Sunday, December 11, 2011

Where the deer and the deer play

I have a new found love of the video on camera traps.  It is so fun to see behaviors when the critters are kind enough to demonstrate them in front of the camera.

These two young bucks play sparred in front of the camera for about 2 minutes, although they were in the area grazing from about 2:30 a.m.-3 a.m..  As they are leaving, 20 minutes after the first tussle seems to have ended, they start rough housing again near the outside range of the camera.

For me, the best part of getting these two on film, is that I have other photos of them together from earlier this year, but not from this set.  These are the same two deer as in the Odd Odocoileus post from June.  In the video, you can see that one of them is missing the right antler, and the other has distinctive ear injuries, visible in the thumbnail of the image below (although they seem to be healing).  The photos from May and June were taken about a mile away from Location B, through quite a bit of residential development and steep topography.  It is exciting to be able to document part of the range of these individual deer through their physical abnormalities.

The tarsal gland of the deer with both antlers is clearly visible in a few of the videos (one of which is below).  There is no similarly visible patch on the one antlered deer.  Apparently more dominant deer have larger and more active tarsal glands that subordinate deer, and I wonder if that is something we are seeing here.

Lee Rue III, Leonard . The Deer of North America. 1997.

Monday, December 5, 2011


I just checked the camera up at Location B. It had just been 4 weeks since the last check.  Overall, there has been a fairly consistent run of deer, raccoons, coyote, and occasionally a bobcat, so I was flipping through the images expecting more of the same.  We did get more of the same, but with a nice twist on all counts.  It is things like this that make watching the preceding 100 videos of trees-in-wind still so exciting from the anticipation!

The first video is a healthy looking coyote cruising the trail in broad daylight.  It is unusual for this location, the vast majority of triggers are after dark.  This was taken at about 8 a.m.. Lovely animal.

The next video is a sweet scene of a Bobcat kitten leading it's mother up the trail. Towards the end of the video, the adult cat turns and looks towards the camera, and there is a moment of eyeshine.  I would have loved to see them coming back down the trail also, for some face shots. However, this cat always seems to be heading this direction on this trail. It might be time to flip the camera.

More on the other visitors to come soon.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How To Choose A Thanksgiving Turkey - Urban Wildlife Chronicles

Step 1: Find Turkey Aisle
Step 2: Proceed Slowly down aisle examining prospective turkeys
Step 3: See if any one turkey in particular presents self
Step 4: Enjoy your Thanksgiving Turkey

*Note - no turkeys were physically harmed in the making of this movie. Emotionally, I'm not so sure.

On a side note, you may notice that some of the turkeys in the flock are a little smaller than the rest.  I believe these are the young of the year, which we met at a day or two old in The Fledglings Part Deux.  

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Towhee and the Hare?

Ginny Fifield caught this hilarious video of interspecies interaction with her camera trap set in west Marin.  Take a look and please let me know what you think this Jackrabbit is doing.  I believe that the bird in the video is a California Towhee.

Jackrabbit chasing off the rufus ruffians - Credit: Ginny Fifield

"This is a unique (and funny) video of a jackrabbit chasing birds. Other than the exhibited behavior of chasing birds, I'm not sure what the intention is. Is it just the "fun" of chasing or does it actually intend to catch the bird? And, if it does catch the bird, what will the jackrabbit do with it? This video was taken on 8-13-2011 @ 0826h." - Ginny

At first I thought that this may be a mother defending young nearby, but this species supposedly does not protect young like that.  


Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy Halloween - Wildlife Cam Style!

In previous years, I've noticed some marks on our Jack-O-Lanterns, and they've been moved around. I had my suspicions who the culprits might be. This year I put a couple of wildlife cams on the carved pumpkins. I also left the seeds inside the pumpkins, added a few other enticing household items, and didn't carve out the top to make it harder to get into. I got this video the second night out.

I don't think the culprits are surprising, but seeing the whole family was a treat.  

As a side note, you can see the white flash occasionally in the video, it is from a separate cam taking still shots.  The raccoons seem completely unperturbed by the light.  Here are some of the still shots (please ignore the time stamp month and time).  

Thursday, September 1, 2011

'Tis the season - young wildlife out and about

As summer starts to melt into fall, the young of the year are out and about.

This young family of raccoons is likely demonstrating how the knowledge of weekly raids of garbage cans is passed on from one generation to the next.  I do think it is adorable how the little one is always scampering to catch up with its older/bigger relatives.

Going to the Grocery Store

And Returning Home

There is also this brief video of a coyote, who looks quite a bit smaller than others filmed in the same spot.  I'm guessing this may be an older pup.  Any thoughts on that?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Trail Cam Pic of Puma Stalking Moose with Calf

Ok, so this isn't Marin.  But it is just such a great series I had to share it!  

Steve Bromley got this amazing series of images, showing a Puma stalking a Moose and calf at his set in Montana.  If you check the date/time stamp on the bottom of these photos, you will see that the Puma crosses the cameras path less than a minute after you see the Moose glancing tensely over her shoulder.
Credit: Steve Bromley 
Credit: Steve Bromley
Thank you Steve for letting me share these, and thanks Vic for telling me about them!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The fledglings Part Deux

Yesterday I heard some very frantic peeping coming from behind the house, followed by some very urgent gobbling, followed by peeping, then gobbling, repeat (you get the idea).  I ventured out to see what the ruckus was, and it appears that the newest addition to the flock of wild turkeys has hatched, and at least half of the batch had managed to fall over our 5' retaining wall and get stuck between the wall and the house.  Granted there is a wide opening where almost anything except a day old turkey poult could easily figure out an escape.  They couldn't have been more than a day or two old.  Their Mamma was pacing back and forth just upslope of the wall calling to them, which was very effective at keeping them from wandering along the wall to the exit.  As they continued their serenade for the better part of an hour, all of the neighborhood cats were being called in from all directions.

I know that the turkeys are non-native (although there is some debate about that) and not good for the local ecosystem (although there is debate about that also) - but babies are babies.  I walked out back and tried herding them towards one exit, but that just caused them to scatter.  So I reached down to pick them up one at a time to deposit them back over the wall, not fully thinking through that Momma Turkey would not understand I wasn't picking them up for bit-sized snacks.  Because I was standing behind the 5' retaining wall, that means Momma Turkey was just about at head level.  I picked up the first baby, and snapped this shot,

seconds before the 20 lbs of crazy mad Momma Turkey made a claws out wings spread rush for my head.  Let me tell you, if I had been about to chow down on her baby, that sure would have been effective.  As it was, it got me to not-so-gently-as-I-would-have-liked-to toss the baby in her direction.  She was obviously not expecting this, as she didn't notice, and continued her very impressive display despite the happy baby peeping by her tail feathers.  At which point I realized that I was now trapped between the house and the retaining wall, barefoot, and that push come to shove, a mad Momma Turkey is much tougher than me!  Luckily for me, it was mostly show, and she had no desire to actually touch me if she didn't have to.  I was able to deposit the remaining babes back over the wall, and she got a tiny bit less aggressive each time - although I think she may have just been catching her breath.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Teenage Drivers - a.k.a The fledglings

The first crop of songbird fledglings has taken to the air.  My first clue was the bird at the feeder with the residual fluff of downy feathers around it's crown, making it look a bit Einstein-ish.  This is inevitably followed by the occasional thump on our windows.  We live on the edge of the wildland interface, and I think that our small windows are the first glass many of the young birds experience.  We have feeders mounted on the windows, and markings on the windows, in attempts to make them more visible.  And even the cat plastered eagerly on the inside of the window is apparently no deterrent.  Although most fly off afterwards with little more than their bell rung, sometimes their fate is more tragic.

For one "lucky" young flier this week, we happened to have left the front door open.  Much to everyone's surprise, a young House Finch flew into the living room, just hours after it's compatriot met it's end at the front window.  The young bird was determined to escape by flying up, despite the presence of a ceiling, and ceiling fan.  We turned off the lights and attempted to usher the bird out towards the sunlight, with no success.   I was getting concerned that the young bird would hurt itself permanently, as it kept flying into the ceiling and it was loosing many of it's newly acquired feathers.  Therefore, I thought it would be less traumatic to catch it and release it outside.  Then there was reality.

The next scene is of me chasing the poor bird around the living room with a butterfly net, with the baby bouncing gleefully in the carrier (because I didn't want to set him somewhere the bird would fly into), and a toddler screeching with delight at the absurdity of the sight.

Despite the obvious imperfection of the capture plan, I did actually manage to net the bird, and much to it's relief, let it out the door after prolonging the experience for just a few photos.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Camera Trapping in Marin

I'm finally getting to some camera trapping results!

After some serious inspiration by the Camera Trap Codger's class last year, I got permission to set some cameras up on a few local public and private local properties.  I've got a little over a year's worth of results, and there are some fun shots that I want to share.  

The first set is "Location B".  Location B is on a property in the middle of densely wooded suburban development.  There is a small adjacent open space parcel with a seasonal water source.  Most properties in the region are not fenced, and there is extensive open space within range of many species.  The habitat is dominantly oak woodland, grassland, and riparian.   

This is one of my first nice Bobcat images from that site from last year.

  I just pulled this video from the camera yesterday.  It was taken roughly 3 weeks ago.  Watch until the very end of the clip for a surprise.    

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Screech Returns

The little owl made it!  After keeping the screech owl in veterinary care for roughly a week, Wildcare called my neighbors to come pick it up for release.  This photo was taken through a hole in the transportation box.

I've got my eye on you
That brave little owl looks very tough for what a weird experience it must be having.  It was obviously missing a few tufts from the top, but otherwise appeared healthy.  My neighbor said she could see the owl's piercing gaze watching her on the whole drive home.

I was really struck by was a diminutive creature it was.  Intellectually I knew that screech owls are small, but up close, it really looked like a miniature version of a "real" owl.  They are perfectly suited for this area, and because they are dependent on cavities for nesting, they can be enticed by nest boxes.  There is a local organization called The Hungry Owl Project, a program of Wildcare, which encourages erecting owl nest boxes (where appropriate) as a means of natural and sustainable pest control.     They offer owl boxes for sale, and although there are other well-designed boxes available, if you are considering putting a pre-made one up, getting one from the Hungry Owl Project a great way to help support a beneficial local non-profit.

Back to Screech.  That evening after dark, they hiked up the hill with the owl in the box, and released it into the night.  As soon as the box opened, the little owl just shot out and up into the trees, not missing a beat.  Hopefully our local owl has learned his predator, and is able to avoid any future encounters.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Saga of Screech and the Raven

My neighbor called a few days ago to let me know that they had seen a Common Raven take down a Western Screech Owl in their backyard.  They had seen a scuffle in the redwoods, and then saw the Raven on the ground pecking at something and heard peeping.  They debated for a bit on whether to intervene, or if it was just nature taking course, but ultimately decided to do save the peeper.  Much to their surprise, after shooing off the Raven, they came up to a small owl with his head feathers plucked off.

Location of the incident, redwood and madrone
They picked up the little bird with the intent to take him to Wildcare, and the owl just laid there completely still with it's talons clenched and eyes open, not even visibly breathing.  They thought it was dead, but Wildcare said to bring it in anyway.  Sometimes the owls go catatonic (play 'possum) in response to trauma.  Much to my neighbor's surprise, the little owl sprang to life at Wildcare.  Wildcare initially hoped to release the owl the next day, in case it was nesting, but the injuries were to much and it had to stay longer.

Ravens are well established nest predators, and are also know to take adult birds.  This was an issue for the heron and egret colony at Audubon Canyon Ranch, where one year a Raven pair decimated the young of the colony (in full view of tourists none-the-less!).  There was a detailed study of Raven ecology and predation habits that resulted from that (see references below).  I was curious if there was any documentation about how often ravens went after screech owls, but I didn't find anything addressing that specifically.  

As I mentioned in the My Side of the Mountain post, this is the first year that I've seen raven's here.  Given the frequency that I have seen and heard them this spring, I believe they have a nest just over the ridge.  These ravens are not shy around human residences.  I've seen one of this pair walking along my fence, eyeing my cat as he rolled in the sun on the deck.  It quickly departed when I opened the door, and my neighbors said that it quickly departed when they waved to shoo it, even from a long distance away.

Although Ravens have been relatively rare to the developed areas of eastern Marin in post gold rush days, their population here is increasing as they develop a taste for the food humans inadvertently provide (i.e. garbage).  This can be devastating for rare species that are vulnerable to predation by Ravens.   The human supplied food can support the Ravens populations at a higher level than the prey species would otherwise.  This means that Ravens can completely decimate a prey species, without being regulated by it's decline.  This is known as "subsidized predators".  Bay Nature did a very nice article on the Ravens in this area, including covering this phenomenon.  So it's quite possible that by intervening in this predation, they just helped correct the affects of an anthropogenically enhanced predator.

Keep tuned for updates on Screech's recovery.

References and additional articles:

Monday, June 20, 2011

Nuttal Neighbor

In the first My Side of the Mountain post, I mentioned that there is a Nuttal's woodpecker who drums on an old oak out back.  Here is a brief video of the habitat, and you can hear the drumming at the start and end of the video.

Although the dominant tree species shown here is California Bay Laurel, there are a few overshadowed oaks in the middle of all that.  Nuttal's is a small woodpecker, with a black-and-white, barred back, confined primarily to the oak woodlands of California.   Interestingly, although Nuttall's Woodpeckers are nearly confined to oak woodlands, they do not eat acorns, instead going for insects and arthropods, and some fruit.

Although I couldn't get a clear photo through the foliage, I was able to glimpse the distinctive features of the Nuttall's, at least enough for identification.  Nuttall’s color pattern is distinct from other woodpecker species in this area, easily distinguishable at a glance due to the barring on the back and the single red patch.  The other two species here from the same genus, Picoides, are the hairy woodpecker and the downwoodpecker.  Although they both also have the single red patch on the rear crown, they also have a broad white patch on their back instead of the barring of the Nuttall's. 

This watershed supports 7 species of woodpeckers, from 5 different genus’s of the family Picidae. Additional woodpecker species seen locally include: acorn woodpeckerLewis’s woodpeckerred-shafted northern flickerRed-breasted sapsucker, and a personal favorite - the pileated woodpecker.  There is a pair of pileated woodpeckers which frequent the local area, and I'll have a post on them in the future.   


Cornell Lab of Ornithology -
Cornell Lab of Ornithology - The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Odd Odocoileus

This sorry fellow showed up yesterday.  He has a deformed antler, still in velvet, that makes him appear a bit like a flop-eared dog.

I originally assumed that he may have broken the antler mid-growth.  Maybe trying to spar a little to soon?  Or possibly a car accident?  But after chatting with a biologist/deer hunter (thanks Vic) and a quick peruse of Google, it turns out that there are many possible alternative causes for deformed antlers, ranging from damaged testicles to "trophic memory" of old injuries, and many are not immediately intuitive.

One of the most interesting I found is that injury to a rear leg may cause reoccurring abnormal development of the antler on the opposite side!  Last year there was a young deer with an injury on a rear leg, but I didn't think to get any photographs or record the date or side of the injury.  It would be fascinating if it is the same deer.  However, the drawings of those deformed antler deer don't show it looking quite as broken as this one does.  

An article from the Mule Deer Foundation points out some really interesting side notes"Besides direct trauma to the growing antler, injuries to a large skeletal structure such as a broken leg bone often causes a misshapen rack the next antler cycle. If the front leg is injured, either side of the rack may be affected. However, if the rear leg is injured the opposite side of the rack is usually misshapen." I originally thought that I may be able to figure out if it was trauma to the antler directly if it grew normal next year, but then I read "If one pedicle is injured severely, that side or both sides will be malformed during the next antler cycle. In addition, the nerves may “remember” the injury and reproduce nontypical antlers for several years. This “trophic memory” only occurs when the injury is substantial and occurs in the early stages of antler growth when there is a high density of nerve connections in the growing antler tissue. "

There are many interesting anecdotes about what may cause malformed antlers, but nothing conclusive about this particular situation.  However, it appears to most closely resemble the following description "If an antler tine breaks completely while still in the velvet phase it may stay attached to the rack via the velvet skin and re-fuse with it leaving a pendulous (hanging) tine that usually has a large rounded tip."

This deer is a regular here.  He travels with a companion who has distinctive ear injuries, so I can at least confirm the companion is the same individual.  Here is an image of both of them, taken one month earlier.  I hadn't noticed at the time, but in this image, the Odd Odocoileus (on the left) appears to have a smaller antler starting on the side that is very deformed now.  But it may just be the angle of the photo.

Does anyone have any additional thoughts on this?

References and Additional Information:

  • Stable URL:
  • Stable URL: - 1959. W. Leslie Robinette and Dale A. Jones. Antler Anomalies of Mule Deer. Journal of Mammalogy Vol. 40, No. 1 (Feb., 1959), pp. 96-108 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Habitat Helper for Hummingbirds

We recently got a visit from a hummingbird to a nesting material station that I set up about 2 months back.  I no longer wanted to support the local rodent populations with the spilled remains of bird feeders, but I enjoy encouraging the local birds to come down for closer observation.  I was watching one of the local songbirds yank coco fiber from the liners on hanging baskets, and it dawned on me I may be able to encourage the birds to come down, at least during the spring/summer, by providing some nesting material.  I'd also often see birds up by the horses, taking off with some of the long mane hairs left on the fence line, so it could work.

I took down one of the suet baskets, and filled it up with natural cotton balls, which seemed like they would make good lining material, and hung it up outside with high hopes.  Then watched it, and watched it, and watched it - but it didn't get touched for the better part of two months.  Granted, it's been uncharacteristically pouring rain and cold most of that time.  The cotton balls held up well through the weather, and it looked like I'd just put them up fresh most of that time.

The weather just got nice this week, and low and behold, today I saw a hummingbird spending a lot of time buzzing around the cotton cage, and it finally dawned on me it may actually be using it.  I started watching with no small amount of anticipation, and I saw the little guy taking small tufts of cotton out through the wire!  After watching him dart up through the trees with a beak full of fluff, I realized that the cotton through the whole cage now had a frizzy look, from having bits of it tugged out.

I do not yet have images of birds removing the cotton, I will try and get a camera trap set up on it soon, but I wanted to share this post in case any one else wanted to try this out this season.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Coyotes Close - My Side of the Mountain

We have a resident pack of coyotes here.  I occasionally hear them yipping up the hill and night, and despite knowing the stats about what a low risk they are, the sound still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It is definitely a very wild sound, and much more welcome than car alarms.  The local coyotes are a regular trigger for the camera traps, but I have never seen one here in person until yesterday morning.  Just out our kitchen window, trotting smoothly across the hill up behind our neighbors house, was a healthy looking red coyote.  The neighbor had mentioned seeing one out there a week or so ago.  This morning, it went trotting by just at the opportune time my camera was taken apart for downloading pictures.  I think I'll name the coyote Murphy...

Luckily I have some images from the set up the hill, it is very nearby, and likely the same individual, or at least from the same pack.  Most of the images from that spot are black and white IR night shots, but I have one from during daylight where you can see the nice coat color.  The coyote looked a little shaggier when the photo was taken a few months ago, it looked almost brushed out now.

This individual was inspecting the camera after a curious human passer by had unsuccessfully tried to remove it from a tree, and left it at ground level.  Bushnell isn't great on the close focus, but very nice on the anti-theft options!

I do have to wonder if the coyote's new bold appearance has anything to do with the new neighbor recently letting their four coyote-naive cats outdoors.  Although cats don't make up a large part of the coyote's diet, they are not one to pass up on that opportunity.   The timing was uncanny.

Hopefully someday I'll be lucky enough to discover where these residents are denning, and attempt to get some shots like these amazing images captured by RandomTruth (Warming: incredibly cute).  Until then, I'll be happy with some nice pics of the adults.  The two sightings were both during daylight hours, so I'm hopeful for some additional color shots.

References and articles:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Calling Quail

I've seen more quail this spring than I have in the past 5 years.  Maybe it's from all the rain this year and last.  I've seen a number of pairs or small coveys, and I'm looking forward to the next phase of fuzzy little ping-pongs running through the grass after the adults.  A single brood has been known to have as many as 28 young, and multiple broods are frequently raised communally, so that it a lot of tottering fuzz.

When I was a kid, I volunteered at the Sonoma County Bird Rescue Center. Every spring, well meaning folks would see the precocial babies running on the ground, and assume they had fallen from a nest.  Or sometimes some of the young would actually get separated from parents by the insurmountable barrier of a curb.  Folks would scoop up the entire brood and bring them to the rescue center.  All of the chicks brought in would get placed together in big tubs of cute to be raised by volunteers and staff.  I'm sure our local Wildcare experiences a similar seasonal influx.

Usually all I hear is the quick "pit-pit-pit" alarm call as the rolly polly birds dive for the bushes along a trail, or the distant "Chi-ca-go". This morning I came across a very vocal male letting the world know where he stood with an "advertisement" call.  On a fence post... at the trailhead to Smith Ridge Fire Road.

The other call you hear in the foreground is my son mimicking the calls, and much to his delight (and the quails possible confusion), getting answered.

Here are some still shots as he calls, and composed himself between announcements.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

My Side of the Mountain

I can hear the Nuttals' woodpecker drumming on the top of the dead oak out back.  He has been pretty consistent out there since the weather warmed up.  I can only see him from one tiny spot on the property, which is outside, down a bunch of steps, around a corner, at just the right head tilt through the Bay leaves.  I'm determined to show him to my 3 year old, but he's never awake when it is consistent - and I don't think hauling him out of bed into the morning chill for this will quite endear him to nature the way I envision.  He inevitably hears him at some point during breakfast though, and asks "Is that a woodpecker"?  That works!

We live in a section of predominately California bay laurel woodland, which is interspersed with Oaks (mostly coast live, some black, and one spindly valley) and Madrone.  We are near the upper part of a gully in the hills, with a seasonal stream that flows only for a few days after rain on one side.    The oaks primarily grown on the south facing slope of the gully, and the Madrones grow mostly on the north facing slope.  Right up the middle is mostly the bay trees, with some redwoods further down the hill.

We are right on the urban/wildland interface.  This property is a little speck, but it adjoins extensive wildlands of Marin County Open Space and Marin Municipal Water District.  We have a select group of wildlife neighbors who consider this their land, and we can count on their visits regularly, daily or seasonally.  We've watched young just born and exploring, and then return as parents, and then the cycle repeats.  Aside from the more visible species, such as the locally ubiquitous deer and chickadee's, I have a IR camera up the hill to let me see a snippet of the lives of the more elusive visitors, such as bobcat and gray fox.

This "My Side of the Mountain" series will just be updates on the local flora and fauna, with photos when available.

There are a flock of crows that roost at the nearby horse pasture.  There have been no ravens until just this year, when a pair took up residence on the south ridge.  I saw one of them recently carrying nesting material from the horse pasture, chased by some vocally opposing crows.  A family of red-shouldered hawks cruises over the valley, calling much of the day - I can hear one of them now.   Occasionally we see them cruising by low, then into the forest canopy.There is also a bold Steller's jay who stands on our front porch roof and mimics the hawks, although we usually just have scrub jay's that clear out the bird feeders. A regular flocks of chickadee's, junco, and oak titmouse frequent the area, and become much more prevalent if we put out a feeder.  Sometimes diminutive bushtit's will join in as well.  We get visited by hummingbirds, primarily Anna's.  During the spring, we always have some lesser goldfinch.  I know there are raccoons, because we have garbage cans...and they leave their tiny hand shaped footprints all over the cars if something inside smells enticing.  I've heard a handsome pileated woodpecker calling just up the hill for years, and I've seen him on our oak a small handful of times.

We are just starting to put up nest boxes, and hopefully will have some nest cams in the next couple of years.  We were planning to encourage some screech owls, bats, and with the inspiration of the Camera Trap Codger, the oak titmice, to nest in them.

I'll share photos in posts about the individual critters as they come up.  Thanks for joining me in the journey!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Costa Rica/Nicaragua Species List

Species List

Species Observed During Costa Rica/Nicaragua Trip
Common (or local) Name
At Wilson botanical garden, with 2 babies
American Crocodile
Corcavado, Rio Corcabachi. Drive to Bahia Drake
Rio Corcabachi
Barn owl
Black crowned night heron

Black headed trogon
Black vulture
Blue-gray tanager
Wilson botanical garden
Boat-billed heron
Rio Corcabachi, Corcavado
Brown booby
Brown vine snake
Rio Corcabachi
Collared aracari
Compadres bird (Bucco macrorynchos)
Coral snake (or mimic)
Near playa grande
Crested caracara
Ctenosaur (maybe)
Glass frog
Possibly, maybe rough variety?
Glass wing butterfly
Las Tablas
Golden hooded tanager
Wilson botanical garden
Golfito Dulce Dart Frog
Gray fox
In captivity, Las Pumas rescue center
Great blue heron
Rio Corcabachi
Great kiscidee (spelling?)

Green backed heron
Rio Corcabachi
Green iguana
Groove billed ani
Hermit crabs
Hoffman's woodpecker
Howler monkey
In captivity, Las Pumas rescue center
Jesus lizard
Domitila, Rio Corcabachi
Laughing falcon
Domitila. Heard only
Leatherback sea turtle
Playa Grande, Laying eggs
Lineated woodpecker

Litter frog
Little blue heron
Rio Corcabachi
Long nosed bat
Rio corcabachi, Corcavado
Long-nose bat
Corcavado, Rio Corcabachi
Long-wing butterfly
Magnificent frigate
Malachite butterfly
Mangrove swallow
Rio Corcabachi
In captivity, Las Pumas rescue center
Masked titira
Wilson botanical garden
Mexican porcupine
Mica snake
Las Tablas (~4 feet long, black, eats venomous snakes)
Monkey ladder vine
Morpho blue butterfly
Las Tablas
Nicaraguan grackel
Night jars
Nightjar like (larger)
Northern raccoon
Monteverde, Playa Grande
Orange kneed tarantula
Rio Corcabachi
Domitila (large, brown, full spectacles in white)
In captivity, Las Pumas rescue center
Parrot (green)
Playa Grande
Pygmy squirrel
Red-headed woodpecker
Wilson botanical garden
Red-tailed squirrel
Wilson botanical garden
Resplendent quetzal
Mirador de quetzal
Ringed king fisher
Rio Corcabachi
River otter
Rio Corcabachi
Roadside hawk
Wilson botanical garden
Roseatte spoonbill
Rio Corcabachi
Rough winged swallow
Rio Corcabachi
Scaly chested hummingbird
Wilson botanical garden
Scarlet rumped tanager
Wilson botanical garden
Smokey Jungle Frog
Spider monkey
Spiked palm

Spotted sandpiper
Rio Corcabachi
Squirrel cuckoo bird
Strangler fig
Swallow tailed kite


Tiger heron
Rio Corcabachi
Trogon (red chest)
Tropical gnat catcher
In captivity, Las Pumas rescue center
Variegated squirrel
Rio Corcabachi, Domitila
Violaceous trogon
Wilson botanical garden
Walking palm

White faced capuchin
Wilson botanical garden, Las Tablas
White hawk
Wood stork
Rio Corcabachi
Yellow headed caracara
Wilson botanical garden
Yellow knapped parrot
Domitila (endangered)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Nicaragua - Day 6/7 - Masaya and the last night in Granada

The next day, I headed to see Masaya national park. It is within an ancient volcanic crater, that contains numerous smaller, still active, craters. You can walk right up to the edge of the crater and peer in. I found my way to the bus terminal, which was a dirt lot with buses going through with a guy hanging out the back yelling the name of the buses destination. So I got on one yelling "MASAYAMASAYAMASAYA". I took it along the Interamericana to the town of Masaya bus depot.

On the bus drive out to Masaya, I got to see lots of families transporting drinking water along the interamerica - in blue 50 gallon barrels, in handcarts, horse carts, or ox-carts. It must take an enormous amount of time just to get drinking water for the family. Also, a common form of two person transportation is on a bicycle. One person pedals while the other sits side saddle on the front bar. This isn't just kids, even the case for older couples. There is nothing like seeing a skinny little old man, pedaling away with a plump older woman balancing delicately on the front bar in business clothes (like a skirt, pumps, and blouse).

When the bus got to the bus depot, I couldn't figure out if it went past the national park (I later realized that I needed to be asking for "the volcano" not "Masaya Park" - Masaya Park is the city as far as locals are concerned, but everyone knows where the volcano is). I went and got a taxi after awhile, for 12 USD$ I got a taxi to take me the 20 km or so out there, all the way to the top of the volcano, wait for a few hours while I hiked around, then give me a ride back. He was more than happy to do so, so I think that was a lot of money for what it was - but at that point it was more than worth it to me. His name was Joseph, he was from Masaya, and he had four daughters - the eldest was 9, he was 31, and was divorced. That was about all I could understand over a couple hours of conversation heavily reliant on a two way translation handbook.

The Masaya Volcano was an impressive site.  I've visited a few volcano's before in California and Washington, and they all sort of looked like inverted mountaintops, with vegetation growing along a bowl that made up the top.  Or in Hawaii, where there was massive black flows of recent lava covering a sloping landscape, and distant steam where recent flows hit the ocean.  The Masaya Vocano was different.    You drive right up to a massive steam pit, and look into the abyss.

 There were hiking trails to the ridges surrounding the pit, with views across the surrounding valleys, including other volcano's and lakes.  

I got back to the bus depot and got to wait on the bus and watch the activities of the market for awhile. The Masaya bus depot was adjacent to a lively market.

There was a layer of garbage everywhere.

Vendors would walk from the front of the bus, shouting out their goods, and exit the back of the bus. They were selling everything from something that looked like tacos, to sweets, to soda and water in plastic bags. The buses all play music, and the music was blaring. The sounds of the market permeated the bus. Even as the bus was pulling out of the depot, vendors would jump in the moving front door, and go through and hop out the back of the bus.
Note the sodas and other drinks in plastic bags for sale.

Note the "change apron", most of the vendors used these
Here is a sound clip from the bus.

On the walk back from the bus to the hostel, I noticed that this one church at the end of a narrow road seemed to be crammed full of stalls, and many locals were streaming to and from it. So I walked down - and the minute you go through the entrance you enter a huge covered market that extends for blocks in all directions. It has everything from manufactured clothing, to butchers, to bulk grains. The area was alive with bartering, and dogs were sleeping happily in the loud walkways. Anything you could possibly need was sold there.

 Rooster on a leash

That night I met a young American woman who was in Granada to study Spanish. She had just come down from spending 3 months in Mexico. The woman had had her passport stolen earlier that day, then made a hard choice to follow someone who told her he knew who had it. She ended up far out of town by herself with this man, and the man unsuccessfully tried to take advantage of her to get her passport back. She was lucky that nothing worse than what happened happened, but she was shaken. We talked philosophy with a few other people, all resting in the hammocks and chairs around the courtyard, until late that night. I fell asleep in the hammock I was in during the talks, and stayed there until I had to get up at 4:30 the next morning to catch a bus back to San Jose. I got eaten alive by mosquitoes that night, a week later I was still itching from it! I caught the bus back to San Jose in Costa Rica the next day, and flew home the following morning.

The text in the past few posts is ultimately is such a brief summary of the experience of a small part of Nicaragua.  There are so many other details of places, people, and culture that I can't even begin to get it down on e-paper - you will have to go yourself for the rest of it.
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