Eyewitness account investigated by Jonathan Whitcomb:
For Lakewood residents, don’t leave your Chihuahua overnight in the backyard, at least not if your backyard is bordered by a storm channel. On June 19, 2012, a lady was sitting in her backyard, at about noon, when she noticed her dog was barking more wildly than usual. She walked over to the dog and then looked up to see what appeared to be a “dragon-pterodactyl” sitting on the lowest telephone line, almost above the storm channel at the back of her property. When the animal became aware of her presence, it quickly flew off to a neighbor’s property, where it hid in the canopy of a tree.
When she was gazing at the creature, she felt like running into the house from fear, but her curiosity kept her rooted to where she was standing, until the “dragon-pterodactyl” flew away. Then she dashed into the house and she and her husband drove through the neighborhood, searching unsuccessfully for what she would soon learn had a name: “ropen.”
She had found one of my web pages and sent me an email. I was soon in her backyard, interviewing her and her husband. Their mannerisms and answers to my questions convinced me that no hoax was involved and that the lady had indeed seen a ropen, a modern Rhamphornynchoid pterosaur.
She estimated the wingspan at about six feet (at first, she thought it a bit smaller, but after consideration she felt it may have even been larger than six feet). The tail she estimated at about four feet long, but I felt that this may be less accurate an estimate, for it was flying away from her and she used an indirect method of estimation: She based the tail length estimate on the way that it was vibrating during flight. Nevertheless, she did get more of a side view of the tail when the creature entered into the tree foliage.
Compared with the size estimates for other long-tailed pterosaurs observed in North America, including some sightings in California, the Lakewood ropen seems almost like a baby “pterodactyl.” The one seen flying just above a road near the state university at Irvine (Orange County) five years ago—that ropen was about thirty feet long, nose-to-tail-end.
I believe that the storm channel is significant, for it provides a way for the ropen to fly around at night, without being seen by people, as it hunts for rats and possums. I believe this daylight sighting was from an exception to its normal routine, perhaps because squirrels in daylight had become easier to catch than possums at night.
That’s not pure speculation. The woman’s husband told me that he has noticed that during the past year possums are no longer running along the phone lines at night, although they used to do that all the time. While I was talking with the man, in their backyard, the other day, we saw a squirrel running along the phone line. I don’t think it grossly speculative to suggest why a ropen was on that phone line in the middle of the day on June 19th. Since nocturnal possums had become less common, that ropen now hunts squirrels in daylight.
Storm channel at the south end of Mayfair Park in Lakewood, California
An apparent ropen [modern living Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur] was seen by a 38-year-old lady in her backyard, in Lakewood, California, on June 19, 2012, at about noon. She at first estimated the wingspan at about five to six feet, later revising her estimate to at least six feet.
Contrary to what some paleontologists believe, the orientation of the tail vane, in the “basal” pterosaurs, now appears to be horizontal. Two eyewitnesses, both living in California, have made this clear: Patty Carson, of Riverside; and an anonymous eyewitness living in Lakewood.