A word of warning... this is a post about predation and the pictures reflect that. River Otters moved into Rodeo lagoon in the Marin Headlands about 4 years ago and the resident birds were ill prepared.
Like lions on the Serengeti, they carefully stalk their prey. In this instance they were after mallards on the shore. Their main technique seems to be: 1. Locate prey floating in the lagoon 2. Submerge and close the distance underwater 3. Grab the prey from below and asphyxiate with a bite to the neck or drowning Cute huh?
After the hunter gets its fill the meal gets shared with the other otters waiting their turn. The number of feathers stuck in the vegetation nearby is evidence of many meals eaten here. The otter is working on the gull's head (which, if you decide, you can see by clicking on the image).
This Pelican wasn't so lucky. It was one of many that the otters caught as they landed on the lagoon to rest during their meanderings down the coast. As the months went on, fewer and fewer Pelicans spent any time on the water and otters switched to other prey.
As a volunteer with the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory I've sat through many cold and foggy hours waiting to band hawks. When the sun shines anything can happen and this weekend was no exception. The highlight was my first encounter with a large falcon, a beautiful and scarily fierce juvenile female Prairie Falcon. Yeah, I know she looks cute but you have to be comfortable putting your hand into a pulsing blender to feel comfortable handling Prairies.
She was in great health and left us wearing a new band with a unique number that I hope isn't recovered for a few decades.