Animals: By Karen Dziki
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Although I'm not sure what particular species lives in this den,after researching the animals in my ecosystem I'm thinking that either a ground squirrel, fox or raccoon may have built this burrow.
California Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus beecheyi)-
Ground squirrels are easily identified as the forage aboveground near their burrows. Their fur is brownish gray and speckled with off-white along the back; the sides of the head and shoulders are light gray to whitish. Ground squirrels are similar to a tree squirrel, when they are frightened they will always retreat to a burrow, whereas tree squirrels will climb a tree and never use a burrow. Ground squirrels live in a wide variety of natural habitats but usually avoid thick chaparral, dense woods and wet areas. They live in a burrow system where they sleep, rest, rear young, store food and avoid danger. The burrow openings are about 4 inches in diameter. Ground squirrels live in colonies that may include several dozen animals in a complex of burrows. More than one squirrel may live in a burrow. They are active during the day; most ground squirrels hibernate in the winter months. They're primarily herbivorous and their diet changes with the season. After hibernation they feed on green grasses and herbaceous plants. When annual plants begin to dry and produce seeds, squirrels switch to seeds, grains and nuts and begin to store food (Salmon). It's also possible that this burrow was made by a coyote. However, I observed another burrow (down below) that looks more like a home of a coyote, fox or raccoon.

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Domestic Muscovy (Cairina moschata)-
The Domestic Muscovy varies from all-white to nearly all-black with a red face (Sibley, pg.65). This kind of domestic waterfowl lives at our site, unfortunately this particular picture of the Muscovy was caputered at Lake Mendocino.

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I'm unsure what creature is responsible for this mound but after researching I came up with a few possibilities;
Pocket Gophers (Thomomys ssp.)-
Pocket Gophers are burrowing rodents that get their name from the fur-lined external cheek pouches, or pockets, that they use for carrying food and nesting materials. They are well equipped for a digging, tunneling lifestyle with powerful built forequarters, large-clawed front paws and fine short fur that doesn't cake in wet soils. An unusual adaptation is the gopher's lips, which can be closed behind the four large incisor teeth to keep dirt out of its mouth when it is using its teeth for digging. There are five species of pocket gophers in California, with Botta's pocket gopher (Thomomys bottae) being most widespread. Gophers for the most part remain underground in the burrow system after they have pushed out the dirt from the burrow. Mounds of fresh soil are the best sign of a gopher presence. Mounds are formed as the gopher digs its tunnel and pushes the loose dirt to the surface. Mole mounds are sometimes mistaken for gopher mounds. Unlike gophers, moles commonly burrow just beneath the surface, leaving a raised ridge to mark their path. Pocket gophers live in a burrow that can cover an area of 200 to 2,000 square feet. Gophers do not hibernate and are active all-year around. They usually live alone within their burrow system. Pocket gophers are herbivorous feeding on herbaceous plants, schrubs, and trees. They also feed on roots (Salmon).
Mole-The mole is 15 centimeters long, cylindrical creature with a head that is joined directly to the body without a neck. The mole has large front paws, like spades, and short rectangular arms. They have powerful leverage in their forearms. The slender hind legs are used to propel the mole along its tunnels, and when it's digging with its front legs, they help steady it. Males are generally larger than the females. The moles have incredibly small eyes and ears so they do not become filled with earth when digging. Their eyesight is poor. Woodland is their natural habitats where fallen leaves hide their presence. They spend most of their time underground in a damp, dark environment. They are active at night. A mole's diet consists of worms, beetles and minibeasts. They also feed on mice, Small molehills in a line show where the mole has excavated deep tunnels. Large mounds of earth are their fortresses (mole facts).

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I wasn't sure what kind of tracks these were leading into the water. At first I thought maybe a dog. There's also a good possibility they're from a raccoon. However, it would be much more exciting to say they are from a bear so that's the story I'm sticking with.

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Steller's Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)-
The Steller's Jay is common in coniferous and mixed woods. They feed on a variety of seeds, fruits and insects. They're broad-winged, with long-dark crest, very dark with little or no white markings. Their head, breast and back is black; wings, rump, belly and tail bright blue. Their voice calls are harsh and unmusical (Sibley, pg. 303).

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Black-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus hemionus) -
I was unsure about the identification of this track but it looked as if it could of been from a deer. The black-tailed deer are among our most visible and widespread wildlife species, inhabiting most of the state's wildlands. Of all the wildlife in the Pacific Northwest, the black-tailed deer is the most popular, most adaptable, most hunted, most watched, widely distributed and best loved. Throughout history the black-tailed deer has provided meat for man, skins for clothing and sport for recreation. They are an integral component in the food chain, filling their role as grazers/browsers of wildland plants to their role as prey for California's top carnivores such as the mountain lion, black bear, coyote and golden eagle. The black-tailed deer inhabit about 75 percent of California's wildlands in a wide variety of habitats. They are among the most studied wildlife species in California; they are even toed and hoofed with males having antlers or horns. They have a four-chambered stomach, chew a cud, and regurgitate food more than once before swallowing it. They have canine teeth and upper incisors that are reduced or missing and warm-blooded with a four-chambered heart. They're considered a subspecies of the California mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus californicus). The Black-tailed deer is smaller and darker than the other species and has a black-tail (J & D Outdoor Communications).

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I found two possibilities of species that may be the architect of this home.
Coyotes (Canis latrans)-
The coyote is a member of the dog family and is native to California. It resembles a small German shepard with the exception of the long snout and bushy, black-tipped tail. The coyote has a high-pitched, yodel-like yapping call and can frequently be heard at night. Coyotes are extremely adaptable and can survive on whatever food is available. They hunt rabbits, mice, birds and other small animals as well as young deer and sheep. They also feed on the carcasses of dead animals. Coyotes are found throughout California, from desert and mountain habitats to urban areas (Mount Diablo Interpretive Assoc.).
Grey Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus)-
Fox natal dens can be found in burrows, tree hollows and crevices. One to ten kits may be born in a litter. The grey fox prefers more densely wooded areas than the red, and the same human factors that increase red fox habitat has reduced that of the grey fox. The population of the grey fox is low.
Raccoon (Procyon lotor)-
Raccoons prefer wooded areas near water and in natural habitats. They den in hollow trees, ground burrows, brush piles, or rock crevices. This nocturnal animal adapts extremely well to urban and suburban environments. They're omnivorous, eating both plants and animals. They eat fruits, berries, nuts, acorns and other types of grain. They also eat crayfish, clams, fish, frogs, snails, insects, turtles, rabbits and the eggs of young ground-nesting birds. Raccoons are active year-around but may take cover in dens during periods of severe winter weather(Salmon).

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Monarch Butterfly (Danaus Plexippus)-
There are two populations of the Monarch butterfly in North America; the Western Monarchs and the Eastern Monarchs. The Western Monarchs are west of the Rocky Mountains migrating through the western states and the southern portions of western Cananda to overwintering sites along the California sea coast. They extend from Mendocino County south along the coast to the Ensendada region of Baja California Sur. Clustering of butterflies begins in the fall during September and October. Butterflies are attracted by a source of drinking water and nectar. The monarchs begin mating in late January and by March they leave the colony on their spring migration. They lay eggs inland on milkweed in areas like the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and die. Successive generations will continue to fan out across the West. The last generation of the season (4th) will make the return journey of their great great grandparents back to California. In the eastern United States, Monarchs head to Mexico.

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Dragonfly- I observed two different dragonflies several times throughout our visits to the ecosystem. However, the red dragonfly was more visible in the pictures than the blue dragonfly. Dragonflies are large conspicuous insects often found close to fresh water. Adult dragonflies are generally stout bodied and when at rest spread their wings out to the sides. Eggs are laid into, or close to water. The larvae adopt an aquatic lifestyle, with only a few exceptions. They feed on aquatic animals such as other insects, tadpoles and occasionally fish. They are important in the diets of many aquatic predators such as fish. After progressing through up to twelve larval stages the larvae crawl out of the water. Their skin splits and the adults emerge. The adults are predators that often capture prey while flying. Some species can tolerate poor water quality and low oxygen levels and at least one Australian species doesn't even develop under water, although it still needs a moist habitat (Australian Museum).

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White Butterfly-I had originally thought this might be a Cabbage White Butterfly (pieris rapae) but in researching the characteristics of this butterfly it was clear my white butterfly wasn't a Cabbage White Butterfly. The Cabbage White Butterfly is white with rounded black spots on the dorsal forewing which mine clearly doesn't have. So, I'm unable to identify the white butterfly that came from my ecosystem.

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Spiders (Arachnids)-
Spiderweb and dinner! This spiderweb was taken at my ecosystem. The web looks as if it contains enough meals trapped withing it for the next couple of days. I'm not sure which kind of spider it is because it wasn't home when we knocked. However, it did look a little unfortunate for several flies; Flies (Diptera)-The Diptera flies include many familiar insects such as mosquitoes, black flies, midges, fruit flies, blow flies and house flies (Wiegmann & Yeates).

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Black-Legged Tick (Ixodes pacificus)-
The scientific journal article I found had conducted several studies, models and samplings done on the causative agent of Lyme disease which can be the result of black-legged ticks in Mendocino County. The results published in this article has given me a better understanding of the causation of Lyme disease and the identities of several host factors. I’m now aware what aspects of my ecosystem can be considered hosts of these potentially dangerous insects. The nymphal stages of the western black-legged tick (Ixodes pacificus) are very prevalent in Mendocino County. The nymphal stage and adult tick are primary vectors of Borrelia, the cause of Lyme disease in far western and eastern United States. Studies, county records, and published data provide information about the areas most prevalent in regards to the home of ticks. Ticks are collected from vegetation and animals to help understand the ramifications of the insect. Mendocino County is known as a high risk area for Lyme disease. Northern California is a highly endemic region for exposure to the Lyme borreliosis (Waggett CE, 2004). Open grasslands, woodlands consisting of grassy ground cover and chaparral is a habitat with exposure to the adult tick. However, the risk factor in these habitats are minimal to exposure to the nymphal stage. Some reports conclude that host-seeking nymphs are collected by drag sampling or by human activities in woodlands where the ground cover is dominated by leaves or fir needles. Therefore, adults are rarely found in these areas. Studies suggest that human risk of exposure is dramatically different between woodland-leaf areas dominated by coniferous redwoods or hardwoods in Mendocino County. Because Mendocino County is a diverse area both ecologically and in climate, sampling sites were conducted in several areas. The woodland-leaf sampling sites were classified as redwoods, pine, hardwood, hardwood/conifer, mixed tanoak/marine or Douglas fir with a redwood or tanoak influence. These habitats were dominated by coast redwoods. Other tree species included California bay, Douglas fir and tanoak. The sampling sites also included coastal and inland sites dominated by tree species such as coastal pine, redwood/Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine. The woodland-leaf hardwood sites included tree species such as hardwoods and California bay with very little tanoak and conifers. Ticks were collected by dragging a white flannel blanket along transect lines. Sampling was conducted twice per site; first sample from April 28 to May 4, second sample from May 17 to June 4, 2004. These dates represented the peak activity period for the Ixodus pacificus nymphs throughout Mendocino County. Deer signs, woodrat nests and trees were a few species that were examined in each site. Different types of hydrologic soils were also compared and tested throughout Mendocino County. These test and sampling procedures collect accurate data and provide results of the risks of exposure to nymphal stages, adult ticks or minimal/no risk of tick exposure.
RESULTS - The risk factor for nymphs in woodland habitats was 93.71%, grass-or-brush dominated habitats had a risk factor of 82.20% for adult ticks, and 73.48% for habitats with minimal or no risk of tick exposure. The study conducted showed 4,312 nymphs and 119 adults (44 females and 75 males). The nymphs were present in 77 of the 78 sites sampled. Peak nymphal density was similar between hardwood and hardwood/conifer sites; “significantly higher in either hardwood or hardwood/conifer sites relative to all other habitat classes.” Nymphal density was also high in site where Pacific madrone or California buckeye were present. They were lower where redwood was present. Nymphal density decreased from the first to second sample in the warm and dry hardwood sites in the southeast. Increase were observed in cooler and more moist sites to the north and west. The “peak nymphal density was best predicted by presence of deer signs.” Results also included that 52.6% of Mendocino County was tested. High risk areas for nymphal exposure were located in the central interior portion of the county and rare in the coastal population centers. Based on the study, nymphs can be found in all woodland-leaf habitats in Mendocino County; 53% of the county as nymphal risk habitat which helps explain the high incidence of Lyme disease in Mendocino County, relative to other counties in California. Sampling was also done for nymphs at MacKerricher and Jughandle state parks, adult ticks were collected but no-nymphs were found in the grasslands during the spring of 2004. Presence of redwood is a low nymphal density as oak woodland in eastern Mendocino County. In Mendocino County, deer are primary hosts as well as lizards. Lizards account for most of the larval and nymphal feedings. In hydrologic soil groups, density of nymphs is significantly higher in areas with soils characterized by slow infiltration rates. Nymphs and adult ticks can be found in my ecosystem. The ecosystem consists of several host factors that were discussed in my article. My site consists of black-tailed deer which are primary hosts for the nymphal stage and many lizards which account for most of the larval and nymphal feedings. My site also includes Black Oak, Live Oak and open grasslands. There are conifers approximately 50 yards from our ecosystem; dogs or other animals running through these conifer areas can pick up nymphs or adult ticks and carry them into our ecosystem. The summers are hot and dry while winters are cool and moist. As a result of what I’ve learned about the causations of Lyme disease and the areas ticks reside in, my group will have a better understanding and awareness of what areas are the most prevalent for both nymphs and adult ticks. I’ve observed several deer and lizards in the open grassland while approaching our ecosystem. We will certainly be more active with searching our clothes and body for ticks during and after visiting our ecosystem (Marilyn has this article).

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Mallard (anas platyrhynchos)-
Adult Mallards; Female-orange bill with dark center, molted brown body. Their face is paler than their body and feet are red-orange. Male-iridescent green head, rusty chest and gray body. Their eyes are dark and feet red. The female gives loud series of quacks and the male makes softer, rasping "rab," also a grunt and whistle during display. Their wings whistle in flight. They are found in all wetlands and they eat insects, larvae, aquatic invertebrates, seeds, acorns, aquatic vegetation and grain. The Mallard is the ancestor of nearly all domestic duck breeds except for the Muscovy Duck. Mallard pairs are generally monogamous. Mallard pairs form long before the spring breeding season. Pairing takes place in the fall, but courtship can be seen all winter. Only the female incubates the eggs and takes care of the ducklings(Drilling, McKinney and Titman).

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Brewer's Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)-
Common and widespread,often in open fields; found in flocks. Forages for seeds and insects on open ground. More slender than Red-winged Blackbird, with longer tail the thinner bill. It has a short, high, crackling voice with a buzzy end (Sibley, pg. 442).

I also observed several lady bugs but the pictures were not visible enough to put on the website. Ladybugs (Hemiptera)-
Ladybug adults are generally orange with black spots on the wing covers. They lay their eggs in yellow clusters under a leaf or stem. Within a week, the eggs hatch into orange and black larvae, tiny alligator shaped insects. Five weeks later the young adults emerge, ready to feed. Ladybugs feed on aphids, small worms, and a variety of insect eggs. Here are some interesting facts about the Ladybug; There are nearly 5,000 different kinds of ladybugs worldwide and 400 which live in North America. A ladybug beats its wings 85 times a second when it flies. Ladybugs chew from side to side rather than up and down. A gallon jar will hold from 72,000 to 80,000 labybugs. Ladybugs make a chemical that smells and tastes terrible so that birds and other predators won't eat them. During hibernation, ladybugs feed on their stored fat.

I observed many water skippers. Water Strider (Gerris Remigis)-
The water Strider is also known as the Water Skaters and the Water Skippers. They have very long legs that sit on the water surface and skip along in short bursts. They only appear to have four legs but actually have six. They seem to frequent the high elevation acidic lakes more than the lower elevation alkaline lakes. The trout tend to avoid them unless food is scarce.

I observed the Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis)-
The Western Fence Lizard is also known as the "Blue Belly" lizard. They measure 3 1/2 to 4 inches (snout-vent length), and is about six inches in total length. Mature male Western Fence Lizards have bright blue, sometimes greenish, bellies, and the undersides of their legs are often yellow. Females lack this decorative coloring. Their scales are spiny. The lizard is commonly found from the coast to the highest mountain areas at over 6,000 feet. It thrives in a wide variety of habitats, ranging from coastal sage scrub and chaparral on the coast and foothills, to the forests of higher elevations. It's usually found on or near the ground, in rock and wood piles, tree trunks and the lower branches of shrubs. The lizard likes to sit where it can sun itself and watch for food and predators. This lizard is able to change its general coloration to match its background. Its diet consists of insects and various other arthropods. Its love for high places makes it easy prey for snakes, hawks and predaceous mammals. Mating occurs in May or June. Upon hatching, the baby lizards measure about 2 1/4 inches in total length (kaweahoaks.com).