Thursday, July 16, 2009

Guess Who's Coming to Water

Off the stone patio behind our family lodge is a little seasonal creek. It trickles and flows now and again, mostly after Winter, as rains and snowmelt wash down from the western Sierra Nevada slopes. These runs fill and overflow our big fish pond, and a string of others like it, as gravity drives the water towards the Merced River and Pacific Ocean. Once the runoffs stop, the creek dries and the pond settles in for a long hot Summer of dwindling down and down and down, as its water is slowly lost to seepage, evaporation & greenery growth.

Prior to last year, that is. Now, through the magic of pond terraforming, we're trying to augment that cycle. We sealed the pond bottom with a fancy clay, and added a recirculation pump that pushes water from the far deep end, to a couple of hundred feet up the creek - just past the lodge house. That water then runs down the creek, through a small pond/pool (that acts as a wetland water-clarifying filter), and into the big pond. Full circle. And thus creating the illusion (and reality) of a 24/7 running creek with falls. A mini oasis in the sweltering Sierra summers that attracts a variety of thirsty visitors from the nearby wilds. I.e., a camera trapper's dream spot.

falls & pond
Creek, upper pond, flat rock, falls and large lower pond in early Spring

Last year I tried the wildlife camera in various places around the creek and ponds. A fave spot was the big flat granite rock that bridges the creek near the falls, where the water tumbles into the big lower pond. The flat rock is perfect for smaller animals to get across and into the water to drink, bath and forage. The big critters also use it to cross and survey the area.

upper pond and falls
Creek, pond & falls behind house - flat rock in center, big pond starts at right of picture. Trail camera is on the rightmost pine tree.

flat rock and upper pond
Creek, flat rock and small pond - house and patio are in upper left of picture.

As can be seen in the above photos, camera trapping around the creek also gives us an idea of what critters come around the house (and how often). Not in a scary way though - no one in the area has ever been threatened by the wild animals, and few even see them. Mostly it reminds us not to leave food out, and to keep all outdoor closets and doors and such closed, so the beasties don't move in (I hear that clearing out a skunk den is great fun - NOT).

Well, this Spring, once the snow melted, I started setting the new, fast Reconyx trail camera at the flat rock at various angles. It has taken many pictures. Many, many. Over the last 4 months, it's snapped about 25-30 pics per day, or 5-6 animal events per day (I have it set to blast off 5 pics per animal event). I.e., anyone need 1,000+ photos of mule deer? :)

Mule Deer, Gray Squirrels, Wood & Mallard Ducks, Wild Turkeys, and a variety of small birds are near daily visitors, as would be expected - they're locals:

one horn buck
One-horned Mule Deer buck when rock was still covered with water

nice shot
Mule Deer after runoff stops and flat rock is exposed

squirrel likes rock too
Western Gray Squirrel on an acorn break

Mallard Ducks foraging through

wood duck
Wood Duck checking out the Brooklime

deer party
Deer Having a Rock Party

Raccoons are frequent night visitors. Dabbing their way around the edges:

raccoon catching something?

raccoon sees camera


Black-tailed Jackrabbits stop in sometimes acting as if they're afraid of water (they rarely need to drink, getting almost all their water from the veggies they eat):


A Feral Cat (I think) hunts the area also:

that black cat

And the Black Bear visits every month or so. In fact, the same bear was caught on two different trail cameras on the same night - here at the flat rock :

hello bear!

goodbye bear!

And here again going up fenceline hill 9 minutes later:

black bear

Occasionally, a cute Coyote drops in (love the big muddy paws):



Or rarely, a Bobcat hops the rocky edge in search of late night snacks:




Frequently, some Weirdos happen:

no, you can't order burgers heretmivery scaryblair witch project?

What Else?
Last year over the Summer & Fall we also got pics of a Red-shouldered Hawk bathing, a Great Horned Owl, a Blue Heron, lots of Fawns, Gray Foxes, and the Bear (of course).

red-shouldered hawk taking bathgreat horned owl on flat rockbambi - king of the rockgray fox at 2amgreat blue heronblack bear stare at 11:20pm

Here's the full set of good pics from Spring on the rock.

Wonder who'll drop by this Summer??




  1. Another winner! Nice selection of photos to create a visual of the upper pond flat rock to enhance your written description. If I hadn't been there myself, I would still have a good sense of orientation from your writing/photos.

  2. Wow, what an oasis! One of these days a big tawny cat may show up, too.

  3. Thanks all.

    Codger - there was a Cougar around snacking on the mule deer. The Fish & Game guy shot it late last year though, and I've not yet seen any sign of a new one taking the territory. Perhaps now that the fawns are popping out one will show.


Please leave a comment, thought or question at any time.