a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Out for a Stroll

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Out for a Stroll

The online direction-finding maps (mapquest, yahoo maps, etc.) don't show the Guadalupe River--heck, who needs that info when trying to find your way around by car? But it does show the series of percolation ponds and lakes along the river. I traced our path in gray, which all goes through parkland although it's right alongside "civiliation" most of the way.
Decided to go for a longer walk this morning. I asked the beasts whether they wanted to go to The Long Trail and they got very excited and headed for the garage, so what could I do? I loaded them up and drove out. I stopped in a SportMart to pick up a new pedometer, finally. I hate to keep on buying new ones, but they don't seem to last me more than a year. Maybe I just wear them out. Replacing the battery doesn't help; they just stop keeping accurate count of the number of steps (and hence the mileage). But I do like knowing how far I'm going, so I bit the bullet and got yet another one, as it's been several months since the last one died and I'm soooo lonely for a pedometer! I so enjoy knowing how much ground I've covered.

I set a goal of 3 miles for this morning, and we headed off to the nearby Guadalupe River trail segment again, simply because it's so close to home. I debated taking my camera this time, but it's always a challenge with 3 dogs on leashes, so I left it in the car.

It's another truly lovely spring-like morning; probably only about 70, with a light breeze, but sunny. Warm enough to work up a sweat in the direct sun with mild exercise, and most of that route is in the sun along a paved (asphalt) path, and we kept a pretty good pace.

I was surprised how much wildlife we saw along the way, considering that we didn't get started until after 10:00. Shortly after we started, we encountered a large turtley tortoisey critter--maybe red-eared turtle?--plodding perpendicular to the walkway, heading away from the fence separating us from condos on the left and out towards the scrub growth surrounding the river. I have no idea where he came from or where he thought he had been, but he had clearly decided that this open stretch of dry land with the occasional bicycle and dog was not his bailiwick. He gave me and my dogs the eye as we stopped to watch, showing us the large red blotch along the side of his head, and then picked up his pace a bit. The dogs watched with erect ears and bright eyes as he moved away, and then, just as he got to the thicker grass where he started to rustle the vegetation, Boost started alert barking like she does when she hears rustles at home. And she could still see the dang thing! But alert barking almost always sets off the other dogs and then they all started barking (although it's not clear that Jake & Tika knew what they were barking about) and it all went to heck until I dragged them away.

(I saw an amazing demo of how dogs react to other dogs' barks by John Rogerson, a noted trainer from England who can perfectly mimic different kinds of barks. He said, "Have you ever heard this? The bored dog alone in the yard saying 'pay attention to me! I'm bored!' Notice that none of your dogs will pay any attention to it." And then he barked, and we all recognized it immediately--amazing what you know that you don't know you know--and sure enough, those of us with dogs lying by our sides noticed that our dogs ignored the whole thing. Then he demonstrated the "Alert! Danger!" bark, and almost every dog in the place raised its head and joined in the barking. Intriguing.)

Anyway, I digress from wildlife. Lots of birds along the waterway. A couple of Canada Geese splashed down into a dammed pond partway along the route as we walked by. The dam, right near San Jose Water headquarters, has a salmon ladder for the rare salmon from this area, but I've never been able to see fish on it. Two California quail watched us approach and then darted into the tall grasses, where they froze and kept their little quail crests and black eyes pointed at us as we passed. A small blue heron of some sort poked his startled head out from behind some rocks as I approached Lake Almaden to let the dogs wade, and flew off low over the water so I didn't get an excellent look. I can't find an exact match in my bird book, although the Black-Crowned Night Heron is the closest that I see. It looked bluish gray to me, with a longish, thick black bill and a thick neck and head, but when it flew it stretched out more heron-like.

There was a guy with binoculars and what looked like a small telescope on a tripod as we headed out towards Lake Almaden, but he was gone when we came back or I'd have asked him what the bird was, as I was pretty sure he was bird-gazing.

Lots of nondescript but fast speckled brown lizards, which intrigued the dogs. And, over by the main picnic area, tons of Canada geese, ducks of several varieties including mallards, some all-white ones (probably released domestic ducks), and those little black birds with white on the face that you see swimming and diving everywhere but I don't remember what they are--a coot? a grebe? a tern? Dang, I think I'm so observant but then none of the pictures match what I *think* I see. (Mom & Steph later confirm probably coots.) Lots of bright white herons and/or egrets all along the river; couldn't see most of them clearly enough to tell, but a smaller one with black legs and bill perching on a railing next to the dam fluffed his feathers as we strolled by and demonstrated a profusion of fine, luxurious, fly-away feathers, all of which makes me think it was a snowy egret. I'm sure that if I'd had my mom or my friend Steph along, they'd have been able to identify them all without a book and all of the little tiny guys flitting among the shrubberies, too. Oh, well, I bet I can identify a whole lot more dog breeds on sight than they can. ;-) (Like that's a useful skill.)

It was a good walk.

And Boost is SO much better about not being spooked by things. The first couple of times I tried to walk with her a little way along this trail, the noises and echoes under the freeway underpass panicked her, and bicycles whizzing by made her jump. Simply being out on a walk in a strange area increased her fear with every step. This time she was just like a normal dog, walked very nicely on leash (Tika of course doesn't) for the first two and a half miles and then said, "Enough of this! Give me that leash and let's play some tug of war!" so we did that for about a quarter of a mile and then she felt better and we continued more normally.

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