Monday, September 12, 2011

40 Feet Is Too Close on a Full Moon Night

Harvest Moonrise 2011
Labor Day weekend I asked if 40 feet was far enough from the farm buildings to not worry about a rattlesnake.  The answer is "NO!"

For about 2 weeks, I've been watching this large rattlesnake hang out around a vacated gopher hole in the orchard. On hot mornings, the snake exposed only one coil at the entrance of its hole.  On cool and bright mornings, most of its body would be just outside the threshold soaking up the maximum amount of sun.  It didn't seem to be going anywhere and I couldn't make up my mind about moving it, so I just watched instead.  I talked to a local man who moves snakes for people and he suggested that perhaps it was shedding.  On a large snake, it can take 2 weeks to shed its skin and part of that time, the snake will have a cloudy scale over its eyes which makes it vulnerable to predators, so the snake will often stay close to safe shelter.  The first day I saw this snake, it had the typical dusty appearance of a rattlesnake, but recently its scales seemed shiny.

Friday, September 9, 2011

What Was That?

Rock wren (Salpinctes obsoletus) at the pig pen.
My current theme: "Don't be shy, go ahead and ask an expert."  But do your homework first.

In August while admiring the lacy cudweed pillows behind the barn, I noticed a bird hopping in the speckled light of the pig pen.  It was a plain-looking bird, just another LBJ (little brown job), except it had a distinct way of flitting from one object to the next.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wildflower Hotspot #5 - Bean Hollow and Pescadero State Parks

Flowers, rocks and sea life at the edge of the continent.
When the hills and valleys of the Santa Cruz Mountains get summer dry and the spring wildflowers go to seed, there are still places to see local wildflowers - the cool San Mateo coast.  Coastal parks stay moist with summer fog, and the spring/summer wildflower bloom is later and longer there.  Because much of the San Mateo coast is undeveloped, you can visit not only the ocean and beach, but also coastal prairie and coastal bluff scrub.

Pescadero State Beach and Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve are 15.7 miles south on Highway 1 from Half Moon Bay.  On one side of the highway is the ocean, beach and sandy bluff.  You can follow the winding edges of Pescadero Creek under the highway to trails along brackish and freshwater marshes, creekside forests and brushy habitat for more variety of plants and good birding.  Docents with the San Mateo Coast Natural History Association lead hikes to Pescadero Marsh on the first Sunday of the month at 10 AM and the third Sunday of the month at 1 PM.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Dear J's: Please Stay Out of Trouble

Northern Pacific rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis oreganus) with frontal portion of body sticking out of hole and soaking up morning sun.  Preggers?
This has not been a relaxing holiday weekend.  Yesterday morning, I checked if the big rattlesnake was still hanging out in the orchard.  I've been trying to decide whether I should move it or not.  The crew was up here a week ago clearing dead trees and they saw it first.  I usually move rattlesnakes which I find near the house and farm buildings because I don't want them to surprise me later and one of us get hurt.  But this rattler was about 40 feet away from the buildings, and maybe I don't need to worry about it.  It was on the big side.  All the rattlers I have moved recently have been small, so my nerves are a bit jangly when it comes to a big one.  Furthermore, this big one could be a female about to give birth as they do at the end of the summer of one to 25 young, none of which I want to have near my house.