After a month split between Minnesota and Hawaii, I was due for another trip to Point Reyes. I’ve been averaging about two trips a month since I first started going in August this year. There’s no predicting what I’m going to see on any given trip, but I’ve yet to be disappointed.
The weather forecast had called for cloudy skies all day, but it was bright and sunny when I arrived, with distant clouds on the horizon. Weather forecasts in Point Reyes always need to be taken with a grain of salt.
I wasn’t spoiled with hawks like I had been in November. I watched an American Kestrel dismember some prey high up on a utility pole, but it didn’t fly off until I had already given up on waiting for it to come down, 15 minutes later. An immature Red-Shouldered Hawk had some prey on a fence post, but it wanted nothing to do with me when I pulled up on the other side of the road.
With the rut over, the Tule Elk bulls were docile again. They also seemed to be in a bit of perverse mood. It’s entirely possible I’m projecting.
A Great Blue Heron was hunting in the field near the elk. This would have been a stunning set of photos in late evening light.
A couple of hours in, I didn’t have nearly as much to show for my visit as I’d had the past few times. Things started to change as I approached Abbotts Lagoon.
I spotted a Coyote in a field next Pierce Point Road. I parked, slithered under the fence, and followed the Coyote as it hunted for gophers. Eventually it disappeared behind a hillock. I carefully worked my way to the top and discovered not one but two Coyotes on the other side.
I continued to follow as the Coyotes worked their way through some sedges. It turned out a third Coyote had been hiding in the sedges watching the other two hunt. It leapt up as I approached and everyone ran off. That felt like more than enough disturbance, so I headed back to my car.
On the way back to my car, I came across a Say’s Phoebe. While I have plenty of Black Phoebe photos, I haven’t worked much with Say’s Phoebes. Unfortunately, the light was still a bit harsh and I couldn’t get very close in the open field.
I continued down the road a few hundred yards, parked at the Abbotts Lagoon trailhead and set out down the path to see what I could find.
As with the rest of the park, there were fewer hawks than on my recent visits.
A Black-Tailed Deer decided to hop out of the adjoining field and onto the the walking trail before bounding off into the bushes.
For the first time in quite a while, I saw California Quail up off the ground doing their sentinel thing. One of them tried to balance on a wire, which is quite a bit more precarious for a quail than for a sparrow!
As sunset was approaching, I spotted one of the Coyotes from earlier. It was browsing for gophers in the field next to the walking trail.
The first Coyote was quickly joined by one of the other Coyotes from the field. Judging from the high tail, it was a happy reunion.
I managed to get a video of the two Coyotes. It’s moments like these that keep me coming back to Point Reyes over and over. With the tail wagging and the playing, it looks like they’re very pleased to see each other. I’m guessing they’re mates.
Unfortunately, it also looks like the male has injured its tail somehow. The fur is missing from the bottom half of the tail. Hopefully this isn’t a case of mange or Cushing disease, both of which are bad news for wild canids.
The third Coyote from earlier was watching the first two again. I’m not clear on how they’re related. This Coyote is clearly tolerated by the others, but keeps a bit of a distance. Maybe it’s one of their offspring. The alpha pair will keep some of their kids around to help raise pups. If the pack gets larger than the available prey can support, some of the older kids get kicked out to keep the pack at a sustainable size (which varies from 3-7 adults).
The male Coyote eventually hopped the fence to the hiking trail and headed back the way I had come from.
Meanwhile, a Northern Harrier started cruising around the bushes near the hiking trail. 10 minutes after sunset isn’t the best time to take flight shots, but the harrier was moving slowly enough that these turned out pretty well!
I wrapped up with a few more photos of the female Coyote, and then headed back to the car.
The female ended up getting getting ahead of me. As I got close to the parking lot, I came across the two of them in the bushes near the trail. They got up and bounded away, doing a steeplechase over the coyote bushes on the way towards the lagoon.