Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hanging with Miss Moss

Dear Woodrat Whisperer,

I'm a young, healthy and attractive female Neotoma fuscipes annectens, but no cute males are coming around my way. What gives?

- Miss Moss

miss moss
Miss Moss hanging out in her backyard

Greetings Miss Moss,

Hubba hubba. Not to worry - the season has barely begun, and I'm sure a fine male will find you soon. In the mean time, if you're lonely - get some house mates and backyard buddies.

- WW

Being a bit of a wildlife peeping Tom, I've actually set cameras on the abode and neighborhood of Miss Moss several times now. At no time did there appear to be any males coming around. Leads me to 2 possible theories: Miss Moss could be a Mister Moss (but based on size, shape and booty shots, I think not), or - Miss Moss (at that time) was a recently dispersed pre-breeding age female.

But, she doesn't have to worry about getting lonely. Her house and 'hood are major hubs of activity. She lives in chaparral, quite near Lady Prunus (and may be related). And, like the Lady, has a house and yard that attracts all sorts of curious visitors.

For example, brush rabbit(s) came by often at both houses:

brush rabbit
Brush Rabbit, Sylvilagus bachmani, sniffing around Miss Moss' stick house

brush rabbit
Another/same brush rabbit, perhaps sleeping in a mini-cave in Lady Prunus' house

Miss Moss' house also has all 3 previously seen species of local Deer mice - boylii, californicus and maniculatus:

brush mouse
Brush mouse, Peromyscus boylii

cal mouse
California mouse, Peromyscus californicus

deer mouse
Deer mouse, Peromyscus maniculatus

And, along with the meeces, both woodrat's yards and neighborhoods were well-scoured by a variety of chaparral-loving, ground foraging birds...

cal thrasher thrashing
California Thrasher, Toxostoma redivivum, roto-tilling in the rain

scrub jay scrutinizing
Too smart Western Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica, reverse engineering the cam

Wrentit, Chamaea fasciata, poking around the sideyard of a house next door to Miss Moss

spotted towhee
A never shy Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus, posing for the cam

mourning dove
A yellowy Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura, cooing through

hermit thrush
And a bold Fox Sparrow, Passerella iliaca, scratching around

Of course, given the seed collecting of the woodrats and tenant mice, and all the invertebrates that live in the houses, this popularity with birds shouldn't be a big surprise. They're just looking for free and easy forage.

In the nearby oak woodlands, the San Francisco dusky-footed woodrats also get a few other furry friends frequenting and foraging the yards of their fine estates...

western gray squirrel
A native Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus, with big bushy tail and silvery sheen

eastern gray squirrel
A non-native Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis, with lots of brown and less bush

buck face
And a buck black-tail giving the cam a stare-down

So, aside from the woodrats, that makes 7 species of mammals, 7 species of birds, and 2 species of salamanders camera trapped during my little Woodrat Theater project.

It appears the party never stops around woodrat stick houses.

Guess that means I'll just have to keep peeping in on them.

Editor's Post-Note: here are 6 woodrat stories that included this post, in order:


  1. Wow, that Western gray squirrel is a gorgeous critter...nice pictures!

  2. It pains me to admit this .... but .... that California Thrasher photo is the best of the bunch and the Scrub Jay is a close second.

    Great job!

  3. Yeah, but getting a pic of the elusive wrentit is quite an achievement. Great post, Ken. Could it be that Miss Moss is a socialite with no time for family life?

  4. Awesome shots! Btw, do you think that Miss Moss and her kin can potentially get through a doggy door? Our resident wood rat is still happily leaving scraps of twigs, debris and dessicated remnants of our pooch's poop(there's no accounting for good taste) on our back patio. But then lo and behold, I spied some of the dried stuff this morning inside our garage just a few feet away from the doggie door leading to Hana's dog run. Yikes! Being the 'Paris Hilton' of Akitas, I seriously doubt that Hana herself is capable of such a feat.

  5. The Thrasher is my fave too.

    camissonia - while woodrats are clever enough to go in your doggie door, I doubt very much that they ever would, especially if it's a door that's used by dogs. There would probably need to be some serious food or safety pressure outside to drive them in. You may have other visitors too - usually raccoons and skunks are doggie door explorers (they love dog food). Might want to put out your camera trap and find out.

  6. Nice shots. It's a amazing how well camouflaged the squirrel is.


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