Friday, September 28, 2012


These are all photos I took while camping in Yellowstone and Tetons National Parks in September. Wildlife abounds.
I took a journey to Yellowstone and Tetons National Parks a few weeks ago and I'm still feeling spellbound by the days of wildlife watching and grand landscapes that we saw. The muse has taken over my mind for nearly 12 hours a day since then and in the wee hours of the night, I have been trying to read and write simultaneously about the late summer changes of our local Santa Cruz Mountains and the ecological forces reshaping Yellowstone in response to the reintroduction of both wolves and fires. Although gray wolves and pronghorns are not part of our local natural history heritage, there's something there - I just can't quite get the words out yet. I am hoping by the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays that I will have the time and vocabulary to share some of these grand western experiences and photos with you. Or maybe that's just dreaming.

Today, while waiting for a budget meeting to start (yah, biologists gotta do that too), I learned the word zugunruhe - a fall nervousness as the tension to migrate builds up. I'm trying to behave, I'm trying to get along with people, but sometimes these human affairs are just soooo pedestrian in comparison to predators and the dissolution of rocks and I want to fly away. Now I am wondering if the swallows collecting by the thousands on the telephone wires on the Dipper Ranch ridgelines are making snotty little comments to each other and if that rattlesnake that buzzed me in the backyard two nights ago is just suffering from too much late summer fat accumulation. Hah, I trapped that rattlesnake in a bucket with a locking lid! It is not a monster like The Roper has in East Bay but the largest I have seen on the Dipper Ranch, so it may take a few days before I work up the courage to move it far away from the house. Rattle, rattle, write, read, write, please do not disturb me with your politics.

Trackers at the Dipper Ranch

The Bay Area Tracking Club visited the Dipper Ranch on September 9, 2012. With about 20 people attending, we set off on a dirt road towards the Newt Pond and the Newt Spring to look for animal sign.

Curious trackers examine the evidence.
There were lots of deer tracks and some coyote and bird tracks, and we found two types of hairs caught on a strand of a barbwire fence about 8 inches above the ground. Coyote and a high-jumping rabbit, coyote dragging rabbit under the fence?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Summer Water

Vultures checking out the new cattle trough.
Random Truth just posted great photos of bears bathing in cattle water troughs in the Tehachapi Mountains at his Nature of a Man blogsite. Go see them - they're hilarious!

So that got me thinking about two particular water sources at the Dipper Ranch this summer. One is a  spring that leaks out of a cut bank.  Usually, this has a bathtub size pool beneath it but with the reduced amount of rainfall this winter, the spring is barely dripping. By late August, the pool was just mud. So I dug a series of small pools beneath it to provide summer water for the wildlife, and put up a wildlife camera. Visiting this spring pool seems to be a family affair.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

First Flight of the Humble House Finch

House finch nestlings  growing rapidly and waiting for more food.
The house finches won the battle of the porch again this summer. Last summer, I was delighted with the unobstructed view when we pulled down the old, sagging screen porch and replaced it with a new floor and open sides. Then the house finches discovered the porch with a view. They decided to try nesting there. "Oh, no, no", I told them, "Try the other 899 acres."