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Archive for May, 2011

Great horned owl nest in tree, with chick and adult owl

Great horned owl nest, chick and adult. Photo by Dave Harper, Oakley, CA.
1ghowlnest dave harper oakley

I get a lot of requests from readers, asking what great horned owl nests look like. These photos by Dave Harper of Oakley, California, are a perfect example. It’s usually a large stick nest, high in a tree. Above you can see an approximately 3-month-old owl chick on the left sitting on the nest, staring at the camera. One of the adult great horned owls is perched on a branch on the right. Below is the same photo showing the owls and nest from a further distance away so you can get a better idea of how high up in the tree it is.

Hope this answers your questions. Thanks for the great photo, Dave! /Gary

Great horned owl nest and owls. Photo by Dave Harper, Oakley, CA
1ghowlnest dave harper oakley

Posted on Tuesday, May 17th, 2011
Under: great horned owl, nesting, Owls | 4 Comments »

International Bird Rescue turns 40: Cleans oiled animals worldwide

Oiled great horned owl from tank farm that leaked oil being cleaned. (IBR photo)
ibr1 owl cleaning

I received the news release below (and photographs) from my friends at International Bird Rescue and thought it might interest you. This organization is the GREATEST!! /Gary

California-based oiled bird rescue organization turns 40

The marking of an anniversary could not have been more poignant for California-based oil spill experts, International Bird Rescue, whose team played a key role in the response to last year’s Gulf oil spill.

The 40th anniversary of the wildlife group, formed in response to a San Francisco Bay oil spill in 1971, fell on the same day as the anniversary of the Gulf oil spill. Bird Rescue has responded to aquatic bird emergencies in all corners of the globe, from oiled common murres and bald eagles in Alaska following the Exxon Valdez to 20,000 penguins caught in an oil spill in South Africa.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, May 16th, 2011
Under: Birds, International Bird rescue research Center, Oil Spills | No Comments »

Hummingbird takes a shower in the lawn sprinklers

Anna’s hummingbird taking a shower in lawn sprinklers. Photo by Dave Harper, Oakley, CA
1hum shower dave harper oakley

“Ahhhhhh … nothing like a nice cool shower in the backyard lawn sprinklers!” said the Anna’s hummingbird.

This is an Anna’s hummingbird, which I can’t seem to shoot at our many feeders in the backyard, but to my surprise hovered to take a shower while I was working on my sprinklers.
Dave Harper, Oakley, California

I have a male Anna’s who lives in my backyard that does the same thing. When I am out hand watering in my garden, the second he spots me reaching for the hose, he zooms down and hangs right in front of me about 2-feet away, waiting for me to hit him with the fine spray. Once he’s soaked, he zips back up to his perch in the apple tree and preens for the next five minutes or so.

Hummingbirds … you gotta love them! /Gary

Posted on Friday, May 13th, 2011
Under: hummingbirds | 3 Comments »

Squirrel on the bird feeder

Hey, how do I get into this thing?! Photo by Karen Turnbull, Hayward, CA
1squirrel at feeder karen turnbull hayward

For the first time, I have a squirrel visiting my bird feeder. Of course, the birds don’t come around when he’s there. It was such a hoot watching his acrobatics, trying to figure out how the heck he could get to the food. Should I set out a separate feeding place for the squirrel? Is it OK to feed him? He is kinda cute and he’s hungry.
Karen Turnbull, Hayward, California

It’s OK to feed the squirrel, although you may be creating a monster that spills a lot of seed. The bird specialty stores (like Wild Birds Unlimited, and many pet stores) often carry squirrel feeders that have dried corn and other tasty tidbits. You can hang them away from the bird feeders and enjoy both. By the way, they are ALWAYS hungry. /Gary

Posted on Thursday, May 12th, 2011
Under: fox squirrel | 1 Comment »

Cats need adopting. Owner losing her home & can’t keep them

Please help D.’s cats. I already have a home with Gary.

I have been rescuing kitties for the last 18 years and have found homes for many … spayed and neutered ferals for release to the colonies I manage … and kept many. Now, I find myself losing my home two weeks from today (that is the auction date, how much time in my home after that is unknown at present) and need to find homes for 30 kitties — 12 of which are totally feral.  I have taken very good care of these kitties over the years until my business took a financial hit due to this economy and now I am unable to properly care for the number I have and cannot take them all with me when I move.  I have always had a soft spot in my heart for others when they have asked me to take their pet due to unforeseen circumstances and taken in the sickly stray who needed a home.

Now I need to reach out to your readers with a soft spot in their hearts to help my kitties. I do not want my babies to end up at the shelter where the majority would never make it out. Please ask your readers to help me and my babies. I have been working with CC4C to try and place them, but adoptions are very slow right now and have only placed two.  I appreciate any help you can give me.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!!!
D., East Bay, San Francisco Bay Area

Anyone who can adopt one of these kitties can contact me at

Good luck, D. and kitties! /Gary

Posted on Wednesday, May 11th, 2011
Under: Cats | No Comments »

Wild turkeys can come in different color phases

Wild turkey hen “smoke” color phase. Photo by Pete Davidson, Martinez, CA
1turkey pete davidson mtz

This unusually colored wild turkey showed up by herself in my backyard one morning a couple weeks ago. Haven’t seen one like that before.  Did some online research and found that it’s called the “smoke” color phase, which is one of the four distinct color variations of wild turkeys from what is considered the usual plumage. The others are erythritic or red phase, melanistic or black phase, and the true albinos which are pure white with pink eyes. My understanding is nearly all smoke color turkeys are hens.
Pete Davidson, Martinez, California

I had no idea wild turkeys came in all these different color phases besides the normal colored plumage. Thanks for the information! /Gary

Wild turkey hen “smoke” color phase. Photo by Pete Davidson, Martinez, CA
2turkey pete davidson mtz

Posted on Tuesday, May 10th, 2011
Under: wild turkeys | No Comments »

Gophers. Ever wondered what they look like? Here’s a photo.

Gopher feeding in backyard. Photo by Joanne Smith, Union City, CA
1gopher joanne smith union city

“YUM! Green things!” said the gopher, as it munched away in somebody’s backyard.

I regularly get requests from my readers, asking what gophers look like. See above.


Now you know. /Gary

Posted on Monday, May 9th, 2011
Under: Gopher | 4 Comments »

Wild birds help us connect with nature

Jenny of Native Bird Connections with a snowy owl (Wild Birds Unlimited)
1snowyowl jenny mike williams

Native Bird Connections is a nonprofit organization that uses a collection of live, tame, nonreleasable eagles, hawks and owls to educate people of all ages about the wonders of nature. Last year they presented 584 programs that touched the lives of 17,792 people — including school children, scouts, senior living programs, after school enrichment programs, state and national park programs.

As Native Bird Connections supports our young people in their search for knowledge of the natural world around us, this organization also needs our financial support to help them survive these tough times.
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Posted on Friday, May 6th, 2011
Under: Bald Eagles, Birds, Golden eagles, Hawks, Owls, wild birds | No Comments »

Black fox squirrel spotted in Livermore

Black fox squirrel. Photo by Christina Frederickson, Livermore, CA
1blk squirrel christina fredrrickson livermore

Hi, we just found your blog and love it! I found you while Googling black squirrels. We’re in Livermore and get the usual reddish-brown tree squirrels coming to our back yard for peanuts. Recently a single black squirrel has been showing up, so we were curious about its origins. Still haven’t figured out where he came from.
Steve & Christy, Livermore, California

Steve & Christy:
The reddish-brown fox squirrels you normally see are not native. They are eastern fox squirrels, introduced in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1930s. Reddish-brown is the most common color, but they also come in black and gray phases, though not so common. The reddish fox squirrels are now pretty much all over. The black phase is often found in Palo Alto and Menlo Park, and for some reason, also in Livermore. Maybe someone raised some orphan babies there are released them? Anyway, that’s why they are occasionally seen in your area. /Gary

Reddish-brown fox squirrel. Photo by Christina Frederickson, Livermore, CA
1red squirrel christina frederickson livermore

Posted on Thursday, May 5th, 2011
Under: fox squirrel, Squirrels | 3 Comments »

Birds pull apart door mat to get nest-making materials

Door mat being pulled apart by birds looking for nesting materials. Photo by Bill Johnson, Walnut Creek, CA
1birdmat bill johnson wc

Perhaps you can solve the mystery of what has been happening to our front door mat.  Something has been either tearing at or eating away at this mat, as you can see in the picture.  At first I thought it might be the work of a skunk or a raccoon, but now I am wondering if certain birds are doing it.  I did see a bird fly away once from that general area.  I suppose it would make for good nesting material, but it would have been awfully hard to initially pull it apart like this.  Are birds that strong?
Bill Johnson, Walnut Creek, California

Looks like birds to me. There’s a lot of strength in those beaks. I’ve observed birds pulling on plastic window screens until they fray so they can use that material in their nests, and that stuff is a lot tougher than your door mat. I’ve also seen bird nests made out of plastic bags, which certainly improved their waterproofing. The Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek also has a crow’s nest made of electrical wire that was found in the attic of a building under construction. Birds seem to be adapting quite well to living in urban and suburban areas. That’s why I call our backyards, the “Urban Wilderness.” /Gary

Posted on Wednesday, May 4th, 2011
Under: Bird nests, Birds, Urban Wilderness | No Comments »