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Archive for August, 2010

Spiders: Did a spider catch this bird in its web?

Starling and spider webs. Photo by Gloria Crim, Crockett, CA.
starling web, gloria crim, crockett

I have enjoyed your column for a long time and now I need your expertise to answer a question that presented itself in my front yard in Crockett.  Actually it was my grandkids who brought this to my attention.  They asked me the question and I couldn’t come up with the answer … Grandmothers really don’t know EVERYTHING!

I have attached photos of a dead bird caught in a spider web in a tree outside my front fence. What kind of spider in our area can weave a web so strong that it will capture a good-sized bird and hold it til it dies? Scary scene … especially for the super-active imagination of two kids! Thank you in advance for your input.
Gloria Crim @ home in Crockett, Calif.
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Posted on Tuesday, August 31st, 2010
Under: Birds, Life, Spiders | 1 Comment »

Fawns living in a Walnut Creek backyard

Backyard fawns. Photo by Lucille Brooks, Walnut Creek, CA.
backyard fawns, lucille brooks, wc

Two of my back garden “pets”, living in City of Walnut Creek!  How I like to watch their growth too, always along with their mother and even bucks!
Lucille Brooks, Walnut Creek, CA

There are an amazing number of wild creatures visiting and living in our backyards. A lot of them at night, so you often don’t even know they are there. Keep your eyes and ears open, day and night. You may be surprised. That’s why I call our backyards … the Urban Wilderness. They’re wild!

Got photos you’ve taken of the wildlife that visits your own personal Urban Wilderness? E-mail me copies of the “wild” photos you’ve taken and I’ll post them here for others to see and enjoy. Thanks! /Gary

Posted on Monday, August 30th, 2010
Under: deer, Urban Wilderness | 2 Comments »

Red-tailed hawk stops by local backyard for a visit

Immature red-tailed hawk (Rita Freeman, Clayton, CA)
imm redtail rita freeman clayton

Dear Gary:
I had a beautiful visitor at my backyard pond last week, he was here most of the day.  As you can see, he let me get within a foot of him, it was quite an experience.  I’m guessing he is a red-tailed hawk. What do you think?
Rita Freeman, Clayton

Dear Rita:
Yep, it’s an immature (hatched last spring) female red-tailed hawk. How do I know she’s a female? Because of her size. Male red-tails are a lot smaller.

I’m guessing our recent heat-wave sent her looking for water and she stopped by your yard because of the nice pool. Songbirds aren’t the only birds that like to bathe and drink in backyard “bird baths,” you know. Being an immature bird, you were probably the first human she’s ever encountered, so she didn’t perceive you to be a threat. That’s why she let you get so close. Give her some time. After she gets to know us humans better, she won’t let one of us get within a mile of her.

I love our backyards. If you take the time to look around, you’ll discover LOTS of wildlife. That’s why I call our backyards the “Urban Wilderness.” Nice photo. /Gary

Posted on Friday, August 27th, 2010
Under: Hawks, Red-tailed hawk | No Comments »

No dogs in hot cars: California puts warning in driver manual

Photo by Flickr user Rhian vK used under a Creative Commons License.
Dogs Die in Hot Cars

The following is particularly important because of the recent heat wave in our area. Please don’t leave dogs (or children) in the car … even for “just a minute!” They could be dead when you get back. /Gary

California first state to include warning in driver manual about the dangers hot cars present to dogs

United Animal Nations (UAN) commends California State Assemblymember Anthony Portantino (La Cañada Flintridge) and California Department of Motor Vehicles Director George Valverde for working together to place an advisory in the California Driver Handbook about the dangers of leaving dogs in hot cars.

“Every summer countless dogs become seriously ill and even die because their owners simply do not know the dangers of leaving them in enclosed vehicles,” said UAN president and CEO Nicole Forsyth. “Thanks to the leadership of Assemblymember Portantino, motorists will now be informed of this serious pet safety hazard, and no doubt many animal lives will be saved.”
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Posted on Thursday, August 26th, 2010
Under: dogs, Hot Cars | No Comments »

Hummingbird takes shower in mini backyard waterfall

Hummingbird in mini waterfall. Photo by Taka Otagawa, Fremont, CA.
taka otagawa1

Dear Gary:
This summer, one of our hummingbirds favored us with his appearance at 8:30 a.m. near the mini waterfall outside our kitchen window. He then sips from the top stream and proceeds to take a shower in it!  This has been the highlight of our mornings.  My husband, Taka, took these pictures.  Hope you can use them.
Myrna Otagawa, Fremont, CA

Dear Myrna:
Where else would a mini bird like a hummingbird take a shower … but in a mini waterfall? beautiful! /Gary

Hummingbird in mini waterfall. Photo by Taka Otagawa, Fremont, CA
taka otagawa2

Posted on Tuesday, August 24th, 2010
Under: hummingbirds | No Comments »

Martinez asks residents to officially name ‘Beaver Park’

Martinez beaver by Cheryl Reynolds, Walnut Creek, CA
beaver by cheryl

I am writing because you’ve expressed support for the Martinez Beavers in the past. The City of Martinez  is looking for suggestions to name the park next to the beaver dam and the strip along the creek where they live.

With 2000 people visiting the park for the beaver festival over the last three years, and nightly visits from curious on-lookers, “Beaver Park” seems a natural choice to me. The sad event of mom beaver’s death would be an excellent opportunity to remember her important role in the visibility of this town in choosing a name.

Whatever final name is selected, we think it’s important that the voices of beaver supporters are heard, and I wanted to encourage you to make your own nomination by e-mailing your park name suggestion to
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Posted on Monday, August 23rd, 2010
Under: Beavers, Martinez Beavers | 4 Comments »

Born Free USA has first ever Captive Exotic Animal Database

SF Zoo’s Tatiana tiger. Photo by Flickr user mjaysmonk used under a Creative Commons License
SF Zoo's Tatiana

There’s an interesting new wild animal resource available out there on the Internet. It’s called a “Captive Exotic Animal Database.” I thought you might like to learn more about it. Read on … /Gary

Born Free USA Launches First Ever Captive Exotic Animal Database that Cites Attacks on Humans and Other Animals Searchable by Location, Species, and More

Database designed for lawmakers, media, and public, illustrates these are not isolated incidents, are shockingly common, and that the issue is a critical matter of public safety, says Born Free CEO

Washington D.C., August 19, 2010 — Born Free USA, a leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, has launched an unprecedented interactive database of deadly and dangerous captive wild animal incidents (, designed as a resource for the media, lawmakers, activists and the public, to help shed light on the magnitude of the issue.
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Posted on Friday, August 20th, 2010
Under: Circus, Exotic wildlife, Zoos | No Comments »

American goldfinches on a backyard sock feeder

American goldfinches photo by Joe Oliver, Walnut Creek, CA
american goldfinch joe oliver

American goldfinches feeding  on my backyard sock feeder.
Joe Oliver, Walnut Creek, California

From time-to-time I’ll be running photographs of wild creatures that live in the Urban Wilderness: Our backyards. If you happen to take such a picture, please send me a copy attached to an e-mail to so I can post it here for others to see. Please include your name and the name of the city and state where you live so I can properly credit you as the photographer. Thanks! /Gary

Posted on Thursday, August 19th, 2010
Under: American goldfinch, Birds | 1 Comment »

Rodent pest control: Use caution when using poison bait

Ground squirrel. Photo by Brian Murphy, Walnut Creek, CA.
ground squirrel3

More problems with using poison to control rodents. There’s the risk of secondary poisoning of wildlife and pets as suggested in the DFG news release below. There is also the risk of direct poisoning of wildlife and pets around your house and yard when you use these poisons.

Rats and mice sometimes carry pieces of poison bait from supposedly safe bait stations used around your home and leave these pieces of poison bait lying in unprotected places in your yard or house where pets (or children!), or other wild creatures can find them.  If you must control rodents, I recommend using traps and NOT poisons. /Gary

DFG News, Aug. 17, 2010:
Wildlife Experts Issue Warning about Controlling Rodent Pests with Poison

State and county officials remind Californians to use caution when using poison baits (rodenticides) to control rodent pests. Careless use of these chemicals has injured and killed wildlife and pets throughout the state.
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Posted on Wednesday, August 18th, 2010
Under: Ground squirrels, Pest control, Pesticide, Pets & Poisons, Poison, Rat poison | 3 Comments »

Offshore drilling reforms good, but big questions remain

Gulf rig fire (US Coast Guard)

I think the Center for Biological Diversity bring up some excellent points. What do you think? /Gary

Offshore Oil Drilling Reforms Are Positive Step, But Big Questions Remain
The Obama administration announced Monday (Aug. 16) that it will no longer exempt certain deepwater offshore oil-drilling projects from environmental review. However, non-deepwater drilling operations may continue to be approved without environmental review. Also, deepwater wells and rigs already approved under the faulty environmental review process will not necessarily have to seek full National Environmental Policy Act or Endangered Species Act compliance.

In response, Center for Biological Diversity Executive Director Kierán Suckling issued the following statement:
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Posted on Tuesday, August 17th, 2010
Under: Oil, Oil Spills | No Comments »