Friday, February 7, 2014

Point Reyes - Feb 5, 2014

Another February means another trip to Point Reyes.  This was our 3rd multi-day trip overall and the main goal was to photograph Bobcat and Long-tailed Weasel.  We had never failed to see Bobcat on multi-day trips but the only Long-tailed Weasel we had ever spotted was a blur as it shot across a trail and out of sight.

We hoped to do better this time...

This first day was spent cruising up and down Pierce Point Road (PP Road) and the side road to Marshall Beach.  We also stopped to hike at Abbott's Lagoon hoping to find weasel but we had no luck there. We managed to see a coyote around lunch time, but it took us a few hours driving the roads in the afternoon to spot our first Bobcat:

Distant Bobcat

It was a long ways away but we were able to find a small pullout and stakeout the cat.  Eventually, it came closer and started to stalk an unseen rodent in a hole:

Bobcat Stalking

The cat's pounce was low and quick (quite unlike the pounce of a coyote or fox that seem to jump high in the air) and I wasn't able to get one frame mid-pounce.  But, I did capture the cat post pounce reaching deep into the hole to try to grab its prey (too bad there was a stick in the way though):

Bobcat Pouncing - 1

Bobcat Pouncing - 3

Bobcat Pouncing - 4

But the cat came up empty, looked my way as if to say "oh well..." and headed off in the other direction out of sight...

Did you get it?

No luck this time

That was an hour well spent!

With one goal out of the way (although you can never have too many Bobcat pictures...), we headed for the Elk Refuge to see if any were close to the road.  They were...

Tule Elk

Juvenile Tule Elk

It was close to dusk now and we hadn't driven Sir Francis Drake Blvd towards the lighthouse at all.  So, we headed South.  Just as we rounded the corner at Schooner's Bay, we spotted another Bobcat on the side of the road.  It shot quickly off to the right and down to the water.  We pulled off into the pullout and quietly walked to the other side of the road hoping to spot it.  As we peaked over the incline we saw the Bobcat had moved down about 20 yards away but didn't seem bothered by our presence at all.

Bobcat at Schooner Bay

Bobcat at Schooner Bay

These shots were hand held and the light was dimming so I went back to the car to get my tripod.  In the mean time, the cat decided to get up and walk along the water's edge.  We returned to see its reddish rump and hind legs as it walked out of sight into the bushes. 

After dinner, we took a night drive down to the visitor center which is a great place to find Gray Fox.  We ended up seeing three.  One was along the road and two were in the visitor center parking lot.  Spotlighting is illegal in the National Parks and Seashores but we have found that driving really slow around the visitor center parking lot is the next best thing.  Plus, you get to stay warm and there is never anyone else there.

The three fox were a great topping on the two Bobcat day.  We also managed to spot five coyotes but none of the pictures were anything special.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Point Reyes - Feb 6, 2014

It's a good thing we brought gloves and lots of layers since the temp at 7am when we left our cottage on day 2 was 29 degrees! It was perfectly clear which made for some great early morning light as we headed into the park and drove to Pierce Point Ranch:

Dawn at Point Reyes

Abbotts Lagoon

Pierce Point Trees

In fact, the morning was so nice that we weren't the only ones enjoying the sights:

We ended up seeing another bobcat and two coyotes on that drive in but none posed for decent pictures.

Next up was a trip to the lighthouse.  It's closed mid week which is a great time to look for the weasels which used to be seen there.  However, some Peregrine Falcons moved in there a few years back and the weasel sightings bottomed out.  We keep looking just in case but we struck out with both.  The scenery was still nice:

Point Reyes

Black-tailed Deer

The colony of Common Murres at the lighthouse was packed this year:

Common Murre Colony

Speaking of packed, the Elephant Seals were out in force with pups.  They were as loud and ornery as expected.

Elephant Seal Beach

Elephant Seals with Babies

I usually don't take cow photos but this little one we nicknamed "legs" was too cute to pass up:

Newborn Calf

In fact, we were so enamored by "legs" that we almost missed the coyote in the pasture not 20 yards behind it.  Looks like the coyote was checking out "legs" as well:


The trip to the lighthouse and back yielded two coyotes total and our first Black-tailed Jackrabbit sighting. After lunch we hiked around the visitor center a bit and then headed back to our old standby...PP Road.

There was a Striped Skunk sauntering along through the fields right before Abbott's Lagoon.  Which is where we stopped next to look for weasels yet again.  About halfway down the trail, some folks coming the other way stopped us and said that they saw a possible Mountain Lion off the trail.  They knew what bobcats looked like and this one was "different".  We followed their directions to where they saw the cat but found nothing so I continued on.  Luckily, my wife doesn't give up easily and she stayed to scan the area.  Eventually, she found the cat and it turned out to be another bobcat.  So, that's the 4th sighting in two days and our first on foot. Not to shabby...

After the hike, we headed toward PP Ranch and spotted two coyotes right after the last dairy.  As we pulled into the PP Ranch parking lot some movement caught my eye.  Another bobcat was walking slowly up the hill away from the ranch.   There's some sort of building at the top of the hill and a trail to get there so I decided to head up to see if I could get a better glimpse of the bobcat.  The cat ended up turning around and laying down near one of the buildings.  We were able to sneak into the building and get great views of the cat for about 1/2 hour before it got up again and wandered off:

Resting Bobcat

Hunting Bobcat

That evening, we pretty much struck out on our night drive after only seeing a jackrabbit near the visitor center.  But, we will take a three bobcat day anytime!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Point Reyes - Feb 7, 2014

The rain came with a vengeance overnight and in the early morning.  Due to the California drought, we welcomed the water even though it cut into our plans a bit.  So, we got a little later start than normal and it was still drizzly as we headed to PP Road again.  But, obviously the wildlife decided to stay dry since we struck out on the entire drive.

So next we headed towards the lighthouse and down to Drake's Bay.  We struck out on that drive as well but did see a lone coyote on our way back to Pierce Point Road.  The entire morning would have been a bust if not for the tasty sandwiches we picked up at Whale of a Deli in Point Reyes Station.

After lunch, another drive along Pierce Point Rd turned up nada.  At this rate, the whole day would be a bust.  So, we decided to get some exercise at Abbott's Lagoon.  We walked all the way to the lagoon and back and saw nothing but birds.  Just as we were getting close to the parking lot, movement caught my eye.  There, sitting in the bushes not 20 yards from us was a bobcat.  It looked at us briefly but just sat there as I rattled off frame after frame.  You can tell by this picture how hard they are to spot at anything but close range since they just blend in so well...

Sleepy Bobcat

Eventually, it got up, gave us one last look...

Bobcat Ready to Hunt

and started to stalk something:

The Windup...

The Leap...

Did it get it?!...


Darn! No luck again...

So, it wandered off through the bushes giving us some great last looks:


What a great encounter!  Another bobcat on foot.  We NEVER see wildlife on foot so this was really fantastic.  To top it off, this little guy was hanging out in the pit toilet:

Pacific Tree Frog

Abbott's Lagoon truly delivered today and made up for the slow morning in a big way.

We decided to burn off the adrenaline from that great encounter by hiking the Estero Trail to look for owls.  While we didn't see any owls, we heard 3 different Great-horned Owls calling to each other from the trees.  Their great calls echoed as we walked.  Nature at its finest!   Just as the owl calls died down, a distinctly man-made sound started to thunder in across the valley.  It got louder and louder until it exploded over the nearby hills.  4 military choppers came into view and buzzed the tree tops over our heads and shook the ground beneath our feet.  Talk about the opposite of nature at its finest.  But, the sight and sound was pretty darn impressive.  Towards the end of the hike, the sounds of nature took hold again as we heard several coyotes yipping and howling and managed to see one on the crest of a nearby hill.

After dinner, we took one last night drive and the best encounter occurred before we even left our cottage.  This little guy posed nicely on the lawn as we drove out the driveway:

Gray Fox

We ended up seeing another Pacific Tree Frog on the wet pavement at the visitor center plus a Brush Rabbit that just wouldn't sit still for photos.  But, that was it.  What a great last day.

It ended up starting to rain early the next morning so we decided to leave for home to try to beat the worst of the weather...which we did.

The trip was a rousing success despite the rain.  We could not have asked for better bobcat encounters.

Mammal Sightings:
- Elephant Seals (100s)
- Tule Elk (dozens)
- Black-tailed Deer (dozens)
- Coyote (16)
- Bobcat (6)
- Gray Fox (4)
- Black-tailed Jackrabbit (3)
- Northern Raccoon (3)
- Gray Squirrels (2)
- Brush Rabbits (1)
- Striped Skunk (1)