Spotted Again

You might remember the last fawn sighting I posted about… Since then, I’ve had several opportunities to see them around my place, but often when my camera was not at hand.

A few days ago, while driving home, we saw a mother and her youngster on the side of the road and stopped to let them cross. I was so engrossed in watching that I didn’t think to try and take a few photos until they were almost out-of-view. I love the backdrop of field and trees, but the fawn itself is little more than a brown pair of ears visible above the grass line….


Mule Deer, female & fawn


Today, I headed out for a very brief walk as the sun was setting. It was unpleasantly warm and I was immediately distracted by the unwanted attention of various “bitey flies”. (Yup, that’s my highly scientific term for any number of fly species that make their living extracting blood from the local mammals… including myself, sadly.) Perhaps if I had been less distracted, I would have noticed the big dark eyes staring at me from a short distance away and approached more slowly. I stopped in my tracks and even backed up a few feet… sometimes this is enough to put our resident deer at ease and they will just go back to what they were doing. But the mother deer munching on Toyon in front of me had two fawns with her and I think she thought better of sticking around. They started to disappear into the dense brush. I simply watched them go. Despite my desire to take wonderful photos, I try never to chase after animals. I have no desire to alarm or frighten them — even if it means that I miss the shot. After a few minutes, I wandered past the area they had been and looked up into the foliage on the hill rising before me. At first I didn’t see anything, but I heard a bit of crashing as one of the fawn dashed to keep up with its mother. I managed to take a few images, though the second fawn never came back into view…


Mule Deer, female & fawn


As I was taking the above photo, the flies began to descend on me in the most merciless of ways. I already felt a bit wilted from the heat and I hadn’t even walked up the hill yet. Still, when you can come home with memories like these, it’s hard not to smile.

Harsi / June 21, 2011 / mammals / 0 Comments


It’s nearing the end of a very long day… About an hour ago, I said good-bye to my husband as he departed for a week-long business trip to Australia. Sadly, he probably won’t get to see much more than whatever is visible from his hotel, but I still hope he manages to have a bit of an adventure and see a few cool sights during his travels.

On my drive home, I found myself thinking about Eucalyptus — a genus of tree that grows prolifically in Australia where it is a native. In southern California, these trees are planted so frequently and have thrived here for so many years that it’s hard for me to not consider them a permanent part of the landscape. And yet… there was a time when not a trace of Eucalyptus would have been found on this continent. Odd to think about.


Eucalyptus leaf


This leaf could have been photographed anywhere.

In truth, it was just one of the many in the canyon that decorate the ground along the trails behind my house… but, it could have been Australia. How would you know the difference? A leaf is a leaf is a leaf.


Black Bear claw marks on Eucalytpus


This is a photo that could never be taken in Australia.

The multicolored trunk and peeling layers of bark wouldn’t be much of a stretch, but this particular Eucalyptus stands near our cabin and it is beautifully etched with the claw marks of one of the resident Black Bear (Ursus americanus). Despite the misleading name often attributed to the Koala, there are no bears in Australia.

Around here, the bears appear to regularly climb and mark the Eucalyptus trees. From the evidence I’ve seen, I gather that at least some of the time they are searching for Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) nests to ransack. A bee species which, by the way, originates from Europe, Asia and Africa.

Hmmm… always so interesting to ponder the increasing convergence of introduced and native wildlife here in California.

Well, I wasn’t really going anywhere with all of this… Sorry! Just musing to myself and trying to share a little something with y’all before I crash for the night. Wishing everyone an enjoyable weekend and hoping that nature figures in your plans somewhere!

[EDIT: After doing a bit more reading, I thought I should probably clarify that while they may all be casually referred to as “eucalyptus”, there are actually three potential genera — Eucalyptus, Angophora and Corymbia — that make up this group of plants. I haven’t attempted to identify the various species of eucalyptus around my place…. yet! Perhaps that will be the subject of a future blog post.]

Harsi / June 11, 2011 / mammals, plants / 2 Comments

Sometimes The Sky Calls…

Another night of unsatisfying sleep, my Inbox is full of e-mail awaiting responses, my household chores are steadily backing up. In light of all of this, I had decided that I would stay inside today and just post some remaining photos from yesterday’s walk. But… this morning I looked outside and it was cloudy. I cracked the front door and the weather was cool and breezy. Birds were singing… squirrels were zipping around… and, well, you know how it goes. I got dressed and put my shoes on. [insert sheepish grin] I figured I should at least grab a cup of juice before leaving and while gulping it down, I peered out the kitchen window. As if on cue, my favorite spotted-little-one showed up with its mom and gave me a glimpse or two as it snuck through the sage and olive trees.


mule deer fawn

There was a fair bit of blue sky showing, but the clouds that covered the rest of the sky more than made up for it. Wispy and whimsical. Puffs and arcs. Stretching, shifting and moving. Aaaah… action in the sky… just what I crave!


clouds sky trees

clouds sky hillside

cloud abstract


As if issuing some sort of homage to the little spotted fawn from earlier, the sky shifted yet again and produced this most wonderful pattern:


cloud abstract spots**Be sure to click on the image for a beautiful panoramic.**

A Cooper’s Hawk (quite likely the same one from yesterday!) soared effortlessly above me. Sharing the sky with the hawk were a few swallows swooping and diving at unseen insects. I heard the raucous croaking of the boisterous raven family long before I spotted them high over the hills. The juveniles are as big as the adults now and the family (6 birds total, I think) loudly travels together in search of food and perhaps a bit of mayhem.


Cooper's Hawk & Common Ravens


There were small arthropod joys to be had as well. Several bumble bees were working a patch of California Poppies. If yesterday’s photos were a matter of good luck and perfect timing, today’s images proved to be more a matter of supreme patience and diligence. For some reason, my camera repeatedly refused to achieve focus when I wanted it to, and countless opportunities for beautiful shots of the bees ended up as little more than blurry blobs of orange, yellow and black. But, it was a beautiful day to be out and I smiled despite my frustration, and stuck with it until I managed to come away with at least a few nifty shots.

bumble bees on poppiesI was kind of amazed at how long bumble bees’ back legs are when they let them dangle.


I knew I had been gone too long, and reluctantly I turned and headed for home. As I rounded the corner of the small work shed near our cabin, I slowed down to carefully watch my step and scan the ground… Why? Well, because there’s always the chance I’ll see this poking out of the abandoned ground squirrel burrow:


rattlesnake under shedIf you’ve got a heebie-jeebie-thing about rattlers, I wouldn’t click on this one for the bonus shot… (*grin*)

Hope everyone has had a truly wonderful day!

Harsi / June 1, 2011 / arthropods, birds, flowers, mammals, reptiles, skies / 2 Comments


J-O-YThe death of “joy” in nature is leading to the death of nature itself.

Francis Schaeffer (1970)


I hope everyone had a relaxing long weekend… and perhaps managed to discover a bit of the joy and fufillment that is always present in nature, just waiting to be savored.

Harsi / May 30, 2011 / arthropods, conservation, flowers, mammals, quotations / 0 Comments

Second Chance

Around the same time as yesterday, in just about the same place… guess who I spotted again?

Hah… “spotted again”… that’s funny! This little one certainly is spotted and terribly cute.

This time, I managed to get to my camera in time to grab a few shots. The resolution is not fantastic because I had to shoot at a pretty steep angle through the glass of our kitchen window, which always causes some unfortunate distortion. But, these images are all about capturing and preserving my memories of this lovely creature. Mission accomplished!


mule deer fawn

mule deer fawn

Harsi / May 28, 2011 / mammals / 2 Comments

First Fawn!!

This morning, I had the blinds in my bedroom open while I was working away at my computer. I registered a bit of movement and looked up in time to see a bunch of spots, two pair of wobbly legs, big ears and dark eyes staring back at me. This is the first Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus) fawn I’ve seen this season and it made my heart smile!! I wasn’t fast enough getting to my camera to snap any pics before the skiddish youngster trotted out of view, but here’s an honorary pic from the archives to celebrate the occasion. (I love the expression of the foreground fawn in this photo and the whimsical out-of-focus background that the tail-end of its twin sibling provides.)

mule deer fawn

Harsi / May 27, 2011 / mammals / 0 Comments


Sadly, I’m still feeling sick… but, it was definitely necessary for me to get outside for a little while today. My husband (who’s also been a bit sick) was kind enough to join me on a mellow walk down to the creek and back. We checked up on the newts… listened to the birds calling… I occasionally stopped from time to time to peer at some small beetle or spider. Then, I saw a flash of movement in the creek bed, several feet below the height of the road we were walking on. A somewhat alarmed looking skunk hurried up the embankment on the opposite side of the creek and crashed into the dense foliage. We watched it until it went out of view and then I babbled on about what a wonderful sighting we’d just had. You see, though we’ve lived here in the canyon for seven years and have had a few skunk sightings here and there, mostly we are aware of their regular presence solely by the lingering odor that often wafts through the air. The few times that we have seen them, it’s always been while driving on the road (usually at night) and then we only a get a few seconds to observe them before they slink off out of sight. This was by far the best opportunity we’d had to really watch one of these lovely creatures! We were about to move on, but out of the corner of my eye, I saw another one emerge from the foliage a little distance behind where the last one had disappeared. Perhaps because we had not startled this one, it was more nonchalant and we quietly watched it forage and dig around for a much longer time before it too finally disappeared from view. It was near sundown and far too dark and shady by the creek for there to be much hope of good photographs, but I did take several video clips and I thought I’d share a few still images from that footage, just so that you all can share in the experience… even if it’s just a bit of blurry black & white. (*grin*)

striped skunk
Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis)

I think the fact that we live on such a large and undeveloped tract of land actually prohibits how much we get to see these guys… But, I know that skunks are often common visitors in many people’s backyards. Skunk stories, anyone??

Harsi / May 21, 2011 / mammals / 2 Comments

Layin’ Low

As I lay in bed with a sore throat, aches, pains and a nasty headache, I feel all the more grateful for the beautiful days I spent outside last week… Blech! I do NOT handle being sick well. I’m trying to be good to myself though and give my body the time it needs to rest and repair. Here’s a few pics of the local critters taking a break too… *grin*


western gray squirrel lounging

mule deer lounging

desert cottontail lounging


Harsi / May 18, 2011 / mammals / 7 Comments

Good morning? Nope… Great morning!!

pre-sunrise hills


I had to get up really early this morning in order to see my husband off on his annual trip to Minnesota for a work-related conference. As I was heading back home, enjoying a leisurely drive through the canyon, I spied a perched Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) silhouetted against the still gray sky and decided to pull off the road to take a few pictures.


red-tailed hawk solo

I walked a bit futher out onto the flat, open area which used to be a fenced pasture area for horses; now, overgrown with dense chaparral on all sides. The hawk was sitting at the top of a large eucalyptus that I knew was a regular nesting spot in previous years. Sure enough, the lone hawk was soon joined in the tree by its mate. Every few minutes or so, one of the hawks (the female, I’m fairly certain) would let loose with a loud, piercing cry — keeeeeeeeee-yah! — then fall silent again. Several times in a row, the female hawk would take to the air and do some brief circling just above the tree, then as she came in for a landing, the male would flap upward as if to greet her before they both settled back into their proximal perching positions.


red-tailed hawk landing

red-tailed hawk pair landing

I so enjoyed capturing these images of them… they were an absolute joy to watch!


red-tailed hawk pairNot a great photo, with houses and whatnot in the background, but I’m fascinated by how different their plumage looks. Red-tailed Hawks come in many, many color forms, from very pale to very dark and every variation between. I believe that the slightly larger, reddish one is the female…

Eventually, I turned away from the now quiet, stoic hawk pair. I started back to my truck, but as I walked over a small rise, I found myself staring into the eyes of a somewhat startled looking Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus). As is often the case when they are approached slowly around our place, the deer seemed more curious about my presence than frightened. I stood very still, moving minimally to take these images…


mule deer emerging***Be sure to click on this one to see the detail image — smiles await!!***


The deer crossed to the other side of the road…


mule deer crossing

…but then actually moved closer, nearing to 40 feet or so.
The expression on her face was one big question mark — WHO are you? WHAT are you? Whatcha’ doin’ standing in the middle of the road there?
Aloud, I said, “Hello, there. How’s it goin’?”
Her only response was an even more intense stare and a twitch of her large namesake ears.


mule deer & chamise

Could she be any more beautiful with the flowering Chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum) in the background?


I watched her disappear behind my truck and then down into the sloping brush. How can you not feel like a million bucks after an encounter like that?! Quail were calling from hiding places in the dense foliage. A rabbit scampered past. I picked out the calls of California Thrasher, Phainopepla, Wrentit, Common Yellowthroat… just a few of the voices in the busy morning chatter. The sun was now cresting over the hills, its warmth and light spreading over the dark, chilly parts of the canyon.


sunrise hills


I was so incredibly glad to be up early!! Happy and blessed. And maybe a little silly from lack of sleep… *grin* This last photo of me heading home is an homage to my friend Ro, who has made an art form of rising early and sharing her morning walks. (I don’t have a great dog like Banjo to pose with me, but I did my best!)

shadow walking

Did this morning hold any wonderful surprises for you?

Harsi / May 11, 2011 / birds, hillsides, mammals, skies / 6 Comments

Squirrel Stare Down

gray squirrel stareWestern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus griseus)
The other day, before I even got to the steps and discovered the rattlesnake, I stopped to take this picture. There are at least two tree squirrels that live just around our cabin and it’s typical when we’re exiting the front door for them to scamper half way up a tree and then stop to stare at us with dark, unblinking eyes and a wary posture that says — I can run up this trunk faster than you… but I won’t, unless I have to. The look of this particular one just made me want to bust out laughing! That hairline on its head where a new coat of fur is growing in conjures up images of TV sitcom stars from my youth. At first I thought of Squiggy from “Laverne & Shirley”, but then I decided that Eddie Munster was probably a closer match. HA HA!

Seen anything in nature that’s made you smile recently?

Harsi / May 10, 2011 / mammals / 2 Comments