Monte Bello OSP

I joined PB and KG on a scouting trip for the Nature at Night hike on 8/24/12. We had a few unusual occurences. It was a mild night, but cooler than when I had been up here last. It was probably 6:50 by the time we got going.

A large spider hole appeared near the walnut orchard, and the presumed Calisoga hole near the sag pond was now open. We haven’t seen any yet this year.

While nearing the sag pond, a dark newt (whose skin reminded me of that skin lotion commercial that has an alligator walking by) crossed the trail, heading in the direction of the sag pond–in the middle of August! It left tracks in the dust.

Terrestrial-phase newt

Along the way, we saw several does with young.

The sag pond at the bottom of the hill was dry. We continued up the trail to our dinner spot, arriving there at 7:50. We heard an unidentified soft, repeating one-note call. Acorn Woodpeckers and Spotted Towhees called, then a female Great Horned Owl. A male joined her. A Western Screech-owl or two barked from the trees. A large bat made several passes. Something dark flew in back of KG as we sat, within a couple of feet, and went low around a tree by the trail. I assumed it was the bat, but it did seem bigger. We heard some other soft calls that were not familar.

In the dusk light, KG spotted a poorwill in the trail, and another. We discovered that it was them making atypical calls, and didn’t produce the usual call for which they are named.

When we were through eating and had moved down to the trail, I shined a red light on the bird that was there in order to see where it was. While I was looking at it, it flew up to catch an insect, showing us two glowing red eyes as it turned.

After the bird had moved away we saw a few dark down feathers in the trail that we’d noticed when we came up to this spot. Maybe they belong to one of the poorwills.

Some large ants were active, and a few alates were hanging around, presumably waiting for the right time to leave. We’ve also seen some at Long Ridge recently.

We turned onto Stevens Creek Nature Trail. A Barn Owl shrieked, but we heard no Saw-whet Owls like we have previously. The turret spider patch had many, as expected. We found a few small forest scorpions. The half-moon light made a few spots next to the trail glow eerily.

When we got to the creek crossing, it was dry. The only water was a small puddle no larger than about 5×3′ past where we usually cross. Water striders utilized it, but there were no visible newts. There was a lot of coltsfoot growing.

Under one of the bridges, we saw large fish, perhaps 5-6″ long. They scattered under white flashlight.

Another Barn Owl shrieked, and a screech-owl barked.

More than halfway up the trail, PB stopped suddenly with an exclamation I couldn’t make out. There was an odor, and in the back of my mind, I thought “skunk”, but then he stepped around what he had stopped for, and I noticed a lump in the trail. In dim light, at first it looked like a rock or thick tree root, but then I noticed a cat head. What the heck was a domestic cat doing out here? I looked more closely and then noticed the spots on the legs, and the short black-tipped tail. The odor was pretty strong depending on where we stood, but it didn’t have that sweet smell that sometimes accompanies dead things. Much of the tissue and organs were gone, with pelvic bones showing. Even with that, the cat looked emaciated, we thought.

The bobcat carcass had a few insect scavengers that didn’t like the light much, so I didn’t get any good photos of them. There were a couple of large beetle-looking things, one with yellow markings. There is a red fly in the photo of the head. When we were through looking at it, PB moved the carcass off the trail.

The moon lit up the landscape as we emerged from the woods and made our way back to the lot.

Photos are here. Note they include graphic photos of the bobcat carcass.

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