Sunday, July 28, 2013

When Is a Heifer Not a Heifer?

An unexpected calf on the Dipper Ranch in May 
Heifers are female cows who have never bred. Steers are male cattle who have been fixed so they cannot breed. The grazing operation at the Dipper Ranch is a seasonal lease and this year as in previous years, Cowboy V reported that he was bringing in 80 heifers and steers from December to June.

In May, I found a small black calf on the ranch. How did that happen?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Breakfast at the Dipper Ranch

Black-tailed does at the water trough as seen through a window screen on an early summer morning.
Something is going on with the black-tailed deer. The does are congregating near the house. Maybe the water in the cattle trough and bird baths is attracting them. It has been a dry year and perhaps their other easy sources of water have dried up. Maybe predators have pushed them to the top of the property or to congregate in bigger, safer groups. Or maybe their fawns are old enough now that the does of several generations are joining back up in their matriarchal herds. However, most of the does don't seem to have fawns anymore. The largest and therefore probably oldest doe has one fawn. And another doe has one fawn. A third doe has had a yearling buck with pencil-stub antlers following her around and it looks like a yearling doe (who didn't breed last year or lost her fawns this year?) has joined her recently too. I wonder what the gals are talking about at the water trough.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sharp-Tailed Snake : Long or Short?

Sharp-tailed snake showing the black-white crossbars underneath and spine on the tip of its tail.  
Do you ever just flip through a field guide? Besides enjoying the gorgeous illustrations such as Stebbins' plates in Western Reptiles and Amphibians, I sometimes randomly open a field guide and start reading. I know I will either learn an interesting fact or hear a good story from a raconteur like Alan St. John in Reptiles of the Northwest. And I might remember an important fieldmark for the next time I have only a few seconds to identify a surprise visitor.

Recognizing a distinct black-white pattern helped me respond quickly to a little snake that appeared in the yard in April. Was this the newly described forest sharp-tailed snake? I immediately abandoned my yardwork and spent the rest of the afternoon playing citizen scientist.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Tracks Upon Tracks

A mountain lion journeys along the old stage coach road.
When Naiad and I returned to the house after our afternoon of tracking at the end of the road, we excitedly checked the memory cards from the wildlife cameras to see what "hits" we got over the last few weeks. Mostly cows, lots of cows. Cattle are irresistibly drawn to the ribbon of an open road.

The trusty old Recon camera, however, had a short series of very interesting photos taken three mornings earlier:

Monday, July 1, 2013

Tracks at the End of the Road

To find a raccoon, be a raccoon 
"We could go to the end of the road," I prompted Naiad, trying to keep her moving and distracted. "This is an old stage coach road. It probably went back to lumber mills and then the Shriner's camp before it became a state park." Now, I explained, the old road ends at a remote location on the Dipper Ranch where a steep ravine has been washing out crossings and culverts for a long time. "Maybe a hundred years!" I claimed to make the dirt road sound exciting.