MDF-NEF Event a Success

Took a while to get it together, but the pain was worth it as 40 guests and ten knowledgeable tour leaders traveled from one location in the East Bay Area to another for two full days.

Tours included a first class trophy room, various wildlife barriers in the Altamont Hills and open space lands of Southeastern Alameda County.

Here are some photos taken by the participants on Friday.

 

 

Saturday morning brought on a new day of travels as the group slit up in eight four-wheel-drive trucks to tour lands of the SFPUC, EBRPD and private properties owned by Fletcher Ranch Road Properties, LLC. Here are some photos taken by the crew on Saturday.

 

At the Saturday night dinner, the group donated over $130,000 to the Mule Deer Foundation National Endowment Fund. How about that!

 

Just Another Day at the Ranch Continued

(Continuing from my previous post, “Just Another Day at the Ranch”)

I stood looking at the mother ground squirrel wondering what it was doing. As I watched I realized that my camera was in the truck about 50 feet away. Would I be able to grab it and return before the squirrel departed. So far it had stood quite still unable to determine what to do.

I walked to the truck and grabbed the camera. When I returned to the squirrel, it had not moved. Apparently it couldn’t make up its mind about how to proceed. I looked at the squirrel again and the baby squirrel wiggled in the mother squirrels mouth. Now I was certain that the mother squirrel meant no harm to its baby. Occasionally the mother would put its front foot up and push the baby back into its mouth. I realized that it was likely moving the baby squirrel from one site to another.

I began to take photos of the squirrel as it moved slowly around me. It was heading towards the creek and also towards my daughter, grand son and son-in-law. I took several photos.

The squirrel passed within a few feet of the others and they got a close up view of what was going on. The squirrel disappeared into a pile of boulders and later came back out retracing its steps and probably returning for another baby to transport.

Why would it do this? The only thing that makes sense is that something like a gopher snake had invaded its nest and the mother squirrel was rescuing as many young squirrels as possible.

Seeing the hairless and sightless baby exposed to the elements was a rare occurrence.

 

Just Another Day at the Ranch

Took the family to the ranch today. Cold and Windy. Not the kind of day that you want when looking for critters.

My grandson is wild about anything that’s alive. Everything is new and exciting. As he and his father wandered up the creek from where we parked, I began a slow walk up another draw. A ground squirrel appeared and if there had been anything else around to watch, I probably would have paid it no attention. But, I did look and it appeared that there was something in its mouth, so I raised my field glasses and looked.

This is what I saw.

ground squirrel mother DSC_0998[1]

Very compelling and one of the best subjects I’ve ever seen.

Mock Turkey Hunt

Turkeys were spread out in smaller groups yesterday – a good sign if you’re a turkey hunter. With the big flocks divided up, it’s a lot easier to find a callable bird.

For me, it was not a hunt. But, I couldn’t resist bringing my box call. I stopped above camp and made a few calls. Nothing.

When I reached camp, I again pulled out the box. One set of yelps and a gobbler answered from the property to the west. I moved to a controlling position overlooking where the gobble had come from and sat down.

Then I yelped again. The gobbler answered immediately. He wasn’t far away. I waited. He gobbled on his own twice. He was coming.

After a period of minutes, I yelped and he answered. Now closer. I scratched the box softly a couple times. He didn’t answer, so I waited to see him.

He appeared at about 50 yards and walked up hill directly towards me. He came to 30, then 20. I had my camera up, but since I was nearly laying down, grasses twigs were preventing me from getting a good focus.

Finally at ten yards, I got a pretty good focus and snapped a decent photo.

DSC_0962 wanna fight

Mr. Ugly and a serious fighter, this bird looked like he’d been to war.

Then, because he couldn’t get through the fence next to me, he turned and walked down the hill about 40 yards to a better pathway. There I got some good photos as he strutted and wondered where the calling hen had gone.

His harem of four hens followed about 30 yards behind him.

DSC_0995 member of the harem

At this point there wasn’t much left to do, except wait for him to leave so I could begin doing the chores I was there for. After I while he continued on this way looking for the mystery hen.

Apparently the four hens that followed him didn’t need his services any more on this day. Not sure why they were hanging out with him.

 

Ample Water, More Wildlife

Yesterday I drove to the ranch to do some clean-up. With camera in hand, I stopped a few times to take photos. The day started with an encounter with turkeys just past the first gate.

The sun was high, but one photo stood out over the rest, despite the imperfect light.

DSC_0833 cropped hen and gobbler

Down the road a ways, a pair of mallards were doing their version of reproduction. With all the rain, one would think the local mallard crop will be good this year.

DSC_0835 mallard pair

At a pond near the second gate, bullfrogs were warming in the sun at the water’s edge.

DSC_0853 bull frog cropped

Enemies of many native species, including native frog species, bullfrogs dominate any pond they inhabit. Fortunately we don’t have bullfrogs on our ranch.

DSC_0859 plain titmouse cropped

As I walked turned to step into my truck, I was distracted by a tree swallow landing in an oak tree nearly overhead. After several attempts to photograph the tree swallow, I realized that I was getting nowhere. Then this plain titmouse appeared and posed for a photo. Seems like there’s a titmouse pair for each oak tree.

Wildflowers were looking good. With the cooler-than-average weather, the annual grasses have not dominated and the broad-leaf plants will win the battle for sunlight this year. They’ve off to a good start.

DSC_0898 guarding the waters edge coped

On the way home, I couldn’t resist another bullfrog photo. These guys are the guardians of the water’s edge. Their legs also fry up nicely.

DSC_0902 three deer cropped

Looks like two young bucks and a doe peeking at me from below the road.

Red-tailed hawks were on the prowl. Some in the air and others hunting the easy way.

DSC_0915 Canada goose cropped

Maybe it’s the extra water that has more than normal numbers of Canada geese hanging around the local ponds.

After leaving the gravel road, I passed through some local vineyards to see what might be available. Found a lone pair of hens, avoiding the crowd and then a big crowd of gobblers strutting aggressively.

It was a great day to be out and about.

It’s Strutting Time

Turkeys in bunches. The breeding season is in full swing. This is the time that often frustrates turkey hunters. You can hunt all day without finding a callable bird.

The turkeys I found today were in two groups. Got a few decent photos. Should have got more, but things kept going wrong.

To get really good turkey pictures everything has to go right. These are the best of the day. The best shots came in the late afternoon when the sun was lower in the sky.

In a couple weeks, the gobblers will be easier to call in. Maybe I’ll get out the camo and box call. Haven’t shot a turkey in a few years.

 

Ranch Photos in late February

Drove out to the ranch last Saturday to do some cleanup around the yard. Took photos on the way in and the way out. Here are a few of them. Click on them to read the captions.