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Archive for June, 2011

Badgers spotted in Fremont Hills. Check these photos.

Badgers in Fremont hills. Photo by Paul Turner, Fremont, CA
1badger paul turner fremont

A couple of days ago a friend, Paul Turner, asked if I wanted to take a “short”  hike up a creek on his ranch (in the Fremont, Calif., hills). Well, he is 70 and I am 64, just your typical kids anticipating an adventure in the “good old” local creek. So, after telling his wife what we were up to, we took off on a longer than planned outing.

It was uneventful, for a few hundred yards. That is until we noticed Mountain Lion tracks in the mud near one of the springs. We checked the wind  and headed in the opposite direction so as to avoid too much adventure so early in the hike. As we left that canyon and hit the top of the creek we were greeted by what we mistook for a Bobcat on the side of the hill. A few seconds later there  was not one but four “non-Bobcats.”

Three of these animals shot out of their den and charged down the hill singing us a threatening chorus. As they came closer, our eyesight improved and we realized that they were not Bobcats at all but Badgers.
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Posted on Monday, June 13th, 2011
Under: Badger | 5 Comments »

Wild Turkeys: Surprise visitors at your backyard bird feeder!

Wild turkey hen and chicks feeding at backyard bird feeder. Photo by Brian Murphy, Walnut Creek, CA
1wild rurkey3 brian murphy wc

Saw a big puffy male wild turkey and two hens so I went to look for a nest and the pullets (chicks) started to run and I walked faster and those rascals are good fliers! Moving them up the hill to try and get a group photo — the chicks kept flying up the hill.

They built up an appetite with all the activity and stopped by the neighbor’s bird feeder to enjoy the spilled seed. So people with bird feeders in areas where turkeys live, have surprise visitors enjoying the spilled seed!
Brian Murphy, Walnut Creek, California
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Posted on Friday, June 10th, 2011
Under: wild turkeys | 1 Comment »

Long-tailed weasels are high-energy predators

Long-tailed weasel. Photo by Marina Chainey, Richmond, CA
1weasel marina chainey richmond

I spotted this charming little weasel in Wildcat Regional Park.  It was darting in and out of two entrances of a gopher burrow as if in play.  I was concerned for it’s safety since while I watched, a dog retrieved a ball for its master just inches away from the burrow. Also, the shadow of a hawk passed directly over him when he was out.  Is this a youngster?
Marina Chainey, Richmond, California
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Posted on Thursday, June 9th, 2011
Under: Long-tailed weasel | 5 Comments »

Scrub jay tells red-tailed hawk to “Get lost!”

Scrub jay harassing a red-tailed hawk. Photo by Lissa Heaton Severe, Walnut Creek, CA
1jay hawk lisa heaton severe wc

We have a red-tailed hawk nest in our neighborhood.  Every year they come back to lay eggs.  The babies are about 6 weeks old now, very cute! When I went out to take a picture of the mom at the top of the tree, I noticed a scrub jay flying around it, basically squawking and pestering it.  Why would a scrub jay take on a hawk?!?
Lissa Heaton Severe, Walnut Creek, California

It is the nature of small birds — jays and mockingbirds in particular — to kick up a BIG noisy fuss whenever they encounter a bird of prey. They are Nature’s alarm system that lets all the other birds know when a predator is in the area. They will also do the same when they see a cat, and sometimes a fox squirrel. Fox squirrels are known to rob bird nests, eating eggs and sometimes small chicks.

Jays and mockers are smaller and faster than hawks, so unless they get too close, or careless, they can pretty much jump up and down and scream their heads off and do what they want without getting caught. The hawks know this and will often just ignore them. /Gary

Posted on Wednesday, June 8th, 2011
Under: Hawks, Jays, Mockingbird | No Comments »

Oh Rats! Look what’s living under our back deck!

Yin-Yang, a domestic hooded rat at backyard dog feeder. Photo by Reinhard, Pleasant Hill, CA
1domestic rat reinhard ph

I have been a follower of your blog/column for many years, but have never before made contact with you. Even though I don’t own a pet rat I am very curious about what the life expectancy of a pet rat is. Here is my story:

For over 2-1/2 years now we have had a visitor in our backyard.  Even though neither my wife nor I are at all fond of rodents, we kind of got attached to what appears to be either an escaped/let loose pet or lab rat which made its home under our deck. Since it is black & white we named it Yin-Yang. Yin-Yang does not appear to be very shy and seems to be very active during broad daylight hours (see above pic). He/she (?) sometimes even appears from underneath the deck when we are out in back in close proximity.
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Posted on Tuesday, June 7th, 2011
Under: Domestic rat | No Comments »

Creatures of the Urban Wilderness (your own backyard!)

Friday morning visitors to backyard. Photo by Joann Seaver, Walnut Creek, CA
1deer joann seaver wc

These are my Friday morning visitors. Meanwhile, two crows were chasing a squirrel through the tree canopy, three tom turkeys were strutting their stuff and a small bird was busy building a nest under my eaves. Mother Nature doing what she does best!
Joann Seaver, Rossmoor, Walnut Creek, California

That why, long ago, I coined a new description for our backyards. I call them, “The Urban Wilderness.” Seems kind of appropriate, don’t you think? Just make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, settle down in a corner of your backyard … and start observing all the interesting creatures that live there.

You don’t have to go visit a local state park, or a nearby open space area to have this much fun. It’s taking place right in your own backyard. That’s wild! /Gary

Posted on Monday, June 6th, 2011
Under: Birds, deer, Urban Wilderness, Wildlife | 2 Comments »

Mockingbird babies sing National Anthem

Mockingbird babies singing National Anthem. Photo by Katherine Bryce, Walnut Creek, CA
1mock katherine bryce wc

Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly …

Posted on Friday, June 3rd, 2011
Under: Birds, Mockingbird | No Comments »

Maddie’s Matchmaker Adoptathon is this weekend: Looking for a FREE pet?

Officer Ted (BEBHS photo)
1 maddies officer ted bedhs

Maddie’s Matchmaker Adoptathon is this weekend!

There will be thousands of FREE adoptable cats and dogs available to qualified adopters — from 47 different animal shelters and nonprofit animal rescue organizations at 72 different locations in Contra Costa and Alameda counties on Saturday and Sunday. For more details plus a list of participating organizations, adoption locations and times, plus info on some (not all!) of the available pets, visit

Below are just three of the pets you can adopt FREE this weekend from Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society, 2700 Ninth Street, Berkeley; open Saturday & Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.:

Officer Ted:
Abandoned by his mother and litter mates, this 5 week old kitten was living a lonely and uncertain existence inside a (non-running!) car engine in Berkeley. Officer Ted of the Berkeley Police Department was conducting routine police work, heard his mews, and discovered him living inside the engine, covered in grease. Luckily, aside for needing a meal and a very thorough scrubbing, the kitten was healthy. He was taken in by BEBHS, named after his kind rescuer, and sent to a foster home to finish growing up in a safe home environment.
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Posted on Thursday, June 2nd, 2011
Under: Cats, dogs, Maddie's Fund, Pets | No Comments »

Western fence lizards: Do they smell good to flies?

Do western fence lizards smell good to flies? Photo by Marina Chainey, Richmond, CA
1fenceliz marina chainey richmond

I was amused watching this lizard on a pine cone with 2 flies.  At first one foolhardy fly landed on it’s back and proceeded upward slowly until it was on the lizard’s head.  The lizard remained absolutely still until finally with a quick flick it ate it.  Incredibly, the other fly then landed on the lizard’s back and the process repeated itself! Is there some secret scent attracting the flies, or it was just sheer luck for the lizard?
Marina Chainey, Richmond, California

Sounds like luck to me, although I’ve never bothered to smell a western fence lizard before. I suspect this western fence lizard (aka “blue belly”) crawled through something that had a smell that was attractive to the flies. “Yum, that smells good!” CHOMP! The lizard may be on to something. /Gary

Posted on Wednesday, June 1st, 2011
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »