One night while watching one of the pairs of great-horned owls where I wander, I stumbled on what is likely one of the pair’s tracks – right in the middle of a cow pattie! Pretty awesome. Good substrate is hard to come by in this area for registering tracks, especially if there is no rain – you make do-do with what you got.
(I know, I know, bad tracking humor)
Likely one of the track makers from that same evening …
The last few nights, and once about a week ago, I saw a small flying creature flit about well after sunset up in the hills. At first i thought it was a large bat, then considered that perhaps it was a small owl – but neither option seemed to fit the behavior or size. The exposed area and hunting style didn’t match any nocturnal owls that I know of in the area.
Tonight I got my answer – in nearly the same spot as one of my other sightings, again well after sunset, it appeared. Actually, first, I heard it. It emits almost non-stop little squeaks, similar to a small little dog toy being squeezed over and over again. Very faint, but when the bird flies close-by, which it does, it was audible. Tonight I got out my small LED flashlight when I realized the bird had landed on the trail ahead of me – a common poorwill!
The last one that I saw was east of San Jose in the mountains back in the Spring, and I was able to get a much better picture of it at that time (see here). Very cool little creatures! I hope it (or they) survive(s) this area – it’s not easy considering all the great-horned owls who would be more than happy to make a meal out of this little one.
flock of cedar waxwings stopped to watch the sunset, kindly with a backdrop of the waxing moon behind them. hmmm.
some of the winter migrants have settled in, good to hear these birds’ high-pitched calling again.
got some good shots of this lady as she waited for her mate, who was dozing a bit longer in his palm tree refuge by which she had taken a sit after leaving her day perch. he has a much deeper hoot and a more elongated hoot sequence than her, sometimes beginning with a few subtle, almost grunt-sounding hoots that preface the “typical” great-horned owl hoot sequence. these owls that I have observed the last year have a lot more vocalizations that i have heard in addition to what is typically documented or described in the scientific literature. i suspect they have a larger vocabulary than humans realize, some of it very subtle.
some serious tools …. incredible crushing force in these feet in addition to sharp talons.
great-horned owl / Contra Costa County CA
I haven’t been lucky enough to see a jaguar in the wild yet, but I did see this fella (lady?) last Thursday at Los Vaqueros Reservoir in Contra Costa County just after sunset.
Hiding just out of sight was this little one, probably trying to avoid being a bobcat breakfast.
It is a surreal landscape here – large mountainous hills that grow out of the flat grassy planes East of Mount Diablo, south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin river delta. It is almost completely devoid of trees, other than a small riparian area at the dam outlet, but once atop any of the peaks that surround the reservoir, there must be thousands of giant wind turbines in sight. It’s staggering the number of turbines in view, for as far as the eye can see in some directions, over land that has been cleared for grazing.
Ironically, this general area has the highest concentration of nesting golden eagles in the world. It is home to many raptor and bird species, and has also been shown to be a main migration route for birds in the Autumn and Spring. It probably goes without saying that wind turbines and soaring birds don’t go well together (not for the birds, certainly). The mortality rate of golden eagles in this region is high due to collisions with the wind turbine blades, and is probably under-reported.
It’s hard to determine visually where the wind farms end or if they are part of different farms – to the north is the Shiloh Wind Power Plant, and to the south is Altamont Pass Wind Farm (of notorious history, for its vastly negative impact on raptor and other bird species). They are two of the four largest wind farms in CA. I’m not sure who owns the ones pictured above, I suspect it’s part of the Altamont Pass Wind Farm. The picture below shows a view to the north from above the reservoir – if you look closely you can see a LARGE number of turbines stretching across the horizon. I suspect these are part of Shiloh Wind Power Plant. It’s hard to differentiate where they start or end though because the turbines seem to be concentrated densely there to the north, then they sporadically run from that point far to the north all along the eastern edge of the Diablo range, then southeast towards Altamont Pass and out of sight.
Despite the jarring visual impact, these turbines are “green energy” and certainly have a lot of benefits over other energy production techniques. They are part of the compromise that we currently must make in our effort to satisfy energy demands while still attempting to minimize our impact on the environment – both to the creatures who live there now, and in a global capacity long term. No easy answers. No black and white.
Every day the sun rises though, and the cycle of life continues. Coyote doesn’t care so much about politics.