Archive for June, 2011

Return of the Gray Fox

The gray foxes are back in our Mendocino neighborhood, a meadow at the edge of the forest. We’ve seen them several times, mostly at twilight. They use our low-to- the-ground front porch as a highway. One sat for a long time at the edge of the driveway, observing the meadow. A few evenings ago Tony called me to a back window. On the hill above the wall, a fox was eagerly digging at a gopher hole. A few moments earlier I had seen its mate running up the middle of the road, and soon there were two moving side by side into the thicket. I’ve heard them bark, a raspy single note, like a cough.

Although gray foxes are typically crepuscular, we’ve seen them in broad daylight too. As we were walking across the commons yesterday, not long after noon, a fox dashed across our path with some small creature in its mouth, probably a vole or gopher. It’s likely that nearby was a nest burrow where hungry kits were waiting to be fed.

There’s a nice description of the gray fox, with pictures, in the newsletter of The Watershed Project.

Nesting Time

An excellent excuse yesterday to give up weeding an overgrown part of my garden. As I reached for a dandelion, a hen quail scurried from the vegetation just inches from my hand. She stopped a few feet away, chirping her displeasure. I apologized for disturbing her, but to no avail. She fled to the thicket up the hill and raised a frantic alarm. Curious, I reached under a thimbleberry bush and lifted a soft handful of last year’s blue-eyed grass. Underneath was a nest filled with speckled green-blue quail eggs. It was a perfect site for a ground-nesting bird: a small, enclosed garden, the house on one side, a high retaining wall on the other, with fences at each end to deter predators. The nest was right up against the wall of the house, sheltered from spring rain by the house eaves, and from wind by the thimbleberry.

I gathered up kneeling pad, implement and weed bucket and retreated to the gate. Closing it quietly behind me, I kept watch from a distance. After a few minutes, the hubbub faded. The hen flew back to the top of the wall, accompanied by her cock. After a few more minutes of hesitation, she fluttered down to the nest.

Soon cute fluff balls will poke around among the ferns and violets and learn to scale the wall. The weeds can wait.

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