Sunday, July 30, 2017

Local Bay Area Wildlife    August 2017          

“Hot Times” Hope everyone is having a great summer, and staying cool!

       Lately I have visited local burrowing owl areas and chased the local swainson hawks. Here in Oakley, I have been fortunate enough to capture decent photos of a pair of swainson hawks that hunts each day along our railway property, open fields and the many grape orchards that are becoming so popular around here. It is good to report that most orchards are using barn owl boxes rather than bait stations to control rodents. Perhaps there is hope for the future to end poison use, and protect our environment. Thank you Raptors Are The Solution (RATS) who have been successful getting the word out.  


      I also have returned to the Livermore foothills. The seasonal creeks and water ponds have held out better than I have seen in many years, providing many animals with a reliable water source. This time of year the raptors are prevalent. By finding a wide spot near the top of the hills one can observe red tails, golden eagles, and turkey vultures along with others spiraling in the skies. Many folks with spotting scopes and cameras come out to witness. Sometimes I think those hawks are showing off with aerial performances and passionate screams.    

    Within this same Livermore area, up in the sage brush and open areas, roadrunners and whip tail lizards can be seen. I know from other enthusiasts, they have been always here, but this year I am seeing roadrunners each time I visit. Sharing a not so great picture as lighting was not on my side. They are a tough catch as their first reaction is usually to bolt. Many times they are gone before one can raise the camera.
Pair of Red shoulder hawks from earlier in the season...

Swainson hawk was not picking grapes in that orchard...

Western burrowing owl in Oakley...

Roadrunner in Livermore, saw a group of three last week. Best I could do, I'll try to get a better look.

Another of the same swainson...

Red Tail hawk out on the Delta.

The dark swainson, mate of the previous.

Musk rat near Bethel Island.

Eared Grebe S/S Los Vaqueros reservoir.

Older burrowing owl photo, when they were common at Alameda County near Kelso Rd.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

"No luck with the rattlesnakes and hummingbirds I had mentioned I would chase" Everyone but me saw many rattlesnakes out at Los Vaqueros reservoir this year, I missed out thus far. Perhaps next month on the hummingbirds...
      Photos include swallowtail and pipevine butterflies along with a powder blue dragon fly (species unknown to me) from my backyard pond. Always appreciate the many dragonflies cruising the yard, and this year they are plentiful.
       A look at a Byron area swainson hawk nest I have documented for several years. This year two youngsters are new to this world. It was a rough start with an incredible heat wave a week or so ago in a nest that has little shade. Mom used those large wings to cover the babes through the long days. Now well fed and doing well, they will learn to fly and hunt, “oh” by the way kids; “we are flying to South America in a few months.”
Hope everyone is well and has a great fourth, be safe!
Starling black bird

Western Burrowing owl near Byron

American Kestrel in Knightsen 

Swallowtail butterfly near Briones Park

Swainson hawk nest near Byron

Pipevine swallowtail

Western coyote Marsh Creek Rd. near Brentwood

dragon fly from my back yard pond
Male osprey S/S Los Vaqueros reservoir

Swainson hawk over Knightsen

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

June 2017   “Here come the Kites”

          I have had the luck of living close to a successful pair of White tailed kites just outside my back yard for the last five years. Swainson hawks used to use the nest, and still come by and harass the kites periodically. This year the Kites have four, possibly five youngsters all up and flying along with the parents. Sounds like dinosaurs in the back yard with the strange screams they all use to lure a field mouse from mom or dad, or to tell their siblings to give a bird some room on this branch. I must say, the swains made less noise. The kite parents are bringing in field mice at an amazing pace, using a hunting pattern sometimes North towards the Delta, other times South towards the flood control basins. They seem to know which areas are the most productive at specific times of day. The young birds hang out near the nest practicing flying, diving, hovering in the wind, and landing with balance with coordination. Soon after, they begin snatching mice from the parents in mid-flight. The young birds seem to pick up the techniques quickly.

    I have picked out some of my favorite photos of this year’s White tailed kites. The youngsters show the orange rust color on their chest and sometimes on the head, while the parents usually white with black patches on their wings and fire red eyes. 

           Also, sharing a couple of older photos of the Tule elk from Point Reyes /Tamales bay area. I have found some new looks, and re photo shopped some pictures taken originally on overcast days in 2012. The population of elk was cut in half in recent years, creating a debate of whether this is a natural die off, or as some have stated, the inability of elk to locate fresh water during the recent drought years. I linked an article from an SF chronicle staff  earlier in this blog back in October 2016. In that article, it was pointed out that less than a dozen Tule elk were the last ones in California in 1874 when the species was thought to be extinct. There are other herds currently in California and their numbers are over four thousand today. Hopefully, with all this rain, the population will remain consistent in the Point Reyes / Tamales Bay reserve in the future.

White tail kite performing last minute adjustment to nest prior to babies...

Bull Tule elk winter of 2012

Western coyote at Los Vaqueros reservoir N/S

Large bull winter of 2012, fall fighting is over, elk boys hang together...

White tail kite mouse transfer (one of next four)

Parent picture white tail kite, encouraging youngsters to follow

Young white tail flight, they will loose the rust and gain the fire red eyes...

Sunday, April 30, 2017

May 2017 Bay Area Local Wildlife Update
"The rodent hunters" the natual way...

            Updating pictures of local wildlife. The swainson hawks have returned, some of the pictures showing color variations seen in "a fury of several swains" when a mowing machine worked a alphaha field near Bethel Island. I have witnessed this activity before and it is always amazing. The first and last swain photos not from this event. Featuring two coyotes, one bright eyed youngster who captured a mouse or vole, and the other, a golden eye mother who is feeding pups returning toward her den. Finding burrowing owls has been harder than it used to be. Close up of a  golden, a young redtail harrassed by red winger, and others...

Springtime is here! Have a great time out there. Next time around, hoping to have a rattler, and some humming birds.
California Quail taken at Point Reyes

Swainson hawk in Byron, this bird perched was collecting nesting material

Western Coyote, I followed this mother awhile. Obviously had just had pups as her nipples showed ...

Juvenile red tail and male red winger with an opinion...

Golden eagle perched in Byron...

Burrowing owl in Brentwood CA, blends in with the rocks.

Bright eyed juvenile western coyote in Los Vaqueros watershed S/S. Natural rodent control. 

Dark morph swainson hawk, "part of the fury" Interesting specimen.

Another swain from the fury, a more common color, packed with its to go package.

Swainson hawk in Byron... I see you!
Thanks !

Friday, March 31, 2017


    Updating pictures of the wildlife around us, this spring promises to be a good one for the outdoor person, and for our wildlife. By next month I will attempt to get solid photos of burrowing owls and swainson hawks that are now in the area.

                 This month featuring a meeting with “grumpy cat”, (a small male bobcat) I believe. I crossed paths with the cat in the Livermore foothills. He scaled some steep rocks, and could have easily walked into the high grass and disappeared forever. However, he waited near a barbed wire fence. allowed me to park my car, walk up to within fifty feet of him, take a few shots while kitty curiously checked me out with no apparent fear. He then walked slowly into the high grass and was gone. The Livermore hills around Del Valle reservoir is a beautiful area right now, despite the reservoir being closed on and off again from flooding. Call first before going out there. The creeks and hills are an amazing sight right now, plant life going crazy and western pond turtles who dug into dry creek beds during the drought, are now having a tropical vacation with occasional wind surfing available. Okay, that's a little over the top but its very nice to see.
   Also a visit to a barn owl friend, and a snowy egret hunting crawfish, golden eagle in flight, this time around featuring some water birds , taking a raptor break...

    Unfortunately, our wildlife faces many challenges including the use of pesticides and rat poison by several powerful companies unrelenting in their desire to continue selling hazardous products, despite continuing proof it is killing animals “from mice to mountain lions,” and others along the food chain.

Linking a call to action from Raptors Are the Solution, who is sponsoring AB 1687 to ban dangerous pesticides. Please read about it here! and scroll down to bobcat picture. 

Raptors are the Solution

Painted Lady Butterfly

Livermore bobcat

Barn owl, new picture of area shown before. There are two who live here. They are now used to me coming by. I will not get close and cause panic...

Water pipit along Dutch slough near bethel Is.

Black neck stilt @ jersey Is.

Golden eagle along delta islands

Snowy egret in small delta creek

White pelican @ Los Vaqueros SS

grumpy cat

wild turkey, using only personality to attract mate... Los Vaqueros SS