Robbie the Bobcat
While making his usual patrol around Pelican Point, Robbie picked up a scent, a strong familiar scent and his nose wrinkled and sniffed for the direction while he blocked out the high pitched shrieks from the local gulls. As he followed the odor, a young brush rabbit darted across his path and then quickly disappeared into the red-tipped underbrush of poison oak and wild blackberry. He was annoyed and hungry.
It was dawn and after an uneventful night of chasing rabbits around the Reserve, his stomach was empty. He sauntered along the path, never looking at the gulls, and reached the top of the rocky outcropping at the furthest point. He sat motionless, his amber eyes watching the cormorants and gulls on the near island, protected by sheer cliffs and the icy cold ocean water below. A delicious meal just across the divide was taunting and scolding. This day there were more than usual.
Robbie’s hind quarters were beginning to tremble and quiver with anticipation – he could jump fifteen feet or so, but this was much wider – instinct told him not to try. He began to pace back and forth at the edge, so close that his paws kicked small stones and dirt down the cliff into the dark blue water swirling below. As he followed the last larger stone down the cliff, he noticed it didn’t hit the water! It caromed off a large rock in the middle of the water passage way. The ocean was calm at low tide and this boulder was half way between the two cliffs.
Robbie knew the way down his side, an old path along the perimeter then down by the little landslide which flattens out at the water’s edge. Two brush rabbits went dashing for safety as he made his way quickly to the newly discovered rock. He sized up the jump it would take, picked a landing site near the top and with one push from his long hind legs made it, then slipped on his side, claws now extended grasping at the slick wet sea grass and algae that covered most the surface. The claws held, and he pulled himself to the top of this exposed small island. He didn’t much care for his position, surrounded on all sides by the sea, now splashing at the edges. He hissed at the rock and the small waves to make them less menacing and shook one wet hind leg, then the other.
The leap to the far cliff was more troubling than he had first imagined. Flat, smooth granite stretched straight up to the top, more than one hundred feet. The gulls were now unbearable. Some had landed on the cliff side just above him. Others dived at his head with a series of orchestrated circling and swooping movements. Robbie hardly noticed them as he fixated on the method to climb the sheer face of the wall that was between him and a revengeful meal.
There was an outcropping of bluff lettuce eight or ten feet above him, and then a small crevice about five feet farther up, at which point the cliff cantered ever so slightly allowing a bright yellow lizard tail to root – and so that a cat, a hungry strong and athletic cat, could scramble up – as long as he kept his momentum moving upwards.
The leap frightened the gulls and they stopped their noisy chattering for just a few seconds, which is all the time he needed to grab the soft but tenacious succulent as he hit the side of the cliff and stretching the full length of his body, he barely touched the crevice with his front left paw and then the back left paw took its place so quickly that this finesse could not be seen by the naked eye – had someone been watching, but no one was.
For the nesting cormorants, who had forsaken the larger Bird Island for this place, the end was swift and decisive. He was faster than the large black birds, faster and with more purpose. There was some fluttering, squawking and attempted flight, but cormorants take off like 747s, too slow for a fighter outfitted with razor weapons. Chaos ensued for the next several minutes, some were able to fly off, others lay motionless on the ground. There would be no further taunting from these. About twenty feet away several Western Gulls stayed to protect their nests, unsure about what to do, surprised by the intruder on their protected land. There was no mercy and none expected.
It had been an exciting day, but the chase had made him sleepy. His mother had taught him well. He was the fastest cub she ever had. She would be pleased he was sure. So, after licking his paws and cleaning his tawny tufted ears, he fell asleep as the morning sun chased away the lingering fog. With a sly smile, and a full belly, his leg twitched as he relived that eventful day on Robbie’s Rock.
July 22, 2010
photos by Chuck Bancroft