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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Badger Head Gulch

In a few days we'll look at the comings and goings in Badger Head Gulch, but first some background.

To begin with, there is no Badger Head Gulch.

We named it for poor Yorick, above, who met his untimely demise here last spring.

The gulch is actually the headwaters of Saltos Canyon, which at this point is just a steep-walled erosion gully of compacted sand, sandstone and shale rubble.

Most of the year it's a dry dusty gash in the Caliente Range with a narrow game trail tracing it length through occasional thickets of saltbush, mulefat, and alkali goldenbush.

In the winter it drains a brown slurry of outwash into the much larger Saltos Canyon.

There are many places like it on the ranch, and we explored it on August 10th for camera trapping.

We started at the jeep track (lower left) and ended at the fork "set 392" (upper right).

The banks were riddled with burrows of all sizes ---  a good sign -- and as we ascended the gulch we noticed that the steepening walls were closing in on us.

Not a place to find yourself in a flash flood.

Right off we encountered mementos mori --

a tarantula being eaten by Lilliputians

a raven who will never again quork nevermore

a half-finished meal of McRattlesnake

and the severed and sun-cured head of Yorick -- the brain case and its nutritious contents munched away.

As the walls of the gulch boxed us in I realized this was the perfect place for predatory ambuscade.

A puma could leap down from the rim in one or two bounds and a coyote could surprise prey on a bend in the trail.

And while a fleeing jackrabbit might be able to scale the walls of that gulch, it would be a risky move for a black-tailed deer fleeing a puma.

The soil was too loose . . . better to run like hell down the arroyo, if the cat didn't get you first.

It was late afternoon when our hot and weary team arrived at a fork in the gulch -- a natural funnel and a good place for the camera.

There we made set 392.


Anonymous said...

You find the best spots!!

Can't wait to see what you get!

Terry said...

Looking forward to more good surprises. "McRattlesnake" was a good laugh!