Chasing Towhees and Other Rainy Day Activities

Rain soaked poison oak and clearing clouds.

Did an enjoyable run at Sage Ranch today that started and ended in showers, but also included a few moments of subdued sun.

The shrub with the yellow-orange leaves is rain soaked poison oak. As I took the photo, a California towhee landed in its limbs, probably a little concerned about the unexpected house guest. From a towhee point of view, a thick chaparral shrub is a homey place with all of the creature comforts.

In chaparral areas towhees are common, and I frequently see them on my runs. Over years of running I’ve learned some of their habits.

Many times when I encounter a towhee on the trail, it will flutter and scurry along the ground just ahead of me, and then dart into a bush. Although not as dramatic as the broken wing act of a killdeer, this “catch me if you can” behavior is probably intended to draw a potential predator away from the bird’s nesting and living area.

Very different animals will often cooperate to benefit each other. In the case of a towhee, one of its best buds is apparently the cottontail rabbit. On occasion I will see the bird and rabbit foraging together on a trail. When trying to keep a wary eye out for potential predators, four eyes are much better than two.

Where there is one towhee, there will often be another nearby — presumably its mate. At Sage Ranch, I’ve repeatedly encountered a pair of towhees near a particular shrub over a period of several years.