J’accuse

I was wrongly accused. Jeered. In short order a mob of 15 or so individuals had formed, seemingly from nowhere. They gathered in groups around me. The more aggressive of them would wait for my back to be turned and then rush at me, only to retreat as I turned toward them.

Now, wrongly marked, I’m yelled at whenever I’m seen in the neighborhood.

Yep, all true, and it started a few days ago in Kimber Park.

It began shortly after I noticed a pair of wrens chasing away a fox squirrel on the Kimber Park open space. They were definitely defending their space. Quick, small, frenetic, they were tough to photograph. Here they are (click on any photo to enlarge it):

Bewick’s Wren on the Kimber Park Open Space

Another hungry Kimber Park Bewick’s Wren

This was a new bird for me to find on the open space, a Bewick’s Wren. These two were ravenous, grabbing bug after bug. Odds are very good that they have a nest nearby — I hope to locate it soon.

After finding the wrens I went to check on the White-Tailed Kite nest in Kimber Park. The kites have built a nest near the Mission Hills Tennis Club entrance. This is the second kite nest here in about 6 months, with the new nest a short distance from their previous nest. I’ve seen the kites sitting on the nest and wanted to check on their progress.

Once I was nearby, though, I heard another Bewick’s Wren, this one calling from the top of a tall Redwood. As I walked near the base of the Redwood, a pair of American Crows stealthily flew into the Redwood. They were at first interested in the singing wren, but then they noticed me.

That’s when things went wrong. A hidden Western Scrub Jay suddenly appeared among the Redwood branches behind the lower crow and fiercely jabbed it in the back with its beak.

Crafty Western Scrub Jay keeps a wary eye out.

The crow gave out a squawk, but apparently thought I had somehow hurt it from a distance. Guilt by association! Here he is, glaring at me.

Leering Crow

The crow began making alert calls over and over.

Kimber Park crow calls for back up.

Within a few minutes a murder of crows had formed.

A Murder of Crows

The injured crow began repeated dive-bombing me.

Dive bombing crow.

Yikes! I noticed that one of the White-Tailed Kites was now airborne, apparently concerned about the many crows, a natural enemy of the kites.

Kimber Park White-Tailed Kite soars over heckling crows

I now became worried that the many crows formed a danger to the nearby nesting kites. ­čśŽ

It was time to go. I was going to have to check the kite nest another time. Unfortunately, I seem to have been falsely accused and now remain a marked man among the local crow populance. If you know anything about crow intelligence, it could be some time before that is changed around. Check out this NY Times article discussing how crows can identify and remember individual people:  Friend or Foe?

Another day, another wildlife adventure in Kimber Park.

Are you a Fremont resident and registered voter? If so, you can help preserve Fremont’s open spaces for future generations by signing the Protect Fremont Open Space petition. Stop by one of the fixed signature collecting sites, found at Where to Sign. Hurry, time is short!

Solar Eclipse vs. Kimber Park Wildlife

A really cool time to grab your camera and head outside is during a solar eclipse. One of my favorite effects is the reflection of the eclipse in shadows cast through tree leaves.

Here’s the eclipse’s effect on the shadow of a weeping birch:

Solar Eclipse reflected in tree shadows.

I wanted to see the effect on the local wildlife, so I headed into the Kimber foothills.

This big mule deer buck, with his antlers in velvet, seemed confused. Here he is viewing the sun from the hillside:

Kimber Park mule deer puzzles over solar eclipse

The local turkey vultures were definitely in a tizzy. They looked to be hustling back to their roost, surprised that “sunset” was coming early:

Turkey vultures hurry back to nighttime roost, confused by solar eclipse.

Hmm, this guy seemed to be coming around to check up on me:

Turkey vulture checks photographer for life signs.

What would the Great-Horned Owls be doing? I trekked to their nest site, only to see the following:

Empty Great-Horned Owl Nest

It looks like the two young owls fledged and had already left the area. I waited and searched the area thoroughly, but now that the young were out of the nest the Great-Horned Owls were no longer going to be easy to find. ­čśŽ

Here are a couple of pics of the owlets, at most just five days before they fledged. You can see the flight feathers coming in, as well as an owlet practicing flapping in preparation for his upcoming life journey.

Kimber Park Great-Horned Owlet, partially feathered out.

Great-Horned Owl owlet strengthens his wings.

I’ll miss seeing them, but its fun to know that they out making their way in the world.

Watch for additional posts on the other raptor nests currently active in Kimber Park.

When a Spectacular Wildflower Meadow is a Problem

This past winter Northern California received significantly less than normal rainfall. In spite of this and perhaps due to some unusually late rains, the local wildflowers were doing well. In Kimber Park the neighborhood Open Space wildflowers were unusually fantastic this year.

Here’s a video of the meadow, taken on April 16th, 2012:

The meadow was teeming with wildlife, as the deer, birds, squirrels, raptors, butterflies and local bees enjoyed the buffet placed before them.

Take a look:

Kimber Park morning sunrise.

Spring 2012 Wildflowers on the Kimber Park Open Space

Another view of the Kimber Park wildflowers

Here’s a neighborhood mule deer enjoying a juicy snack:

Kimber Park mule deer enjoys juicy wildflowers

Some local insects nourishing themselves:

An early season Monarch Butterfly enjoys breakfast in the Kimber Park wildflower meadow.

A Kimber Park honeybee gathers nectar and pollen from the wildflowers.

As mentioned in a previous post, the wildflowers met with an untimely and unwanted demise.

Why would they be destroyed when in their full springtime glory? People in the neighborhood and from other areas in Fremont were walking nearby, having come to see the local flora and fauna in their springtime splendor.┬áThe flowers presented no fire hazard, and would have remained green for months. They were in their natural role, providing a food source for the local wildlife and reseeding the area for next year’s display.

One strong possibility is that the natural beauty provided a dissonance with the current owner’s publicly stated intentions: ┬áthey want to build houses on the open space in the middle of this Planned Community. The property has no development rights and is the site of a 60-year old Redwood forest. This beautiful meadow certainly seems to lend credence to the use that Shapell Homes deeded to the property during the original development (see this post for more info) – this land must be left natural.

That problem was solved by cutting the meadow to the ground. Here is the sad view left for the neighborhood, where wildflowers were just flourishing:

This looks more like a place for houses, now that the wildflowers are being taken out.

The Kimber Park Open Space, shown with the wildflowers in the foreground razed. The remaining wildflowers were cut shortly afterwards.

It is also possible that the owners are just not competent enough to know that the flowers should not be cut down after until after they have finished blooming and died back. It’s possible that not everyone likes flowers (OK, I’ve actually never met anyone who admitted to this, but they must be out there somewhere. There are, after all, more than 6.8 billion of us on the planet).

In either case I feel bad for the landscape workers, put in an impossible position. Something tells me that they might have a clue here and on their own would have handled the situation appropriately. But that’s just my opinion.

But a recent turn of events left me wondering if someone is getting the message after all. I took these pictures of California Poppies on a different part of the property. Other blooming poppies elsewhere on the property were already cut to the ground. It looked like these guys would go next, as the landscapers made their way across the acreage.

California Poppies growing on the Kimber Park Open Space for the first time in recent years.

The local native bees seem to really enjoy them.

A native bee gathers pollen from a California Poppy at Kimber Park.

For the time being, this patch of poppies was not cut to the ground when the surrounding weeds were. Here they are, left standing after all.

A few poppies still survive.

Is the word getting out to the owners that the residents of Fremont are being informed about what is going on here?

Hundreds of volunteers are spread out across the city, working diligently to make their fellow Fremont residents aware of the lengths being taken to try to force dense residential housing on the mitigating open space of a wonderful Planned Community in Fremont. In these tough times, it is heartwarming to see cynicism and skepticism about local governance erased and replaced with resolve, determination and joy, as thousands of Fremont voters participate in the democratic process and help get the Protect Fremont Open Space Petition on the ballot.

Are the Mission Hills Tennis Club owners even aware of the untenable position they are making for themselves in Fremont?

Do you agree, disagree or have other thoughts to add? If so, please add your comments.

As always, opinions presented here are those of the author.

Seventh Raptor Species Photographed Using Kimber Park Open Space in 2012!

After waiting and watching for over a year, a seventh raptor species was recently photographed on the Kimber Park Open Space! It is somewhat ironic that this top predator is one most well-known of the resident raptors to Kimber Park residents. Why was it so hard to photograph? It’s nocturnal!

Here’s the list of Kimber Park raptors seen either breeding or hunting on the Kimber Park Open Space (in 2012 alone):

  1. Red-Tailed Hawk
  2. Red-Shouldered Hawk
  3. White-Tailed Kite
  4. American Kestrel
  5. Turkey Vulture
  6. Barn Owl

And now for number seven:  the Great-Horned Owl!

Anyone living or hiking here cannot help but hear their nightly hooting sessions, as they call to find mates and establish territory. The Kimber Park area is a prized owl habitat, with the many large trees, verdant meadows and foothills, all near one another.

Here’s a picture of a Great-Horned on the Kimber Park Open Space itself, surveying for prey, taken on April 30th, 2012 (click on any picture to see it enlarged):

Great-Horned Owl

Great-Horned Owl surveys the Kimber Park Open Space at dusk.

The owl’s nest was located earlier this year, at the top of a Eucalyptus tree. The owls themselves remained hidden for much of the year. Nesting season is upon us, and the Great-Horned is one of the earliest raptors to nest. They have raised two owlets that are nearly ready to fledge:

Great-Horned Owl and Owlets

A Great-Horned Owl with Two Owlets in a Kimber Park Eucalyptus

With the additional mouths to feed, the owls have begun hunting earlier in the evening and were thus active when they could be photographed.

They are absolutely silent alight.┬áHere’s a recent picture of one of the parents flying at dusk recently.

Great-Horned Owl

Kimber Park Great-Horned Owl Alight

Should you soon take an early evening walk by the Kimber Park Open Space, especially when you are near the eastern half of the Mission Hills Tennis Club property, look to the tops of the Redwoods and Oaks. You have a very good chance of seeing one of the parents hunting for their nearly fledged owlets. If you are very lucky you might even see them plucking a hapless gopher or other rodent from the Open Space meadow.

Perhaps soon the babies themselves will be hunting in Kimber Park, before they find their own territories. ­čÖé

Working together, we can keep Fremont’s Open Space open. Learn more by visiting the Protect Fremont Open Space website.

More Kimber Wild Turkeys

If you ever want to see the Kimber Park wild turkeys in their full glory, make a visit on a Thursday morning in the wintertime. Who knew that they had a schedule? ­čÖé

Here’s one of the Kimber gobblers, caught mid-gobble this Spring, in the Kimber Park area (click on any image to see it at full resolution).

Kimber Park Wild Turkey, mid-gobble

I have to admit that I normally have mixed feelings about the turkeys’ appearance. They have some tough competition, especially in the Kimber Park area. The hawks, kites and jays, seen every day here, are simply more appealing to my sensibilities (I don’t think I’m alone here. ;-> )

However I cannot help but find this guy’s looks amazing! The iridescence of his many feathers, the incongruity of the huge brown tail feathers and beautiful white and black striped wing feathers – a wild amalgamation. Just when you’re sure that nothing else could be added, he has a huge wattle, blue, orange and red skin colors on his head and neck, and a huge beard!

Are we done? Not yet. We need to add a crazy voice. Listen to the Kimber gobblers here:

It’s simply amazing to me that these guys live, wild, here in Fremont. As we’ve all learned, though, we have to work and battle to keep Fremont as we’ve grown to love it.

So on a Thursday morning in February, 2012, I came across the following outlandish turkey promenades:

Here they are, making their way from their nighttime roosts to the Kimber Park Open Space:

What I find fun, beyond the audacity of the wildlife event itself, is their sense of urgency. What is the rush all about?

A short time later they are on the walking path, part of the shared open space of the Kimber Park neighborhood. Well, Thursday is the day that the trash is collected in this neighborhood, which leads to this striking verbal confrontation between the noisy truck and the boisterous turkeys!

That video just brings a smile to my face whenever I think about it!

Later this Spring we were treated to a tremendous field of wildflowers on the Kimber Park Open Space, which the turkeys reveled in. Since they use this property as a breeding area, they can be seen on it year round. Here’s a Kimber gobbler on his way into the wildflower field earlier this year.

Kimber Park Turkey struts on the Kimber Park Open Space

He went with a couple of his gal pals, escorting them about the meadow. He did keep an eye out for danger, as shown below.

Kimber Park Turkey Amongst Wildflowers

It looks like the turkeys are having a great 2012 in Kimber Park. ­čÖé

Sadly this is not true for the wildflower meadow, doomed to a short life this year. The owners of the property chopped them down and reduced the meadow to a field of dead brown stubble. In my opinion this is due to combination of causes:  1) a lack of management competence, which we see in general concerning all aspects of this property and 2) a desire to keep the property as visually uncompelling as possible, in an effort to justify development plans. This will be further explored in a future post.

If you don’t live in the neighborhood, you’re probably wondering what that cyclone fence and wildflower obliteration is all about. Real-estate speculators bought the property, fenced it and submitted plans to the ┬áCity for houses to be built exactly where these videos and photos were taken. All this, even though the Property Title specifically prohibits any building on the property. The fence, which was illegal, was finally taken down with pressure from the City, but the battle by the neighbors to protect their community continues.

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