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YOLO COUNTY NEWS

A mother fox forages in grasslands for voles, dragonflies, rodents for her kits. Tim Ranstrom/Courtesy photo

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At the Pond: Enjoy social distancing and embrace spring

Social distancing with a good time? Get outside and take in our beautiful spring. Renew your sense of wonder while getting exercise and ecotherapy. Blooming bushes, bees a-buzzing, breeding and boisterously behaving birds and critter surprises are part of the nature scene.

Rarely seen birds are showing up like the beautiful orange varied thrush with a single loud whistle on one pitch then repeated on another pitch. It’s usually in the Pacific Northwest but posed for us at our First Saturday Bird Stroll near the Northstar Pond. Listen for the high-pitched kweeeeee, kweeeee365体育投注 of our Swainson’s hawks returning from Mexico or Chile.

365体育投注Bushtits have a nest, well camouflaged, hanging in the pine tree right over the path between the two North Davis Ponds. Male turkeys are displaying all over town. Western bluebirds and tree swallows have begun using the nestboxes on the North Davis Nestbox Trail that runs from the Veterans Memorial Building to Northstar Pond, and five new nestboxes along our currently being restored Upland Habitat on F and Anderson.

365体育投注A bald eagle flying was reported by Carla Hunt on the outskirts of North Davis, and Judy Moores and Ann Halstad spotted two bald eagles flying overhead on Sycamore.

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The native Sacramento Valley red fox might be in her burrow feeding kits now or perhaps they are already exploring the North Fork Riparian Habitat in South Davis. The whelping area in South Davis along the remnant fork of Putah Creek is closed off to walkers from February until the end of May to give the kits time to develop. Kudos to the City of Davis for this protection. Please always leash your dogs if you walk in the summer in the dry creek bed.

We have had the native red valley fox in South Davis for a long time. Tim and Marlene Ranstrom have been watching them since 2006 and eventually built a house along the Putah Creek Remnant and began keeping a fox log. The Ranstroms made their yard fox-friendly with no fence and water in a fountain. They can go months without seeing them and then, there they are.

They usually spot the kits in May. In June 2018 they spotted seven foxes together.

The red foxes in this area were once thought to be nonnative descendants of captive foxes from fur farms, however, thanks to work of B.N. Sacks et.al.from UC Davis through DNA research they know that the native Sacramento Valley red fox is endemic to the northern part of our Central Valley. They look more dog-sized but are really only the size of a house cat.

They eat rodents, dragonflies, rabbits, insects. They are no danger to cats. (But cats are a big danger to birds.) And if you are in their area, you may hear them as they make as many as 40 sounds from barking to a mating season scream.

We also have the gray fox in Davis — or did. Steve Brown, Ed Winn, Maria Sargent and her son have all spotted them. Steve tried to have a conversation with one and so it turned around twice, long enough for him to take a daytime photo. Steve watched it climbing out of a tree and munching an ornamental pear. Sadly, they haven’t been seen by those folks since 2009. If you happen to spot either gray or red fox, please let me know.

If you see a dog not on a leash, look again and see if it has a long, bushy tail carried horizontally. The gray fox is mostly gray with reddish parts on the neck, back of ears and across the chest. The cheeks, throat and inner ears are white. It is the only member of the dog family that can climb trees. Red foxes are rusty all over with a white-tipped tail. Gray foxes have black tips.

365体育投注There are 13 named subspecies of red fox and many non-native populations. The foxes need grasslands to flourish with denning close to human development which affords protection from coyotes. We have a 65% decline in valley grasslands so there is concern for this species and they are experiencing a population decline. Never feed them and avoid the use of rodenticides. It’s a thrill to catch a glimpse of one.

You can volunteer with Friends of North Davis Ponds to restore habitat on Thursday, March 26, from 9 a.m. to noon at our new Uplands Habitat on F and Anderson Road. We will follow the city rules, limit the numbers, have social distancing and not share equipment. We will be putting in native plants. Register in advance by email: [email protected]365体育投注 to learn complete rules, tools to bring, participation guidelines.

Enjoy our spring, new rain, wildlife and outdoor times — and kiss each day.

— Jean Jackman is a Davis resident. Her column occurs on the third Wednesday of each month. Got a story, comment, correction? Please contact her.

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