Wednesday, November 30, 2016

On the Mound

The gray fox pups spent a lot of time on this mound just outside the den entrance.

Fox Pups in the Barn

A gray fox pup peeks out from under a barn door, an improvised den entrance.   
A family of gray foxes moved into the old barn on the Dipper Ranch in June. For a month, we watched the fox pups tumble, pounce and lounge about the farmyard day and night just steps away from our kitchen door.

The fox family packed down a dirt runway under the barn door - just like the entrance to an earthen underground den. From reading Random Truth's accounts of San Joaquin kit foxesI knew many family interactions would occur at the den entrance. We set up wildlife cameras in front of the barn and over the summer we accumulated thousands of photos and videos of the fox pups. First a head would peek out from underneath the big red door, then a small body and fuzzy tail. Soon another pup would wriggle out and playtime would begin. Lots of running, biting, clumsy tackles, and tail pulling.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Johnson Jumping Spiders Dance, Sing and Mimic

A Johnson jumping spider enjoys the late afternoon sun shining on its mushroom cap doorstep
 as it crunches on a earwig.  
The Johnson jumping spider got the most votes and will be featured on the 2016 Dipper Ranch walnut label.  This particular spider must be a male because its entire abdomen is covered in red felt whereas the female of this species has a black band down the middle.

Male jumping spiders dance and sing to get the attraction of a female jumping spider.  If she likes the performance, they mate. If she doesn't like it, she might eat him.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Vote for the 2016 Walnut Label

It's walnut harvest time. There's going to be a big crop and lots of neighbors and friends to share the bounty. Everybody gets to vote on the critter that goes on the label for the 2016 Dipper Ranch walnuts. Usually the label features one of the snakes that appeared on the ranch during the year, but there weren't many snakes this year. Why? Maybe because of the gray fox family that moved into the barn. Yes, foxes eat snakes. If you don't believe me, check out this video from the Camera Trap Codger.

I'm stubborn and even without a huge selection of snakes to choose from this year, I am not going to put some cutesy animal on the label. Instead, you get to choose among local animals I saw in 2016 which have a reputation of being creepy or strange, but really aren't. Mostly reptiles, spiders and bugs, but also some strange mammal tricks.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Annual Birthday Greetings 2016

Two teenage pumas kicking up their heels at a lovely spring day.   
Last night, I had to climb through the tangled branches of a downed oak tree intertwined with poison oak vines to pick up the memory card from this wildlife camera. We tried to go around but there was poison oak everywhere, so finally I said, "I'm going through!"

What a fantastic surprise to find photos of these young pumas. Probably worth the risk of climbing through poison oak. And I hope the Extreme Tecnu poison oak scrub works. I will know tomorrow since it usually takes 48 hours for my body to react to this allergen.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Lupine Hill Sunset

Tonight at sunset, April 17, 2016
Eight years of pulling yellow starthistle.

Eight years of seasonal grazing.

Spring rain with moderate temperatures.

Farthest location on the ranch from water.

Poor soils.

Nature wins.

Maybe I'll do a species survey tomorrow

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Vote for the 2015 Walnut Label

2015 Snake #1 The Golden-Eyed Rattlesnake - third of four rattlesnakes moved from the farmyard in two days in March and an especially dark one showing off its rattle at the release site (A Pile of Rattlesnakes). 
Here are photos of snakes we saw on the Dipper Ranch in 2015. Vote for your favorite below. The snake with the most votes will be featured on the label for the 2015 Dipper Ranch walnuts. I will randomly select one of the voters to get a prize -  a bag of delicious shelled walnuts.

What kind of crazy idea is this - snakes on a walnut label? You'll just have to go to past walnut label contests to get an explanation and see the snakes featured on prior labels:

Friday, February 5, 2016

Last Call for Rattlesnakes 2015

An unusual sight in an unusually dry summer - six bucks drinking out of the house trough in the day time.
If you look closely at the antlers of the third buck from the left, you can see they are red-tinged from blood vessels under the velvet the buck had just rubbed off.
Finally on August 22, we had our last snake adventure of 2015. The menfolk were repairing a window on the house and I was tending to other chores in the yard. I turned a valve on to fill a water trough on the other side of the barbwire fence near the house. The cattle were gone for the season and the trough had a crack with a slow leak, so I filled it halfway every few weeks to provide water for wildlife in the very dry summer.

About a half hour later, Papa Bear asked if I wanted him to turn the water off.