Sunday, October 1, 2017

                               Bay Area Local Wildlife October 2017 Season of the Black Tail deer

   When out and about in our area foothills and outback areas these days of fall, if you see female doe’s, likely there is a large buck nearby possibly in the cover. This is the time of year those antlers matter, and it is all on when competing for females. When winter rolls around all will be forgotten, and the boys will be best friends all over again. The women and youngsters will band together and survive the winter together. Sharing a few pictures of the rut in progress in the Bay Area…

       Burrowing owl update for eastern C.C. County; there is no doubt about it, the burrowing owls numbers are dwindling in our Bay Area. Many folks have contacted Fish & Wildlife about discing or plowing of fields for fire prevention during breeding season in East County, yet this practice continues even in areas where property owners are aware of the owls. In June 2015, the process was halted in Brentwood when F&W responded, yet in 2017 again the field was plowed as owls were present. F&W is understaffed, and claims there are more important matters. I have been in contact with F&W concerning two areas in an attempt to notify the property owners we are aware the owls are here and present. I am expecting protective actions next spring when they are raising their young, and I am watching closely from now on. Some F&W officers are sincere, while others do not impress me. One in particular, responded to area and later says “there are no owls” while failing to respond despite the fact I had previously advised him I had recent pictures of the owls. At this point, I will not name names. There are laws concerning disrupting the soil in areas the owls breed from March to August, and they are listed as a species of special concern. If the discing occurs next spring in one or both of these two areas this is going to another level.

    Sharing a photo not previously shown taken about 10 years ago at a time Jim Hale (Biologist) and I visited the Brown St. Basin in Oakley to study the burrowing owl colony. At that particular time, I estimate some 30 owls (Including young) were living in burrows in this flood basin. Oakley has announced recently this basin will be turned into a sports field soon like the two other basins both of which had burrowing owls. Laurel Basin and Freedom Basin in past years. (These areas have no signs of burrowing owls any longer) Currently ,at the Brown St. Basin there are much fewer owls, possibly due to area development or lack of food source. As I have said before, for some reason the owls prefer the city life. Perhaps to escape the raptors and other demons of the prairie, I don’t know.
Anna's hummingbird from my back yard in Oakley

A warrior Up Top Morgan Territory

Road runner Mines Rd. Livermore

Blue heron Taylor Slough California Delta

"blacktail gals" Camino Tassajara area near San Ramon

Black Tail buck

Bushtit at Del Valle reservoir

Anna's in Oakley

Burrowing owl in Oakley (Older photo)

Black tails at Los Vaqueros reservoir
Thanks everyone!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

                                                        Golden Country September 2017

                The days of summer has kept me loyal to the Livermore foothills in Alameda County. Getting up high above the tree covered valleys, and spring fed creeks of this impressive area. Here, many raptors take to gliding over the wilderness in the warm thermal up drafts. Hanging out here waiting for raptors reminds me of fishing, sometimes nothing is around while other times the action is good. Lately the fishing is good. The normally dry creeks still hold some water, and it is obvious the wildlife is doing well here these days. Golden country is not only a reference to the color of the hillsides, it also brings out the area top raptor; the golden eagle. In this group of photos, I am highlighting some of the bird’s I have been able to photograph common to this area from  “high in the sky, to those that thrive in valley basins”. Throwing in a song dog captured along Mines Rd. This area also is home to Del Valle reservoir.

        The golden eagle has always been something very special to me. I admire the relationship they have with the Native American culture, and the fact that they prefer the badlands, never too curious about us humans. In photography, I believe it is extremely tough to accurately reflect their fierce personality and fortitude. Seeing them in the wild is like seeing a dinosaur for me. The strong slow wing beats and the ability to hold position in strong wind gives this bird away even from a far. It has always made me drop everything and chase them trying to get a credible photo. (many times denied) It is far easier to gather photos of very colorful birds like red tails, ospreys or ferruginous hawks which reflect the light perfectly for the photographer. The golden however, like other very dark birds sometimes has the photographer looking at the camera, like a baseball infielder looks at his glove when he misses a ground ball. I believe the golden likes it this way, seems to go with the attitude. Dark, deep set eyes, consistent golden brown color on this powerful body; a preference of the most remote open country. This magnificent eagle will always be one the great mysteries of our bay area wilderness.

Coopers hawk at Del Valle
 young golden eagle skyward

Osprey (actually at Los Vaqueros), though they are also at Del Valle

White-breasted nuthatch Mines area

Red tail from topside, mines canyons

Great tailed crackle- bull frog (I believe) Del Valle reservoir

Golden eagle above mines Rd. , crosses ravens territory. Sheer size of golden exposed  here as ravens pretty large as well. Ravens only offering opinion in this event...

younger golden eagle seen here, still with the thick white band on tail...

Plain titmouse down in the canyons. Mines Rd. area.

Unlike the goldens, a western coyote will stop and curiously look back while scaling cliff area on Mines Rd.

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...