Monday, 19 December 2011

Tule Elk (15th December)

On a mission to see the Tule Elk (red deer) of Point Reyes we headed to the Tule Elk reserve in the north of the national seashore. About 400 hundred elk are confined within the reserve in an attempt to protect these reintroduced animals from contracting a chronic wasting disease that elk elsewhere in the park have caught from cattle. Seems the wildlife here catches disease from farm animals, rather than apparently gives it to them (badgers...TB…). Threatening to rain on us for the first time since our arrival in the States we left the hostel in dense fog and concluded that American cars don’t have fog lights. Just another little bit of technology that seems not to have reached these shores. As we drove on though, the fog lifted and the light was too good not to keep stopping for a few photos. A coyote ran across the road and off into the distance before I’d managed to get the right lens on the camera, a full battery and find an empty memory card. I never seem to learn.

As the road bent round to the Pierce Point Ranch in the reserve we spotted a herd of elk lounging around. On our walk in surrounds looking like a combination of Scotland, the Lake District, Cornwall and Devon we came across some flowering plants (it’s such a pleasant surprise to find all these plants flowering in California), loads of turkey vultures circling around, some hawks and as we came into a valley there were more elk. Sitting down in a valley just next to a sign telling us to stick to the path and not disturb wildlife it wouldn’t really have been appropriate to try to approach them. Continuing on our walk we began to wonder whether we should not just turn back. Coastline (as I know only too well from walking almost half of the UK’s southwest coast-path) gets repetitive, so we weren’t sure if we needed to see the end of the Tomales Point Trail. Jenny was striding ahead to see over the next hill while I took some photos and I couldn’t understand why she kept on going and then why she was beckoning me towards her. But below us were even more elk and these were right on the path. We sneaked slowly along and the elk weren’t too perturbed to run away. They seemed more interested in listening to bird calls.

Back in the car we drove through the elk we’d seen from the road before, heard them bark and flock together as another car approached and then we spotted another whale! On a slight detour to Abbott’s lagoon in search of birds we found ourselves a bittern, lots of coots, and some sand dunes. After sitting in the car park in the wee village of Inverness and writing some letters, we drove back to the hostel in the dark and spotted two more bobcats.

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