These secretive and migratory birds can be seen during the winter and early spring before they head back to the Pacific Northwest where they spend the summer. Recently, while we have been going up and down the canyon road to Whale Point we surprise these birds and get a glimpse of them through the redwood branches. I was able to sneak up on this individual and get a couple of blurry shots in the shade of the redwood forest. Varied thrushes have a mysterious song that is like a whistle overlapping a hum.
It’s the week before Christmas 2008 and the weather has been downright nippy. We had some very gentle rain showers last night and throughout the day today. Earlier this week, there was snow all over Mount Manuel up in the valley; and we had snow on the higher elevations in the back of the Reserve. Winter has arrived.
The Gold Crowned Sparrows are so busy every morning, eating the last bits of cracked corn left over from the night before. In the early morning light, it is almost impossible to see them as they scurry around looking for that last grain of corn. The quail were a little late for breakfast this morning. They have changed their roost to a new location, a little farther from the house. This throws off the owls and hawks and keeps everyone guessing as to where they will be next. As we were waiting to see where the quail would appear from, we noticed they were coming out of the coyote bushes, one by one. They looked like ants coming out of an anthill. Each one would step out of the bushes and follow the leader down to breakfast. They make this great pilgrimage every morning and every evening to get their meal. The only trouble with winter is that the ground is too wet for dust baths!
We have heard the Great Horned Owls almost every night. We are fairly certain they are the same pair that has been nesting here for several years. When the quail roost in the bay tree on the north side of the cabin, the owls come and sit down on the branches just above them. It has to drive the quail crazy to know the “bad guys” are so close. But the owls keep busy all night, catching all kinds of rodents that venture out, also in search of that last bit of corn.
We haven’t seen our little buck for some time now. What we HAVE seen is lots of evidence of mountain lions. Just several weeks ago, we were quite fortunate to catch a mother and her cub in our headlights, running along the main road. We had the high beams on, and the cats stayed on the road for just a few seconds, long enough for us to get a good look at them. We understand everyone has to eat, we just hope the little buck survives long enough to reproduce. Speaking of reproducing…..
The tree frogs have started to move up to the pond out front from the spring down in the canyon. It is so amazing how these tiny guys make their way over such rough terrain; risking getting caught by a hawk or snake to come and mate in the pond. The guys sing their song to attract the females. When the girl comes along, the guy hangs onto her and mixes his sperm with her eggs. Once fertilized, the eggs turn into tadpoles for the next generation. The guy with the loudest song gets the most girls.
Now, here’s the funny story. All summer long, we’ve had a tree frog living in the toilet. At first, he insisted on hanging out at the water line in the bowl. It was very inconvenient to fish him out of there in the middle of the night when “nature called” (pun intended). He learned to stay inside the tank, perched on the top of the mechanism. Now, all of a sudden, he is gone. And we are sure he is out front, in the pond, singing the loudest song of all!
Reflecting on 2008, it has truly been a year of growth. Our Reserve team grew as we worked together to defend the structures on the Reserve from the fires. Our contact with researchers grew as we welcomed projects on geology, dispersion of SOD and sea otters. We look forward to our continued research on steelhead, condors, fruit flies, intertidal life, control of invasive species and more. But especially, we look forward to 2009, and the growth of friendships within our community, Big Sur. Happy New Year!
Terry Hallock and Feynner Arias
It is the end of May, and we are enjoying watching all the baby birds fledge, from the Barn Swallows, to the Canyon Wrens. Yes, even the Steller’s Jay babies are cute. We have a front-row seat with the California Towhee parents, who built their nest at knee height in the geranium bush. It is amazing how any of these chicks survive. Of their three eggs, the Towhees lost one egg that rolled out of the nest; one chick was eaten by a Gopher Snake; and we rescued the remaining chick from the snake’s mouth. And we are still waiting for all the hummers to return and explain where they have been. We’ll keep you posted.
The evening sunsets are quite beautiful and we are betting each other on how far north the sun will be setting when the summer solstice occurs. From late April on, the sun sets over Dolan Ridge, so we don’t get to see the green flash now. Each evening, the sun creeps a little farther north up that ridge.
It is this time of day that we see our “magic” bat come out of the eave of the house and begin her quest for bugs. As we promised, our “bat scientist” was back for a visit and gave us some information about bats that was quite surprising. There could be as many as fourteen species of bats on the reserve, in the various habitats. Many of the species are quite adorable, and nothing at all like the Vampire Bat we all imagine, with big teeth and an evil face.
Bats may be the most misunderstood animals in the
Bats, like humans, are mammals. They have hair and give birth to living young; and feed their young on milk from mammary glands. Most female bats produce only one offspring per year, although some species give birth to three or four babies at a time. Most
Bats depend on their superbly developed Echolocation (or sonar) system to navigate in the dark. They emit pulses of very high-frequency sound (inaudible to the human ears) at a rate of a few to 200 per second. By listening to the echoes reflected back to them, they can discern objects in their path. Their echolocation ability is so acute; they can capture tiny flying insects even in complete darkness.
We can also dispel one of the more popular myths about bats: less that ½ of 1% of bats carry the rabies virus. Fewer than 40 people in the
Why do we call our bat “magic”? We know she lives in the eave, in a space about a quarter inch wide. But we never see her enter or emerge. She just appears out of thin air.
Most likely, she is a California Myotis. We also believe we have the Big Brown Bat on the reserve. In a future article we will give you details about the species found in
Terry Hallock, Kim Glinka and Feynner Arias
Saw a few interesting bird species today. On the beach alone I saw a green heron, two kingfishers, a peregrine falcon (which sent the kingfishers bolting up the creek) and a great blue heron.
Later up at Gamboa Point there was a pile of quail feathers. I’ve seen some cooper’s or sharp-shinned hawks in the area. Could have been one of those that got the quail?
The view from Gamboa was particularly good today. In this picture you can see the highway bridge at the mouth of Big Creek canyon. The coastal section of Big Creek Reserve encompasses most of what you see here in the foreground out to Dolan Ridge, which runs up from the highway.