Natural History Notes

Sunday, July 06, 2014

was it hunting sour grapes?

Eight pm July 5th. The temperature has dropped below 90° on the porch. Sunset is still half an hour away, but the horizontal rays through the screen have lost most of their power - the cooling from the breeze outdoes them.

Just as I left to go downstairs at 6:30 there was a fox calling, down the hill toward the tank. Sounds like a dog with a VERY sore throat. Just single barks, one at a time, unlike most dogs.

I heard it, briefly, very close and loud, in the night a few days ago. It was somewhere to the south of the house. 

And day before yesterday, I had a good view of it, a native gray fox, for several minutes in the backyard. While I was looking out the sink window, it came bounding across the yard from the right. It didn’t seem to be running from anything, or in pursuit, it was just running - sort of a lolloping, high-bouncing gait.

At first I thought it had kept going, past the garage and down the hill. Then I realized I could still see a disturbance in the high grass. (The black-eyed susans have been blooming, and I have put off getting most of the back yard mowed this month.) I watched glimpses of gray fur fossicking around for some time, and finally took a chance and hobbled off after the binoculars. It was still busy when I returned. Mostly it seemed to be prospecting around at the base of the grasses, but a few times it raised its head and gave me a beautiful view of its surprisingly slender head and neck.

Of course I didn’t have the camera; it was upstairs. This image is cropped from a Wikimedia Creative Commons one,, that was taken in the Sierra Nevada. I don’t believe mine had as much red on the head, though there was red down each side of the neck.The body was more ashy-gray than charcoal. Almost exactly the color, in fact, of our fox squirrels.

Once I thought of it I tried to get a notion of whether it was a dog-fox or maybe a lactating vixen, but it never bounded up above the grass again. I just caught glimpses of the head and sometimes the back; mostly just a stirring in the grass. I never could tell what it was doing. Catching grasshoppers? But it wasn’t jumping or snapping. It worked its way around this way and that till it finally disappeared past the corner of the garage.

Here’s where it was. Just imagine this scene at three o’clock in the afternoon rather than sunset. It came bounding in from the right, spent a good while in the weeds and high grass beyond the little berm, and finally disappeared off to the left.


Tuesday, July 01, 2014

almost berries again

Just about dusk yesterday, I went down to check on the approaches to the blackberry patch that Tommy was mowing yesterday morning. He had said he thought they would be another week or two ripening, that there were plenty of berries, still mostly red.

Well, they are mostly red still, but there are definitely ripe black ones to be found, mostly on the tips of the twigs. I had planned to check on them, and then continue on my way on the loop, just over half a mile, through the old white gate.

Instead I spent ten minutes gathering a half cup of berries, and came trudging up the hill again, barely a quarter mile.

Not much exercise, but breakfast sure was good.

Tommy has made a nice broad approach path, and mowed in close to the bearing canes.

In my fridge last night.

Breakfast - with blueberries, peaches, milk and cream. Yum!

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