Monday, August 4, 2008

Wildlife Smorgasbord

Monday August 4 2008

Ooooh - good wildlife karma!

The first evening I drive up to my family's house up in the hills above "The Springs," I'm thinking, "Maybe I'll see a bear tonight!" (But I always say that - "Maybe I'll see a bear/cougar tonight!") They see a handful of bears every year wandering through their neighborhood. Always plenty of bunnies and deer, the occasional coyote. But they hadn't seen any bears this year yet, and, I haven't seen any for 2 years.

I pull into the driveway, honk my horn, Matt comes out, I get out of my car, and Matt says, "There's a bear," pointing behind me.

I think he's kidding, but I turn and look and see a bear. But surely that couldn't be - it had to be just a bear statue... and then it starts moving towards us. Ohmigodabear! We stand still and watch as it ambles casually towards us, in no hurry, not looking for anything in particular. I reach in my car and pull out my little camera which is, luckily, handy. It isn't the biggest black bear I've seen, but it is at least a 3-year-old, I'd guess.

The bear strolls closer, and closer - Matt watches from the steps, and I watch from beside the car - will he come in the driveway? He turns just before the driveway and drops in the little trees below it; I move closer to watch him. Bears can't see well, and the wind is in my favor so he can't smell me; he pauses and looks my direction, but doesn't see any more movement, and isn't concerned, so he strolls onward past the house.

Everybody in the house had been watching from the porch; we all run through the house and to the back porch and quietly watch him from there, as he ambles on through the brush and trees, to the neighbor's house, and around and onward.

It was everybody's first bear of the year!

The next evening we're all sitting out in the driveway, and I see some movement at the same neighbor's. "Oh, look, a coyote!" I'd gotten only a glimpse of it, more just the movement. Nancy says, "Do you guys have bobcats around here?" I leap up - "A bobcat!" and run down the driveway, into the street, and around the corner...

And there it is, a young bobcat, walking down the road, not bothered by me (or Matt, who'd run after me). We slow to a walk, and track a ways behind him as he angles off the road, into the brush, and sidehills up a hill till he is out of sight.

That was my first bobcat sighting in maybe 8 years!

And next day, 3 hawks were making an awful lot of screeching noise in the nearby pine tree-tops. I saw one with a red tail (therefore, a red-tailed hawk) but wasn't positively sure what the others were, as I didn't see any red tails.

Same thing again today, I heard one screeching loudly, plaintively, very close; I went out on the back porch, and there he was, almost close enough to spit on. He didn't fly off when he saw me; I ran inside, grabbed my camera and returned. I got several photos, then Matt and Barb joined me on the porch, and he still sat on the tree top, screeching away. He finally spread his wings to fly - and he flew right at and over us odd behavior for a hawk not defending a nest. He was a red-tailed hawk though his tail wasn't red; therefore it was a female or juvenile.

He flew out of sight but later he came back - with 2 more hawks. One definitely had the red tail - the adult male - and the same one was still screeching away (it was likely the same one - same calling, same pitch in the voice). My conclusion: the screeching one was this year's juvenile of the two adults; he flew right at and over us - something I've never seen an adult hawk do other than a goshawk defending a nest - because he didn't know any better, and, he was still begging for food from his parents. The parents probably weren't feeding him anymore (unless he really got on their nerves), but they were following him around and keeping an eye on him.

Any biologist's input is welcome ...

He was back around the house toward evening, still screeching plaintively, and I was again able to get close to him for pictures - within 20 feet of him and I could have gotten closer. He probably went hungry tonight, though there are plenty of bunnies everywhere... I bet we see him again tomorrow.

And tomorrow, "Maybe I'll see a cougar!"

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