Thursday, January 31, 2008

Snow and Loss of a Giant
  The slow decline of the valley and majestic blue oaks of upper
 Carmel Valley progresses one by one. On January 24, 2008 the Vineyard Oak, with a family group of 17 Acorn Woodpeckers, fell to the ground. We had a wet, heavy snow that day. Many other trees fell, and many branches were down as the snow fell on many coast live oaks. One oak took out our electrical power for a day. The snow attracted the usual mob of looky-loos, many of whom had never seen snow. Tassajara Road and Carmel Valley Road through Hastings were a mob scene. We then had unrelenting rain through January 27, with flooding, plugged culverts, mud slides, rock slides, etc. We pretty much dug out by today. 
   However, the loss of the oak tree to the group of woodpeckers known as the "cavity" group, will be interesting to follow. We have no idea where they will go and how they will cope with the loss of their group nesting and resting holes, 10,000 carefully crafted holes to store acorns, and a great place to enjoy the view and use as a perch to go out and catch flies on the wing. 

A 40 ladder is shown in the photo below, top right. This is the tree where we installed the woodpecker cam. We did not recover the camera from the wreckage yet. 
 The photo of the snow was taken just because snow is relatively rare here. When the tree crashed down, Eric 
Walters was out and heard it. Yes, if a tree falls, it does make a sound. A large crack and the thunderous roar as it fell and hundreds of branches broke and were driven into the ground. 

Deer were eating the lichens and moss that had been growing high in the tree and are now at ground level. They are something you don't usually see.  
Mystery Mammal on Robertson Creek
          Matina's research group have deployed a thermal imaging camera high in the trees over Robertson Creek. This camera looks straight down on the creek the flows through the middle of the scene. On each side of the creek are arch-shaped areas that have been washed out by the stream and now are filled with vegetation. The 
edges of these are steep breaks, about 8' tall, and lead up to nearly level terraces on either side of the creek. There are two movies, you can see them if you click here. The trees and branches are dark (cold); the stream is nearly white (warm). In the movie, first you see a deer mouse moving in the forest (white=warm) and later a larger wood rat (white) is running around.  Notice how they move along sticks and logs. 
        In the second movie, a mystery animal shows up. It slinks along, crosses the creek and struggles to get up the steep edge of the terrace, then moves along the terrace and out of sight. The stream is about a meter wide. So. What do you think this could be?
A grey fox? 

A ring-tailed cat?
A young mountain lion? 

Friday, January 18, 2008

Singing Mice

Matina Kalcounis-Rueppell, (second from left) from North Carolina State University at Greensboro, arrived in late December and immediately launched an ambitious field research team of Kitty Carney (far left), Jessie Briggs,  and Rada Petric (far right). Working along Robertson Creek below Martin Road, these "mouseketeers" cleared out the grid of trails through the poison oak, put out hundreds of mouse live traps and set up radios, microphones and a thermal imaging camera. All to track the mice in several ways so they can track individuals all night and determine which mouse is singing. This is a very challenging technical undertaking. 
   So, the lab is filled with computers, batteries, wires, radio receivers, antennas and lots of wire. They will be joined next week by Eden Gonzales from CSU Monterey Bay. The bunkhouse cottage has become a nocturnal roost for this group as they are out most evenings and nights. So far, they have seen many small mammals and some large ones including a mountain lion and maybe a ring-tailed cat! 

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Peregrine Falcon Visits Hastings

    On Thursday, January 17, Emma Moran watched a Peregrine Falcon eating a Robin on Haystack Hill. Sightings of Peregrines are rare at Hastings. Robins have been seen in groups of up to 200 on Hastings in the last few weeks.