Tuesday, May 31, 2016


June 2016 “Heroes and Villains” Bay Area Wildlife update

*Happy Memorial Day! Thanks for our War Veteran heroes who keep us safe and secure.

Dry winds and warm days are sweeping through our bay area turning the hills to gold and bringing on the summer. It is a tremendous time of year for those of us enjoying the outdoors and wildlife.

I received a response from Fish and Wildlife regarding my concerns relating to the status of burrowing owls in eastern Contra Costa. I was satisfied with their response,  a warden came out, provided information and viewed areas over grazed by goats in small sections of creeks and flood basins. Something is not right, wish I could figure it out.

Due to a leg injury, my hiking has been curtailed considerably lately. Feeling better, I plan to get out and hike in remote areas soon. Lately, I have shot many photos from the roadside perspective.
Burrowing owl@ Jersey Island

Tule Elk @ Tamales bay 

Red breasted sap-sucker @ Del Valle

Older Barn owl photo from the cave that lasted over 20 years prior to being washed out about 10 or less years ago. Morgan Territory.

Rattler @ North end of Los Vaqueros reservoir.

Black tail buck on Finley Rd. CC County South.

Long billed Curlew in Byron

Burrowing owls at Sand Creek basin in Brentwood

Swainson hawk in Brentwood

Rattler @ Los Vaqueros reservoir N/S

Burrowing owl-  hero of course. Who doesn’t like these owls?
Tule elk-    hero, especially to all the babes he is hanging with.  
Red breasted sap sucker-    villain, even though wood peckers destroy trees, they many times go after diseased trees actually assisting with quick disposal and ground structure for other wildlife.  
Barn owls-   heroes no doubt. Proper rodent control. Willing to work late night shifts.
Rattler-   Villain, and proud of it. Another rodent controller. Comes with warning device.
Black tail buck-   Hero, I would only shoot at these with a camera… Can be jealous, and antlers were designed for making things right and clearing things up.
Long billed curlew-  Hero, once rare and hunted, these large ground foragers making a decent comeback. Witnessing many together walking fields is always a welcome sight.
Swainson hawk-  Hero, tremendous flying skills, loves to vacation down South. Provide great rodent control.
*Just playing on the words. All wildlife is awesome. All interesting in its own way.
Thanks, Dave.      

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Bay Area Local Wildlife May 2016

"Raptors and Cats" No update on Burrowing owls just yet, though I am expecting an email from Fish and Wildlife.
Not at all impressed with the burrowing owl conservation network. (If their is such a thing)
I am still going to get some answers from someone on these issues.
Had to reach back to some B side photos for a couple of these as my luck and chasing time has been slightly off during the last month. It is a beautiful springtime out there, even the cattle ponds are holding water... Interesting note: For the first time ever, I have found more bobcats the last two months than coyotes. And everywhere I go someone says " I saw five coyotes out here this morning".
That's the beauty of wildlife I guess.
red tailed hawk / gopher snake NS Los Vaqueros reservoir
bobcat Mines Rd. Livermore

burrowing owl Brentwood

male northern harrier over wheat field EO Oakley

Swainson hawk over Knightsen

red tail flight over Byron

baby fawn chases mom at Los Vaqueros reservoir SS

bobcat at Mines Rd. Livermore (different cat than #2)

golden eagle stare down

same red tailed hawk as #1 leaving NS Los Vaqueros reservoir
Thanks everyone for the interest!
Dave

Sunday, April 3, 2016


April 2016 SPRING          Water in them reservoirs!  Many Dams letting water loose, Shasta way up!
Folsom, Oroville up!   Snow in the mountains!
“Drought is not over, but nature just landed a severe blow.”

The swainson hawks have returned!  I am seeing almost all of the usual suspects flying about. It’s going to be a great summer!
             Where did all the burrowing owls go? The burrowing owl population seems to be tanking badly in eastern CC County in my opinion. I will admit I could be wrong as groups I have followed for years may have just moved on over the hill. I keep looking for new colonies, attempting to locate lost colonies as well. Of an estimated fifteen plus colonies that I have photographed for many years, about a quarter or more of them are gone. I try to locate them in the immediate areas admitting they are known to move, in truth I can’t prove they are disappearing though I feel strongly and would surely bet they are declining rapidly in eastern CC County. Listed below are some possible reasons that may be related to the cause. I spoke with a representative of the burrowing owl conservation network and he advised they intend to perform a survey in the area and gather a count. I will later relate the results of their research. 

1-      The disking of area fields for fire prevention and weed abatement. This has been a long time issue which is undoubtedly a serious issue discussed several times even on this forum…
2-      Drought; I am no expert, but I wonder if insect / rodent population declines perhaps in late summer, has been effecting burrowing owl diet needs.

 3-   Over Grazing; this one may be off based, it is my thought. A technique in weed abatement is goat and sheep rental used for grazing in County flood control basins. It is a way to cut grass down in large areas while keeping costs down. Flood control basins in eastern CC County have been a preferred habitat location historically for burrowing owls. In flood control areas the heavy concentrations of animals grazing within a restricted area causes an unstable, trampled ground surface. In open ranching areas with cattle grazing, the effects are not nearly as bad because those areas receive nowhere near the same foot traffic per square feet. Some regional parks and water companies have used this practice for many years.

        It has been proven when mowers or weed eaters are used for weed abatement and fire prevention, burrowing owls will fly a short distance away until the danger has passed. When they return to their burrows the eggs, (and or) babies are intact and waiting. However, if the ground is disturbed and cave-ins occur, eggs and den collapse, then its game over for the little owls. I have been trying to find a study that’s relates to this practice and am asking informed folks that might have information relating to this to please let me know.  The grazing practice is not used in all flood control basins.
4- Use of poisons to control rodents, specifically those for ground squirrels as they are a living partner with the owls. This one provided from my friend Michael Marchiano...

*Photos include pictures of burrowing owls from our area, the white cat from the other end (Alameda side) of Los Vaqueros reservoir.  More raptors and other wildlife posted celebrating springtime in the bay area.

*For additional older owl pictures, see the burrowing owl collection …
http://harper-david.wix.com/higheagle-photos#!large-grid/c2314

Older burrowing owl photo taken in Byron

Savannah sparrow

Bobcat S/S Los Vaqueros reservoir

Juvenile Cooper's hawk - Allen will probably correct me and say Sharp-shinned. I am going with cooper until corrected... 

Snowy Egret near Bethel Island

Barn owl in Knightsen, Same owl I have photographed before. Pretends to be asleep, and I won't push it because I hate to see it flushed out in broad daylight...

Burrowing owl near Grant St. in Brentwood, sad story as this small community lives under the side walk as the field gets disked yearly with no regards to species of special interest considerations... 

Merlin in eastern Contra Costa

Swainson hawk's are back, the moles are the only ones not crazy about it... Byron

River otter near Jersey Island

Sunday, February 28, 2016


Bay Area Local Wildlife March 2016

“Raptors in flight” I always have liked photographing raptors in flight. Each turn and angle presents different interesting views of these amazing birds.  One of my friends once told me those birds in flight are boring to view. I appreciated his honesty and opinion, though it never swayed me. To me the raptors are one of the greatest symbols of strength, freedom and confidence. They were the biggest key factor in drawing me in to loving nature and all of the animal species. They seem to look right through a person and are always making eye contact with anyone near them. Even driving down a country road if you look up at them on a utility pole or in a tree they are nearly always looking at you. Try it; it’s kind of interesting… I believe raptors are similar to our domestic cats in that each has its own wicked personality and when perched, have that same “way over confident appearance in their eyes” like they know something you don’t.

February is nearly gone, it is time to say good bye to the ferruginous hawks and get ready for the swainsons to return. Some rain returning would also be acceptable. This post will contain many photos of the winter time ferr’s and red tails who offer amazing color extremes. The collection of photos is dedicated to the raptors and their attitude for which we may never truly understand.
*Please click on a particular photo for a closer view...

red tailed hawk on Alhambra Valley Rd. near Martinez

ferruginous hawk near Bethel Island in east CC County

Male northern harrier on Jersey Island

kestrel falcon in Knightsen

white faced Ibis (bad photo I realize, but I don't often get to view these and hey, sun reflecting not too bad...)

western coyote at Los Vaqueros reservoir  Alameda side

red tailed hawk N/O Knightsen

red tailed hawk near Bradford ferry

ferruginous hawk (thanks Allen for help on ID) one of my favorites, this dark rust raptor was in the same tree for weeks near Bethel Island.

red tailed hawk (same hawk as above N/O Knightsen) just love the dark morph appearance.

Sunday, January 31, 2016


“The river country “      February 2016    updating Local Bay Area Wildlife photographs (All recent)
          We are finally getting the rain fall everyone wanted, hope it keeps going as long as possible. Creeks are full and mother lode lakes are filling quickly. Snow pack over 100 percent of normal for this time of year but we need much more. These are good times at this moment and our area wildlife is sure to benefit from all this rain.

           I have become attached to the Delta river areas in eastern Contra Costa simply because there are so many diverse species that can be viewed daily. Large raptors, geese, otters, sea lions and many others move back and forth through the areas between these recent rain storms. Sharing a few photographs of some of the action I have witnessed.  A couple of this month’s photos were taken inland in San Ramon and in the Livermore foothill areas (cedar waxwings and bobcat). Black phoebe pictured in Oakley, and is sort of a roommate as their nest is attached to the side of our house.
  River otter and sea lion sightings have increased on the rivers and sloughs this year for me; I followed one river otter swimming parallel along a levee road for a time, noticing the way the playful critter surfaced about every fifty yards or so. Finally positioned myself with sun at back where I thought it might come up.  A pleasant surprise when it surfaced, and I had no idea it would come up with a... 

(See below)   

Chasing many non-curious ferruginous hawks this winter, oh there’s plenty out there, but getting close has been a real challenge. The color phases are incredible; who designs this stuff? I put together a twenty picture slide show on the website for those interested in observing. Many of these have not been shown on this site before…


Hope you enjoy the photos…

cedar waxwings

river otter / largemouth bass

bobcat

golden eagle

meadowlark

ferruginous hawk / dark phased

ferruginous hawk

river otter / largemouth bass

black phoebe

ferruginous hawk