest, most wonderful person you could ever know. In her middle age she dead ringer for Sophia Loren.
Originally from Chihuahua Mexico, she taught me many things, among them the art of tamale making. I will always have tamales on Christmas over ham or turkey if I have my way. The key to great albondigas is fresh herbs (one bay leaf the length of your ring finger) and that a good chile relleno can be made in the oven instead of frying it when you are worried about getting fatter.
My biggest regret in life is not learning Spanish from her as a kid. We would visit her and my grandfather in Alpine, California for a week or two every Summer. She thought it would be a great idea to only speak to us in Spanish during that time so that we would learn. I was a dumb, stubborn kid and refused to participate. Like I said, biggest regret.
My Grandma Morayma was an animal lover and passed that on to me. Well, she was never too excited about me bringing home lizards and snakes, especially snakes. In fact she hated snakes, but other animals were her love. She always had a chihuahua or two ... or four. But her true love was for roosters and hens. She never met a rooster she didn't love. I know she always cooked too much rice or corn at dinner so that she "had" to feed the leftovers to the chickens. Christmas always meant some new rooster themed gift. I know other people who like something and get that thing as a gift all the time to the point that they are sick of one more pig statue, but not my grandma. She never tired of chickens or roosters. When she got really sick, I know one of the hardest things she had to do was give up her chickens.
Every time I see a rooster or hear it's call I will think of you Abuela. I love you.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
The location of this set was a marshy area that was loaded with prints of raccoon, bobcat and deer.
One month later, a camera check. Upon entrance to the reserve, we were greeted by a fine CALIFORNIA THRASHER. We took this as a good omen.
The camera appeared quite abused -- muddy from the winter storms and without the plastic covering for the IR flash. A quick search turned up the missing piece and its own damage.
The excitement was soaring, the files could not download fast enough!
Initial photos were full of raccoons and ghostly B/W blank shots.
146 photos in, it appeared.
Later, our mangy friend stopped by for a noble portrait. Or was it his mugshot?