Saturday, February 29, 2020

Chaparral Cam

You'd think the neighborhood gray fox contingent would be used to seeing trail cams by now, but I keep moving them around. Surprise! Sorry, buddy. At least there's no real harm. Although I'm not planning to move the cams anymore for a little while, I realize they will take some getting used to.

None of the three trail cams I've had out for the last two weeks caught any buck deer with antlers, so I'm wondering whether everyone's lost their antlers by now, or if they've simply wandered out of the area after making the does hapai

The cam doesn't glow with an array of red lights in the daytime and is easier to ignore, although it does still making a faint clicking sound when it fires. Here the fox goes toward the woods at 8:50 a.m.

Only to come back at a trot nearly 10 minutes later.

Hermit thrush.

Yikes! Sorry!

Five days later the fox doesn't seem to mind the cam at all. I can't tell if he's thinking about snagging that flying insect. I set this cam to shoot stills only, although when I reset it on Friday I changed it back to stills and 10-second videos.

I'm wondering if the trail cams will know it's a leap year.

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Friday, February 28, 2020

Coyote Bliss

This was the view when I arrived in the early morning, sometime between 7 and 7:30, which is when I usually get to work on a Friday but, especially since I didn't get out of the city last week, I was feeling the need for some mountain magic, and luckily I was able to take the day off.

When I stopped at the same spot on my way home I was surprised to find a coyote snoozing in the grass, and surprised again when he didn't run off. I hadn't brought my Nikon gear since I'd only planned to check my camera traps and just roam around to let the mountain drain the poisons of so-called civilization out of me. (It was warm, with virtually no wind, and might have been a good day to bring a book to read, but I'm on the last chapter of Jared Diamond's Upheaval - Turning Points for Nations in Crisis, and, well, Wrong Book to bring to a nature reboot.)

I put my phone cam up to one side of my binoculars to get a shot of the coyote snoozing...

...and blissing out in the warm sunshine.

I followed the coyote around on his circuit after he finally got up. He crossed the road and poked around the Sunset Point meadow, the re-crossed the road to head out toward these calla lilies where he lapped up some muddy water before continuing out the trail to the right, then doubling back on a lower trail (red circle). He caught several small critters that weren't gophers, and which I can only guess were grasshoppers or some other small insect.

I also collected some toyon berries in the hope of getting at least one to sprout in my back yard.

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Children's Garden

At Strybing Arboretum

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Sunday, February 16, 2020

Wet vs. Dry

Kind of a sad state of affairs to be crunching around in the woods on a bed of dried oak leaves in February. I just came across this old comparison image of Upper Cataract Falls in a wet December 2012 vs. a dry January 2014. As I hiked out to set some camera traps this morning I thought, "The mushrooms were not fooled." They didn't take off in a flush of fruitings despite some decent, if oddly timed, rainfall this season. 

I only had my phone camera with me today. It was colder than it looked, and quite windy. One change since I last hiked out this way was the burned slash piles. You could still smell the burnt wood. A couple of the piles, like this one, were maybe a tad close to the forest edge, judging by all the killed leaves on this live oak.

After I'd set the third trail cam I looped back to the main trail and was cheered to see my first pink wildflower of the season. From a distance I assumed it was a checkerbloom, but as I got closer I saw it was a calypso orchid.

Before I made it back to the main trail I found a nice sit-spot, a small flat area covered with leaves and not too many branches, with a rock just right for leaning back on, some warming sunshine, and an interesting view, and enjoyed just looking out over the chaparral and the edge of the woods, and listening to the chatter of acorn woodpeckers and the screeches of scrub jays. I also encountered this oak tree whose branches supported more moss and lichen than leaves of its own.

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Saturday, February 15, 2020

Winter Coat

I enjoy putting a dish of kibble out for this neighborhood cat when I find her waiting at the back door, which of course mainly happens on workdays (since most days are workdays). I'll put the dish out, then go back upstairs to finish getting ready for work, and by the time I come back down to roll my bike out, the bowl is usually empty. If it isn't, I put the remaining kibble in a plastic bag and bring in the bowl. Sometimes several days go by where I don't see the cat at all, but a trail cam tells me that she does come by often, just not at the right time to catch me looking for her.

I used to put a small pile of kibble on the ground for her and leave it there. If The Fuzzy One left any uneaten, it would go to other neighborhood cats, and also squirrels, jays, and crows. By the time the raccoons and rats showed up after sundown, there would be nothing left but the scent of kibble past. My neighbor, whose lily pilly tree shows up in the background of the photo above, felt that it was a bad idea to attract the corvids because they would prey on the nests of birds that might be in the lilly pilly or his other tree, a native live oak.

So I've been more diligent about leaving food unattended, but if I'm around the house on the weekends I'll put a bowl out for The Fuzzy One and even leave the back door open so she can come in and nap in civilized comfort in the basement area and go back out when it suits her, and she likes to hang out with us when we're doing laundry or puttering in the garden. 

I'll put a camera trap on her food dish every now and then to see if crows or ravens are coming down to snack on leftover kibble, or if any other non-cat critters are showing up in the daytime. So far, so good. 

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Snowed In

My first time cross-country skiing and snow-camping, 1993 at Lassen Volcanic National Park. I was with a group of folks from what was then called Outdoors Unlimited at UCSF. We'd spent the night of our arrival sleeping on a sheet of ice in the parking lot before skiing into the backcountry at daylight. Good times.

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Sunday, February 2, 2020


Kind of an unusual sunrise this morning, with fog covering part of the top of Mt. Tamalpais. I couldn't see East Peak as I drove up from below and hoped my view wouldn't be obliterated. There was also a fog bank out on the far side of the East Bay hills.

I was lucky to find the gate open when I arrived at 6:50 a.m. The fog and clouds were pretty thick, and the best color lasted only a minute or so. By the time the sun reached the horizon it was completely obscured behind clouds.

I picked up the two trail cams that were still on the mountain. I have a new place in mind that I'll check out next week. In the meantime, here's a selection of recent captures.

Two females and one male.

Lots of Gray Fox captures at this location.

Love those Varied Thrush.

Blacktail Deer with goatee.

First Chipmunk capture. Mr. Speedy used this spot several times and I believe he was responsible for quite a few empty frames.

Gray Squirrel(s) triggered the cam many, many times. Occasionally there were two squirrels in the frame, and once there were squirrels and California Quail all foraging around together.


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Saturday, February 1, 2020

Sierra Fog

Kind of a cool screen capture showing Lake Tahoe covered with fog.

Different view.

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KitKat doesn't know I have to go to work most days. She just comes by whenever she's in the mood. I believe her owner (to the extent she is "owned") lives down the block, but she has been dropping by my back yard for a few years. A bag of Iams kibble lasts several months since I only feed her when we cross paths. Sometimes she's waiting for me in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon. I like to keep a trail cam out back to keep tabs on when she and other backyard denizens come and go.

Sometimes the cam captures my wife, and this time her embroidery handiwork goes perfectly with the ambient scene.

So KitKat's 12:30 visit lasted about an hour, until she gave up. But she came back at 3 o'clock determined to wait it out at the top of the stairs. 

After about 15 minutes she needs a little stretch.

And sometimes the cam catches her making a funny expression on her way to grooming herself. She waited a little more than an hour before finally giving up -- just a few minutes before I finally got home. Too bad cats can't text.

Sometimes I feed her when I get home, then forget to bring the bowl back inside. Other neighborhood cats are onto this fact.

And not all the neighborhood cats are cats.

Here's KitKat trying to catch the early bird special, snoozing a little while she waits, and...

...Reward! To the right is the door to the storage area / laundry room / garage, and where I keep my bike. I always check to see if KitKat is out on the stoop before I head to work in the morning and again when I get home. Sometimes she'll be there almost every day for a while, and other times she doesn't show up for a week or more. 

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