Saturday, January 20, 2007

Band-Tailed Pigeons On Oaks
Each fall, Band-tailed Pigeons visit Hastings, and this year we have an unusually large number. This might be related to the curiously abundant late-fall acorn crop here in many coast live oaks. Very nervous, the pigeons clatter to the air at the slightest disturbance and often fly a long distance up the steep canyons and take up to 5 minutes to settle down again. Thus, we have these early morning flights around and around the steep canyons below the Arnold Place.
Well over 500 birds are wheeling around most of these cold January mornings. (And yes, we did have a few pipes burst, but Jaime needed nothing more than a little truck inner tube and a few hose clamps to get us going again. We are replacing these with permanent repairs and insulation as things warm up.)

A small percentage of the pigeons each year just sit on the road, and we often find them dead on the roads, or in the brush. Often we only find a pile of feathers. In checking these recently dead pigeons, their crops are empty and inflamed. They probably have an infection of Trichomonas gallinae*. This infection is spread between birds at feeders and can also be spread to hawks or owls that feed on the dying or infected pigeons. If you have a feeder with Band-tailed Pigeons, be sure to keep it clean and disinfect it often with a mild chlorine bleach solution.

Stabler, R. M., and C. E. Braun. 1979. Effects of a California derived strain of Trichomonas gallinae on Colorado USA Band-Tailed Pigeons. California Fish and Game 65:56-58.
Mountain Lion Seen Attacking Deer
Jan 12, 2007. At about 9:15 am, Mark Stromberg was walking from the Hallisey House to the office, along a path where the new phone line goes; parallel to the entry lane. The account:
"I first saw a deer rush across the trail and into the opening. Three young males had been spending time near the entry gate, as there are several oak trees in the area dropping a massive load of acorns, rather late in the season. Looking through the opening of the trail in the forest to the field, up on the shoulder of the hill I could see a mature (3 point?) buck rolling on the ground with a lion holding onto the neck. They rolled together several times and after about 3 large flips from one side to the other, the deer remained on one side and did not move. The lion was gripping the neck and shoulders. They were head to head, with bodies at a right angle.
Not wanting to disturb this, I walked back down the trail, crossed the creek and emerged on the high ground just south of the first (lower) creed crossing on the entry lane. Walking through the brush along the creek was pretty noisy. As I emerged from the roses, snowberries, poison oak and sedges, the deer rushed out of the forest and turned to run uphill along the road, followed closely by the lion. They emerged from the forest just at the top of the hump between the two cement creek crossings and ran up the road. Whipping its long tail, the lion left large gouges in the loose leaves with paddle-like, black, dirt-stained feet. As it was so cold, I did not bring my camera on this day, but if I had, I could have taken a photo of the lion chasing the deer next to the sign on the entry lane advising visitors that mountain lions are present.
I retrieved my camera and drove up to get our current field assistants (Ryan Drobek and Bridgett Piculell) and we went out to see if we could find the lion again. Wet blood stood out on the leaves and grass where the deer and lion had struggled. They left deep rips in the soil and tufts of deer hair. Air temperature was about 20 deg F the previous night and the ground was still frozen so tracking was difficult. We did track them about 50 yards north but lost them when they re-crossed the creek and entered Pierson field north of the original struggle, and headed up Haystack Hill".
Chris Counts featured parts of the story in the January 26 edition of the weekly "Carmel Pine Cone". Click here for a reprint.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Weather 2006-7: So far; relatively dry.

When I think about how we all enjoy talking about the weather, I recall a story Carl Bock liked to tell from my old haunts in the high desert grasslands near Elgin, Arizona. Like Carmel Valley, rainfall varies enormously from year to year. In the early 1980's a long dry spell ended with some spectacularly wet monsoons starting each July. Grass was tall, and long-dry creeks were gurgling along merrily. Each day the old-timers would gather over coffee at the local cafe and talk about the weather. There, the talk was often of how much rain fell in one small watershed while only a few miles away it was dry that night. The statistical concept of an average remained elusive. Carl recalls one neighboring rancher's observation: "You know I have lived in this country for over 25 years" he said, "and this is about the first typical summer we've had".

With this memorable quote in mind, here are the data from 2006 with a total to date. We are bit warm and a bit dry (5.5" versus 11.2" for average so far), but much remains to be seen as our "rain year" goes from July to June and we are just at January. It is still predicted to be an "El Nino" year, but the really destructive wet "El Nino" years were already far, far wetter than we are at this time in the annual cycle.