Here’s Your Thanksgiving Turkey

Came across this jake gobbler on Tuesday’s trip to the ranch. He survived his first Thanksgiving, but he may not make it to Christmas.

As I stopped to open the gate to our property, I spotted movement to my left. Turned out it was a group of  jakes - about five or six in total. This was the best photo.

As I stopped to open the gate to our property, I spotted movement to my left. Turned out it was a group of jakes – about five or six in total. This was the best photo.

Photographed a few other critters. Here they are:

Drake gadwall

Drake gadwall

Drake hooded merganser

Drake hooded merganser

Blacktail doe

Blacktail. I think it’s a young buck.

Ring-neck ducks.

Ringneck ducks.

nervous coyote

nervous coyote

Also came across a pig trap. Guess the critters are around somewhere.

Also came across a pig trap. Guess the critters are around somewhere.

DSC_0156 pig trap

Happy Thanksgiving

Spring Photo Shoot at Mayberry

Looped around the perimeter of Mayberry last Saturday. Because our property is permanent marsh, most of the wildlife is just across the drainage canal on the grazing ground.

White-front geese stage at Sherman Island and it looks like they are about ready to head north.

(Click on photos to enlarge.)

DSC_0477 white front geese

Not sure why this single spec didn’t take off with his brethren, but he eventually flew off to join them.

DSC_0465 white-front gooseAs I watched some waterfowl, waiting for a good photo opportunity, I heard a splash in the canal next to me. Figuring it was river otters, I paused before turning to look. When I did, it was just in time to see a coyote dog-shaking to get the water off his back.

DSC_0503 coyoteThe coyote was nearly hidden by the tall growth.

DSC_0504 coyote sneakingLola was very excited to be back in her element.

DSC_0487 Lola arrivingA horned owl, rested in a willow tree until Lola scared him off.

DSC_0511 great horned owlA red-tailed hawk took off from the field across the canal.

DSC_0513 red-tailed hawkLola jumped up a rooster.

DSC_0518 roosterRed-wing blackbirds were displaying.

DSC_0521 red-wing blackbirdDSC_0530 goats of Mayberry

The goats of Mayberry were back, cleaning up the vegetation on the levee. Hope they left enough cover for the pheasants to nest.

X12 Deer Hunt Successful

Although the number of hunters was a little higher than hoped for, overall our X-12 deer hunt was a positive experience.

When we found out there would be ten hunters camped on our trail within a quarter-mile of each other, we were a bit discouraged. However, we managed to get along well with our neighbors and minimize interference with each other. A few other hunters wandered into the area as well and after opening day, it became a bit tough to find a buck.

As for me, I set up a spike camp a couple miles away and was fortunate enough to find a decent buck on opening day. Still hunting through fir trees at about 10,000 ft, I surprised a small group of deer that included a 3×4 buck. From 50 yards, I didn’t miss and he went down in a hurry. I was satisfied to be able to hike the mountain and bag a fine buck once more. I never know how many more chances I’ll have. The hiking and climbing was both invigorating and tiring.

Here are a few shots of the hunt.

The X12 deer zone has some of California’s most beautiful wilderness.

The 50 yard quartering away shot hit his heart. Although alerted by other deer, he never saw me. After a run-in with a bear in camp, most of him is now safely in my freezer.

This blonde coyote greeted me with howling at spike camp.

Rob and Joe caught a few nice brook trout in this pond.

Joe and I with a hero shot. Joe’s buck was the best buck taken that I knew of.

Several packers provides services in the X12 area. Two of them are Leavitt Meadows and Virginia Lakes Pack Stations.

The difference between a Coyote Track and a Mountain Lion Track

Came upon a mountain lion track while hiking near Del Valle Reservoir last week. It had been raining and the ground was nearly saturated, good conditions for seeing tracks.

I was looking at a variety of tracks when I came upon a set of mountain lions prints. I photographed one the clearest tracks with my iPhone camera. Here it is.

The mountain lion track is more round than oval and the claws don't show, unless the lion slips or needs traction. When the lion slips, it will involuntarily extend its claws and they will show as points in the mud.

The heel pad of a lion appears larger than a coyote or other canine.

Here’s a good example of a coyote track.

The coyote track is more oval and the claws show clearly in the track. The heel pad does not appear as large.

The mature coyote track is smaller than the mature lion track. Large domestic dogs often leave tracks as large as lion tracks and sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between the two. In the case of this lion, I would give the ID a high degree of confidence.

A lion like this can take a heavy toll on a local deer population, especially if she has juvenile cubs.Coyotes usually don't stop to be photographed, except in Yellowstone.

April Weekend at the Ranch

It was a good weekend to be in the hills. Here are a few of the photos I was able to take while traveling around the ranch. (Click to enlarge.)

Here's the typical view of a ranch road coyote.

Surprise. It’s unusual for ranch road coyotes to pose for a broadside photo.
Another rarity, only in spring will you see two great blues together like this.
Nice cape on this great blue heron.
Rob pointed out some baby blue eyes – with bug.
Mules ear is having a good year. Maybe it likes the cool spring.
Checkerbloom I believe.
The goldfields were looking good.
My first whipsnake of the season. He was sold cold I could have picked him up.
I don’t know whose brand this is.
Fence lizards were out in force for the first time this spring.
Pacific newts have a rubber look.
The does were in hiding with fawns, but a few bucks were around.
We went to a spot I’d never been before.
Instant replay of the earlier coyote.
For the second time in a weekend, a coyote stopped and looked back.

Do Coyotes Eat Ants?

Pair of coyote tracks

The pair of coyote tracks in the above photo was pointed out to me by my brother, Rob, during one of our reptile surveys. He had already figured out what was going on, before telling me about them. The tracks were the front feet of a coyote. They were deeply groved into the soft dirt, an indication that the dog had stood in one place, moving his head and forcing the tracks into the ground deeper than usual. The size of the tracks was just right for a coyote, but I wouldn’t rule out a gray fox.

Two feet in front of the tracks was a bush that completely blocked the view in his front vision. He wouldn’t have been looking ahead of him as he could only see about one foot. Yet he had stood in this position for more than a brief moment.  About a foot in front of the track, ants were traveling in and out of an ant hole. The coyote had stopped at this spot to feast on a few ants before moving on.

Tracks and ant hole outlined

With a little assistance, the picture is made more clear.

Here are the ants.

ants circled

I wonder how many ants a coyote can eat.

Deer vs Coyote

You never know what will pop up next on the ranch road. After a very uneventful turkey hunt, it seemed like I’d never get home for all the wildlife that kept showing up in front of me.

This group of deer crossed the road in front of me and headed up the adjacent hill in a hurry.

Disturbed, a coyote (enjoying the best weather in days) stood up from his bed.

A deer-coyote collision was about to occur.

The first three deer passed behind the annoyed coyote.

The fourth deer passed in front.

This created a standoff.

Outnumbered, the coyote avoided eye contact.

Did he say something? or just show his teeth?

Finally the deer moved on and left the coyotoe in peace.