First it was the peacock. Some people toward the west end of our place have (or had) peacocks and peahens. We could hear them screaming. Anyone who’s heard a peacock in full voice (they don’t have an “indoor” voice) will recognize it again, unless the competition is another unusual (for us) bird I heard at the San Antonio Zoo back in the mid-’70s. I’ve forgotten the name, but it was brown and white streaked and when it opened its mouth to scream (its very LARGE mouth) the inside thereof was a brilliant magenta. And it was very, very, VERY loud. Anyway, it was the peacock, and not this other bird, that R- saw on the west fence cleared path several days ago. He hasn’t seen it since.
The reason for that could be the second “first time observed on the property” critter: a red fox. We’ve had the native gray fox before but have never seen a red one. Aside from both being foxes, they’re not in the same genus: the gray fox is Urocyon cinereoargenteus and the red is Vulpes vulpes. There are only two known species of Urocyon, the gray fox and the island fox of the Channel Islands, and it’s believed to be the most basal canid genus. The gray fox is mostly pepper-and-salt gray, as are some color phases of the red fox, but the two can easily be distinguished by their tails even if the red isn’t showing. The gray fox’s tail is black on the top to the tip, and the hairs tend to hang down like the hairs of a collie’s tail. The red fox’s tail *in all color phases* has a white tip, and is shaped more like a bottle-brush, hairs sticking out from the tail in all directions. Back around 1980-81, I saw a black-phase red fox trotting down one of the narrow country roads…white-tipped tail showing clearly.
I don’t know if a red fox can take down an adult peacock, but we also have coyotes. Experienced “ranch” peacocks survive in predator country by being able to fly up in trees to roost…R- didn’t see this one fly. But maybe it could’ve.
We are still experiencing abundance of robins and some other winter-resident birds are also in residence. I caught a glimpse of an unfamiliar hawk the other day–certainly not one of our usuals–and am hoping to hear the sandhill cranes calling overhead soon.