Our Tree Swallow Nest Box

Hungry Tree Swallow Chick

Hungry Chick

Our tree swallow chicks fledged today, June 18, Father’s Day.  I knew they were getting close to leaving the nest box, so on Friday and Saturday I spent some time photographing the parents feeding the young.  I missed seeing them leave the nest.

The adults are very fast and agile flyers.  They are to winged insects what peregrine falcons are to most bird species.

I think of them just catching bugs in the air, but I realized in watching them with the telephoto lens that they get vegetation attached to them by apparently also flying into heavy vegetation. The male had a twig sticking out of the right side of his neck and the female had vegetation stuck in her tail.   Fortunately, the vegetation on each came off after a while.  I was worried that the male had impaled himself to some extent, but he finally came in on a feeding run without the stick.

We’ve had the nest box for 6 years and swallows have used it every year.  Unfortunately, all the chicks died last year.   I spoke with a song bird expert and was told that lots of tree swallow nests were unsuccessful last year because of the drought.   Apparently, the dry conditions caused a big drop in insect populations.

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Elk Calves Getting Bigger; Point Reyes National Seashore

Near sunset, a tule elk calf roams with its mom near Pierce Point Ranch.

The elk calves are getting noticeably bigger and the spots on the older ones are becoming somewhat muted.  If you like to see spotted elk calves and deer fawns, you should get out to Point Reyes soon.

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Blacktail Doe and Fawns, Point Reyes National Seashore

Look for fawns throughout the Seashore.

It’s Fawn Time!

Now is a great time to be at Point Reyes.  There are lots of elk calves to see and some deer fawns as well.  I mentioned in an earlier post that I think the heavy winter rains helped increase elk births. I think the same can be said for deer and most other critters.

One thing that I am always amazed at is how fast people drive in the Seashore as they rush to get to some particular location to start enjoying nature.  If they would slow down and scan the fields they would see all kinds of nature’s creations, such as coyotes, bobcats, badgers, elk, deer etc.  Plus, less wildlife would be killed by vehicles.   As Glenn Frey used to sing, “take it easy.”

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Grizzly Bear, Yellowstone National Park

A mother grizzly bear walks through the south end of Swan Lake Flat.

A mother grizzly walks through sage.

A well-known place in Yellowstone to look for grizzlies is a large open area called Swan Lake Flat.  It is especially good for seeing grizzly sows with cubs.  I have often seen grizzlies there, but they have always been too far away for good photos.

In May 2015 I got lucky.  I was approaching the flat from the south when I saw a flash of brown out of the corner of my eye.  I stopped and saw a mother grizzly with two two year old cubs walking parallel to the road about 75 yards away.   Unfortunately, they were heading in the opposite direction.  By the time I got the car turned around they had disappeared into some trees.  I drove to a spot that looked like it would be a good place to wait for them and got ready.

As luck would have it, after a minute or two I noticed that there was a very young elk calf between me and where I hoped the bears would pass.  It was standing in a little clump of trees.  Hmm.  Bears love elk calves.  In fact, grizzlies and black bears kill about 50% of the calf crop each year.  What if they see/smell the calf and charge toward it (and me)?  That’s as far as I got in my thinking when the bears came into view.  They didn’t detect the calf and kept going.  The calf got to live another day and I got my photo.


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Famous Yellowstone National Park Wolf Shot and Left to Die

The alpha female of the Canyon Pack

I was saddened to hear a month ago that the alpha female of the Canyon Pack had died.  She was a very popular wolf and one of only a few with white coats.  In the photo above, she was only three years old.  The little bit of dark fur you see in this photo was replaced by white fur as she matured.

It was reported that she had lived twelve years.  That’s a long life for a wolf.  The average life span for a wolf in the park is six years.  I assumed then that she had died of old age/natural causes.

I first got to know her in October of 2008.  She and her three pack mates had killed a bull elk at the north end of North Twin Lake the day before I happened on the scene.  When I arrived there was a large male grizzly protecting the carcass from the wolves.  I was told he took the carcass from them shortly after they had killed it.  That is very common.  Some grizzlies in Yellowstone have learned to follow wolf packs for days until the wolves make a kill and then they take over.

I learned yesterday that she had not died of natural causes.  She had been shot and was found by some hikers.  She was alive, but in bad shape.  The hikers contacted the National Park Service which examined her and determined that she could not be saved.  She was euthanized.  I went from being sad to being angry.

NPS has posted a reward for $5,000 leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible.  That amount was matched by a conservation organization, Wolves of the Rockies.  I was told by a friend that the reward has since climbed to $20,000.  You can read more about the story here.

In spite of many suits by conservation organizations to keep wolves protected under the Endangered Species Act, I believe they are no longer under its protection.  However, the wolf was found inside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park.  NPS has regulations against discharging firearms and killing wildlife in the national parks.  Hopefully, the culprit will be found and successfully prosecuted.

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California Quail, Point Reyes National Seashore

A male California quail perches on an old post.

Bad Hair Day

I was in the Seashore several days ago. It was nice most of the day, but later the wind came up and then the fog rolled in.  Nearby Inverness was predicted to have sunny weather all day and when I left Inverness it was still sunny.  Memo to self:  Don’t rely on the Inverness weather report for what it’s like inside the Seashore.

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Elk Calf; Point Reyes National Seashore

This elk calf spent over an hour by itself exploring a stock pond near Pierce Point Ranch.

A young elk calf wades into a stock pond near Pierce Point Ranch.

I was out at Point Reyes yesterday and it was the first time this year I saw elk calves in the elk reserve/enclosure at Tomales Point.   I saw elk calves at Drakes Beach about a month ago.  The elk in the reserve seem to be about a month behind the Drakes Beach herd in mating and giving birth.

It seemed like there were more cows with calves than I’ve seen in years.  If true,  it could be because of the heavy winter rains.  I’ll be interested in seeing if the elk count shows more calves this year.

I saw this little guy wade into the pond.  I watched him for about an hour and I finally left.  His mom came to the pond a few times.  She called and seemed to want him to follow her, but he ignored her.  He roamed all over the pond; drinking water occasionally.

If you look closely you can see a lump on the bridge of his nose.  A cyst?  I don’t know.  Hopefully, it’s nothing serious.

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