The closest stop sign is over a mile away and the first traffic light is 5+ miles down the road. A visit to the grocery store is almost 30 miles round trip. It's quiet here; just the sound of toads and coyotes at night. It seems very still, but when you look close there's always something happening. Read on about a few things we've noticed over the past few years.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Another Mountain Lion

A few nights ago we caught sight of one running across Lake Mathews Drive. 
We said in unison, "Did you see that?". 

See a previous post of my meeting with a Mountain Lion a couple of years ago:

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Good morning Mrs Owl

I leave for work before the sun is up.  My headlights catch her perched atop my iron gazebo almost every morning.  Her snowy white face is hard to miss against the dark hills. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What's been in the garage (part 2)?

This laid out for about 6 months in the corner of the garage and we managed to "catch" a lizard, a scorpion, a nice sized spider or two, some crickets and various other small bugs.  YUM!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

California Black Oak

I found a group of oak trees nestled together.  There are about 8 or 10 trees in this picture.   These trees are native from southern Oregon down to Baja California.  They can grow from 30 to 80 ft.  They typically live 100 - 200 years but some have been found to be up to 500 years old. This tree is a critical species for wildlife and may be the most important food and cover source in the state for wildlife.  This tree occupies more area in California than any other hardwood species.  Cavities in the trees provide dens/nests for owls, woodpeckers, squirrels and the trees even are known as a preferred shelter for the Black Bear.  The acorns constitue up to 50% of the fall winter diet for squirrels and deer.  Fawns survival rates depend on the success of the acorn crop season.  Many animals cache the acorns and those that have been stored or buried are more likely to sprout than acorns that drop on the surface.  This Acorn was also the choice nut for Native Americans when making corn meal. 

This tree is highly adaptable to fire.  While the tops may burn, the trunk stores water and nutrients that usually allows the tree to live through the fire.  In addition, the fire activates the acorn growth.  Indians were known for burning trees to help the crop flourish. 

The picture below is of a string of trees that stretch about a mile in length.  They cross multiple properties and follow a soil line that the trees find condusive to thriving in. 

One last interesting fact, at one point back in the 1960's the state of California considered it a nusense and worked to eradicate the tree, after conservationists studied and provided data to the state they were able to save the tree from destruction.  The Cal Black Oak thrives in poorer quality soil and conditions that the conifers can't thrive in. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

cactus in the grass

This photo says a lot about the terrain when you look closely.  Note the budding green grass from just a few rains at Thanksgiving.   The same mature grass from last winters rains are the tall white grass you see blowing in the wind.  The picture was taken on a cool, clear and bright December afternoon.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

abandoned ranchers shack

The remants of this stone shack are one of the few reminders left that a large cattle ranch was once part of Gavilan Hills.  The shack is only one room about 10' x 20' in size.  On the same uninhabited property is an abandoned well, water tower, cattle loading dock, and some kind of ice or meat locker that is about the same size as this shack.

This house was inhabited by some questionable characters a few dozen years ago but I think they were just squatters.  After the squatters left, the roof fell in and mother nature is working on taking it back over.    The current neighborhood kids call this the "jail" and often play there. 

Friday, December 2, 2011


Yesterday while driving home my car startled a great horned owl sitting in a tree on the side of the road.  The owl took flight in the same direction my car was traveling.  The owl was within arm's length of my passenger window.  He kept pace with me for about 75 or 100 feet before he made a quick turn and was out of sight.  I was in awe of his size and the good fortune of being able to see him so close up.  What a treat!

On the flip side, when I drove into the garage I found a mouse caught on a glue board.  Yuck!