California Tortoiseshell

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California tortoiseshells (Nymphalis californica) are found in the conifer forests of Western North America. These butterflies overwinter as adults. In the northern, colder parts of their range the adults emerge in late May or June and have only one generation. … Continue reading

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American Badger

American Badger

American Badger

I always considered the American badger (Taxidea taxus) a nocturnal mammal. So Leonard and I were surprised when we began to see them around our pastures and yard during daylight hours. A little research confirmed that badgers are usually nocturnal, but can be active at any time.

Badgers have a heavy, flattened body, short legs, very long front claws, and a short, bushy tail. Their pelage (fur) is coarse and short with long guard hairs – a grizzled grey above and lighter on the underside. A median longitudinal white stripe begins at the nose and runs to the middle of the back. Additional black and white parallel lines mark the head. Badgers walk with a wobbling gait.

Found in open, dry country throughout most of the Continental United States, badgers eat ground squirrels, mice, rats, gophers and chipmunks, which they unearth by digging.

Badgers also dig burrows with elliptical entrance holes 8″ to 12″ in diameter. Near the entrance are large mounds of thrown-out dirt. A field or pasture with active badgers can quickly begin to resemble a mine field with all their digging for food and excavating their burrows. Horses can break a leg by stepping into a badger hole. On the positive side, abandoned badger holes do provide homes for burrowing owls and other small animals.

Russell Hoban wrote a series of classic childrens’ books about Francis the Badger and her family. My son and daughter loved the stories about this cute, lovable badger. In reality badgers are powerful animals that only the largest dogs or mountain lions can subdue. They are mean and ferocious fighters. (Spoken from experience.) When facing a human they will growl and hiss. I give them clear berth.

This picture was taken on our ranch near Lookout CA (Modoc County). There were four badgers together. Male badgers are solitary and the female alone raises the family. Since three of the badgers were slightly smaller than the fourth, Leonard and I assume we saw a mother and three offspring.

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Phainopepla

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Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens) males are a glossy black color. Its common and genus names derive from the Greek meaning “shiny robe”, an accurate description of the phainopepla’s plumage. Female phainopepla are brownish-grey. Both sexes have red eyes, long tails and … Continue reading

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Ground Squirrel Eating Gooseberry

Eating Sierra Gooseberry

Eating Sierra Gooseberry

Sierra gooseberries (Ribes roezlii) are covered in sharp spines. Tasty and sweet, humans can barely pick the well-armored fruits without hand protection, let alone eat them. (See my 07-20-2016 article, “Sierra Gooseberries”).

Golden-mantled ground squirrels (Citellus lateralis) have no problem eating Sierra gooseberries. I watched this little rodent near Medicine Lake (Siskiyou County CA) grab a Sierra gooseberry, wrestle it off the bush and eat the prickly berry without any difficulty. I cannot pick a Sierra gooseberry without hand protection and would never consider popping one into my mouth. It was amazing that the spines had no effect on the ground squirrel.

Refer to my 11-13-2013 post “Young Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels” for more information on this cute mammal.

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Sierra Gooseberries

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Sierra goosberry (Ribes roezlii) flowers are beautiful and unique. The five red to rose sepals are bent back and the five small petals curve inward and resemble cylinders surrounding the five protruding stamens. (Pictures of the flowers are in my … Continue reading

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Crimson-ringed Whiteface

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The crimson-ringed whiteface (Leucorrhinia glacialis) is a “northern” dragonfly that is found in Canada and the upper tier of States. Freshwater lakes and ponds, often with boggy margins, are the habitat of these members of the skimmer group of dragonflies. … Continue reading

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Calochortus macrocarpus

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The genus name, Calochortus, derives from the Greek words “kalo” meaning “beautiful” and “chorta” meaning “grass”. Wildflowers in this genus are indeed very attractive. One of my favorites is the mariposa lily (Calachortus macrocarpus). Mariposa lilies are found in the … Continue reading

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