The night has a thousand eyes. Two of them were locked onto Melissa the other night. The hills mom, who just moved here from Oklahoma, was out looking for owls with her flashlight when she spotted a strange set of eyes in a tree.

"This creature I spied had HUGE orange eyes and just stared back at me," she recalled. "After 15 to 20 seconds, it turned its head and I could see it was not an owl. That's when I grabbed my little dog and RAN home."

The next day, Melissa walked back to the tree near the corner of Skyline and Castle. It was then that she saw the claw marks leading up to the limb where she'd spotted the eyes. She took several photos and even measured one set of scratches in the bark near the base.

When she sent the photos to me, she was guessing that they were from a big cat — maybe a bobcat or puma. I went to my contacts at the Oakland Zoo and they forwarded the photos to Zara McDonald, founder of the Bay Area Puma Project.

"These could be (from a) mountain lion for the spacing and size, but hard to be completely sure," McDonald wrote back. She thought they could also be claw marks from a bobcat. It was NOT a raccoon or roof rat -- much too small.

The moral of the story is birders beware. Those owl eyes you see may actually be on the whiskery face of a pussycat. A BIG kitty doing what big cats do -- sitting high in a perch tailor-made for hunting.


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Travel talk: Oakland tourism has an inviting new website -- just in time for summer travel. It's much sexier than the old site, and the colorful new logo and look really make our local attractions pop off the page. In fact, Visit Oakland's Lindsay Wright says it's a call to action for Oakland's target demographic -- business and leisure travelers coming primarily from drive markets along the West Coast. Check it out at www.visitoakland.org.

Animal tales: What bird has a wingspan the width of a big rig? It's the California Condor, a creature that was almost extinct in the 1980s. Today there are more than 200 of these magnificent birds living in the wild, and the Oakland Zoo is the newest partner in the condor recovery effort. The zoo has condor camps for teens, condor cams streaming live video from release sites (http://www.oaklandzoo.org/Condor_Cam.php) and a vet staff trained in healing sick birds.

Email bag: Thanks to reader Margaret Huang for alerting me to a must-see event tonight at Fox Oakland. Student singer Rebecca Dharmapalan will perform with the award-winning vocalists from Oakland School of the Arts. Rebecca has received widespread attention for the documentary she co-created with one of her classmates on child trafficking along International Boulevard. Tickets to the OSA performance can be purchased at www.thefoxoakland.com/calendar.php.

Got news? You can reach Ginny Prior by email at ginnyprior@hotmail.com or on the web at www.ginnyprior.com.