Mr. P and I just had our first long vacation in nearly two years. MAN was it good to get away!
Not too far away - just up to the Sierra again. But we stayed gone for a week, and that makes a big difference. Here are just a few of the critters we found ourselves sharing the mountains & forests with.
- Chickaree (aka Douglas Squirrel)
- Fox Squirrel
- California ground squirrel
- Golden-mantled ground squirrel, originally thought it was a Chipmunk
- Red-tailed hawk
- Acorn woodpecker
- Western bluebird
- Ruby-crowned Kinglet
- western goldfinch
- American robin
- Common Merganser
- Canvasback duck
- Canada goose
- great egret
- great blue heron
- scrub jay
- Steller's jay
- Ouzel, aka American Dipper
- white-tailed deer
- unseen black bear (scat and not-quite-distant-enough huffing!)
- Banded woolly caterpillar (Isabella or tiger moth caterpillar)
Wildlife highlights for me: the ouzel, spotted fishing from a rock along the edge of the Stanislaus River; the mergansers, a whole group of which were fishing in Lake Alpine during our own picnic lunch; and the chickarees, one of which was spotted chasing a Fox squirrel four times its own size.
The Fox squirrel fled carrying a large food item which, apparently, the Chickaree claimed. The Chickaree did not win this chase but it sure was funny to see the little one lighting out after the big one. Reminded me of the time a newly-arrived cat sent our dog packing.
A non-wildlife highlight was a visit to an alpaca farm. Ever petted a baby alpaca? It is just about as soft as the fluff on my cat's belly. http://www.ranchonc.com/ is the place and it's a lovely farm, open to visits by appointment. There is something very appealing about the alpaca, quite aside from its fluffiness.
My personal and very unscientific estimate is that, for every species I could see and identify, there were probably 8 to 10 that I never got a good look at or wouldn't have successfully identified if I had.
I know more about the outdoors than a lot of people, but a lot less than I'd like. I can just about tell the difference between a sequoia, an incense cedar, a sugar pine, a spruce, and a hemlock; but if you asked me to name the various deciduous trees lighting up the mountain forests right now, all I could really give you is "uh ... it's yellow?"