Sunday, July 29, 2012

Posting some more pictures of local wildlife taken in the bay area: Not going to ramble on this time, pictures are of a young kestral, blacktail buck, a few red tails (can't help it), White tailed kite, sandhill cranes, young coyote (anger issue), young blacktail, marsh hawk, and kingfisher (these are tough for me, much like kestrals don't like anyone getting close)

  Wanted to say thanks to Gary Bogue who is retiring from the Contra Costa Times. He has always been a friend of our pets, pet owners and wildlife enthusiasts everywhere. He has provided the answers to all our questions, posting the amusing stories, providing levity while giving us a break from the hard line daily news. We will  miss him and his outstanding column. I really appreciate everything he has done and I hope he continues in some capacity involved with wildlife. Wishing Gary a great long retirement and the happiest of times ahead, and thank you so much.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

                                                                                                                                                                      Swainson Hawks and the northern frontier
                     Wanted to share some experiences of one of the most interesting birds of prey in our area. The Swainson hawk is a migratory bird spending spring and summer in northern California and places mostly north of here. By late summer they bolt south from Mexico, Central America and  South America to spend their fall and winter where the weather is conducive to their liking. The sights they see along their journey must be nothing short of spectacular. It is a wonderful sight to see them arrive around late March or April just knowing they made their trip safely. Here in our area they arrive right about when the Ferugenous hawks move on. They will share areas with the slightly larger red tail hawks and will hold their own against them.

                             It is my opinion of the swains is that they are the handsome raptors, very athletic, fierce looking and very accomplished fliers. Much like the red tails seem to have a lot of time for leisure dive bombing their family members, nemesis or anyone else who happens to share their fly ways. And they will talk while doing so yet with a softer voice than the red tails. Swains cut the wind with ease and can hold still in powerful winds when hunting prey below. Then without a wing beat tilt their body and vanish across the prairie heading home. The swains will also band together at times when food is abundant. I have seen many gather when farm equipment exposes rodents in large fields. They will fly with prey in talons sometimes for quite awhile, occasionally dropping moles or mice to other hawks to catch in mid air. They are an entertaining species to observe to be certain. Viewing Swainson hawks in Contra Costa County is best on the eastern side mostly east of Pittsburg certainly Oakley, Brentwood and Byron.  

                           I have monitored some nests for the last several years; though out of respect do not go close enough to possibly cause issues. One nest in Byron has been blown to the ground twice by wind storms once this year just two months ago. Though this year the birds moved on, last time they rebuilt the nest and successfully raised two youngsters late in the season. A troubling issue here in Contra Costa is the young birds being hit by vehicles during their first few flights. This may in part be due to increasing human population and many high speed roads. It is tough to witness youngsters that did not make it especially from such a remarkable species. The good news comes with seeing other young birds quickly becoming decent fliers and ready to go south with their parents. The photo of the youngster on the cable wires was just taken about a week ago and there were two young healthy birds from one nest that had been practicing their aerial skills and look to me to be over the hump.

                       Sending photos of a few swains, (though I realize I still haven’t taken the pictures I would like) of these amazing birds. Including other animals from their northern habitat including a raccoon, jack rabbit, red fox and the barn owl cave featured in the original Livermore independent article. Also a poor shot of a red tail-swain encounter, (cowboys vs. aliens) though it does show how serious things can get when these adversaries mix it up a bit.