Forest Knolls, with Coyote, Great Horned Owl, and Raccoon

I love that I can walk late at night in Forest Knolls. I’ve always enjoyed these magical (though infrequent walks). Now, with social distancing, they’re better than ever; there’s hardly anyone around.

Last week, I was out a couple of times. The first night was as still and quiet as if someone had turned off the world’s sound. On my way home I saw a dark shape on the sidewalk ahead. At first, it was so still that I thought it was a small abandoned suitcase or something. But as I came closer, it moved, and the light from the street-lamp showed me a raccoon. It looked at me and dived into the roadside shrubs. I went out to the middle of the road to give it enough room. Though I was pleased to see it. With all the precautions people (including us) take with their trashcans, I thought raccoons had abandoned our neighborhood for lack of food.

Another night, the quiet was broken by one of my favorite sounds: a Great Horned Owl up in Sutro Forest. It sounded like a lone owl, and stopped after a few hoots. Later in the year, perhaps I’ll hear the duets of a pair talking to each other.

And the same night, the best sighting of all: a coyote, out on Oak Park Drive near the staircase called Glenhaven Lane. When it saw me, it retreated up the staircase, and then onto the hillside so it could escape into the bushes if I pursued it. I didn’t, of course. I gave it a wide berth, and took a few blurry pictures with my cellphone.


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Raccoon At Night

Here’s a little night visitor to our house… I took this picture with a flashlight in one hand and a camera in the other.

raccoon watching

For a long time, I’d assumed that the tall green trashcans – the ones that interest the raccoons because they contain the compostable food leavings – were actually impervious to wildlife if they were properly closed. Then this video on the Coyote Yipps blog clearly showed that was not true.

Well, I figured, at least the coyotes in our neighborhood hadn’t learned to do that. The only time I’d seen them in trashcans was when a neighbor overstuffed one so it wouldn’t close, and the raccoon figured the diner was open for business. Then, a few weeks ago, garbage night rolled around, and so did the raccoons. Though we were careful to shut our trashcans properly, they managed to push over the green bin and make a huge mess.

We added a couple of rocks to the top of the bin, and that was that, for a few more weeks.

Then, a few nights ago, I heard a 4 a.m. crash. I knew what it was: The raccoons had managed to overturn the can despite the rocks. I hurried out, worried both that they might have been hurt and that they would make another huge mess.

They weren’t, and they hadn’t. They bin had fallen forward and the lid held back most of the trash. The raccoons had walked into it and came out with a piece of moldy bread. I spot-lit the critter with my flashlight and took the photograph. Then I yelled some rude things in Racoonish to drive them off, righted the can, wedged it in a corner, and replaced the rocks.

I think it’s time Recology figured out a way to fasten the garbage cans. After all, raccoons aren’t exactly rare in this city. Meanwhile, I’m wondering if bungee cords or some kind of clamp would work.

[Edited to Add: Bungee cords are working thus far. Thanks, everyone who offered suggestions and instructions!]

Critter-Spotting on a Foggy Night

A foggy night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets… and me, prowling along in my little car, hoping it would share them. Not the kind of secrets found in City Hall or downtown in the dark alleys… critters.

Foggy nights are often good for critter-spotting. On Panorama Drive, I saw a trio of raccoons chase each other across the road and disappear into the shadows between two houses. And then, on Twin Peaks, which was densely swathed in fog, a barn owl!

I’ve been wanting to see one, ever since learning that they do inhabit San Francisco. This one was sitting by the side of the road, like a large white cat wanting to thumb a ride. Cursing myself for forgetting my camera, I stopped the car and put my flashers on to watch it.  I was afraid someone coming fast round the bend might take it out, and wished it would move. It walked down the road a bit, which didn’t help. Two cars went around me.  Then the  owl took flight, just a few feet, but thankfully onto the hillside.

I went home for my camera, but the owl had moved on. At least it wasn’t roadkill.