Saturday, March 8, 2008

Gopher Visits Alice's

The Hole at Alice's Breakfast in the Park.

One day my mother and I took a walk at Huntington Central Park. There at the far end of Alice's Breakfast in the Park was a hole. Now that was different. Then something popped out of the hole.

What's up?

He ducked down. Then up again, pushing a small load of damp, sandy earth up onto the ground. Check out his claws in my pictures in this post. Gophers have really large claws so they can dig their holes. Like a built in rake and shovel. Their back feet and strong legs are made for burrowing.
The can move forward and backwards in their tunnels. The tunnels they build have different functions. They build holes like this one near the surface to look for food--usually roots and tubers like carrots or potatoes or turnips. Pocket Gophers also eat other plant material including seeds and cereal crops. They are not picky. They eat all kinds of plants from native plants to ornamental plants. The tunnels that make up their homes area further underground. They build the deeper tunnels of 1 to 3 yards for their living area: their nest, their bathroom area, and of course places they store the food they find while foraging. The surface tunnels are helpful to find food, but carry some danger as well. After all being so close to the surface, predators like owls and Coyotes. can hear them in their surface tunnels. In the Sora article below, a zoologist name C.A. Tryon, Jr. from the University of Montana observed a Great Gray Owl break through such a surface tunnel. Tryon thinks that when the Gopher went up to repair the hole, the owl got him. Gophers like to stop up or plug their tunnel entrances. Other rodents like California Ground Squirrels or moles may keep them open. The mounds they leave are often crescent shapes according to the County of Los Angeles. Keeps out some predators. Doing all that digging gets messy. Pocket Gophers have tear ducts that make a lot of tears that keep dirt and other gunk out of their eyes. Their fur is often very similar to the ground in which they have their homes. Good camouflage.


At Alice's Breakfast in the Park, a little girl began screaming. The parents stepped in and calmed and redirected kids wanting to touch him. Look at the pictures. Notice his large, yellow front teeth. No Crest Strips for this guy. His front teeth actually are in front of his lips so that he can using them in his digging an cutting plan roots.

Eating duck food. Struck the mother lode!

The gopher had lots of space in his fur-lined pouch to store food. He started looking like his face was swollen. He filled his pouch with grain up to his shoulders. The pouches, like the pockets after which these Gophers are names, can be turned inside out to empty its contents in the store room that are in the deeper tunnels of the Gopher's home. You may wonder how they get their water. They get all the moisture they need from the plants they eat.

The ducks and the gopher competed for food.

The Ducks and the gopher really chowed down. The Gopher got stepped on by an American Coot. Mallards were eating, too.

The American Coot checks out the Gopher hole.

Everyone began guessing as to what it could be. Everyone had their own idea. Then finally one man said with authority, "It's a gopher!" And he was right. He is a pocket gopher to be exact. A Valley or Botta's Pocket Gopher (Thomomys bottae). He was a really big hit with children and adults. He got lots of food and made plenty of new friends.

What a day!

Gophers are not usually that social. In fact, they pretty much out to look for a mate and then go back to their solitary digging. They get pretty feisty and aggressive with other Gophers if they meet up outside of breeding season. They breed and give birth to young twice a year in February and October. Pocket Gophers are prey for different kinds of Coyotes, owls, hawks, and even Great Blue Herons. Gophers are also hunted by badgers, ferrets, snakes, and other
mammals. Especially in the Western United States where we live, Great Blue Herons love gophers and eat them more often than Great Blue Herons in other areas. Other large egrets and herons may eat them as well. They are often hunted by humans who are upset by the damage they do to landscaping and wires.

He was as curious as we were.

So when you are out birding, don't forget to look down. You never know what you might see.

Checking things out.

If you see a gopher, remember that gophers are wild, so always exercise caution.

Wow, what a place! Everyone loves Alice's Breakfast in the Park!

Last time I went by Alice's Breakfast in the Park the gopher hole was filled in, and he had moved on. But you should still check out Alice's Breakfast in the Park--hits the spot on a nice morning in the park. Great place for birders to stop by as they go birding in Central Park in Huntington Beach. It is just around the Shipley Nature Center . How often can you go to one of Orange County's best birding hotspots and get a great breakfast and the most delicious cinnamon role or muffin that you've ever had baked fresh right there? They take bakery orders, too. Go birding and pick up freshly baked goods to take home. Alice Gustafson, wife of John Gustafson (owner of the World Famous End Café on Huntington Beach Pier before a storm swept it away) opened this great place up 28 years ago. People bring their dogs--the dog park is nearby. They serve the dogs, too. You can sit and bird and people watch at the same time. Easy to bird the lake from your table outside. You look up in the trees and can see Cooper's Hawks , and Audubon Yellow-Rumped Warblers . Common yellowthroats call from the marshy grass. Eat inside or outside. It's a treat either way for breakfast or lunch. Check it out.

The Most Awesomeist Thing in the World! from OC Birder Girl on Vimeo.

Some of the Many Birds I have seen while at Alice's or Nearby:

Double-crested Cormorant--Phalacrocorax auritus

American White Pelicans--Pelecanus erythrorhynchos...

Western Grebes--Aechmophorus occidentalis

Eared Grebe--Podiceps nigricollis

Great Blue Heron--Ardea herodias

Great Egret--Ardea alba

Snowy Egret--Egretta thula

Green Heron--Butorides virescens

Black-crowned Night Heron--Nycticorax nycticorax

American Avocet--Recurvirostra americana

Black-necked Stilt--Himantopus mexicanus

Forester's Tern

American Coot--Fulica americana

Caspian Tern

American Wigeon--Anas americana

Canada Geese

Mallards--Anas platyrhynchos

Eurasian Wigeon--Anas penelope--A Rare Bird

Northern Shoveler--Anas clypeata

Red-Tailed Hawk--Buteo jamaicensis

Cooper's Hawk--Accipiter cooperii

Osprey--Pandion haliaetus

Turkey Vultures--Cathartes aura

American Crow

Cedar Waxwing--Bombycilla cedrorum

Mourning Dove--Zenaida macroura

House Finch--Carpodacus mexicanus

White-crowned Sparrows--Zonotrichia leucophrys

Common Yellowthroat

Audubon Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Red-winged Black Bird

Hooded Oriole

Bullock's Oriole

Allen's Hummingbird---Selasphorus sasin

Anna's Hummingbird--Calypte anna

Black Phoebe--Sayornis nigricans

OC Birder Girl Links

American Coot--Fulica americana

A Tale of Two Coots

Central Park in Huntington Beach

Mallards--Anas platyrhynchos

Odd Ducks

Wood Duck or Mandarin Duck?

A Walk Among the Fall Leaves at Huntington Central Park

A Walk in Huntington Central Park West 10/15/2007

The Wild Ducks of Orange County

External Links and Resources

Alice's Breakfast in the Park

Alice's in the Park is open into 2010. Alice's is an awesome place with great cinnamon roles.
Check it out. You can eat inside or outside.

America Zoo: Botta's Pocket Gopher

Great short article with pictures.

Animal Diversity Web: Pocket Gophers

Very good article.

Desert USA: Botta's Pocket Gopher

Very good article. Check out the really neat video
of a Botta's Gopher digging.

Huntington Central Park

Los Angeles County: Gophers

National Wildlife Federation: Bird of Myth and Elegance By Les Line

Short bit of information in this article on egrets and herons.

Mammals of California

Smithsonian Natural History Museum: Botta's Pocket Gopher

Good short Article.

The Great Gray Owl as a Predator on Pocket Gophers

You will have to page down on the Sora page to see this short
article. Great observations from this older article.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife: Pocket Gophers

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