Monday, June 20, 2011

Thrills on Gooseberry Hill

Tehachapi set #12 was next to an Oak Gooseberry, Ribes quercetorum.

oak gooseberry
Oak Gooseberry, Ribes quercetorum, in bloom at the time

Like ceanothus, it's a common shrub of the area.

It's also a key "safe zone" plant for small ground foraging mammals and birds, such as rabbits, squirrels, voles, mice, woodrats, k-rats, quail, thrashers, towhees... All foragers that spread seeds around, and help cultivate healthy ecosystems.

And, these small critters themselves are targets for many mid-size predators: badgers, weasels, skunks, ringtails, bobcats, foxes, coyotes... Not to mention owls, hawks, eagles, snakes...

I.e., w/o these kinds of dense hides, the animal count drops dramatically.

Saw an example of this first hand not long back. A friend up near Mariposa asked me why his property didn't seem to have the same diversity of mammals and birds we were seeing on our family property, which is close by. Deer came though, and turkeys, but not a lot of small mammals, like foxes and bobcats or chipmunks. And even quail rarely poked about.

His land, unlike ours, had been mostly cleared of all the "brush" - the mid-size shrubs and bushes, such as gooseberry, ceanothus, manzanita, toyon, coffeeberry and like - leaving mostly just the large trees, and grasses & wildflowers.

Park-setting pretty, but no cover, no animals.

Set #12 also shows this first hand.

set 12
Set #12 - the gooseberry and ceanothus trail

Like most of the sets in the Tehachapis, the local always-on-the-prowl gray foxes and bobcat showed up for sniffs and sprays:

gray fox
Gray fox coming in for a sniff of the scent mark rocks

bobcat mid-marking
Bobcat marking rock

Some unidentified flying k-rats (UFKs) were also caught:

Unidentified Flying K-rat at 8:12pm

UFK zipping through scene

UFK coming in for landing on rock

Our best guess: they're hearing the camera turn on, and are jumping just as the flash goes off.

A couple of other Rodentia stopped by the scene too:

merriam's chip
Poser Merriam's Chipmunk, Tamias merriami

Curious Cal Ground Squirrel, Spermophilus beecheyi

And last, ground foraging birds also came out of the gooseberry to work the trail:

cal thrasher
A California Thrasher, Toxostoma rediviva, giving the cam a look-see

2 thrashers
Two Thrashers squawking

American Robin, Turdus migratorius

spotted towhee
Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus

Biodiversity by (and by) bushes. Cool.




  1. loved the UFKs and the curious squirrel! too cute!

  2. What a great post. I also loved the Kangaroo Rat photos. The rest of the photos are thrilling too.

  3. Those UFK are fantastic!! I'm still laughing. What a joy they must have been to find.

  4. Love those kangaroo rats too...

    Good catches!


  5. Yes, the roo rat takes the prize!

  6. I echo the comments of others!

    Those kangaroo rat shots are incredible!


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