Gray Fox - Urocyon cinereoargenteus
Over the years I've seen a handful of different foxes in our neighborhood. Usually I only see them for a few seconds at a time. It was by studying my photographs that I realized how unique each one is! They vary in the amount and pattern of the reddish fur that they have, the shape of their faces, their eyes, the markings around their eyes, as well as their size and overall appearance. Their behaviors also differ. Some are on alert and dart away in a second. Others are more use to humans and not so quick to depart . The one pictured above is commonly around the compost pile in our garden. It doesn't eat the decaying vegetables, but rather it preys on the rodents and small mammals that are attracted to the compost!
Gray Fox - Urocyon cinereoargenteus
Here are some of the foxes I've observed. As you can see, they differ quite a bit in appearance. I find all of them fascinating. I see them more often in the winter, when the branches are bare and the grasses have died back.
This is one of my favorite fox photos. It just caught this fox on its way in its neighborhood, looking ahead, all beautiful and full of light.
Virginia Opossum - Didelphis virginiana
I took this photo of a Virginia Opossum two summers ago, and I hadn't seen once since then. To my surprise, just two nights ago, there was an opossum in our pantry busily eating dry cat food! We have a cat door that we close at night, but the evening was still young. When it saw me, the opossum tried to hide but there wasn't anywhere to hide, so I opened up the back door and it quickly scooted outside! It was pretty big (approx. 36 inches long) and shaped like a giant raindrop with its pointy nose and round bum! It was also mostly white in color. How cool! And of course it came back again the next night for a repeat performance! From now on we're hopefully going to remember to close the cat door sooner!
Virginia Opossums are marsupials, in which the young are born incompletely developed and are typically carried and suckled in a pouch on the mother's belly. They are the only marsupials native to North America. Although originally found in the southern states and South America, they have been expanding their range to the north and west. This might be related to the warmer winters we've been having, and their ability to live around people where more food and shelter are available. However, they cannot live in extreme cold, as they do not hibernate, have furless ears and tails susceptible to frostbite, have inadequate thermoregulatory abilities, and poorly insulated fur. They prefer to live near water, in woodlands and thickets, from sea-level to 9,000'!
They are usually solitary, nocturnal, and terrestrial, but can also climb trees with a prehensile tail and big toes that work like thumbs!!! They are omnivores and eat vertebrates, invertebrates, plant material, fruits, grains, and carrion. In the wild they have a short life span of only 1.5 to 2 years! They are preyed on by owls, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, bobcats, and even large snakes!
Western Grey Squirrel - Sciurus griseus
Two of the squirrels in my neighborhood remain active all year, the Western Gray Squirrel and the Chickaree or Douglas Squirrel. At this time of year they mainly eat mushrooms, mistletoe berries, acorns, pine nuts and seeds. They search for food daily, but also have caches of food to eat when snow blankets the ground. They are incredible tree climbers and acrobats, and can rotate their hind feet 180° backwards when climbing down a trunk. During winter they usually live in a hollow tree or limb, or abandoned woodpecker cavities.
Ringtail Cat - Bassariscus astutus
We've been getting rid of stuff on our property, in preparation for the home owners insurance agent's visit. As I was clearing the area under our back porch I came across this little, dead, ringtail cat! It didn't have any visible wounds, so I don't know why it died. It was unfortunate that it died, but It gave me the opportunity to observe one closely. I've seen these lovely creatures only a few times in my life, always at night. They are about the size of a large house cat, only with a longer, bushier tail. They hunt for prey on the ground and in the trees, where they are excellent climbers. Their diet consists mainly of rodents, rabbits, squirrels, carrion, acorns, and berries during the winter. In the winter they sleep in underground dens, lined and padded with lichen and moss. They are solitary except during the breeding season in April.
Ringtails are nocturnal. They are omnivorous and eat rodents, rabbits, squirrels, mice, insects, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fruit, seeds, berries, and acorns! They are not in the cat family, Felidae. They are members of the raccoon family, Procyonidae. Their habitat extends from sea level to 4,600' in the Sierra!
I put this little beauty down where I've seen the Fox lately, and the next morning it was gone. One dies and another survives.
Wild Turkeys don't live in my neighborhood, so I don't know much about them. I saw this one (and several more) in an urban area! The following information is from the Cornell website allaboutbirds.org.
"Wild Turkeys get around mostly by walking, though they can also run and fly—when threatened, females tend to fly while males tend to run. At sundown turkeys fly into the lower limbs of trees and move upward from limb to limb to a high roost spot. They usually roost in flocks, but sometimes individually. Courting males gobble to attract females and warn competing males. They display for females by strutting with their tails fanned, wings lowered, while making nonvocal hums and chump sounds. Males breed with multiple mates and form all-male flocks outside of the breeding season, leaving the chick-rearing to the females, The chicks travel in a family group with their mother, often combining with other family groups to form large flocks of young turkeys accompanied by two or more adult females."
Wild Turkey (male) - Meleagris gallopavo
Male turkeys are large with a body length of 46", a wingspan of 64", and a weight of 16.2 lbs! They can be distinguished from the females by their colorful blue heads and read throats. The females are smaller and not as colorful.
Turkey Body Feathers
My sister lives in Lake County and has LOTS of Wild Turkeys roaming through her property. She often sends me natural history "finds" that she thinks I'd be interested in, including turkey feathers! If she hadn't sent them to me I'd never known how gorgeous they are. Some of the broad body feathers even have a greenish band of iridescence on them!
Turkey body feathers - juvenile wing feathers (?)
I've never seen a male Turkey display it's tail, but it must be gorgeous and impressive!
Wild Turkey (female) with chicks - Meleagris gallopavo
The female is the one that takes care of the young chicks, and often groups together with other females and their young, while the chicks develop into adults.
Wild Rose leaves in the Rain
Damp Earth Art
I'm going to keep posting rain inspired writings, art, etc. on my blog at dampearthart.blogspot.com. Any submissions would be greatly appreciated. Please join me in my continuing hope for precipitation! Perhaps our collective efforts may help it happen.
What's happening on the river?
What's happening in the foothills?
Check back next week for the answers to these questions and more!
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