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Monday, June 25, 2012

The White-tailed Kites are Fledging!

After many weeks, the White-tailed Kite nest saga is almost over, as two of the four nestlings left the nest yesterday, a couple hours before sunset. One took a pretty long flight, with one of the kite-parents soaring in close to the young one, as if to provide moral support! This morning, at least three of the young kites were seen taking short flights from the nest, and perching here and there in the area of the big meadow. What must be the least developed nestling was still hanging in at the nest!

I got some reasonably decent images (based on how far away they are), with the help of Bill Carter's excellent telescope and adapter for my camera. Thanks Bill and Susan!

A short hop of about 4 feet (right by the nest)!

Two hangers-on by the nest. The other two fledglings were nearby in other trees.

"Hey -- watch where you're flapping!"

A youngster contemplating life and flight.

Those wings are still a bit stubby.

The dark hood will apparently be lost in a few weeks.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Bobcat on the Patio (Again)

Today I noticed a bobcat near the front door of the house, which noticed me back and lashed its stumpy tail as it locked eyes with me (and I was inside the mudroom looking out, so it very aware of its surroundings).

It headed in the direction of the patio, so I quickly (and quietly) moved to the bedroom (which overlooks the patio) and Hayduke the Cat, lounging in the wicker chair by the screen door, meowed loudly twice, hoping for attention.

I expected that the bobcat would be gone after the meowing, but as I peeked slowly around the edge of the door, there it was, about three feet away from me (the spot indicated by the star in the photo below). It stared right back, for several long-seeming seconds, continuing to lash its stump tail, then casually wandered off onto the slope, and slowly moved towards the brush line. It indicated little fear, and seemed confident. Crows immediately kicked up a ruckus of cawing above it. It seemed a little bit bigger than Hayduke, who weighs about 18 pounds, but the bobcat had a lean, experienced look about it.

The patio, with door to bedroom on the right.
Hayduke apparently never figured out that a large predator was about four feet from him, but Jinx (the outdoor kitty) was nervous and took refuge high up near the roof in the garage.

Perhaps this cat was attempting to get a drink from the new bird bath that I made from some spare concrete we had left over from the greenhouse project. Beechey Ground Squirrels, Wild Turkeys, Acorn Woodpeckers and Western Scrub Jays have been visiting the bird bath regularly.

The concrete bird bath that I made about a week ago. It seems popular with the local wildlife, especially as the available water in the neighborhood decreases due to warmth and lack of rain.
NOTE AS OF JUNE 25 (the next day):

At 5:30 am this morning the bobcat returned and paid a visit to the bird bath. Gary saw if first and woke my up so I could get a quick look too before the cat moved on again (it knew it was being observed).  The crows went crazy again, just like yesterday -- with much cawing until the cat disappeared onto the Steeber property next door.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Screech Owls at the Patio Black Light

Last night, being a warm, calm and moonless night, I set out the black light and sheet on the patio. Many insects began to swarm, and upon going out to check while the evening was still young, I heard a strange chittering sound which sounded like it came from right behind the sheet. Taking another couple steps forward I saw a Western Screech Owl sitting on one of the large bricks that form the border of the patio, about a foot from the bottom corner of the black light sheet! It immediately flew away. Was it visiting to get some easy protein from the numerous bugs (including several large California Prionus and Polyphylla that were attracted)?

The next time I went out, I heard more chittering close by, and there was the owl, about 15 feet to the north, perched on a boundary stake. I encouraged Gary to come out and see, and the owl had moved to one of the barbed-wire fence posts a few feet down slope. Then we noticed another owl on the next fence post along the fence line! By carefully creeping, I got a few photos, and the best one is shown below. This certainly is a young owl, and the other was likely its sibling. Their "juvenile"(somewhat fearless) behavior supports this. 

Western Screech Owl (Megascops kennicottii)

The sheet, with black light, and the fence line, with one fence post barely visible to the right of and behind the round boulder

Friday, June 15, 2012

White-tailed Kites Nesting in the Meadow: Almost Ready to Fledge

For weeks we have watched a pair of White-tailed Kites on and around their nest in the big meadow below our house site. Today, one of the nestlings has apparently stepped out of the nest, and stood staring out at the world around it, looking quite mature and raptor-like. The characteristic reddish marking on the chest, typical of an immature White-tailed Kite, is clearly visible. My best photographic attempt is a very crude shot through a spotting scope, but at least it shows the young one well enough to identify it. Three nestlings in total were observed yesterday being fed by one of the parents.

One of the nestlings, apparently perched right next to the nest, which has always been just out of our view in the highest point of this live oak.

A view of the meadow from the upper story of our house. It is rich in voles, deer mice, pocket mice and other rodents.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

More Insects and Arachnids -- Could There Ever Be Too Many?

Many little critters are out and about! Here are some more observed in Cuyamaca Woods in the past couple days (most at the house here).

Acmaeodera sp. on sunflower

Acorn Weevil (Curculio sp.)

Western Rose Curculio (Merhynchites wickhami), on California Wild Rose (as expected)

Eleodes acuticauda, a common darkling beetle in these parts

Latrodectus geometricus male (Brown Widow). Tiny -- only about 4 mm in length, in a miniscule web on the patio last night

A solifuge (wind scorpion) on my patio. An arachnid, but not a spider. This individual is MUCH fatter than the solifuge that I photographed about a week ago. The same one, after it found some good meals?

Snake Portraits

As it has warmed up now, various snakes are making their appearances in Cuyamaca Woods. Today, Gary and I saw a very fresh, juvenile gopher snake on our walk up Starlight Way. It was stretched out on the road, and allowed some close-up shots.

Most likely the San Diego Gopher Snake, Pituophis catenifer annectens.
The gopher snake stretched out. Not a baby, but certainly not a full-sized adult either (so a teenager!)
A few days ago we observed our first rattlesnake of the season, a Southern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus helleri -- formerly Crotalus viridis helleri). It was peeking out between two rocks lining our path between the house and the solar shed. It was also very calm and cooperative as I took photos. It slithered back into the bushes, and we have not seen it since.

Southern Pacific Rattlesnake
I have yet to see a Red Diamond Rattlesnake here in the Cuyamaca Mountains, although it seemed as common as the Southern Pacific in the foothills. And of course, the baby Speckled Rattlesnake observed by others in Cuyamaca Woods last summer was a real treat. Hopefully one will show itself this season, too!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Insects and Spiders at the Black Light

In the past few days, particularly with the couple really hot days we've just had, some nice little critters have been coming out at night and visiting the black light I put up on my patio.

Here are a couple of the visitors. The new Canon camera and macro lens is really helping with this close-up photography!

Hippodamia sinuata sinuata, a lady beetle.

Eleodes osculans (Wooly Darkling Beetle)

Zarhipis integripennis

Most likely Creugas bajulus. If so, a rare sighting, with few records in the literature of this species. Thanks to Jim Berrian at the San Diego Natural History Museum for help in identifying this spider, as well as those at Bugguide.net.

Herpyllus propinquus, the Western Parson Spider