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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Barn Owl babies, three weeks later

Earlier this month I showed you several newborn Barn Owl babies. Here they are three weeks later.

I understand Barn Owls are VERY noisy so it's a good thing these Owls are in Vita's barn.

Thanks to Vita for sharing this photo with us here. Here's link to the first post of these beautiful Owls:

Monday, July 30, 2012

Fog Bow, a rare sighting, as photographed by Jeff Petit

Jeff Petit was out in the Pacific Ocean when he noticed this beautiful Fog Bow.

Fog Bows are similar to rainbows. They are formed in fog rather than rain. When they have no color, as in Jeff's photo, they are sometimes called White Rainbows. Pretty cool sight while out on the ocean!

Thanks to Jeff for sharing his photo with us here.

Young Brown Pelican pays a visit to Andrea Lunsford's deck on The Sea Ranch

There have been many reports of young Brown Pelicans being seen in unusual places. Some of them are tired and need a safe place to rest for a bit. That was the case with the juvenile Brown Pelican that paid her a visit last week.

Here the young bird is taking over Andrea's deck. Note in the back a friend is holding a chair. She was a little worried about the Pelican's big beak. I don't think there was anything to worry about, though.
 The Pelican noticed its reflection in Andrea's sliding glass doors. It watched itself for a little bit.
 Then it settled down...
and tucked its head under its wing and went to sleep.
After an hour or so the Brown Pelican woke and flew off, hopefully to find some tasty fish in the ocean and continue its migration northward. It's pretty special to have a Brown Pelican pay you a house call.

Thanks to Andrea for allowing me to share her photos with you here.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Steller's Jay attacking a Gray Fox, as photographed by Hal Fogel

Looks like this Gray Fox got to close for a pair of Steller's Jays. They buzzed the poor Gray Fox until it slunk off. Hal Fogel captured the event.

Thanks go to Hal for allowing me to share his action shot with you here.
To see a photo of a pair of Gray Foxes in a more peaceful situation, here's the link to Siegfried Matull's photo:

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Close up photos of the Paper Wasp nest in our birdhouse

Craig Tooley came to our home in Anchor Bay to photograph the two baby Ospreys in a nest that we can see through our scope. Conditions weren't that good so he will try again. It is wonderful seeing the two tiny heads and necks of the babies. Now the parents are coming and going, bring fish to their hungry offspring.

Craig did photograph the birdhouse that was enveloped by Paper Wasps. I thought you'd enjoy seeing a close up of their exquisite work. The metal roof is untouched and a tiny portion of the white front still shows.
 Below you can see the Paper Wasps coming and going, as they build a nest inside the birdhouse. They covered up at least 90% of the opening to the birdhouse.
Luckily this birdhouse/paper wasp nest is at the bottom of our driveway. Live and let live is the motto here.

If you'd like to see the original post on this rather unique situation, here's the link:

To see much more of Craig's nature photography, here's the link to his website:

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Common Raven looking pretty goofy on a fence post, as photographed by Allen Vinson

This surely must be a juvenile Common Raven. No adult would look so foolish. It looked like it was trying to nestle down on a nest, forgetting that it was on a fence post.

 Perhaps the Raven could hear Allen snickering. Allen entitled this photo, "Are you laughing at me?!!"
Thanks to Allen for allowing me to share his photos with you here.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A new Roan Antelope has been born at the B. Bryan Preserve

Meet Rocket, the newest member of the herd of endangered Roan Antelopes that make their home in Point Arena at the wildlife preserve B. Bryan Preserve.

And here is Rhonda, Rocket's mom, nursing her newborn. You'll see one of her horns is askew. Judy Mello told me Rhonda had a fight with some other mean Roan girls and this is the result. Judy called it a "bad horn day."
Thanks to Judy for allowing me to share her photos with you here.

To see a photo of a full moon rising over the preserve, here's the link:

And to learn more about this special place, here's the link to the B. Bryan Preserve web site:  It would be a great place to stay when you visit the Coast.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Heermann's Gulls - they are little thieves.

Heermann's Gulls are migrating along the Mendonoma Coast, right, along with Brown Pelicans. These medium-sized Gulls, when adults, have white heads and gray bodies. Their backs are darker gray. Paul Brewer recently photographed one that stopped on a bluff near Gualala.

Just look at that red bill - used to steal fish from Brown Pelicans. They've actually been seen going into a Pelican's pouch to steal its catch.

 Here you can see the three shades of this striking Gull.
These Gulls are rarely found inland. They breed in Mexico and then fly north up to the southern portion of British Columbia. They are found nowhere else in the world.

Thanks to Paul for allowing me to share his photos with you here. To see more of Paul's beautiful photographs, here is his web site:

Paul's photos will also be featured at the Dolphin in Gualala for the month of August.

To see a photo of a Heermann's Gull trying to steal a fish, here's the link:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Common Mergansers seen in the Gualala River and photographed by Bob Rutemoeller

A walk along the Gualala Bluff Trail brings wonderful sightings. Recently Bob Rutemoeller was doing his docent duties along the trail when he saw this group of Common Mergansers on the river.

Common Mergansers are large Ducks and they are found in Europe, Asia and North America. These fish-eating ducks have serrated edges on their bills, giving them the nickname "sawbills."

I love the wakes they made in the calm Gualala River. Thanks to Bob for allowing me to share his photo with you here.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Northern Spotted Owl, as photographed by Coastal photographer Ron LeValley

Ron LeValley was invited to accompany a biologist who was checking on a Northern Spotted Owl nest near the Navarro River in Mendocino County. Look what they found - a female Spotted Owl.

Ron wrote, "Biologists feed the owls mice and see what they do with them. If they eat them right away, it is a good indication that there are no chicks. If there are chicks, the parent owls take the first mice to their chicks. (Below) is the chick that this female owl took the first three mice to. The adult female ate the fourth mouse indicating that this chick was likely the only one the adults were raising."
These Owls are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. They nest in old-growth trees and need large areas in which to hunt. Besides the loss of habitat due to logging, the appearance of Barred Owls is considered to be another threat to these beautiful Owls.

A big thank you to Ron LeValley for allowing me to share his photos with you here. To see much more of Ron's photography, here's a link to his website:

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The strangest thing - one of our birdhouses was recently taken over by Paper Wasps

Rick and I were coming up our driveway from our afternoon hike with Huckleberry the other day when I looked up at the birdhouse on a Bishop Pine tree about 12 feet off the ground. I said to Rick, "Something has turned the birdhouse around!" On a closer look, the outside of the birdhouse had been papered over in beautiful scallops. The hole had been reduced to a very small opening, where Paper Wasps were coming and going.

The metal roof is untouched and a small amount of the white birdhouse can be seen at the bottom. What a strange sight! The best advice I could find was to leave them alone until the winter, when the males will die off and the female can more easily be removed. They have built a nest inside this small birdhouse, where no birds nested this year.

Paper Wasps have their beneficial role to play in nature so we will just enjoy their artistry - home decorating Paper Wasp-style.

It's a beautiful day here on the Mendonoma Coast and you never know just what you might see!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Friends don't let friends drive in the Gualala River!

As appeared in the July 6th edition of the Independent Coast Observer and written by Peter Baye and Jeanne Jackson. All photos by Peter Baye except where noted.

Friends don’t let friends drive in the Gualala River.

The Gualala River, now closed to the Pacific Ocean by a huge sandbar, is a coastal treasure. Creatures big and small make it their home. Care must be taken to protect them and this beautiful wild river that is a part of our lives.

The week before Memorial Day weekend, the beds of the Gualala River’s upstream reaches were pristine gravel bars with stream-side shrubs and wetland vegetation, and flowing channels with water up to several feet deep. The week after Memorial Day, the river bed became a gravel road bed, with scores of tire track ruts crossing every bar, and channels two feet deep. This is an annual unauthorized event, with peak off-road vehicle use on holiday weekends – especially Independence Day weekend.

What does the river look like from the windshield of a truck? Perhaps it looks like an inviting partly-flooded gravel highway perfect for off-road vehicles (ORVs). But if you’d just leave your vehicle behind and see the river up close, you’d find the river bed, and even the deceptively barren-looking gravel bars, are teeming with fish and wildlife that survive by hiding or making themselves as inconspicuous as possible. They do this to avoid natural predators. But there is no protection from being crushed by vehicle tires.
Mendonoma Sightings of wildlife on the river bed are possible only when curious and observant eyes are prepared to see them, and that’s usually not possible through the windshield of a truck. For a closer look at who’s who on the riverbed, and possibly underneath those tires, here is an introduction to some common and uncommon residents of the riverbed in summer.

Western Pond Turtle 

Western pond turtles are uncommon, but can be found around pools and channels near logs and rocks that provide sun-bathing spots with quick-dive escape access to deep pools. They are a dull, dark-brown/olive color, and are hard to see until they dive. Turtles are easily alarmed, and escape by diving to the bottom of the river bed or pool….right in harm’s way of vehicles crossing channels or pools. When Supervisor Efren Carrillo visited the Gualala River last year, he spotted a western pond turtle hunkered down in the channel bed next to the track of a truck that had just passed and missed by a shell’s width. Did the driver of that vehicle see the turtle? Probably not.

Foothill yellow-legged frog 

This is our native stream frog, laying its eggs masses directly on gravel in flowing water in late spring. Adults often bask along the water’s edge, and also rapidly dive to the bottom of the channel or pool when alarmed…safe from predators, but not from ORV tires.

Western toad tadpoles 

The blackish tadpoles of western toads and Pacific treefrogs swarm by hundreds along the shallow edges of warm pools and channels of the river in spring and early summer, grazing on algae growing on pebbles and rocks. In mid to late summer, thousands of newly metamorphosed frogs and toads spread over the moist gravel flats within yards of the water’s edge. The size of a small bee and in swarms almost as large, they are hard to avoid even on foot. One pass of a vehicle is likely to crush hundreds on each bar.

Garter snakes - Western Aquatic Garter Snake   

Red-sided terrestrial garter snakes and aquatic garter snakes feed on tadpoles and frogs along the channel edge. Like the turtles and frogs, Aquatic garter snakes dive to the bottom of the channel or pool when alarmed. Red-sided garter snakes like to bask on warm gravels to warm themselves. Both snakes are prone to becoming road kill on the river bed.

Spotted sandpiper and killdeer - Killdeer eggs, photo by Rae Radtkey 

Two shorebirds nest directly on dry gravel bars, using the natural camouflage of pebbles to mask their eggs: the spotted sandpiper and killdeer. Nests are certain to be nearby when the adults feign injury to distract and mislead predators. It’s difficult to spot their eggs on foot; in a truck it would be nearly impossible.

Gualala roach and stickleback

The most abundant warm-water native fish of the river are the endemic Gualala roach (a type of minnow found only in the Gualala River), and the threespine stickleback. The larvae of roach can be seen emerging from shallow submerged sand and gravel in late spring. The adults dart or hide among pebbles when disturbed – not a secure shelter from truck tires.

Steelhead  juveniles 

Steelhead juveniles are about the same size as Gualala roach, and most years they are abundant in pools with cool seeps or springs and some shelter. They often forage in riffles – the shallow flowing channels which ORVs use avoid deeper water. Their strategy of darting rapidly or hiding under pebbles is no protection against tires. Adult steelhead deposit eggs in redds – circular depressions they excavate in channel gravels. Steelhead are a threatened species that many of us and government agencies are struggling to help recover for their survival, and for return of a vibrant recreational fishery.

All of these wild riverbed residents are part of the beauty of our river, and a part that is not only overlooked from ORVs, but harmed by them. The oil and brake pad metal contaminants from the undersides of trucks are also potentially harmful to aquatic species, too.

It’s time to start a new holiday tradition. Enjoying the wildlife wealth of the Gualala River means leaving your vehicles on the road, getting your feet on the ground, and your eyes on the riverbed. You will be amazed at the wildlife hidden in plain sight.

To learn more about this fascinating wild river, here is the website for Friends of the Gualala River:

Friday, July 20, 2012

A fawn in field of flowers, as photographed by Drew Fagan

Such a lovely scene. Those flowers must be very tasty. Drew Fagan entitled this photo "A fawn in a candy store."

To see some of Drew's wonderful paintings, here's a link to his web site:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Is this where mulch comes from? A fun photo from Coastal photographer, Craig Tooley

Craig Tooley photographed this stick-eating monster recently and posited that this might be where mulch comes from.

So, there really are dinosaurs in the forest at The Sea Ranch!

Thanks to Craig for allowing me to share this fun photo with you here. To see much more of Craig's photography, here's his website:

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Interiors of Fort Ross and the last two fruit trees planted 200 years ago by Russian settlers

At Fort Ross State Historic Park, the buildings of the Russian settlement have been lovingly restored and, in some cases, recreated. Here are photos of one of the workshops, a dining room, the wood-burning stove and a weaving room.

The two trees - one in the middle and the other to the right, are Black Cherry trees planted 200 years ago by the Russians who built Fort Ross. Look at the slope they are now on. The big earthquake of 1906 lifted up the ground here. The trees were originally planted on level ground. Yes, the San Andreas earthquake fault line runs right through here.
The Black Cherry trees are still producing fruit. I was told the fruit was used to flavor liquor. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

King Salmon are running off of Anchor Bay!

Before I show you some of the interiors of Fort Ross, I wanted to show you that Salmon are running off the Mendocino Coast. Rick and I live in Anchor Bay. When the clouds lifted a little while ago, I saw fishing boats off of Fish Rocks. Yesterday Ken Bailey and Richard Lewis went out in a Zodiak and look what they caught:

A fifteen pound King Salmon and a seventeen pound Ling Cod - gifts from the sea.

Thanks to Ken for allowing me to share his photo with you here and thanks to Wendy Bailey for sending the photo and sighting in.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Fort Ross, the southern-most Russian settlement in the United States

Two hundred years ago Russian explorers and fur traders established a fort on the Sonoma Coast of California. Today it is called the Fort Ross State Historic Park and soon they will be celebrating the bicentennial of the founding of the fort. The celebration weekend is July 28th and 29th. Many activities are planned, including reenactments with people in period costumes.

Rick and I visited the park this past Saturday. You can see it was a foggy morning. We arrived right when it opened at 10 am so there were few people. It was quite crowded later in the day.

Below is the beautiful chapel.

Here you will see the posters for the Bicentennial celebration.
And here is a photo of the stockade walls.
This sign shows the Fort as it was in 1828.
And this is the Sally Forth, an opening in the stockade where defenders could "sally forth" - in otherwords,  leave the fort.
Tomorrow I will share some photos of inside the restored buildings.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A magnificent Blue Whale, as photographed by Coastal photographer, Craig Tooley

As promised, here's the photo of a Blue Whale Craig Tooley took from an airplane last year.

And here's another Blue Whale Craig photographed several years ago.

The world's largest creature, Blue Whales are a rare sighting. They have been seen off the Mendonoma Coast this year, which is early. It signifies the abundance of food for these giants of the sea.

Thanks to Craig for allowing me to share these photos here. You can see more whale photography on Craig's web site:

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Young Brown Pelicans - some are in trouble

Ken Bailey recently photographed a baby Brown Pelican. They are flying by the Coast in great numbers now. It seems there was a high birth rate this year. Some of the young Pelicans have been seen in unexpected places - most are tired and just need to rest. But some aren't going to survive. Rescue centers have been overwhelmed with young Brown Pelicans and will no longer take them. Here's what a baby Brown Pelican looks like:

They have a white belly, or underparts, and their head is brown. It is very distressing to see one starving as we cherish these birds that were almost made extinct by the pesticide DDT. But the fact is some don't survive and it proves out the motto of the survival of the fittest. Of course if something man-made is affecting them, like fishing line, you should try to help them.

Below is a photo Allen Vinson took of a squadron of Brown Pelicans. May the fish be plentiful and the winds favorable. They have a long journey to points north.

Thanks to Allen and Ken for allowing me to share their photos with you here. To see a photo comparing adult Brown Pelicans to a juvenile, here's the link:

Friday, July 13, 2012

Golden Retriever Love Brigade spreads the love in the 4th of July parade in Point Arena

Once again the Golden Retriever Love Brigade made an appearance at the 4th of July parade in Point Arena. Of course the parade wasn't held on the 4th this year but the 8th. When we start down Highway One, which is also Main Street, you can hear people going "awww..." And the children call out to the goldens. It's a heartwarming moment.

Amelia Ronne and Emily Grossman carry our sign.
 We won first prize in our division, which was, of course, animals. I'm holding the award and, yes, that's Huckleberry.
 We tried and tried to get a photo of the goldens and their owners. Not too successfully! Bridgett, a young pup on the left, was more interested in a ball. Jordan, next to her, is a ball hawk too but he was being a good boy.
 I love how the children are reaching out to the dogs. Golden Retrievers are among the friendliest of dogs.
An only in Point Arena event! And below you will see a pup trying - and succeeding - in showing up the Love Brigade. The dog is being pulled by a remote-controlled vehicle and he/she sure looks smug, don't you think?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Blue Whales were seen off the Mendocino Coast!

On July 5th I saw what I thought was a breach out in the Pacific Ocean. The ocean was calm and I saw a big splash of white water. Now, Rick and I are a half mile away from the ocean so when we see a big splash like this we know something special is going on. Thinking it might be a Humpback, I trained our scope on it and saw it wasn't a breach but a huge spout. Blue Whales!!! There were three, perhaps four of these behemoths.

You can see the back in the photos below. Blue Whales are so huge they do not come out of the water except for a peek at their backs.
I have a much, much better photo of a Blue Whale, taken by Craig Tooley from an airplane. I will share that another day. Any day you see whales is a good day, but seeing Blues is something extra special.