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Archive for October, 2011

Male and female praying mantises

Female (large) and male (small) praying mantises breeding. Photo by Travis McATee, Concord, CA
1mantis2 travis mcatee concord

I watch for and photograph Praying Mantis specimens each year.  I hope you can use this one.  They have been attached (breeding) for over 24 hours.  I was reminded of the Viagra commercial which warns of the “four hour ” happenstance so, naturally, I thought to check with you to see if I should intervene out of concern for the poor fellow.  These two prevailed through the rain on Thursday, so cold water does no good. I will give you the final tally.  I assume the male is toast following culmination. Best Regards from a daily reader.
Travis McATee, Concord, California

I read one report that male praying mantises had been observed copulating with females for as long as 24 hours. Let me know if these two characters in the above photo set a new world record. Maybe he’s just scared to get off, for obvious reasons (females supposedly kill and eat the males after breeding). Maybe he’ll be lucky. From what I’ve read, the males don’t always get eaten. /Gary

** EPILOGUE: Travis contacted me later to report:
“After 24 hours he was gone. She stayed. I couldn’t find any remains of a crime scene.” /Travis

Praying mantis on a leaf. Photo by Travis McATee, Concord, CA
1mantis travis mcatee concord

Posted on Thursday, October 13th, 2011
Under: Preying mantis | 2 Comments »

Heron standing on chimney. A living weather vane?

Heron weather vane? Standing on chimney. Photo by Sherri Hedman, San Ramon, CA
1heron sherri hedman san ramon

October 1, at 10:30 a.m. I saw a heron fly onto the cemented area inside our Town Home’s nearest fenced pool area (wrought iron poles) about 220 feet away. A few moments later I noticed something long and skinny dangling from it’s beak, which must have been a snake. I guess it flew in with it to eat in an area where the snake couldn’t easily escape. A few minutes later I saw the heron briefly dip it’s head in the pool — was it drinking or trying to subdue it’s meal? It was in the pool area for at least 10 minutes. In spring I had walked the asphalt walking path that skirts our area and saw a heron eating in the adjacent long grass; then on my way home an hour later it was inside one of the pool areas. I had passed a man and his dog who walk it daily, who told me (the man, not the dog) they had been seeing the heron for months. I wonder if you know how big a heron’s territory is and how long they live?  We see them at our beach place on salt water all the time but this is a real treat in San Ramon!
Sherri Hedman, San Ramon, California

Herons have been known to forage from 1-3 miles from their breeding colonies, depending on the availability of food. They normally live from 8-10 years, but individuals have been known to survive as long as 20 years.

Herons perceive our backyard swimming pools as natural ponds, spotting them as they fly over your house, and often hang around them looking for prey. I once saw a heron trying to swallow a gopher. It was having a little trouble, so it walked over to the edge of a pond and started taking large drinks in an effort, at least that’s how it looked to me, to wash the gopher down with water. After several big drinks, it managed to swallow the gopher. Maybe that was what was happening with the snake. /Gary

Posted on Wednesday, October 12th, 2011
Under: heron | No Comments »

Gov. Brown signs path-breaking animal protection legislation

Berkeley East Bay Humane Society photo
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The Humane Society of the United States Applauds Governor Brown’s Enactment of New Animal Protection Reforms

California cracks down on shark finning, animal fighting, and pet overpopulation

SACRAMENTO -– Championed by The Humane Society of the United States and other advocacy organizations, backed by Californians, and supported by overwhelmingly bi-partisan votes in the Legislature, the seven bills signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown this session add to California’s track record as a front-runner in initiating path-breaking animal protection legislation.

“The animals themselves may be voiceless, but Governor Brown’s signature speaks volumes,” said HSUS senior state director Jennifer Fearing. “These laws reflect Californians’ widespread support for strong, enforceable laws to protect animals.”

The governor has joined the legislature in enacting the following bills this year:
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Posted on Tuesday, October 11th, 2011
Under: Animal Laws, Cats, Cockfighting, Dogfighting, dogs, Humane Laws, Wildlife | 1 Comment »

Spiders: This spider spins those BIG round webs in your yard.

Black and yellow argiope spider spins big round beautiful webs in your yard. Photo by Sally Caron, Lafayette, CA
1argiope black and yellow sally caron laf

Any idea what kind of spider this is?  Discovered him while doing yard work today.
Sally Caron, Lafayette, California

It’s called a “Black and Yellow Argiope. This is one of the spiders we call “Garden Spiders,” that spin those big round webs in our backyards. Beautiful! I don’t use pesticides in my backyard garden, and I have about 10 of these wonderful spiders spinning their huge webs between my wire tomato baskets. they catch a lot of the insects that some people try to kill by spraying pesticides. Much better to have the spiders do it for you. Lots safer than spraying poisons around the vegetables you’re planning to eat. They also light up my garden like decorations on a Christmas tree. /Gary

Posted on Monday, October 10th, 2011
Under: Spider web, Spiders | 1 Comment »

Dogs: Why do we call them ‘family pets?’ That’s why!

Erin napping on Delilah. Photo by Jason Simons (her dad), Antioch, CA
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This is my granddaughter, Erin, sleeping on the family pet, Delilah. Her dad, Jason, took the picture.
Mike Simons, Antioch, California

What can I say? Greater love hath no dog. Adorable! Occasionally, someone will send me a note asking, “Why do we call them family pets?”

This is why! /Gary

Posted on Friday, October 7th, 2011
Under: dogs | 5 Comments »

Thirsty bird takes a sip from a drinking fountain

Thirsty bird at the drinking fountain. Photo by Ethan Winning, Walnut Creek, CA
1drinking bird ethan winning

I was about to start my morning walk/hike/trek/trudge (it all depends on weather and mood) at Borges Ranch (in Walnut Creek’s Shell Ridge Open Space), when I looked over at the fountain next to the Ranger’s office, and there was a Little Brown Bird that looked very much like a house wren (although I’ve spotted more Bewick’s lately). I got three photos before he took off.

As the year progresses, the shadows over that part of the ranch are later and deeper than during the summer. Why the LBB had to be thirsty in Sept. rather than in July is just Mother Nature’s way of poking fun at photographers.
Ethan Winning, Walnut Creek, California

When you need a drink, you need a drink. It’s always interesting to me how the wild creatures seem to be able to adapt our human conveniences to their own use. Wild birds sip from our drinking fountains … raccoons use our garbage cans to store their food … squirrels turn our attics into giant rodent condominiums. The wild creatures will be around, I suspect, long after we humans are gone. /Gary

Posted on Thursday, October 6th, 2011
Under: Birds | No Comments »

Raccoons: Are they taking over the world?

Baby raccoons up a tree. Photo by Ted Meyer, Walnut Creek, CA
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Looks like Roy Burns of San Leandro, CA, may have been right in your Sept. 22 newspaper column (Roy described how raccoons were unscrewing lids on jars containing dry cat food for his cats, and eating it. Headline: “Are raccoons taking over the world?”). Ted Meyer, a friend, took the above photo out his kitchen window late one night. “Mama” was down at the base of the tree and called them down about 3-4 seconds after this picture was shot. They disappeared seconds later into the night.
Jud Swan, Walnut Creek, California

Raccoons do indeed seem to be taking over the world. They thrive in suburban and urban areas on our garbage and other sources of food. They tear up backyard lawns in search of grubs and earthworms, leaving your yard looking like it has been bulldozed. They turn your swimming pool into a mud bath. They even enter houses through cat/dog doors and go through cabinets looking for breakfast cereal to eat. (My raccoon friends tell me Cheerios and Coco Puffs are a favorite.) Still … you have to admit, they really are cute!

If anyone is having serious problems with these little characters, send me an e-mail (to: asking for help (explain your problem) and I’ll e-mail you back my (free) 7-page “Gary’s Raccoon Help.” It’s full of humane solutions that have been used successfully by many of my other readers to resolve their raccoon problems. /Gary

Posted on Wednesday, October 5th, 2011
Under: Raccoons | 4 Comments »

Desert tortoise likes to browse in the garden

Tortie the desert tortoise, hiding in Gary’s backyard garden. Photo by Karl Nielsen, Benicia, CA
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Tortie likes to browse in our backyard garden

My wife Lois, and I, have 4 large garden boxes in our backyard, where we grow all kinds of squash, beans, eggplant, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, mammoth sunflowers (to feed the squirrel so he leaves the rest of the veggies for us) and an assortment of herbs we use for cooking.

There are gravel paths between these garden boxes. We tend to let our veggies have free reign, and the pathways are necessary so Lois and I can find our way through the garden jungle to harvest the fruits and vegetables of our labor.
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Posted on Tuesday, October 4th, 2011
Under: Desert Tortoises, Gardens | 5 Comments »

Rattlesnakes: When hiking, always watch your step

Western rattlesnake in defensive position. Photo by Don Smith, Fairfield, CA.
1rattler don smith

I always enjoy reading your column in the CC times.
I thought I would share with you my rattlesnake experience and offer some advise based on that experience.  This photo was taken soon after this fellow tried to defend himself against a perceived threat by striking without (or very little) warning.
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Posted on Monday, October 3rd, 2011
Under: Rattlesnake | 4 Comments »