Squirrel gazing 🐿👀on a remote field site like the James Reserve where my work is done 🌲🌻you come across a lot more wildlife than just squirrels! Having the opportunity to watch and sometimes interact with other animals on the reserve has been one of my favorite things about my time in the field.
Over the summer we came across birds, snakes, bears, and coyotes! 🐦🐍🐻🐶This post is focused on the incredible non-squirrel critters we had a chance to observe this summer. Here I discuss how they influenced our squirrel gazing and share some amazing up close bear and coyote footage caught by the reserve cameras!!! 🐻🎥🌟
At the James Reserve there is an incredible diversity and abundance of birds. We often joke that an alarm clock is not needed when staying at the field station because the hawks, Stellar's jays, and myriad of song birds will let you know when the sun is up. 🐦☀️⏰
The squirrel gazing team 👀🐿 was especially popular amongst birds while we were training squirrels to use our automated feeder. During the learning phase of our experiments we filled the tunnels of the feeder full of sunflower seeds 🌻. This is often called 'free baiting' and is done to habituate squirrels to seeing the feeder as a food source.
Free baiting the feeder in this way drew a huge crowd of both squirrels and birds! Here is a male Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus) enjoying a free snack.
Southern Pacific Rattle Snakes (Crotalus oreganus helleri) 🐍 are a common resident of the James Reserve, one even lives right under the lodge!
California ground squirrels are a favorite snack 🐿🍴 of these snakes, so we would often run into these sneaky dudes while trapping squirrels. 'Biggie' and 'Chip' are two Southern Pacific Rattle Snakes that live under a large rock structure right near one of our squirrel colonies. We had to be especially careful to give them their space while working in that colony as the rattle snakes in these mountains in particular have neurotoxic venom that make their bites one of the most dangerous in the world!
Historically, bears 🐻have been a relatively rare occurrence in the San Jacinto Mountains. They made a notable appearance at the James Reserve last year when they tore the screen off an open window, proceeded into the lodge where they made a mess of the kitchen by opening a bag of sugar, all while researchers were sound asleep on the second floor 😴.
This year, the two resident black bears (Ursus americanus) 🐻🐻have made there return to the James Reserve. They can be seen almost nightly following a singular path around the lodge checking the storage sheds and bird feeders for food.
Here is some video footage of the bears caught by the reserve's night vision cameras! 🐻🌙🎥
Coyotes (Canis latrans) are a common site and sound on the mountain. They are often referred to as 'song dogs' 🎶🐶because of the intense call and response howling noises they make to one another during the night. This is thought to be a way to maintain family groups.
During my last trip to the Reserve I was staying in a tent ⛺️, around 10pm 🌙🌟, I began hearing coyotes howl in the distance and then all the sudden a howling response came from right outside my tent! It was an incredible experience to be so close to these beautiful animals.
Here is a video of two coyotes sent marking the dumpster area of Lake Fulmor right outside the the James Reserve!
Thank you to Dan Cooper for your gracious bird ID and Andrea Campanella Assistant Director of the James Reserve for sharing these amazing wildlife videos.