First-Time Owl Sightings
I enjoyed some wonderful owl encounters this year, including first sightings of three owl species. But my favorite was definitely this cute Northern Saw-Whet Owl.
A close second was spotting a Northern Spotted Owl right near a trail in Point Reyes. And the owl was kind enough to fly directly over me to a better branch for a few nice shots before it was too dark.
I was also fortunate to have multiple encounters with Great Horned Owlets, including this one, who I discovered nestled in tall grasses near the trees where its nest and mother were. The poor owlet seemes a little stressed, so I did not stay long. But no worries; a few days later, this owl was safe and high in a tree.
I also had my first (and second and at least third) sighting of a Short-Eared Owl. My attempts to catch their masterful flight do not rise to favorite of the year. Hopefully, in 2012!
Lucky Encounters with Multiple Bobcats
As my blog name may indicate, I am quite fond of owls and cats, especially bobcats. After years of looking, I spotted my first bobcat in Berkeley (where I live) late in 2010. I was happy to have a brief but well-lit encounter with this same cat early in 2011.
Perhaps my favorite day with a bobcat in 2011 was an afternoon I spent with this older, majestic cat as he patrolled his territory.
Curious Gray Fox Kits
I also enjoyed good luck with gray foxes this year. I had seen gray foxes before but had never had the chance to get a photo. The Spotted Owl (above) gave me my first chance with a gray fox in Point Reyes. Even more fun was getting to watch a family of fox kits, including this cute kit who walked right up to me.
Eastern Sierra Discoveries
In 2011, I also ranged a little further from the Bay Area in search of adventure (and wildlife). My favorite outings were in the Eastern Sierra, where I enjoyed a unique sunset at Mono Lake.
One of my goals for my mountain adventures was to see a Yellow-Bellied Marmot. I had never seen one, and they seemed so gregarious. My wish was fulfilled, and I enjoyed multiple fun sightings of marmots in and around the rocks.
My other big goal was to see (and hopefully photograph) a pika. I worried that my chances for this sighting were slim, but I spent lots of time hiking in the High Sierra and scanning rock piles. And I was rewarded with a few fun afternoons of observing these cute and industrious critters.
Happiness at Home
My final favorite photo of the year is not of a wild cat but my sweet domestic cat, who brought me lots of joy in 2011.
Happy New Year!