Morning Dew

It took me a moment to figure out why this coyote was licking the guardrail repeatedly. Sure enough, when I went over to test the railing, it was very wet. The coyote was lapping up the heavy morning dew which was clinging to the metal! I’ll be posting more about water soon, but this water source was particularly interesting. People have been wondering WHERE coyotes get water in the city where there are not many obvious sources. It hasn’t rained all summer (well, except one small sprinkler) — we have a desert-climate here in San Francisco.

We forget that coyotes survive in the desert where there is not much water. There, they depend on water holes and on what they find opportunistically, as here. Can they opportunistically adapt to less water when it is scarcer? The Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger documents that humans can and have survived on 2 cups of water a day. If we can, might coyotes also adapt to less when needed?

Kangaroo Apple or Poroporo

I watched a coyote forage in one of these bushes. When the coyote left, we went up to examine the berries which I had never seen before. I took a tiny taste, and my friend gulped down a couple to help us determine what they were: the flavor was bitter with a tad of sweet. When I got home, I couldn’t find the plant on the internet, so I turned to my Nextdoor site and posed the question there. They indeed came up with what it was: Kangaroo apple, as it’s called in Australia, or poroporo, as it is called in New Zealand are native to those areas, but have been naturalized into the Bay Area and can be found throughout San Francisco. AND, we should not have eaten them as they are poisonous — they belong to the nightshade family! Yikes!
Once I had the name of the plant, I looked up more about it. Interestingly, it’s flowers are hermaphroditic (having both male and female organs). They are blue-violet or white in color, and a little over an inch in size. Flowers are followed by berries of about the same size. The berries, it turns out, are poisonous only while green — they become edible once they turn orange.  Whew!
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The next day I went back to see if the coyote would appear again: I wasn’t sure it was eating the fruit or possibly foraging for snails or slugs on the plant. I wondered why a coyote might eat toxic material. As I watched, I saw that the coyote eating only the orange colored fruit! Maybe the green ones were unsavory and bitter as well as toxic? Smart coyote!

 

Hi Dad, Wanna Play?

The pup has received a strict and heavy-handed (and probably not-expected) retort and rejection to his enthusiastic, happy invitation to play. He responds, expressing his feelings through tucked chin, ears swiveled back, squinting eyes, tight jaw — not so different from our own painful grimacing to such a retort. The flopping over is rather melodramatic, but I know human kids who might have done that!  :)) I’ve seen coyote pups react this way many times — usually when they are conflicted: it’s as though all synapses fired at once without a clear outcome!

More Teasing and Bantering at Their Dusk Rendezvous

*Passing under and lifting* are standard in their *teasing and playing* repertoire.

All smiles and happy after the rendezvous play session!

I’ve inserted words that we humans might use in this situation. Yes, the use of words is anthropomorphizing, but look at the photos: the sentiments expressed non-verbally by these coyotes as they banter back and forth are exactly the same, aren’t they? One human might tease another in exactly this same fashion: first one taunts/teases the other, then the other taunts/teases back, and back and forth.

This is a mated pair with a brood of pups. Nevertheless, they still participate in this type of bonding play and teasing in spite of their family responsibilities to which they both contribute. The four-month-old pups are still being secretly sequestered for their own protection.

Bernal Heights Outdoor Film Festival

The Bernal Heights Outdoor Film Festival, which will be taking place here in San Francisco over the next several days, opened tonight. It included a short short video clip which I filmed and which Tod Elkins magically fixed up for the event with a title and music and amazing edits (including adjusting color, creating transitions, taking out the jiggle and the wobble, cutting out sections where the coyote ran out of the picture frame, and much more). Tod is a filmmaker, and I take raw footage, so we made this a joint project for the festival. Thank you, Tod! And thank you Leslie and Anne for inviting us to participate! Coyote is the mascot of the neighborhood so it had to be included, no matter how simple the clip, and I happen to have many clips! Leslie and Anne picked this one.

This opening-day event was warm and welcoming: the Master of Ceremonies, Ian Williams, was amusing and lots of fun. There was live music by a Chinese harp player with her Cajon drummer (a cajon is a square, wooden drum), an amazing dancer, and the food was beautifully presented and delicious.

Kudos to Leslie Lombre and Anne Batmale who organized the event: it’s the 14th season that they have done so. Of course it was the films themselves that carried the show: each one was creative and impactful in its own way: most were enhanced with music and no words! Each creation lasted on the average of about five minutes, with its focus stemming from each filmmaker’s unique individual experiences or take on life situations. I was very inspired. The festival continues for several days, so be sure to go!

For more information on the Film Festival, go to: Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema.

Four Month Old Pup Howls Back at His Family / Dispersal Behavior

This video is a very short (20 seconds) clip of a youngster coyote, a little over four months old, responding to the howls of his family after a siren had sounded. He is on one side of the park alone, independently and very self-sufficiently, exploring and hunting on his own. It’s late dusk and there’s almost no light, but the camera was able to focus on this. Notice that the youngster is listening intently for the rest of the family which is far in the distance, in back of where I’ve standing to video. When he thinks he knows where they are, he takes off in their direction, running.

Interestingly, as he approached them, he veered off and went the other way, never meeting up with them. The howling had stopped by the time he reached them. Might he have decided to avoid what was going on between them? There were four other coyotes who were at the site, including Mom, Dad and two yearling siblings born last year.

I say this because it’s at this point that I and another onlooker heard strong deep warning growls. We heard them again, and then a third time. It’s not often that we hear coyotes actually growl like this because it seems to be limited to use within the coyote world between themselves, apparently to express anger or discipline. Unfortunately my recorder did not pick up the low frequency sounds.

I strained to see what was going on but could only make out that one coyote had pinned another one down and was growling at it. By focusing my camera on the light in the background, I was able to get these two photos below. Once home, where I could actually see the image, I could tell clearly that Mom was standing over her yearling daughter, exercising her dominance. Dispersion time is coming soon for that young female. Punches, nips and dominance displays as this one will increase in order to drive the youngsters off. This is an important part of the coyote’s life cycle: it keeps the population down in claimed territories.

Interestingly, Dad still grooms this female for long stretches of time and very affectionately, reconfirming his bonds and affection for her. In the families I’ve observed, it seems to be the Moms that drive out the females (who I suppose could become competitive with them), and the Dads, or sometimes male siblings, who drive the youngster males out.