Symbiosis

While in South Africa, Linda and I observed oxpeckers eating ticks off the back of and also from inside the ear of a rhino. That is a form of symbiosis.

On occasions I’ve seen magpies and starlings feed off the back or heads of deer and cattle. Yesterday I came upon two starlings each standing on the head of a cow.

Here is a photo of the two cows, each with a starling on their head. It’s difficult to see the starling on the head of the all-black cow, but look close, you’ll see it. The beak stands out.

two starlings on cattle DSC_0974[1]

Not sure if they were after flies or ticks, but there were plenty of flies. When a symbiotic relationship benefits both parties, it is called mutualism. Had to look that up.

 

 

Whipsnake Survey

Yesterday, biologist Mandy Murphy allowed me to tag along with her while she ran her string of snake traps in search of Alameda whipsnakes and other reptiles.

We found a whipsnake in the third trap we checked. It was a recapture as she had caught it once before and left it with an identifying mark.

The snake was a large one, about four and a half feet long. She also caught a gopher snake.

IMG_3199 trapped gopher snake

The trap consists of vertical boards which guide the target species towards four wire cages that are similar to minnow traps. Once the snake or other critter enters the trap, it cannot find a way out. In this photo there are four separate wire mesh cages underneath the foam boards which protect the caught snakes from overheating.

The traps are monitored closely so that snakes will not be injured.

Trap

Snakes that are caught provide samples for DNA testing to determine their genetic makeup. According to Mandy, researchers have determined that two California racer species, the Alameda whipsnake and the California racer, are closely related. It is anticipated that the snakes captured on our ranch will share the genetic makeup of both species.

California Red-Legged Frog Egg Mass

California red-legged frogs are listed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as threatened where ever they are found.

california-red-leg-frog-cropped

This is an adult California Red-legged frog.

Around March 1 is the time of year when we see California red-legged frog egg masses in our ponds. Here is an egg mass photographed on February 26.

IMG_2877 CRF egg mass

This red-legged frog egg mass stands out because it is covered with silt from the murky pond water. The egg mass was photographed on February 26, 2017.

These eggs will produce larva (tad poles) which will eventually morph into frogs by July or August. We see the juvenile frogs in the ponds into late September. During the fall they will disappear from the ponds and move into underground burrows or other hiding places to endure the winter months.

juvenile red leg frog cropped

Juvenile red-legged frogs live in the ponds until fall when they will depart for underground burrows which provide winter security.

Skulls

In my opinion, most skulls are very interesting and nice to look at.

Does that make me weird? I don’t think so. Up on the ranch we have a cow skull sitting on a bank next to one of our roads and it’s been there for a few years. I admire it every time I drive down that road.

Our old camp is an open lean-to with several mountain lion kills hanging on the walls. Three deer skulls and the skull of a boar are prominently displayed. As with the cow skull, I can hardly drive by that camp without checking out those skulls even though I’ve seen them a thousand times.

European-mount skulls with antlers or horns, are proudly displayed in many homes and trophy rooms. It’s not just the protrusions that are attractive, a bleached skull is a thing of beauty and the symmetry has a special feel about it.

This wildebeest is my mini water-buffalo.

wildebeast

A smallish pronghorn I killed with my bow a few years ago is a trophy to me, but not worthy of full shoulder mount treatment, so I had it done European.

pronghorn

Bow-killed boar and warthogs are trophies I also display as European mounts. They are nice to my eye.

One of my favorite trophies is a whitetail skull collected by my guide on a South Dakota hunt that took place about 15 years ago. It died during an outbreak of disease that killed most of the whitetail in the region.

whitetail-buck

I purchased the skull from my 19-year-old guide when he decided he needed $50 more than the skull. It was a good deal for each of us.

This skull also tells a story. The buck died along a river and the winter flood buried the skull beneath the gravel of the riverbed. When the water receded, only the right antler was protruding.

My guide spotted the antler while scouting for deer. He was surprised and elated when he pulled the antler from the ground to find that it was attached to the entire skull. You can see that the right antler is bleached white, while the left antler and skull are brown from being underground for a while.

A more recent addition to my skull collection is the skullĀ  of a bird.

scrub-jay-skull

The size and black tip of its bill give away that it is the skull of a scrub jay. I was very happy when I spotted it on the ground while deer hunting. Bird skulls are very fragile.

Dolphins in the Surf

On the last morning of our Labor Day weekend stay at The Sea Ranch, a family of dolphins played in the surf. Here are some photos of them surfing. DSC_0304[1] flipping dolphin

DSC_0310[1] surfing dolphin

DSC_0321[1] surfing dolphins

There were five in all.

DSC_0332[1] dophin family

We also saw harbor seals, sea lions, blacktail deer and lots of birds. It was a good time with the family.

Here’s a photo of my son-in-law, Brett, enjoying the ocean view, which is reflected from the windows of our rental home.

IMG_2230 Brett with mirror view of ocean

 

Bobcat on a Limb

A few weeks ago I was leaving the ranch when a young bobcat appeared on the road in front of me. Unlike most wild animals, this cat decided to walk and run down the road in front of me and continued to do so for several hundred yards.

Eventually I decided that maybe I’d get a chance to photograph the cat and moved my camera onto my lap where it would be handy.

Finally the cat decided to leave the road and as I passed its location I spotted the cat standing on the limb of a downed tree. I grabbed the camera and made an attempt to photograph the cat before it disappeared into the woods.

Not expecting the photo to turn out, I didn’t even review the shot when I got home.

While glancing through photos on my computer yesterday, I noticed that the cat photo was interesting. Here it is.

DSC_0214[1] bobcat

I like the silhouette and the one eye. You can’t be sure when a photo will be worthwhile. Just keep firing away and maybe something good will happen.

Close Call Rattler

While scouting one of our ponds for deer tracks, I was focused on mud around the pond when my cousin Wes said to me, “You just almost stepped on a rattler.”

I turned around and saw that I had stepped less than a foot from a silent four foot long rattler.

I wondered why it hadn’t moved or rattled to warn me off.

IMG_2119 rattler with squirrel inside

I examined the rattler more closely. Then I spotted the large lump in his belly. This snake was full of squirrel.

IMG_2119 rattler belly

You can see that he has a large lump in the middle of him. Apparently he was somewhat immobilized by indigestion.