Sunday, May 21, 2017

Take a Break

Chorro Creek bog thistle on a reserve on the Calpoly-SLO campus.   
I'm on crutches and have one foot encased in a boot brace for a few weeks. Not the best situation for a field biologist. Fortunately, I just finished a fine series of spring hikes.

We did an April bioblitz on a coastal prairie in rural San Mateo County. From sunrise to sunset, thirty  biologists combed a 900-acre grassy ranch with ponds, streams, and brush patches. On that one property on one day, we recorded 1290 observations on iNaturalist consisting of 326 plant and animal species. We already knew that some of the ponds supported California red-legged frogs, a threatened species, and I was fairly certain I had spotted the rare artist's popcornflower on the property in previous years, but the bioblitz gave us a better idea of where they occur.

Artist's popcornflower is quite a name. The easterly team reported seeing its tiny white flowers filling swales and I was a bit jealous I didn't get to see the large sweeps of it this wet spring. However, the expert botanists I sent to that side of the property confirmed the tentative identification I had made from scrawny plants in the previous drought years. My west-side team had a view of ocean cliffs and we saw interesting coastal residents too.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Fox Pups in Trees

Gray fox pup climbing a plum tree   
Every kitchen sink needs a view of nature. My kitchen sink looks out over a birdbath, the orchard, and the skirt of Lupine Hill. In June while doing dishes, I heard a familiar plop outside and reprimanded myself for not harvesting the plums sooner. The fruit trees in the orchard are so old, they only bloom in earnest once or twice a decade. Last spring was one of those lucky years when the fifty-something plum tree cloaked its gnarled branches with bright blossoms and buzzing insects for a few pink days. Before I could climb the slope in summer and set the heavy ladder between its tangle of unpruned branches, the fruits were darkening to purple and dropping.

As I rinsed a mug, I noticed a single branch in the plum tree shaking wildly. Something fuzzy and gray was moving down its length. A sharp snout poked out of the green leaves and pulled down a plum. It was a gray fox pup 8 feet up in the tree. The backside of the tree was shaking with another fox pup and no adult fox was in sight.  What other animal can go from nursing and clumsy puppy battles to climbing trees in less than a month? The fox pups were bigger and more agile than our first views of them stumbling around the garage in May, but I never imagined them jumping up and climbing trees so soon.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Fox Pup Screen Saver

This photo is smaller size for loading as screen saver on cell phone or smaller computer screens.
400kb

Friday, December 23, 2016

Fox Pup in the Garage


I know gray foxes live at the Dipper Ranch because they show up on the wildlife cameras and leave me presents on the kitchen stoop. When I return home at night, I slow for the curve in the Dipper driveway where the view opens up to the deep canyon of Peters Creek, and if the moon is up, forested ridges shimmer all the way to Monterey Bay. Sometimes a smudge of motion catches my attention against the glare of the gravel driveway. It's the bushy tail of a gray fox on nightly patrol. Or even a pair of foxes, the smaller one loping behind the first, until they are just at the edge of the headlight illumination where they turn sharp faces to challenge the car to follow their floating tails under the barbwire fence and down a steep hillside.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Fox Tails

Alarm signal?   
With such long tails, gray foxes undoubtably use them to communicate aggression, submission and other messages to each other.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Wednesday, November 30, 2016