Posts Tagged ‘deer’

Plants and Animals

31 August 2019

Here in central California, the end of August is hot and dry throughout most of the inner valleys. That sort of weather even hits the coasts this time of year sometimes.

You’d expect the flowers to all be wilting, the wild berries shriveled up, and the grasslands a dull tan color. Midday you’d expect the animals to all be hiding somewhere until the sun gets lower in the sky.

But such was not exactly my experience as I biked home from Folsom through the American River Parkway.

I wanted to concentrate on the section of the trail (and river) between Folsom and Rancho Cordova, as this is the part I have tended to ignore a bit in my trips. I’m not yet tired enough to find an excuse to get off my bike and take some pictures.

Over on the other side of the river just west of Folsom is the posh/hip community of Fair Oaks. And across from Rancho Cordova is the Sacramento suburb of Carmichael.

This river is well-used from both sides for kayaking, river rafting and a bit of fishing. Over most of this segment, it is shallow and relatively slow-moving. There are some bluffs on the other side (the “north” side of the river) that bring human settlement very close to the stream’s edge. But most of the rest of the floodplain has levees built around it, which is how the Parkway came to be.

Up at the Folsom end, and just across from the park along Folsom Blvd., there are some awesome stands of blackberry bushes. One would expect most of the berries to be dried up by this time of year, but I found a few still going strong in a shaded area.

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There are also wild grapes growing in this area, but that crop does not seem so profuse this year.

There is a place along the trail (bikeway) where I have often seen deer. I am amazed they congregate there, as the houses come in very close, and there are people walking dogs. Yet the deer – does at least – show up there regularly. But I was not prepared to see all three does plus their fawn foraging together a little before noon.

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I decided to set near them a while and just sort of ask them to come closer. To my amazement, after a few minutes they started to do so. I have seen does “act stupid” before. They don’t seem to have the same attitude towards their own safety that the bucks do. First they came up to, maybe, 30 feet away from the trail. One decided she was going to feed on a particular tree, but the “good” branches were too high, so she got up on her rear legs and stretched for it! I’ve never seen a deer do that before. The image below was not that well-exposed, so I did an auto-color-correct on it. She really looks pretty goofy in this picture.

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Meanwhile, the others and the fawn were getting even closer. They came under a tree maybe 15 feet away from the trail. Damned if I could keep the camera steady enough to get a crisp image with my zoom all the way out, but this is the best picture of a fawn I have ever taken.

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Next, the rest of the does decided to come right up to the bike trail. Bikes were going by, I was talking to them, people were stopping to photograph them, people were walking their dogs on the other side, and these deer just wouldn’t go away!

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For a while, all three even crossed the bike path to see what was worth chomping on on the other side. Someone with a dog, I think, scared two of them back, but the third one didn’t want to leave.

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I walked right up to her (well, pretty close) and talked to her. “It’s better if you stay over on that side,” I said, “it will be safer for you there.” She still didn’t want to leave. It seems she had found something really interesting on the ground to chew on.

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It may have been some snack food that one of the bike riders had thrown out a little earlier. But I insisted, “come on, girl, back to the other side with the others!” She finally went back across.

I have never seen any wild deer get this close to people. They were young does, but still, this seemed a bit odd. Perhaps they were really hungry. They did look a bit scrawny to me.

I finally picked up and left. Not much further down was the place where the bikeway had been blocked for several weeks so that a washout could be fixed. Finally this part was open again! The repair itself was not very visually interesting. They had dumped a crapload of crushed rock down the slope to shore up the washout. I did notice a lizard out on one of the rocks taking a sunbath.

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Just a little further down the trail there is a place where the bank gets very steep. It’s hard to tell how much of this is “natural.” This whole area was extensively mined and dredged using the “placer” method, which leaves huge piles of small boulders by the shore, and the landscape considerably altered.

But here on this steep bank I found a tree hanging on for dear life to what looked like a piece of the original clay soil beneath the stone piles.

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The view below is from the same area. Notice the pine trees. They don’t appear further down the river. I haven’t completely looked into the history of these pines. They may have been an earlier attempt at reforestation. Note the mound of rocks in the middle of the river – possibly also the remains of earlier mining operations. And the parking lot in the distance is one of the many public access points to the river.

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Somewhere along the bikeway, there is a section where these rather lovely yellow flowers grow. They are mostly wilting now, but I finally got a clear picture of one. I was having a terrible time getting my camera to focus on them in closeup mode.

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I will return soon with some photographs of plants and animals that live thousands of miles away from California, but in a climate not that different from ours.

 

On Deer, Trains and…

1 August 2019

Here’s a little mildly contemplative midweek piece based around a few of my photos that didn’t fit anywhere else.

Trains

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Trains – the only way for most people to get around in the past – are supposed to save our futures. But…no one will ride them!

Here’s my coach, downtown, Saturday morning, taking me out to Folsom. It did get a bit fuller than this. But this is Regional Transit’s problem in this area: Everyone prefers to drive. Almost everyone. Most people who don’t have cars and are forced to use the train (or the bus) are the marginalized poor. This only changes during weekday rush hours and for certain downtown events on the weekend. You can drive to a parking lot in the suburbs, where parking is free, then ride in to the city, where parking is expensive. Costs about $5 round trip.

And what about climate change?

I’ve been exposed to a lot of data about the “climate change” problem recently, too. Same situation. Too much technology is based on gasoline, other petroleum fuels, oil and natural gas (methane). And no one wants to give it up, or convert to something else before they are sure the game is up.

On the one hand, there is the argument that if it takes as much energy (equivalent energy) to extract petroleum from the ground than that extract contains as potential energy, then why mine it? This makes sense to me.

On the other hand, you have people saying that if we weren’t supplying CO2 from burning carbon-based fuels, atmospheric CO2 would eventually fall so low that plants would start dying. This ex-Greenpeace guy, Patrick Moore, has a graph that shows the long-term atmospheric CO2 levels long into the past. In recent years the level has been around 400 parts per million, way up from recent earlier periods. But we are still in a glacial period where lots of CO2 is locked up in ice and sea water.

As sea water warms, its ability to store CO2 goes way down. This leads Moore to suggest that the climate cycles have much more effect on CO2 levels in the atmosphere than we could ever have. 100 million years ago, atmospheric CO2 was probably around 1,000 ppm, and it has seldom been below that level for the last 500 million years.

Another important way that carbon gets sequestered (locked up in solid forms) is in sea shells and coral, which are made of calcium carbonate. In geologic time, the oceans have produced massive amounts of limestone (all made from shells – the only way it can be made naturally) which continues to sequester massive amounts of carbon to this day. So the oceans seem to be a major player in carbon sequestration that no one ever talks about.

Forests

Forests also store carbon in the form of trees. One of the largest forest systems on Earth today is the boreal – the northern forests. While we worry mostly about the equatorial forests in South America, the boreal forests are also being encroached upon by tar sand mining operations. Of course, some companies also want to log these forests, and have been chipping away at them for years now. The only thing that saves them, apparently, is that they are so remote.

Redwoods

In a recent documentary I saw about the work of Diana Beresford-Kroeger (a Canadian botanist), the shrinking of the California redwood forests was shown on a map. A huge amount of logging occurred before we put any protections in place, and redwood is still valued as lumber. Those trees provide a great service to the inland valleys in aiding to recharge the aquifers and keep the climate moister and cooler. But those benefits are long gone in most regions of California today.

Closer to home…

Though some redwoods stand in Sacramento County, most that exist today were planted. This river bottomland is not their native habitat. They apparently originally grew in two belts, one coastal and one near the mountains.

But just upstream of Sacramento, there are plenty of pines along the river, and the parkway forests harbor many plants and animals, including deer.

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These deer don’t particularly like to show themselves, but the younger does and their fawns have a tendency to be a bit incautious. Thus I caught these views in a recent trip down through the parkway.

Though I used zoom for these shots (you can tell from the foreground twigs out of focus) these animals were not far off the bike trail, or I would not have even seen them. The fawn is particularly cute, but has learned (I think) to take its cues from its mother. It stood still for the longest time before deciding it would be OK to walk forward a bit, closer to where she was. For deer to stand in one place this long is a little unusual.

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It is quite dry in this area at this time of year. We have already had one small brush fire close to downtown, but across the river. And I saw goats being used in Fair Oaks to help control underbrush up there.

In this climate, underbrush does not mat down and decay over winter. The average stand of underbrush in the fields and forests here is probably at least five years old. It eventually decays, but you really need either grazing or fire to get rid of it. We have been choosing fire. But perhaps we will get more into grazing. The goats seem to be very cooperative.

 

Blackout! and other news

15 April 2014

Monday (the 7th of April) was one of the warmest days of the year so far in Pullman. Having neglecting my weekend grocery shopping, I accomplished it that Monday afternoon and returned home at 4:30 or so. By the evening I was busy with one of my electronics projects. At about 6:30 or so the lights flickered, went out entirely, pulsed back on once again, and again died in what seemed a kind of spasm.

It was pitch black in my basement apartment, though not nearly sunset time yet. I fumbled around on my work table until I found my flashlight. I use it to inspect my soldering work. Then I searched around the place for a better source of light. I found a head lamp I had purchased from All Electronics and a shake-light I had acquired I don’t recall where. The head lamp was great for getting around inside. I found my jacket, put on my shoes, and went out to see what was going on.

As I went out “front” (the side facing east onto Grand) a car from the fire station up the street drove by with siren on. Other than that, all seemed normal. A couple were above me, leaning on the balcony railing, speaking quietly about the loss of our electric power. So I went back in.

I put my head lamp back on, sat down at my work table, and tried to continue on the design I had started, hoping the power would soon come back. But, it didn’t. It was basically too dark to do anything. Inside it was completely quiet, as the fridge – the only source of noise – was off. I resolved not to open it until the power came back up, in hopes that my just-purchased food would stay reasonably cold. There was nothing else to do. Without electric power I was totally without the usual devices that I use day-to-day. My only battery-powered devices are flashlights (I plan to change that some day). I don’t have any “mobile devices” (I don’t plan to change that any time soon).

So, I went to bed.

I didn’t rest well, as I kept anticipating the power returning. It finally did at about 12:30. I was needing now to get my rest, so I stayed in bed a while. But all the lights were on. So I finally got up and turned everything off and went back to bed for real.

At work, only a few others had experienced the blackout, as it was fairly localized. I heard stories of what had happened, but didn’t look them up myself until today.

Distraught being

As it turns out, a distraught person – drunk – had been hurtling south on Grand in her 1999 Chevy van, sending several cars to the shoulder or otherwise off the road. One of these cars swerved off the road and rolled down a hill into a power pole. The impact broke the insulators holding up the high-voltage wires, and they fell to the ground. The driver was trapped in his overturned vehicle by these high voltage wires until the utility company was able to de-energize them about an hour later. He was – amazingly – unharmed.

The police caught up with the “crazy” lady a little while later. They had to take her to a hospital to get treated for minor injuries before arresting her.

distraught being One of the news sources published a Sheriff’s Office photo of the lady – from some earlier incident. I edited it down to just the face for this post: This is the face of a very distraught being.

 

Other News

That same weekend I received a portion of an instrument panel from a DC-8 aircraft. This was one of the first jet airliners to be mass-produced during the 1960s. I bought it for the aluminum panel and to see how it was constructed. It arrived a bit the worse for wear, but I took all the parts off it and cleaned it up, and it looks promising. I think I will make a battery charger with it.

DC-8 panel detail

DC-8 panel detail, showing the registration number of the aircraft it is from and its most recent “SELCAL” radio message code.

The deer return

This afternoon walking home, I saw a family of deer grazing in the field below the “industrial park” where I work. It looked like a buck and three doe. Probably the same deer that were here last year. They somehow managed to live down in the wetlands that the bike/jogging trail goes through, just the other side of Grand. That’s where the electric poles are, too; like the one that guy ran into.

I wasn’t sure they would return. Last year they were here earlier. I remember seeing them in the same place when it was still snowy. They lost one of their young to road kill that year. I know: I saw the dead deer myself. It was at the “vacant lot” where I took many of my wildflower pictures. So I thought they might go somewhere else this year. But there probably aren’t too many other places to choose from for these deer. They do have to be watchful, and not only for cars. I’ve seen coyotes in this area, too; though its the rabbits who usually suffer when the coyotes come through.