Go for the Golds
Saturday August 03rd 2019, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

The transition away from safflower is complete now, and what a difference it has made.

I’m used to seeing mostly house finches, and house finches squabble and fight each other off and vie for the top spot on the feeder–even when there’s nothing up there for them but self-regard as the winner.

I’d never seen this before: two goldfinches sharing a portal. For several minutes, not just as a one-off, long enough for me to fumble with the phone to try to get it on camera. A third one flew in; that was fine with them.

They were a team. They mostly worked in tandem, going for sunflower together, straightening up to eat, going for another. Occasionally one would dive in while the other waited but mostly it was the two of them together.

Who knew birds in the finch family could cooperate like that?

It gave me a sudden irrational sense of hope for the world, our political differences and all.



Sundown
Tuesday July 09th 2019, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

Suddenly realized that not only was it the night we’re supposed to get the bins out to the curb for the morning pick-up, if we didn’t get moving we would run right into skunk o’clock.

Bam. Instant procrastination cure.



How to deal with gophers
Monday July 08th 2019, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit,Wildlife

Ten more rows and it’s done, ten more rows and after a hundred+ hours of work it’s done and that’s my excuse for not fixing this silly sideways picture tonight… Seed stitch rows, but there are only ten of them and you can do anything if it stops at ten rows. Ten more rows and it’s done…

Meantime, Bill’s (the guy in yesterday’s post) late dad is the person who, twenty-five years ago, told me about gopher plants and where to find the seeds. So I went to the little ’60’s-hippie-holdover Uncommon Ground place (now a high-rise) and bought some from a man who was serious about gardens in a way that I in no way was at the time. It was a little intimidating, though I’m sure he only meant to be helpful.

They’re biennials, which means they do all their flowering and seeding the second year. And boy do they. Their roots give the gophers the equivalent of poison ivy and they stay away, so, two years for the price of one.

I planted a few. I got one particularly big one and then some more joined it.

This is after having followed another neighbor’s advice and having stuck my hose in the ground to flush them out to get them to move on. The only thing that did was make my Californian water bill jump by a hundred dollars that month. Yow.

So, the gopher plants.

They seemed to work. Cool.

And then they got determined to take over everything, which would not do. One must take them out carefully. They’re not overly friendly above ground to people, either–wear gloves, you don’t want to find out you’re one of the allergic ones.

So I spent a few years discouraging them from coming back and eventually all that ran its course and was over. (With the exception of one plant nine years ago.)

I did, however, see evidence of a gopher again near my fruit trees in 2016 and fought them with the newly-Internet-approved cinnamon sprinkled down every hole and cinnamon sticks on top to be emphatic about it, and that seemed to work, too. This year’s new peach got planted in a gopher-proof wire cage (bought there along with the tree) to be on the safe side.

I haven’t seen any sign of them since the mountain lion came through the neighborhood. Although, truthfully, a hungry raccoon would probably go after them, too.

Look what I just found popped up behind my Fuji apple.

It’s late and it’s small but it is standing guard and I know if I let it, it will soon command an army.

Um, let’s not this time.

On a side note, just for fun and so that I can find the link again: an Alexandra Petri column on state flags that made me laugh.



So we’re second choice?
Wednesday July 03rd 2019, 10:00 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

That gate needs to be rehung; it’s progressed from hard to close, to, the edge closest to the house loudly scrapes the pebbled sidewalk when you try and the latch can’t latch.

Last night I pushed it as hard as I could so that the sidewalk braced it in place a good one. There was no room for even a little thing to squeeze by.

At sundown the neighbor’s dog barked and barked and barked and barked and barked.

At about 10:45 the dog was quiet but the gate, suddenly, was not.

The (presumed) skunk’s only success was in scooting back the way it had come before I could get over there fast enough for my second sighting.



The little stinker
Tuesday July 02nd 2019, 7:34 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,Wildlife

There was a problem with the washing machine at her place so of course we said, sure, c’mon over here.

Her schedule was tight enough that she got a late start at it but it had to be done.

And so it was nearly 11:30 last night when she was reaching down to pick up her hamper of now-clean clothes to take home as I was reaching to open the front door for her when I suddenly shrieked, DON’T OPEN THAT DOOR!!!!

Followed immediately after, it must be admitted, with my inwardly admiring how the colors of the fur kind of melted into each other–it looked marvelously soft. Definitely spinnable. I can see why my brother reached down to pet his roommate’s cat one night years ago, just as he heard his apartment door automatically locking behind him right in the moment he realized that the animal at his feet was not, in fact, a cat.

Having come down the walkway and crossed the doorstep in my moment of !!!, the skunk now went through the open gate just to the side and sniffed at the recycling bin. Then in the direction of the few leftover tomato plants that got plunked in the dirt over there a few months ago because I didn’t know where else to put the extras.

Hey dude. You already ate those. And you pooped on our sidewalk afterwards. At least put it in the garden yourself.

Right. So, no go, and what was that blast of sound? Not caring for that. It turned around and bounced with a jaunty little walk back down the way it had come, a wobble to its step that kind of looked like how a two year old runs. It was absolutely adorable.

One could not tell in the night if it had ducked into the azaleas at the end there or gone under the cars or–? There was just no way to know.

Her: A skunk?! The way you yelled I thought it was a black widow spider!

Me: (gobsmacked.) Would you rather it was a skunk?!

Her: Yes!

Me: (Thinking, but, but, you can’t stomp on a skunk…!)

Her: Because, black widows!

Her: Oh man, what if it gets my clean clothes.

We invited her to crash here for the night, but no could do, starting with contacts solution back at her place. We spent a couple of minutes debating who was the brave one (too soon, too soon) and finally (still too soon, but it was late) Richard proclaimed, I’LL be brave! and grabbed a flashlight to match the one in my hands and we opened the door and basically created late-night hell for the neighbors. We’re HERE (shuffle shuffle shuffle loudly) little skunk, go AWAY! (Shuffle shuffle shuffle) We’re HERE, little skunk, go go go!

Me: Should I look under the cars for it?

Them, in unison: NO!!

She got in her car. Only then did I flash the light and nope, it wasn’t under our car, anyway. She managed to pull out without backing over anything.

Two feet and a pane of glass. I haven’t been that close to a skunk since our honeymoon.



It finally let me take its picture
Thursday June 20th 2019, 10:37 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

The new Cooper’s hawks are finally starting to get a little more comfortable with our watching them.

If they have hungry kids to feed and we have their dinner waiting that probably offers some incentive, but in the meantime I’ve done my best to radiate love and gratitude for their presence (while averting my eyes often enough so as not to be challenging them) in hopes that somehow a wild thing could feel that. Can’t hurt.

I dunno, all I know is I’m suddenly seeing them three days in a row and this one was comfortable with my not only moving but putting a dark object in front of my face. First time ever.

It landed after everything had scattered. It started strolling innocently past the bushes, looked over its shoulder, went away from the birdnetting over the mandarin tree and closer to the coffeeberries, and then stuck its head far into the space it could not otherwise fit into.

About thirty seconds into that, a finch freaked, somehow made it past it, and tried so hard to zig zag out of there that the hawk almost did a twirl in its pursuit, wings and tail wide open.

A mighty wingbeat towards the right and then, as always, the roof of the house broke my view and cliffhangered the ending.



She was named by a kindergarten class in San Francisco
Wednesday June 19th 2019, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

A quick note re the San Jose City Hall peregrine falcons, long of interest to me because I used to be one of the falcon-cam volunteers: Clara’s been the matriarch of that nest for fourteen years.

It seems like just about every year there’s a fly-by by some other falcon looking for a good spot, and Clara and her mates have been swift to fend them off and away from the 18th floor enclosed HVAC ledge that provides such a perfect spot for their eyases to hatch, grow, explore, and take off from.

Her mates have been fought off and replaced from time to time by other males, but Clara’s ruled the roost since that building was built.

The last two years she laid four eggs but one didn’t hatch. She was getting older. There were more confrontations with intruders testing for potential takeovers than in the past.

This year’s three young had fledged successfully and were just starting to learn the ropes of handing off food mid-air from their parents, with the next step being to learn how to hunt their own before their parents would stop feeding them.

Which hopefully all happened/is happening. But suddenly all five of them, parents and young, were banished, and a banded falcon soon identified as Grace from San Francisco’s 2016 nest had claimed the territory along with her unbanded, unnamed-as-yet mate. This was just too good a territory to pass up–nice and high and all the pigeons you could ever ask for–and clearly they’d been willing to fight for it.

How many of those previous intrusions were these two one can only guess.

Here’s a video of Grace, above, while the tiercel (ie the male) inspects the nest box, going, Yes. Yes. Yes this will do, uh huh. Nice *paint job. Like the gravel flooring. Sold!

The kicker is that both yesterday and today a pair of pigeons flew into that nest box and settled in as if they owned the place. They never would have dared around Clara–they would have been dinner.

Breeding season being effectively over, the new peregrines seem not to have entirely moved in yet after the closing.

 

*An in-joke. The splashes of white from all those babies over the years is referred to as peregrine paint among the local watchers. The fascinating thing is that from the moment they can wobble on their brand new legs the eyases poop as far away from where they nest as possible.



Orville Ratenpecker
Tuesday June 11th 2019, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

The local paper says that we were the hottest area in the US yesterday, while setting all kinds of records.

Today was 103 again. But the power held.

So, on another subject: my owl popcorn popper was being closely observed by a male Cooper’s hawk on the power lines at rat o’clock (dusk) last night–so much so that my being outside watering my tomatoes didn’t keep him away. I looked up, went oh sorry, and quickly stepped inside and out of his way.

I think that’s the first time one of the hawks has tolerated my being outside with them.

He may have been looking for seconds: there’s been no sign of the rat for a week.

Good to know he’s on it.



Twitterpated
Tuesday June 04th 2019, 9:12 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

This video. Because everybody needs to hear Mozart in birdsong.



A swashbuckling Purse’n’Boots
Sunday June 02nd 2019, 10:01 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Wildlife

(Afghan progress: halfway there.)

Yonder daughter came by and homemade strawberry pie she’d made was enjoyed by all.

Later, I was reading the paper and mentioned out loud the story in there of someone in Florida hearing something messing around downstairs in the middle of the night and they got all brave and stepped out the bedroom door to look over the railing to find out what on earth was going on.

The downstairs was being wrecked. By an 11-foot alligator that had broken in through a window.

I said, Y’know, when I was a kid those were almost extinct from hunting, and now they’ve really made a comeback.

Daughter gives a wry grin and says, You can tell your blog: it is much better to live where there are man-eating cats where you hike. Much better! Man-eating cats!

And she turns back to what she was doing, chuckling, joking/not joking.



One giant leap for…
Thursday May 30th 2019, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

The picture flat-out refuses to go right side up. It’s being squirrelly.

I have, for some time now, only put safflower seeds in my bird feeder; it doesn’t attract as many varieties of birds but the squirrels won’t fight to get at it. They’ll graze the kickout below if they’re hungry enough but that’s it.

Unlike sunflower, though, you can’t buy pre-hulled safflower. And those hulls get tracked indoors and into the runners on the sliding door and that has gotten very old. So I tried to figure out how to go back to sunflower but thwart the squirrels–who LOVE the stuff.

And then I noticed the old plastic trashcan that the trash service doesn’t use anymore and didn’t take away when they changed trucks.

I put it underneath the feeder and put a mixture of the two types of seeds in there; I have 20 pounds of the safflower to use up, and that seemed a good way to start transitioning. And containing. Maybe the squirrels wouldn’t want to jump in where they couldn’t see a predator coming. (Yeah, good luck with that. I’ve seen them pulling a paper cup down low over their heads, trying to lick out every last bit of due-date whipped cream, falling over frontwards and backwards in the process while holding on tight to what made it so they couldn’t see. Squirrels are so funny!)

The other hope was to starve the rat out so it doesn’t show up again.

Of course it only took a few days for the first squirrel to want that treat enough to jump in. Even I can hear the thump from inside when they land in there. They don’t have enough of a steady surface at the top of the thing to leap upwards onto the feeder (yet), so that’s good.

I debated leaning a piece of wood against the can to entice the rat on up so I could capture it, but no: it wouldn’t be stupid enough to simply fall all the way down in there, and I wouldn’t know what to do with it if it did.

There was no appearance of the unwanted little rodent. For days. Well that worked!

Until there it was again, grabbing whatever had fallen just outside the can. Definitely still the same one as ever.

Tuesday evening all was quiet as I went to go zip up the Sunbubble for the night. Opened that sliding glass door, and…

I’m quite sure it didn’t even touch the lip on its giant kangaroo leap from the bottom of that trash can, just one big arc up and over and out. I came inside and marveled to Richard, Just how many times its height did that thing just vault? Wow.

It wasn’t till later that it hit me.

I had just invented a popcorn popper for owls.



Peregrinations
Monday May 13th 2019, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knit,Wildlife

I haven’t mentioned the peregrine falcons all season and the San Jose ones are about to fledge.

Video taken today here, a few baby feathers hanging on as the eyases look over the edge and see some of the world outside their concrete outdoor hallway, with everything new.

Photos from when they were banded last week here. Two males, one female.

And the afghan? I started in on that pattern.

Goofed, tinked back all 279 stitches I’d just done, put the project back in its ziplock, and decided to let it breathe for a day. Discovered a ninth pomegranate on the tree.



Brazen
Tuesday May 07th 2019, 10:29 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

I have now seen it for myself.

I once read an article that said that New York really has few rats for a city its size and the reason why is the rats it has. Norway rats do not climb, they like to go down to the lowest levels of any building or subway station and they are murderous to any rat not like them. Any new type getting off a ship will not live long enough to create a new infestation and that has been the status quo for hundreds of years.

Well they didn’t do their job here. We have roof rats too, which are also an introduced species and like to go up like the Norway likes to go down and the two types rarely cross paths. But when they do the roof rat generally dies in the encounter. Not to mention they’re easier for the hawks to get.

But anyway, it was one of those random sets of facts that sticks with you and I’m glad it did because it means I don’t have to worry if that crazy thing was rabid.

There’s the bird feeder. There’s the usual squirrel hanging out underneath, not liking the safflower enough to try to jump at the thing but willing to shuffle around for the kick-out from the finches above.

A Norway rat–I had to look it up to be sure, but yeah, classic look ya got there, buddy–showed up. And jumped the squirrel from behind!

The squirrel shook it off and looked at it like what the hey? as the much smaller animal ran off.

Next evening. This time the rat was determined and it really attacked that squirrel. It probably thought it could jump it from behind and bite its neck if it could just stretch far enough but there was no way. And this time the squirrel was truly having none of it and fought back, leaving the rat again running away.

That was a few days ago. The squirrels and that unwanted rat have not crossed paths since, deliberately, I imagine. I was hoping a predator had gotten it, but no, it showed up again tonight, about 90 minutes before sundown like the other times. Rats. (Epithetically speaking.)

After chasing it away I pulled the frost covers out and blocked its path so that it would have to go well into the danger of the open yard to get back to the feeder. I know those Cooper’s hawks have been keeping an eye on things.

The best way to get rid of it is to take down the feeders. I’m not thrilled with that idea, either.



“What will you do with your one wild and precious life?”
Friday April 12th 2019, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Friends,Mango tree,Wildlife

I sent Dani (the original instigator of the planting of my mango) a new picture of the tree and he sent me this article.

Who knew that Alphonso mangoes were helping to keep the last wild group of Asian lions in the world alive?



Reds and greens
Saturday April 06th 2019, 9:26 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

We’re having a Cooper’s hawk sighting nearly every day now. Cool.

Another Red Lion amaryllis from my dad–here, the hawk’s gone now, let me give you a close-up. Love love love these. If you have an amaryllis with four or more leaves it should bloom the next year, too.

The ground is so wet that digging a big deep hole and finally planting the Kishu mandarin I got for Christmas was surprisingly very easy. Like pushing a shovel into Play-dough.

If you live in non-citrus-growing areas and wish for a mandarin orange, plant this one in a pot to keep in or out depending on the weather. The tree is small and the fruit is golf ball sized, soft, seedless, and the peel pretty much falls off and you can just pop the whole thing in your mouth just like that. The fruit doesn’t ship well for grocery stores, you have to grow your own.

It ripens months before my Gold Nugget and thus stretches out the season for us. Not to mention it will create more ground-bird nesting habitat out of what was a bare spot.

Today was a perfect spring day and the Sungold cherry tomato that I planted in 2017 burst into even more blooms. Three years!

Note that it was originally set up inside the largest tomato cage I could buy but by now it’s simply carrying it up and away on its shoulders to wherever and there’s no disentangling the thing, all you can do is admire its Leaning Tower of Pisa impression from inside that happy thicket. (Those few dead leaves are from where the freezes got to the outer edges of the plant but it’s made up for it since.)

And to repeat the Red Lion red theme, while listening to two two-hour sessions of the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I got ten repeats done on this cowl; I can get one last one out of this skein and then that’s it.

There will be two more sessions tomorrow, so it is time to pick the next project. Baby girl afghan is what I want to do, but I don’t think I have quite the yarn I want for it yet.