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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Giants and pygmies

The Giant Sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) of the Sierra Nevada are impossible to capture in pictures.  When mature, many trees are 200-300 feet high and 30 feet in diameter.  (The largest trees are over 3,000 years old!)  These images are from the Mariposa Grove on 16 October 2014.

I love the color and texture of the bark:

In contrast to these enormous trees, while walking along a path and enjoying the forest, a small gray bird flew in and landed on a lichen-covered branch.  Can you find it in the picture below?

It's near the center of the photo, just to the right of the trunk.

Do you know what kind of bird it is?  

The next image will give it away.

A Northern Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium gnoma)!  What a treat to be among some of the largest trees and to see one of the smallest owls!  Northern Pygmy-Owls are only ~6-7 inches long and weigh about 60-70 grams (2-2.5 ounces).  Note the relatively long, barred tail.

And did you notice that the owl had a prey item? 

I wish I could tell what the owl had caught.  It looks like a small mammal, gray in color, and perhaps with soft fur (like a mole or shrew?).  If you have any ideas, let me know!

P.S.  Although you won't find Giant Sequoias near Bodega Head (they only grow in the Sierras), you might find Northern Pygmy-Owls nearby.  They've been observed in the Willow Creek area. 

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