Sunday, March 30, 2014

April 2014

Here comes the Swainson Hawks and Burrowing owl. It must be springtime in the bay area!

             I always remember the first swainson hawk I see each year, this time was March 13th for me in Oakley, and they always come in with a decent entrance. Last year the first sight were two swains chasing a red tail away from their tree with some very exciting low level aerial scene I had to pull over and stop to observe. Camera in hand I couldn’t even get a shot of this furious action. This year my first sight were two hawks flying single file fairly low with the front bird carrying a field mouse. That’s no red tail. The swainson hawks are back. It is always a better world with them here. Also the burrowing owls will begin their breeding in East County and I will continue my plight against the tilling of burrows I have spoken of earlier.   
                Updating the Coyote Wars,
              The Coyotes have been at war with humans for many years. Listed as a varmint, nuisance or whatever they choose to call them they are the original bad guy. Many hunters (Not all) use the Coyote for target practice. People living in remote housing tracks and near wild areas blame their missing cats, small dogs and other random occurrences on the song dog, despite the fact they moved into the coyotes home country.  

      As mankind expands its city borders and developed areas, the Coyote improvises. They use trails, creek beds and other avenues to find a way to exist even in areas populated by man. stay low, cut and run, try not to allow the long riffle to get a clean shot. Change dens at the hint of someone knowing you are out there. Keep the youngsters hidden and be willing to re locate at a moment’s notice. Trust no one. No reason to be territorial and this goes against many theories of other species. Song dogs were not born yesterday, they are smart. They show expressions of cockiness, happiness, sadness and displeasure. These song dogs are survivors. The good news for coyotes is that watershed land and regional park property has assisted their plight for survival. Lands that were once open for trigger happy shooters are now controlled by habitat restoring Regional Park. There was a time long ago when the sheep herders fought the golden eagles in the west. Like the mighty golden eagle these song dogs have improvised and overcame.  Worth repeating is the Lakota saying concerning “The Coyote”

“The Buffalo will disappear, then man shall be gone and there will be total darkness. And in that darkness the unmistakable call of the song dog will be heard.”

Thumbs up for Kathy Kramer (Bringing back the Natives Garden Tour Coordinator) Check out the interesting link below:

#1 Recent Dark phased Swainson Hawk in Oakley. #2 Recent healthy Coyote at Los Vaqueros watershed. #3 Older Burrowing owl in Byron area. #4 Recent pregnant River Otter Jersey Island area.
#5 Recent Hermit Thrush visiting my back yard pond in Oakley. #6 Older Swallow tail butterfly near Morgan Territory. #7 Recent Western Fence Lizard in Oakley. #8 Recent Cedar Waxwing also in Oakley. #9 Older Burrowing owl group in Byron. #10 Same Song dog as #1 "shaking off" after much appreciated rainfall at Los Vaqueros. (Alameda side) Note: I will be chasing Swains and Burrowing owls in upcoming days...  Thanks, Dave

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Eyes of the Osprey                                                                        March 2014

               The Ospreys are back in strong numbers, and the crystal clear lakes of California now free of DDT are a literal paradise.  The bandit of the sky with “the dark mask” is perfectly adapted with bendable elbows in those wings and an extra thumb  nail on the talons for grasping the skeletons of large fish. Bald eagles often set its sight on stealing the fish from the ospreys. There are always some unique aerial displays between the two over the prized catch.
               Now days, every body of water around these parts now have ospreys. I have even seen them over drinking water canals and small creeks. Recently, I have a located a particular bird at Los Vaqueros reservoir southern entrance who catches a fish and lands on a utility pole on the walking trail very close to the visitor center. Several people walk by and many stop and admire. They take photos of the osprey on their cell phones and show their children the incredible predator of the sky. It takes this bird nearly two hours to devour a large trout as he takes his time. My theory of why he is unafraid so close to humans may be that this area is UN desirable for Bald eagles who have much less trust of us humans. I stood there over an hour and observed this bird constantly stare to the sky with nothing passing by without a glance. The only change in demeanor came when an adversary osprey circled the area. At that time he screamed vehemently and made sounds I had never heard from an osprey.  I have returned a few times to Los Vaqueros and have witnessed this same bird using the pole for his feeding perch. It’s almost becoming a daily show here at the reservoir. It’s true, the ospreys are back and I am including a couple pictures of what many natives called the fish eagle. If you visit there drive to the end parking lot and walk towards the buildings. Look at the utility pole top along the walking trail.  

I realize I am always bias towards birds of prey, I can't help it.
#1 recent osprey Los Vaqueros reservoir (Alameda side) #2 Recent golden eagle on Vasco Rd. #3 Older coyote on Morgan Territory. #4 Recent profile of red tailed hawk near Bethel Island CCC. #5 Recent ferruginous hawk near Bradford Island CCC. Note The ferruginous hawks will be headed north soon, sending out one last look at one of my favorites. # 6 Recent osprey again at Los Vaqueros. # 7 Recent golden crowned sparrow at Old Marsh Creek Rd. CCC # 8 Black Crowned night heron "smiling" at Holland tract CCC #9 Recent Blue heron also on Holland tract CCC #10 Recent bobcat from south entrance of Los Vaqueros reservoir.      

Monday, January 27, 2014

                                                        Raptors and Cats (February)
              The drought is here and it’s scary at this point, we have had zero rain. The hills look more like last August than Late January. The bobcat photos below were taken in the usually lush canyons on the south side of Los Vaqueros reservoir. (01-24-14). Area is dry except moist areas under the large Oaks. I still am predicting a golly washer is coming in February or March. A week or two of straight rainfall, but I might just be wishing… (thought the 49ers would win too!) I remember 1985 when it rained all month in February. As part of the storm response team in San Pablo we actually had to evacuate our maintenance yard and move our equipment to high ground. I would be okay with this type of rain returning, especially since I am retired and would be watching out the window with a hot cup of coffee. I hiked recently at Kennedy Grove near San Pablo reservoir in western Contra Costa County and the creek was bone dry. I have never seen anything like this time of year. I realize the pattern has been this way before and sometimes lasts for several years yet I am still hopeful for monster recovery water wise. 
               As for the wildlife, I am still chasing Raptors in eastern Contra Costa County.  The Ferruginous hawks will be heading north soon so I have included a couple more photos. I also captured the dark phased red tailed hawk perched near Jersey Island in the last update once again though this time in flight. I believe it is the same hawk captured about a month apart. Luck came my way catching up with a small bobcat at Los Vaqueros reservoir last week. It has been awhile since I was able to photograph one of these interesting cats. Last October I saw a large one (perhaps 35 to 40 pounds) on top of Morgan Territory but after parking and a brief foot chase I came up empty.

                These beautiful cats are perhaps not as numerous as the coyotes. However the bobcats are fairly common. As I observer I can relate my opinion of noticing these cats. I am surprised many hikers or outdoor type people have not witnessed them in the wild. Cats seem very calculated and size things up prior to reacting. They are stealth and most likely saw you way before you see them. They rarely run immediately like a Coyote and sometimes seem to believe “They really can’t see me, I am too cool”. The cat crouches and watches. When looking for the cats pay close attention scanning the hills looking for the smallest of details. (Shapes, ear tips etc.) And one may not see much movement at all until the cat is convinced it has been noticed. Even then the cat may only move away slowly when detected.  

   * Note : I have decided to try downsizing the monthly photos after a couple of honest opinions by followers of the photo blog. Thanks Carol and Mitch. I have always been carried away with large size and detail. By cropping some and making pictures smaller I believe it may translate well. I would appreciate any feedback.

#1 Recent Green Heron at Holland Tract  #2 Recent Bobcat at Los Vaqueros watershed  #3 Recent ferruginous hawk at Holland Tract  #4 Older Coyote photo near Round Valley Park  #5 Recent Stellar Jay Morgan Territory  #6 Older Young White Tailed Kite ( This bird was pictured earlier in blog -a separate photo taken in my back yard)  #7 Recent Dark phased Red tailed hawk near Jersey Island  #8 Recent bobcat (same cat as number 2 at LosVaqueros watershed)  #9 Recent Ferruginous hawk in flight at Jersey Island  #10 Older California Thrasher on Mines Rd Livermore Alameda Co.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Predators of the sky                                                                                                      January 2014

            Happy holidays everyone. Updating local wildlife photos all taken in the bay area.

                       I am thankful for the varied species of wild animals in our area. Sometimes I have no idea of how nature does it with all the difficulties we have created in their habitat. Not going into those concerns as holidays are for celebrating. I can relate in my recent travels that I am impressed by the raptors I have witnessed just about everywhere. Red tailed hawks, red shouldered hawks, golden Eagles and Ferruginous hawks seem easier to view with these cold conditions. I have followed golden eagles in Alameda County north of Livermore and others near Del Valle reservoir. The Ferruginous are out at Holland tract and can be viewed in many open areas in Contra Costa County especially in areas east of Oakley.  Red tail hawks seem to be about everywhere. Recently I have visited Holland tract for the unbelievable amount of migratory birds and this year has not disappointed. Despite the drought conditions we are currently dealing with, it is a theater of sights and sounds with thousands of geese and other species. There are literally layers of geese in the sky singing in chorus with the large strings of sand hill cranes who have something to say about everything.  If you visit be careful as Water fowl hunting is currently going on out there. I reported one shooting shot gun blasts on roadside near a marina at low flying geese flying back out to the river system.  


#1 Common Titmouse (Might be an aphid between its beak looking closely) #2 Coyote on Marsh Creek, #9 (shows same coyote maneuvering thru barbed wire fence) Song dog has no trouble going thru this fence.  #3 Dark phased red tail hawk near Bethel Island. (Though seemingly near common, the dark phase is an interesting character with the distinctive colors) #4 Western blue bird at Del Valle reservoir in Alameda County.  #5 Golden eagle photo taken on Mines Rd. Livermore. #6 Burrowing owls in Oakley. (Winter time visit to the den near my home) #7 Sand hill cranes at Holland tract. (Had to climb a tree to gain this shot, there are closer pictures of sand hillers earlier in site. I find these prehistoric monsters to be very interesting, they are always communicating with other small groups in the area with their distinctive calls) #8 Ferruginous hawk in eastern Contra Costa. #9 Coyote mentioned earlier. #10 Red tailed hawk (more traditional colored red tail also near Bethel Island)  

Thank you, Dave    

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Local bay area wildlife December 2013,

The colder weather is finally upon us, however many days are still warm providing a mix of late summer animals usually in hibernation along with migratory species in for the winter.          
                       The Ferruginous hawks are here in eastern Contra Costa County again and I have already gathered a few pictures. Out here I notice them as they stand on the prairie more than other raptors. This tendency to stand on flat ground is a plan to hunt ground squirrels I have observed. Idea is to sort of sneak around getting close and sometimes will fly in short bursts to catch squirrels. When searching for the Ferruginous look first on the ground for this large powerful raptor.  
                 And thank goodness for the red tailed hawk. The most numerous large soaring hawks are all over the place in California. They come in several color phases and have a very interesting personality. Cocky, bold and over confident they can be spotted in about every habitat in the bay area.  In winter, they slow down a bit in the colder weather allowing us to take a closer look at this remarkable species. They are the coyote of the sky perfectly suited for the environment around them. Red tails are excellent hunters and have lots of leisure time sometimes dive bombing each other with that classic scream. In older western movies the scream was used usually while eagles were shown on the screen but “hey” they can’t scream like those red tails. In some Native American books I have read the red tail hawks were referred to as messengers. My thought is that they are a messenger of wildlife to those of inner cities as the red tail visits almost everywhere being seen by all, and reminding them the wilderness is not far away.      

Photo #1 Recent red tailed perched near Brentwood. #2 Bobcat at Alameda side of Los Vaqueros reservoir. #3 Recent ferruginous hawk in Byron. #4 goldfinch at my back yard waterfall. #5 great horned owl at Morgan Territory. #6 short eared owl at Byron. #7 raccoon near San Pablo Dam. #8 red tail in Knightsen. #9 wild turkey Livermore area. # 10 recent red tail flight shot near Jersey Island.
*Please take a look at the Contra Costa Watershed calendar for 2014 to see more photos of local wildlife. Big thanks to John for using some of my local wildlife pictures.