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Archive for September, 2011

The movie “Contagion” is NOT friendly to bats

Endangered gray bat (Bat Conservation International)
gray bat

Some of you may have seen or heard of the movie “Contagion,” which was released Friday, Sept. 9. This Warner Brothers film written by Steven Soderbergh is about a mysterious, fast-spreading virus that kills countless humans around the world. In the end, it is concluded that the virus was linked to bats.

Below is BCI’s official statement about Contagion.
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Posted on Wednesday, September 14th, 2011
Under: Bats | 1 Comment »

Young burrowing owls in the Byron area

Young burrowing owls by Dave Harper, Oakley, CA
1burrowing owl dave harper oakley

Photo of young burrowing owls taken out in the Byron, CA, area away from development.
Dave Harper, Oakley, California

Burrowing owls are among my favorite owls. Well, actually, ALL owls are my favorite owls. Sorry. Can’t help it. Guess I’m an owl freak. Some of my best friends are owls. /Gary

Posted on Tuesday, September 13th, 2011
Under: Burrowing owls | 5 Comments »

Bushtits checking out the neighborhood suet feeder

Bushtits at a suet feeder. Photo by Ann and Bill, Concord, CA
1bushtits ann and bill concord

We hung a new Peanut Delight suet cake about a month ago. After a week, we were surprised to see a flock of 6 or 7 bushtits having a feast. Didn’t know this would be a treat for them. They stop by 3 or 4 times a day.
Ann & Bill, Concord, California

Ann & Bill:
Bushtits are primarily insect eaters, but they also eat seeds and fruits, so I’m not really surprised they’d go for a peanut suet cake. It has a little bit of everything. They also probably spotted a lot of other birds visiting your suet feeder, and that’s ALWAYS an incentive for another bird to check things out. Hey, that must be something good to eat!

A good rule of thumb: Insect eaters also occasionally eat seeds and fruit … and seed and fruit eaters will also eat the occasional insect. /Gary

Posted on Monday, September 12th, 2011
Under: Bushtit | 1 Comment »

Those BIG, fat wild turkeys CAN fly! Here’s proof …

Wild turkeys on the roof! Photo by Jojy Smith, Antioch, CA.
1turkeys3 jojy smith antioch

Proof positive for the person who wrote your daily newspaper column wondering if wild turkeys can fly! Also proof that the folks in Livermore, CA, really did see a turkey on the roof! I can personally vouch that they sound like logs hitting your roof when they land! Here they are in my Antioch neighborhood “walking AND roof sitting!” They let me get pretty close to take their photos!
Jojy Smith, Antioch, California

Hard to believe these huge birds can get off the ground, but they sure can! And they’re pretty graceful, too. Flying tanks.  Check out the following e-mail about flying wild turkeys I just received from Pat Trapani at the Rossmoor Retirement Community in Walnut Creek /Gary
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Posted on Friday, September 9th, 2011
Under: wild turkeys | 1 Comment »

A garden spider’s web sparkling with life in the early morning sun

Garden spider’s web in the morning sun. Photo by Cecilia Mason, Danville, CA
1garden spider web cecilia mason

Just couldn’t help sending one of the pictures I took in my yard this morning.  Lots of webs around catching the early morning sunshine!
Cecilia Mason, Danville, California

I love to see the morning sun sparkling off a garden spider’s web like a silken universe revolving around the brightest star in the sky. /Gary

Posted on Thursday, September 8th, 2011
Under: Spider web, Spiders | 1 Comment »

Jumping spider ambushes unlucky wasp on hummingbird feeder

Daring Jumping Spider grabs wasp on hummingbird feeder. Note characteristic white spots on the spider’s abdomen. Photo by Jay Stamps, Concord, CA.
1daring jumping spider jrstamps34

I shot these pictures of a spider having a yellow jacket for lunch on my hummingbird feeder. I am curious as to what kind of spider it is. It has a white spot on its head. I haven’t seen one like this before. Thanks.
Jay Stamps, Concord, California

It’s called a Daring Jumping Spider (Phidippus audax). They’re about a quarter to a half inch long. Very commonly found in backyards, gardens, on tree trunks, etc., throughout North America. You sometimes find them in your house. Dangerous to insects but harmless to humans. Jumping spiders get their name from the amazing leaps they make when chasing and grabbing insects. By the way, that white spot is actually on its abdomen, not its head. This spider can also be identified by its metallic green chelicerae — the two front appendages with the spider’s fangs on the ends that it uses to grab and hang on to its prey. Grrrr! /Gary

Daring Jumping Spider hanging onto wasp on hummingbird feeder. Note spider’s green metallic chelicerae with fangs (just below black eyes) that it is using to grasp the wasp. Photo by Jay Stamps, Concord, CA.
1daring jumping spider2 jrstamps34

Posted on Wednesday, September 7th, 2011
Under: Spiders, Wasps | 2 Comments »

Is this California tiger salamander larva an “ugly duckling?”

California tiger salamander larva. Photo by Joanne Smith, Union City, CA
1tiger salamander joanne smith union city

What the heck is this thing?  It was flopping around on top of the scum at Coyote Hills Regional Park.  It was about four or five inches long, definitely still alive. (Feel free to use this photo but I doubt anyone wants to see it!)

I love wildlife but this thing makes me shudder whenever I look at it.
Joanne Smith, Union City, California

It looks to me to be the larva of a California tiger salamander. This is, by the way, a threatened species in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Shudder? Why in the world would this lovely little creature make you shudder? It’s beautiful!  Below is a photo of an adult tiger salamander. /Gary

Adult California tiger salamander. Photo by Brian Murphy, Walnut Creek, CA

Posted on Tuesday, September 6th, 2011
Under: California tiger salamander | No Comments »

Turkey vulture: Up close and personal!

Turkey vulture in flight. Photo by Tom Nichols, Fairfield, CA
1turkey vulture tom nichols fairfield

My house backs up to a hill and open space.  I have seen red-tailed hawks hunting and the vultures flying around.  They are so beautiful in flight and where I live it is very windy so they can soar, especially the turkey vultures.

I decided to go up the hill and put a few small pieces of meat on a post and see who responds to it.  It turned out the turkey vulture did and ate the meat.  This was from quite a distance and I wanted to get closer and photograph the bird.  The post was two-thirds the way up the hill.  I took meat and went on top of the hill, out of sight of houses and people using the jogging path behind my house.  I put several pieces of meat on the ground and backed off, standing 20 feet away.  This one turkey vulture was very cautious and circled, landed by the meat and ate it while I snapped photos.
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Posted on Friday, September 2nd, 2011
Under: Turkey vultures | 3 Comments »

Mourning doves raising their third family this year in local backyard

Dove nest by Brenda Patrick, Pleasanton, CA
1dovenest brenda patrick

This is the third family this summer for my little doves. My poor Fuchsia plant isn’t faring too well but  my husband and I are enjoying our grand birdies instead.
Brenda Patrick, Pleasanton, California

Lucky for your poor Fuchsia that mourning doves usually only nest 2-3 times a year. This should be the last nest full of chicks until next year. At least that’s what it says here in the book. Tell your Fuchsia to dwell on that thought! /Gary

Posted on Thursday, September 1st, 2011
Under: Mourning dove | No Comments »