Gopher Snake

Ramonimals (Animals of Ramona)


Since our move to Ramona we've encountered many interesting critters. We try and take pictures whenever possible and must take credit (or blame) for every picture on this site. All photos were taken in Ramona California (with the exception of the Gray Wolf which was taken at the Julian Wolf Preserve). All photos were taken "in the wild" (with the exception of the Mountain Lions, one of a Bobcat, one of a Golden Eagle, and the one of 'Buzz' the Turkey Vulture which were all taken at the Fund for Animals Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Ramona).

Birds

A couple of quail, one looking extremely embarrassed by the silly looking plume on the top of his head! These skittish little guys really are 'birds of a feather' and often travel in groups of 20 or 30 until spring when we always seen them in pairs.

This sequence of photos were taken over the period of about 5 weeks.

  1. Mama on the nest.
  2. Mom a week later (if you look closely you can tell she did a little work on the nest).
  3. The results of her vigil, 2 baby birds. (Notice how closely the nest resembles the pine cone in the background - what excellent camouflage!)
  4. Only one baby in the nest now, almost full grown.

I believe these are Anna's Hummingbirds, the only year-round resident hummingbird in San Diego County.

A rare sighting of a hooded oriole at our hummingbird feeder.  Unfortunately, this brilliant bird isn't a local resident, but just passing through.
Roadrunners are quite entertaining to watch... they run about 5 steps, stop, and their tail and crown feathers slowly rise. They lower these feathers, run about 5 more steps, and scrunch up again like an accordion. Over, and over, and over... I stood in this one's path and he looked nervous and couldn't decide what to do for about 3 minutes, then finally said "the heck with it, I'm getting tired of this featherless creature", and almost ran over my feet!
In total contrast to the roadrunner's habitat which is desert chaparral, surprisingly Ramona has a few small ponds which host waterland birds. This photo is of a sandpiper, but there are grebes, geese, and ducks also.
The majestic golden eagle is the largest winged resident of Ramona. I'm told that there are approximately 35 pairs of goldens in San Diego County, a few which call Ramona home. The background photo is of a golden soaring over Lake Sutherland Dam, the close-up is an eagle in the flight cage at the Fund for Animals Wildlife Rehabilitation Center awaiting release.
"Dum de dum de dum, what a gorgeous view. Hey what's that? They've got Buzz!!! Let's break him out!" Sadly, it wasn't to be. Buzz was raised by humans and is so tame he will come when you call him. Unfortunately, he'll spend the rest of this days at the Fund for Animals.

Although I have a particular fascination with raptors, it's almost impossible to get a good shot of them in the wild because they're smart enough to keep their distance. I apologize for the poor quality of these photos - they can only get better!

  1. Ferruginous Hawk - the largest buteo (soaring hawk). They migrate here in the winter to feast on the rodent population in the grasslands.
  2. Red-tailed Hawk - this most common local hawk is usually seen riding the thermals in pairs. They mate for life and can live about a dozen years in the wild.
  3. Merlin - we watched this tiny falcon scream down from his perch, snatch a sparrow, and return to his perch to feast. If you look closely you can see some of the poor sparrow's feathers drifting down in the breeze.
  4. Red-shouldered Hawk - this small buteo was screeching up a storm, apparently warning anyone who would listen that this was HIS territory.
This awesome bird of prey is only about 10 inches tall. He patiently sat there while I took photo after photo, each time getting a step closer. When I took this one I literally could have reached out and touched him!
Mammals

Two of the many cottontails we see every day at dusk and dawn. We've got plenty, if you'd like to take one home you're more than welcome.

An orphan cottontail rabbit Rob was caring for.
It took me a week to outwit and capture this worthy adversary, but for every one I catch there's another couple dozen diggin' up the dirt.
We've seen House Mice, Deer Mice, but my favorite are the Pocket Mice. I had one get into a garbage can full of birdseed (which I thought was mouse-proof). A good analogy for me would be being locked into a Lowenbrau beer factory... aaahhhhh!
After not seeing a single coyote the entire first year we lived here, we've probably saw one every week in November through January. I'm guessing that is because the el nino which occurred the first year we were here ('97-'98) brought unbelievable rain - and food was abundant. This winter ('98-'99) is drought-like in comparison and these wily critters are probably just plain hungry enough to search for rodent snacks in the daylight.
Bobcats are elusive creatures - we get the impression that there are always a few around - but very rarely see them. I was astounded one day when (while exploring the ranch next door) I reached a clearing at the top of a hill and stumbled upon this cool cat licking his paw. After getting off the first shot he instantly became aware of my presence. I took the second as he slowly began slinking down into the grass, never taking his eyes off me, and then bolted never to be seen again.
Mountain Lions visit this area, but are very rarely seen. Sheba is a young female confiscated when someone tried to bring her into California where keeping a mountain lion is illegal. Sheba has been de-clawed and can never be released into the wild.
Mel is a young male found as an orphan (with a broken leg). He too will spend his entire life in captivity.
Reptiles/Amphibians
These guys are harmless, but I always jump when I see a 4 foot snake slithering towards me! Unfortunately, they are often mistaken for rattlesnakes - and are killed unnecessarily.
These guys are NOT harmless.   Although this rattler is just a baby (about 18 inches long) his venom could do some real damage. We 'transplant' the babies, the big guys (up to 4 feet in length) are far too dangerous to attempt to capture and relocate for a novice like myself.
Robynne holding an active little night snake. The book says "...kills frogs, lizards with toxic saliva in grooved teeth at back of jaw."  Good thing she didn't read the book first!
Sometimes incorrectly called a 'Horny Toad', the horned lizard is on the "Species of Concern" list - we just hope it doesn't graduate to the"Endangered Species" list.  When captured, it will "inflate itself, bite, hiss, and spray blood from eye corners."
These tiny dudes gather by the thousands in the creek beds to mate. Their combined mating calls are deafening.
Spiders/Insects
A very scary looking critter indeed - we've seen quite a few now. They're good to have around - they'll eat small rodents!.
I was surprised (and pleased) to learn that any scorpion you find in Southern California is harmless.
This Mothra is actually large enough to do battle with Godzilla! Sometimes you'll find them sitting in one spot for many days.
Comparison Shopping

Sometimes people to claim to have seen a Wolf when in reality they've spotted a Coyote. Coyotes weigh about 30 lbs., wolves 75-125 lbs. - a slight difference. (Factoid: wolves have never inhabited southwestern California.)
Sometimes people to claim to have seen a Mountain Lion when in reality they've spotted a Bobcat. Bobcats weigh 10-30 lbs., female Mountain Lions 60-90 lbs., males 120-150 lbs.
 

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