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Archive for August, 2011

Deer: This buck and doe are just getting acquainted … I think

Just a little nuzzle between friends. Photo by Mike Gordon, Walnut Creek, CA
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Mating season is near!
Mike Gordon, Walnut Creek, California

“Rut,” or mating season for these black-tailed deer takes place in mid to late fall here in Northern California. The gestation period is 6-7 months and they give birth from April to June. Looks to me like these two are just getting acquainted. /Gary

Posted on Wednesday, August 31st, 2011
Under: deer | No Comments »

Cooper’s hawk: Watch out, little birds, run away fast!

Immature Cooper’s hawk. Photo by Joanne Smith, Union City, CA
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Thought you would enjoy this shot of a juvenile Cooper’s hawk who occasionally visits my yard in Union City.  His name is Gary, too.  The Dread Squirrel Roberta is not the least bit afraid of him, stares him down, shakes her tail and then does acrobatic dining on the seed block while he watches.  He was here four times yesterday, knew there were little birds hiding in the neighbor’s honeysuckle but never managed to get one.
Joanne Smith, Union City, California

Gary Cooper, eh? Great photo. Beautiful bird. Your squirrel obviously knows this is an immature Cooper’s hawk and not quite up on its hunting techniques, yet, otherwise she wouldn’t risk staring the hawk down.

Those “little birds” you mention, are always on the lookout for hawk predators and can disappear in a nanosecond by diving into nearby bushes. If you are watching songbirds at your backyard bird feeder, blink your eyes and suddenly those little birds are gone … look around for the Cooper’s hawk. It will be sitting nearby. The ability of those little birds to almost instantly disappear is called … “survival.” /Gary

Posted on Tuesday, August 30th, 2011
Under: Cooper's hawk | 2 Comments »

Fox squirrel: The ups and downs of nest building

Fox squirrel trying to take cloth for nest. Photo by Mike Gordon, Walnut Creek, CA
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This squirrel keeps trying to steal this cloth for a nest! He gets as much in his mouth as he can but eventually looses his balance and falls! Too Funny!!
Mike Gordon, Walnut Creek, California

He reminds me of a squirrel in Lafayette, CA, a few years back. One 4th of July, a Lafayette resident hung a little flag from her mailbox. The day after the 4th, when she went out to take in her flag, it was gone. She figured one of the neighborhood kids must have taken it. A week or so later, during a big windstorm, a squirrel nest blew out of an oak tree in her backyard. When she went to clean it up, she found the whole inside of the squirrel nest … lined with her flag. That was one patriotic squirrel! /Gary

Squirrel losing balance and falling while trying to take cloth for nest. Photo by Mike Gordon, Walnut Creek, CA
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Posted on Monday, August 29th, 2011
Under: fox squirrel | No Comments »

Rattlesnakes & gopher snakes: How to tell the difference

Western rattlesnake. Photo by Dave Harper, Oakley, CA
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People can have a lot of trouble telling gopher snakes (harmless) and rattlesnakes (poisonous) apart. From time to time, I will come across photos that are good at helping you decide which is which. Check out these photos.

Pacific gopher snake. Photo by Dave Harper, Oakley, CA
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I find these photos by Dave Harper of Oakley, California, to be very helpful in that regard. /Gary

Western rattlesnake. Note rattle. Photo by Dave Harper, Oakley, CA
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Posted on Friday, August 26th, 2011
Under: Gopher snake, Rattlesnake | 3 Comments »

Male rufous hummingbird: Ever seen one of these little guys?

Male rufous hummingbird at feeder. Photo by Rick Arluck, Sammamish, WA
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I thought you might enjoy these pictures taken at my brother’s feeder in Sammamish, WA, in June. I sure wish I had seen these guys here!
Carol Weldin, Alamo, California

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Posted on Thursday, August 25th, 2011
Under: hummingbirds, rufous hummingbird | 7 Comments »

Rub a dub dub, three acorn woodpeckers in a tub

Three acorn woodpeckers taking a bath. Photo by Dave Driggs, Saranap, CA
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Three acorn woodpeckers taking a bath aka “Rub a dub dub, three woodpeckers in a tub.”
Dave Driggs, Saranap, California

Ah, communal bathing … even woodpeckers love it! How does that old Bobby Darin song go? “Splish splash, I was taking a bath … ” Woodpeckers, you gotta love ’em! /Gary

Posted on Wednesday, August 24th, 2011
Under: Acorn woodpeckers | 1 Comment »

Fox squirrel sampling fruit from ‘his’ nectarine tree

Fox squirrel feeding on nectarine. Photo by Mary Baltich, Concord, CA
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I thought that you would like my photo of the friendly squirrel raiding my nectarine tree.
Mary Baltich, Concord, California

I think you have that backwards. It’s the squirrel’s nectarine tree and he’s sampling his wares. Be nice and I’m sure he’ll be willing to share. /Gary

Posted on Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011
Under: fox squirrel | 1 Comment »

Dragonflies — Mother Nature’s mosquito hawks

Dragonfly by Dave Harper, Oakley, CA
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One of the most under appreciated critters, in my opinion, is the dragonfly. Nature’s natural defense of West Nile disease. The dragonfly’s hideous little larvae monsters remain in the water just like the mosquito larvae. Though when they evolve and break loose they are an air force taking down mosquitoes at all altitudes. Coming in many color phases they are very cool and should be appreciated. The butterfly gets more credit, but the dragonfly does the important work.
Dave Harper, Oakley, California

Dragonfly larvae are the scariest-looking little aquatic predators I’ve ever seen. They make fast work of mosquito larvae (and other aquatic insects), which that catch and eat with their powerful jaws. And as you say, once the dragonfly larvae metamorphose into adult dragonflies, they become living fighter planes that track down adult mosquitoes on the wing. /Gary

Posted on Monday, August 22nd, 2011
Under: Dragonfly, Mosquitoes | 1 Comment »

Baby fox squirrels discovered in rain gutter nest. CUTE!

Squirrel nest and babies in rain gutter. Photo by David Ogden, Walnut Creek, CA
1squirrel nest david ogden wc

Don’t know if this is new to you or not, but my son Cooper discovered a nest of three baby squirrels in my rain gutter this morning after hearing an unexplained noise up there. (See above photo.) I slid the cover off to unveil three little “squirrellettes” asleep in a comfy nest of oak leaves — light green, obviously harvested recently to provide the softest bedding available.  Mom was not there, but was a few feet away in the rain gutter squawking at me.

It’s a cunning move on Mom’s part — this location is well protected, completely out of sight of any raptor, and difficult if not impossible for a raccoon (or cat) to access.  I thought they usually nested in trees, and we have six large, mature oaks on our property, but Mom rejected them in favor of this covered rain gutter. (The cover is the plastic panel type, with a slit to accommodate rain water from the roof.)  Smart move, Mrs. Squirrel.
David Ogden, Walnut Creek, California

Fox squirrels usually build their nests in trees, but they also occasionally tear off a vent screen and make a nest in your attic. Less common is the rain gutter nest which your son discovered.

Remember to clean the remains of that nest out of the rain gutter, after the squirrel family is gone and before the rains start this fall. Otherwise, you’re going to get a big wet surprise. /Gary

Posted on Friday, August 19th, 2011
Under: fox squirrel, Squirrels | 4 Comments »

A Tale of Two Cats

Photo by Brian Murphy, Walnut Creek, CA
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I’m not sure what possessed me to write this and send this to you but I’d like to share a story about two cats.

When the evening air is warm, as it was last night, I often like to sit out on my front lawn and enjoy the evening with a nice cigar and a beer.  And I did just that.  It was a beautiful night.  The sky was clear with a few patches of clouds and topped off with a full moon.
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Posted on Thursday, August 18th, 2011
Under: Cats | 1 Comment »